How to use essential oils for wellness
Ahead of National Relaxation Day, the founder of The NY Institute of Aromatherapy tells us how herbal and plant extracts can help us chill out.
We can all agree tensions are pretty high right now. There’s plenty to stress out about on a global level, on top of our personal anxieties, which we all have on account of being human.
While we’re mostly all trying to live a healthy lifestyle — get enough sleep, exercise, eat right — we can use all the extra help we can get. Aromatherapy, while no substitute for care from a mental health or medical professional, can be a nice self-care boost to help you get a good night’s sleep, relieve your anxiety and refocus your energy.
“You can’t put all your emphasis on peppermint to cure everything if you’re also drinking a six-pack and sitting in front of the TV all day,” explains Amy Galper, founder of the NY Institute of Aromatherapy. “Aromatherapy and using essential oils for healing is considered a complementary alternative care modality.”
The certified aromatherapist talks us through how to get started with essential oils, which extracts are best suited to which ailments and how we can make our own DIY blends.
How to use essential oils
Galper defines essential oils as “highly concentrated aromatic extracts that are steam distilled from plants.” You can apply the extractions topically — through body-care products such as sugar scrubs, hand cleanser, lip balms, or through a blend diluted with oil or water. (Directly applying oils to the skin can cause irritation). Inhaling their scent is another way. Add a few drops into what’s called a nebulizing diffuser, which will vaporize the liquid and fill your home with a pleasing aroma.
Essential oils for relaxation
Galper recommends a blend of lavender, red mandarin and frankincense essential oils (or any of those on their own). Apply directly onto the skin, or add a few drops to a diffuser. Study shows lavender oil can lower blood pressure.
For a good night’s sleep, try chamomile, lavender and clary sage. Lush Sleepy Body Lotion, which insomniacs swear by, incorporates lavender oil into its formula. A study from Wesleyan University found that olfactory exposure to the lavender can lead to deep sleep.
Say it’s the late afternoon and you want to refocus your thoughts and power through the rest of the day. Rosemary, eucalyptus and fennel are all good for clearing the mind and improving circulation, Galper says. Juniper berry, pine needle, cypress oil with lemon can also aid in alertness.
For aches and pains
If you’re feeling stiff or experiencing muscle or joint pains, Galper suggests a mix of peppermint, lavender and marjoram, which you can rub directly into the trouble areas.
DIY essential oil blends
At NYIOA, you can take classes on how to make your own formulations, or even become a certified aromatherapist through its training program.
But if you want to get started at home, mixing your own spray bottle is an easy first step. Purchase a small spray bottle at Duane Reade and fill it with an essential oil blend that you can use as a refreshing mist for your face and body, or to spray in your home. Here’s how you do it: For every one ounce of (distilled) water, add 12 drops of essential oil, and shake well, says Galper.
Make sure you’re purchasing essential oils at an apothecary or a natural foods store, Galper cautions, so you can be sure they’re coming from a plant and not adulterated with synthetic fragrances, which could lead to allergic reactions.
If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with your doctor before using essential oils.