Essential oils a simple guide.

What are essential oils? How can I use them? Are they safe? How do they differ from any other scented product?

We all know a couple of drops of lavender oils can help aid relaxation and a good nights sleep. Maybe your midwife recommended it to promote healing after you had a baby or maybe you’ve used tea tree to cure a skin condition but did you know there are 100’s of essential oils all with their own unique properties?

It’s no secret I love essential oils. I have turned to them since childhood, throughout my teens and into adulthood. As an adult I have studied and increased my learning of these potent oils, always mindful of the safety of my young family.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in traditional remedies to enhance health and wellbeing. Essential oils are highly concentrated plant essences each with its own unique chemistry and distinct therapeutic properties. The quickest way for the body to absorb essential oils is by inhaling their aroma which has a direct effect on the brain and allows them to be absorbed into the blood steam via the lungs. Other routes include massage and bathing.

It is the therapeutic properties of essential oils that make them radically different to other fragrance products which use synthetic compounds to create a nice smell but have no therapeutic properties.

How can I use essential oils in my day to day life?

I use essential oils every day – research has found people who use essential oils regularly have a stronger immune system than those who don’t, amazing hey! I use oils in a diffuser to scent my home and help my mood, in my cleaning products to fight germs, in my beauty products (shower gel, deodorant, face cream, soap etc) and for first aid where appropriate. They are wonderfully versatile and powerful when used correctly

Are they safe?

I am VERY big on safety so I want to be really clear on this do your homework before you start using any oil. ALWAYS dilute your oils well they are extremly concentrated and powerful! As a general rule as a beginner start with a 1% dilution of essential oil to carrier oil (good news your precious essential oils will last a LONG time).

NEVER EVER ingest oils. This sadly is a new craze promoted by some unscrupulous essential oil companies every independent aromatherapy governing body in the UK is very clear ingesting oils is not recommended.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, using oils around young children or pets please do your own research about the safety of the essential oils you are using.

Finally make sure the oils you are using are the real deal and not synthetic – they should list the Latin plant name as the primary ingredient. Buy from a reputable company. I like to buy organic where possible because to me it makes no sense to have pesticides mixing with your essential oils.

So there we have it. That’s my quick guide to essential oils. I hope you can see why I think they are so amazing and why I enjoy using them.

I wanted to finish with a quick overview of the essential oils I use most often in my natural cleaning products as I have shared quite a few recipies on this blog lately.

Lemon

A great degreaser and natural antiseptic with an uplifting and invogorating fragrance that helps promote clear thinking. I use it a lot in the kitchen

Pine

Pine is antiseptic, purifies the air and repels insects and has energising properties.

Clove

Used during World War 2 to disinfect hospitals! Clove has a warm and scent and soothing effect on the mind.

Bergamot

Antiseptic, cooling and soothing. Also an effective de-odorizer that repels insects.

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3 ingredient wood polish

I am really pleased with this wood polish I made. For surfaces other than wood I use the lemon enzyme cleaner I shared in the previous post but for wood this polish is really nourishing. The nicest part is that you can scent it however you like with essential oils of your choice, I use my own theives blend.

Like most of my cleaning products it’s wonderfully simple just 3 ingredients.

200ml Olive oil

200ml White vinegar

15 drops essential oil

Add to a glass spray bottle (I store all my cleaning products in glass because essential oils can degrade plastic) and shake gentle to mix.

To use spray on the surface you wish to clean, leave for a few seconds and polish with a soft cloth.

Plastic waste

Single use plastic is THE environmental issue of the moment and apparently everyone is quite up for this challenge. I’ve been asked quite a lot what switches we’ve made in our home. So here is my attempt to write them all down. It’s not that I claim to be an expert on this matter I am simply a concerned citizen trying to do my best. We, as as a family, have been at this quite a long time and we are still far from perfect or finished with making changes. We have been gradually making changes and looking for alternatives to plastic when things around our home have broken and need replacing for a few years.

Be encouraged It is better to start somewhere and change one thing than to be overwhelmed and do nothing. Also (not to add to your load) but plastic is not the only environmental issue our planet faces If your not ready to go plastic free or feel inspired to act in another way go for it, blaze your own trail! But I hope you’ll find something on this list that makes you think “i could do that”. I’m certainly not claiming we have it sorted, we definitely don’t but we have made made a start. So find a comfy chair, make make a cup of tea (loose tea preferably) and read on.

Kids parties – I know this sounds an odd place to start but it’s where I started. 10 years ago when I had my first baby and we started going to kids parties. I was really struck by the amount of unnecessary plastic rubbish kids parties bought into our lives – I found it quite troubling and began to question this whole plastic thing. I started with paper party bags and wooden toys as party treats (yoyo’s, mini wooden spinning tops, cardboard puzzles or books – I find our local fair trade shop or oxfam good for these little things). Other things to think about balloons, single use cups, plates, cuttlery, straws, decorations, wrapping paper and cards.

Carrier bags I think we’re all onto this trick now. I love the kind that fold down or scrunch into a drawstring bag. I always have at least 1 in my handbag and some in the boot of the car too.

Laundry a year ago we started using an eco egg * and are really pleased with it. To be fair I was buying laundry powder in a cardboard box but now my laundry is waste free and i’m saving so much money on detergent. The plastic egg is refillable. I use wooden pegs to dry my laundry

Baby wipes if i’m being 100% honest I gave up baby wipes completly last spring and I still miss them. It’s one of the few things I do miss. However a flannel is much kinder to the planet and our skin so i’m sticking to my guns. When my children were babies I used cotton wool and water to change them – even when out and about but as they became toddlers a packet of wipes for mucky faces and hands was added to my changing bag.

Sanitary towels this is a switch i’m about to make. With an almost teenage girl in the house who I NEVER want to use chemical laden sanitary products (google it you’ll be horrified) I’ve decided to start a subscription with TOTM.

Toothbrushes the children and my husband have made the switch to bamboo brushes. I’ll be honest I use an electric toothbrush on the recommendation of my dentist and a perscription toothpaste – I did not luck out when it came to teeth sadly.

Razors My husband has just made the switch to a metal safety razor and when my current plastic razor needs replacing I will to. The first few attempts were messy I won’t lie but he soon got the hang of it. We’ll be buying replacement blades from this company because the blades come wrapped in paper and in a cardboard box.

Toilet brush recently my toilet brush started malting nylon bristles every time I cleaned the toilet – imagine my horror. I’ve replaced it with a wooden brush with natural bristles and a metal pot.

Pan scrubber something else I’ve replaced with an FSC wooden brush and natural bristles – TK Max is an affordable source of these.

Toiletries i’m a consultant with Neal’s Yard Remedies and buy my toiletries from them. They are all packaged in glass or plastic that’s made from 100% post consumer waste sourced within the UK. I could talk all day about this companies green credentials and beautiful products. As you can probably tell living an environmentally conscious lifestyle can be a little extra work sometimes (but not hard). It’s great when you find a company you can really trust, who are thinking of the details even you wouldn’t think of. If you want to make a small change in this area switch to using a bar of soap instead of of a bottle.

Cleaning I’m in the process of overhauling our cleaning products and I hope to share more on that with you soon – for me it’s more about using natural cleaners than going plastic free but it’s a happy coincidence that it’s helping reduce our plastic consumption too. This week I’ve discovered you can use a bar of natural soap (i’m experimenting with pears because it’s readily available) to wash dishes. I just put the bar of soap in a cup. Run hot water into the cup and let the suds run into the washing up bowl below. Consider also your cleaning cloths – ours are made of bamboo fibres and plastic free.

Packed lunches we have ditched sandwich bags, yoghurt pots (i make my own yoghurt) and i’ve challenged the kids to find and plastic alternative to crisps and snack bars this year. We all have a reusable water bottle which we take wherever we go and I have and reusable coffee cup in the car for trips out.

Toys buy less and buy wooden that’s always been my moto. If your child is desperate for a particular toy (we had a year where rollerskates were top of everyone’s christmas list) buy second hand.

Straws supper simple just don’t use them

Groceries wherever possible I buy loose vegetables and seek alternatives to plastic. Having milk delivered in glass bottles for example. It’s definitely not easy and I think our food shopping is still our biggest source of plastic into our home. It’s possibly the biggest source of hidden plastics too (tea bags and chewing gum for example) I hope it will become easier to shop plastic free as more and more people seek alternatives. We are really fortunate that our council will recycle most plastics but I avoid polystyrene, which is not recyclable at all costs in food packaging.

Another tip is to make your own foods from scratch – cooking fresh is not only healthy but less wasteful than pre prepared foods. Making your own jams and preserves is is a fun way to reuse your old jam jars. I don’t buy any drinks in plastic bottles but make some homemade cordials occasionally as a treat. If you buy a lot of dried fruit it may be cheaper and healthier to buy a dehydrator and make your own. My husband brews his own beer and as I”ve already mentioned I make our own yoghurt. Food storage is another area to consider you can buy bio degradable cling film and wax wraps are very popular and easy to make at home.

The Garden I have a metal watering can outside and I’m asking for a glass plant sprayer for christmas to replace my plastic one which I use to water my indoor plants and has just split.

I reuse plastic garden pots for sowing seeds and taking cuttings. I also reuse toilet rolls and make newspaper pots for seed sowing. Rather than using plastic seed trays I use foil roasting trays to hold my paper pots. These can be recycled at the end of the season. I use wooden lolly sticks for plant labels.

We also frequently engage is is a bit of “plogging” That’s walking and going about your daily business whilst litter picking in our local area (of course we recycle whatever we can) and seed bombing too. We make our seed bombs with native British wild flower seeds and natural mud or other compostable material. We are secret flower fairies.

Clothes I try to buy natural fibres whenever I can and most of our clothes come from charity shops, generous friends or are home made. If you have a lot of synthetic fibres consider washing less often and using guppy bags. Also I know it’s dull but look after your clothes and repair them when they break – my least favourite chore. The fashion industry is one of the most wasteful industries on the planet and we all need to play a part in slowing down how fast we consume these items.

Car maintainance we buy Engine oil in wine box style cardboard boxes – search on e-bay.

Pet care – we use litter for our house rabbit that is made from recycled newpaper and comes in a paper bag. We also buy his food in a paper bag. He eats our vegetable scraps and keeps the lawn down – so he’s a pretty low waste pet.

Wow, its quite quite a list congratulations if you read this far! Like I said way back at the beginning it’s been a series of small changes over several years. My husband and I have have a healthy competitiveness over who can find the best plastic alternative and I like to involve the children too – they have really taken this on board and are challenging their school friend to recycle and use less plastics too and making good consumer choices. Other than the baby wipes which I miss (such a first world problem) it’s actually been fun to find alternatives and think a little outside the box.

*None of the links above are sponsored they are quite simply products I’m happy to recommend.