"Beyond the kale"
When I started the transition to a healthier lifestyle towards the end of college, I was always searching for the next superfood, protein shake, or supplement. I'm still discovering new, healthier ways of doing things every day—the options are endless! While I firmly believe that the road to better health starts with what's on your plate, there is so much more! As my favorite podcast host, Rich Roll says, you've got to go "beyond the kale."
JUST THE ESSENTIALS
Almost every perfume, cleaning product, and air freshener I have ever used has given me a stuffy nose, watery eyes, and a massive headache. I soon learned that many synthetic fragrances can cause allergic reactions and even effect your hormones—definitely not something I wanted to be signed up for. Enter essential oils!
Essential oils are 100% all-natural, and provide a way to upgrade your beauty regimen, clean you home safely, and detox your body effectively! I like to place them on the same playing field as whole fruits and veggies, whereas conventional cleaning and personal care products are like processed junk food. It's kind of like, I know how much better I feel when I eat a whole, baked sweet potato vs. greasy, processed french fries—the same goes for personal care products.
Rifling through my cosmetics bag, or reading the labels closely on any of my personal care products, it was shocking to me to find out how many of them contained ingredients I couldn't pronounce! I began hearing more and more about parabens, phthalates, and BPA and the negative impacts they could have on your health. I'm not trying to scare anyone, and I'm certainly not saying I have a DIY, homemade version of every single personal care and cleaning product. No, no, no! But, with endless blog posts and Pinterest boards, it's almost impossible not to find something out there that's just screaming, make me, make me! Most DIY concoctions I come across contain one, if not several, essential oils.
Before you read on, I will say that it can be very frustrating and overwhelming to think about switching all of your favorite products. Trust me, there's something a certain mascara does for me that nature just can't replicate!
I suggest picking one—just one—product per month that you maybe aren't totally satisfied with, or know that it's not the best for you. Find a way to make your own version at home, with minimal ingredients that are all-natural and safe for your body and the environment!
Try starting with my DIY Lip + Body Balm Recipe! Lip Balm is something I never go without, and I am always that girl that has to buy the latest one at the check-out, but this one is seriously the BALM! …..er, the BOMB!
What is an Essential Oil?
Essential oils are distillations of various parts of plants, such as flower petals, leaves, fruit rinds, and tree resin. The scents (or fragrances) that we smell are actually called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's). There are over 3,000 varieties of VOCs, which supply plants with protective, reproductive, and regenerative properties.
There are several factors that can influence the aromatic constituents of a plant, from the time of day and time of year harvested, to the parts of the plant, geographic location, what part of the life cycle they're in, and the duration and method of distillation.
While you still can't find essential oils at just any store, they are building in popularity, which means lower quality brands are popping up. Just like the food you eat, there are different levels of quality and consistency. Some essential oil brands contain synthetic fillers and other elements that dilute the potency and diminish the quality. While they may smell just as good, they may not deliver on the health benefits and healing properties contained in the purest forms.
To maximize the potential that you will achieve health benefits from essential oils (without harmful side effects), you will want to be sure the brand you are using is therapeutic-grade or certified pure. There are two factors that deem essential oils therapeutic grade—potency and purity.
- Optimal potency is achieved through the proper soil composition that plants are grown in, as well as climate, temperature, and location. The same plant grown in two different environments, one optimal and one not, is going to contain two very different levels of potency and effectiveness.
- Optimal purity is achieved through proper distillation and dilution. A reputable company ensure that plants are cared for and harvested at the proper time. A strict protocol for distillation of essential oils ensures that the company's products are therapeutic-grade. These oils are put through rigorous testing to make sure that the quality, purity, efficacy, and consistency of every batch is of the highest standard.
Essential oils can be used in three ways:
Aromatic / Diffusion: The most common way to use essential oils is aromatically with a diffuser. There are several good ones you can find online, but I really love my Jasmine from Stadler Form that a friend told me about! It's affordable at only $59.99 and has everything you want in a diffuser—it doesn't give off a lot of light so it's ideal to use at bed time, it's small and portable, and can run intermittently for up to 20 hours!
Bed Time: I like to put a few drops of Lavender and/or Frankincense in my diffuser before bed; both are peaceful, calming scents that help my husband and I sleep like babies! If you have trouble snoring, include a minty essential oil such as Eucalyptus to help clear your nose and throat.
Focus + Mental Clarity: When I'm working at my desk (or on a blog post), I like to use a few drops of Peppermint and Orange or Grapefruit. The combination is uplifting, invigorating, and stimulating, and helps me to focus and think clearly!
- Topical: The majority of therapeutic-grade oils can be used topically on the skin. It is important to note, however, that some can be used "neat" (as is), while others will have to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. A carrier oil will help ensure that skin irritations do not occur. Many oils can be used generously, but many are too concentrated for direct application, such as some of the citrus oils—they can dry out or burn the skin. Simply read instructions and do your research when trying a new oil, and test it out on a small area first. With infants and small children, it's probably best to err on the side of dilution. I love mixing concoctions in either a spray bottle or roll-on bottle—contact me to figure out where I get them!
- Relaxation: I love mixing Lavender or Frankincense with fractionated coconut oil in a roll-on bottle and applying it to my wrists and temples at bed time for a nice relaxed feeling.
- Mood Booster: I like to use a blend containing Lavender, Tangerine, and other uplifting scents like Sandalwood and Ylang Ylang in a roll-on bottle. It's nice to carry in my purse and use as a perfume, and it gives me a cheerful, energetic feeling!
- Anything Goes: Melaleuca (also known as Tea Tree oil) is great for almost everything, from foot and toenail care to blemishes and bug bites. I would recommend diluting this oil, as it is very potent—especially around the eye area!
- Skincare + Relaxation: I recently started using Frankincense in my nightly skincare routine. Its anti-aging properties and calming effect make it perfect for bed time. I simply apply coconut oil to my face and then massage a couple of drops of Frankincense in afterwards. (I'll let you know what kind of results I see down the road!)
- Internal: Many therapeutic grade oils can be taken internally as a supplement to a healthy diet. In the past I was always skeptical about taking oils internally, but since discovering a safe, therapeutic grade/certified pure brand, I do use some internally from time to time. If you are unsure if the oils you are buying are of the highest quality, I would not advise taking them internally. For me, I don't make it a regular or habitual thing, but use them more for medicinal purposes, like if I feel a cold coming on. I would recommend purchasing some veggie pill capsules if you plan to take any oils for dietary or medicinal purposes. (Contact me for a great resource on these!)
- Immune Support: A blend of Orange, Clove, and Cinnamon essential oils is my favorite pick-me-up! When I feel like I'm starting to get worn down, I simply put a few drops in a pill capsule and take it with a glass of water. It also makes a great mouthwash!
- Healthy Digestion: Oils such as Ginger, Peppermint, Coriander, and Caraway can be blended in a veggie pill capsule, and make a great remedy for an upset stomach or if you've eaten too much!
Some of My Other Favorite Uses:
- Eye Lashes: Lavender is supposed to promote hair growth. Whenever I get a new bottle of mascara I put in one to two drops of Lavender. It smells great, and it conditions my lashes to help them growth long and strong!
- Salt Bath: If you haven't already, check out my blog post on Epsom Salt Baths and learn how great they are for your body! I love to put a few drops of my favorite essential oils in my bath, such as Eucalyptus and Lavender to clear out my nose and throat and relax me at the same time!
- Household + Cleaning: Lemon is another one-stop-shop in the essential oils world. I like to put a few drops in the diffuser on cleaning day to freshen the air. It also works great to disinfect countertops and cutting boards. Internally, lemon has an alkalizing effect and can help balance pH. Try putting a couple drops in a glass of water to drink first thing in the morning!
- Fun Fact: Essential oils are best absorbed through the soles of the feet, so the roll-on bottles are key! Try applying Frankincense at bed time to feel calm and relaxed!
I would have to say that Lavender is probably my all-time favorite, just because it gives me such a sense of calm and the aroma is incredible! I am also currently loving Tangerine, because it's cheerful, uplifting, and smells like summer! Other classics that I love are Eucalyptus and Peppermint because their scents clear my head and make me feel alert and energized!
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Stay tuned for future essential oil blog posts filled with DIY recipes and spotlights on some of my favorite oils!