By Crystal Tingle
It is hard to believe that another year has come and gone. I don’t know about you, but I must admit that 2015 was full of busy, packed with crazy and overflowing with all kinds of changes for me. Some of it was good and anticipated while other changes presented a bit of a challenge, a brain stretch of sort - learning to think differently about the things I already knew, such as the way I had always viewed health and fitness. I know that a fit body on the outside must start from a healthy body on the inside. I know that what you put into your mouth plays a more important role in many ways toward your external transformation than any exercise you do. I also know it takes both to achieve the best you, but just hear me out. Events from this year have really altered the way I view healthy living. I have realized that it must go well beyond what I have always known and been so passionate about…it is also understanding the role “wellness” plays in it all. I love the way McKinley Health Center defines wellness: “Wellness is a state of optimal well-being that is oriented toward maximizing an individual’s potential. This is a life-long process of moving towards enhancing your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental well-being.” In other words, you can’t eat great, exercise 3-4 times a week and hold your claim on healthy. The beyond is also looking at how much rest you get at night, learning to manage stress and anxiety that life creates, and realizing how environmental and traditional practices of western living impacts our overall well-being. This is just as important as the food you eat and your weekday workouts.
Admittedly, evaluating the beyond for me was a bit daunting until I gave myself permission to take it slowly. It first meant acknowledging that to achieve an optimal state of wellness for not only me but my family as well, I had to open up and empty more cabinets. Knowing that our skin is actually the largest organ in our body and designed to absorb as well as secrete, I really began to dig deeper to look for more natural alternatives to the everyday things we use that contain potentially harmful synthetic and chemical compounds. It also became clear and essential that I not only open up the cleaning cabinet but the medicine cabinet as well. As I began my research, one common thread kept surfacing - essential oils! I have dabbled with a few in the past but I was honestly somewhat skeptical and thus never put a lot of energy into the research, but after putting in the long pushed aside time, what I found, I liked. What I read made sense! And what I tried, I loved! Now I am certainly not claiming to be the expert yet but I will say I have been quite impressed and ready to learn more. These oils have so many useful applications that I cannot even begin to cover them all, but the reach extends from household cleaners to the shower and straight into the medicine cabinet. With each day, I am that much closer to “cleaning house” and it’s a good feeling. It’s a healthy feeling. But it is a process…and here are a few questions I had in the beginning of my process that hopefully helps you in yours!
“What are essential oils and what’s so great about them?”
Essential oils (EOs) are derived from the plant in its entirety. It’s an extraction of a highly concentrated pure liquid using the stems, flower, leaves, bark, roots, etc., using a distilling process usually by steam or water. For example, it takes about 75 lemons to extract enough oil for a 15 ml bottle. Or, look at it this way: one drop of peppermint EO is equal to about 28 cups of peppermint tea. That’s pretty concentrated!
The molecules within the oil are very small, making it easily absorbed by the skin. Depending on the oil used, it may work within our bodies to enhance our immune system, stimulate cell growth, aid in eliminating toxins, kill bacteria and viruses, and more. Because the FDA does not regulate EOs, few studies exist, but more and more are being released. EOs have been used medicinally for thousands of years. You’re familiar with the most famous historical story use of oils, right? The wise men’s gift of frankincense and myrrh.
My next question was, “Where do I start?”
EOs are not regulated nor are they created equal. Because this industry lacks standardization, this is one area where you want to make sure you are buying therapeutic grade EOs. Many companies, however, will make this claim, so go with a trusted source and buy from one that uses:
* Indigenously grown plants free of chemicals and pesticides.
* Plants harvested at the right time for peak properties.
* Proper extraction to preserve the molecules in the oil.
* Third party testers to ensure quality and integrity.
“How do I use them?”
EOs can be used aromatically, topically or internally. Make sure you read up on the oils you decide to try. Some can be used all three ways while others are only meant to be used topically and may require dilution. Still others should not be used on children or pregnant women. Read! Read! Read! If you are uncertain, I can refer you to people I consider experts in EOs to answer your questions and help you.
And finally, “Which ones should I buy first?”
This part can be overwhelming since there are hundreds of EOs and blends available. So if you are just starting out, I would recommend these five:
Since this oil has antibacterial properties and a great fresh smell, I dilute it and use it as a household cleaner and disinfectant. Lemon also has antihistamine and antiviral properties as well as being a great natural detox, which benefits our digestive track and can aid in reducing inflammation in our bodies. It’s a must!
Additional uses: breath freshener, add to shampoo for dandruff, anxiety.
This is my favorite. Lavender is most known for its calming and relaxing properties. As much as my mind is aware of the need for adequate sleep, my body does not always comply. I have often had to use OTC methods to help me shut down and get rest. However, since I began using this oil, I have not had the need for sleep aids. My children even come to me for their nightly dose as it stays right near my bed. I apply it topically as well as dilute and spritz it over my pillow and bedding. Lavender also smells amazing and is known to aid in easing muscle tension and stress. So add some to your diffuser and let it work throughout your house.
Additional uses: skin rashes and acne, insect bites, minor burns and cuts, laundry freshener (a drop or two in the washer).
I have been a long-time believer of peppermint in moments of nausea or upset stomach or other digestive issues. In the past it has been chewing a piece of gum or sucking on a piece of candy. Since I have started using EOs, my peppermint oil is a favorite second only to my lavender! This is not only for the reasons above but also for alertness, which I have used on many occasions. I simply apply it topically to my temples or put a drop in my mouth and it’s invigorating! It’s a great breath freshener as well.
Every morning I put a drop of this oil under my tongue. It doesn’t have the best taste but its medicinal value is undisputed. Because it promotes cellular health throughout our body, it supports and helps to maintain a healthy immune system. This is an important catalyst in overall wellness.
This oil is a great addition to the family wellness stash especially in the colder months when colds, sinus infections and asthma attacks seem to be at an all-time high. Eucalyptus is used to support respiratory health including chest congestion and asthma attacks and clears breathing. It also has antibacterial properties so it can be used as a spray or cleaner for germs and odors.
Now you have it…my fabulous five to help get you started. I know that EOs are not a fix for everything but they have certainly been a very welcome and useful addition to my home in ways I can’t even count! The very idea that I am using something so natural is refreshing.
So when you sit down this month and begin to set your New Year’s resolutions for 2016 that will most certainly include being healthier in some way, the bottom line is essentially this: Reach beyond what you have always thought healthy living to be and consider including a well-balanced approach to optimal wellness, which as we have read by now…is essential for life!
Subscribe to On the Coast Magazine's Free Newsletter for regular updates!