The Egyptians used essential oils for embalming bodies where the antibacterial and fragrant properties must certainly have helped; religious practitioners have deployed them for centuries for their aesthetic and mystical appeal; and of course, the wealthy and powerful have always sought out the most precious oils for personal pleasure and appeal.
In recent years essential oils have really come into their own as people have begun to appreciate the difference they can make to their physical and mental enjoyment of life.
Here Kim Brookes, founder of Perfino, an innovative natural scent jewellery brand shares five ways that you could use essential oils in your daily life to make a positive difference.
The scent of pure essential oils is one of life’s greatest pleasures and one that is now available in abundance with a huge variety of room diffusers, humidifiers, and oil-infused candles.
Of course, everyone has personal likes, dislikes, and associations. I’m not a huge fan of Jasmine as it is rather cloying and overly sweet to my nose, but there are plenty who love it. On the other hand, I adore the scent of Rose, one of the most precious and expensive of oils as you need so very many petals, hand-picked at the break of dawn, to produce a really good Rose absolute.
There are some excellent suppliers and distributors of essential oils, and I would only ever buy from these. Not just because I want to be sure I am getting a top-quality, pure oil, but also because I need to be sure that it is sustainably sourced.
Many of the raw materials from which oils are derived, such as Sandalwood and Rosewood, are now grown under protected conditions and will require CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) certification. Some, although not protected by CITES, are still vulnerable to overexploitation, as is the case with Frankincense. Reputable sellers will provide all necessary certification alongside a wealth of information on purity, source, animal testing, vegan credentials, technical documentation, and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), so my advice is to buy wisely.
Blended essential oils elevate the scent of individual oils to another level entirely. Just as with cooking and most artistic endeavours, it takes many hours, years in fact, to get a good grasp on how oils blend together to produce the most compelling fragrance. If you get it wrong it can cost you dearly with the most precious oils retailing at over £60 for 10ml, making a single drop worth around 30p. Over time you will learn that some oils are very gentle, and some are bullies, some work well together and bring out the best in a blend, whereas others can turn a lovely smell into an atrocious odour. So, either enjoy the journey, if you have the time and inclination or defer to the experts.
So far so good. You love a smell, find a reputable supplier, or experiment yourself in a controlled fashion, and then sit back and enjoy the scent as it diffuses into the room. But be warned of what is in the blended mix if you, like me, only want to be experiencing the scent of natural products, as so many “flavours” are now available which are not extracted from nature. It is not possible, for example, to extract a natural essential oil from Lily of the Valley, or Lilac, or indeed Apple. If these ingredients are in the mix they will have been produced synthetically, in a laboratory, by the experts in fragrance chemistry.
My favourite suppliers, which can be relied on for top quality pure and natural essential oils, are Oshadhi and Makers Ingredients.
Beauty and wellbeing
Beauty and wellbeing applications abound when essential oils are diluted with a carrier oil such as Almond and Jojoba, enabling them to then be applied to the skin as massage oils, cleansers, exfoliators, rubs and so on. These products are heavily regulated for a very good reason as pure essential oils can be incredibly strong and may harm you if put directly onto the skin. This is particularly the case with certain citrus oils which are highly active, with astringent properties and photosensitivity that activates under direct sunlight and can cause chemical burns.
This is where experts have an important role to play in providing a variety of naturally derived products that have gone through a very detailed process of Cosmetic Compliance and Safety Assessment. This is achieved with reference to The IFRA (International Fragrance Association) standards for the safe use of fragrance ingredients, such as essential oils.
As a side note, it must be said, however, that it is practically impossible to determine the effects of multiple ingredients as they mix together on the very personal chemistry of your skin. Many people are intolerant of or allergic to on-skin applications, so my advice is to proceed with caution, and again trust the source. My favourite here is Aesop, a brand with true eco credentials and a BCorp to boot.
Off skin applications
If you want the enjoyment of the fragrance of essential oils without putting anything on your skin, then try Perfino natural scent jewellery, created specifically so you can wear it, and enjoy some expertly blended pure essential oils without having to put any chemicals on your skin at all. This is uniquely achieved by a single drop of oil on a porous lava stone that sits inside the jewellery, giving you aromatic pleasure all day long with none of the possible pitfalls.
Aromatherapy or the therapeutic use of oils, has really grown its audience in the last decade as increasing scientific evidence supports the use of oils, often in ways that have been used and studied empirically for centuries.
Neals Yard, which started in business 40 years ago and continues to sell from its shop in the Covent Garden area of London, has for years provided treatments using their oils supported by great credentials and a wealth of expertise. Here you can enjoy essential oils for their scent and therapeutic benefits in the context of facials, massage, reflexology and so much more, with purported benefits of increasing focus, relaxing muscles, or easing headaches.
Niche expertise and know-how have further developed over the last few decades catering for the use of aromatherapy and essential oils for very specific purposes. Anatome produces signature sleep blends as well as a range of oils to support immunity, heart health, and mental wellbeing, and they all smell great.
CBD oil has also filtered into this specialist arena in recent years. Again, charlatans and false claims abound so make sure you do your research before you believe the headlines. I have found a lot of useful information from LabAroma with expert direction thanks to the very well-informed Colleen Quinn.
In the home
Cleaning and even disinfecting done with the less expensive oils, particularly citrus oils, and especially lemon can be effective. A small drop of lemon oil in the dishwasher makes for a clean machine and a wonderful smell in the kitchen, and then there is the loo…
Fabric refreshment can be achieved with the tiniest drop of Lavender or your favourite essential oil. This is far more natural and minimal in terms of packaging than some of the products on the market which are 100% synthetic and come in large plastic containers.
And finally, spiders! There are certain insects, particularly spiders, that really don’t like peppermint. So, if you would like to control who, or what, comes into your home, and like the smell of peppermint, you can put this around your windowsills and conduct your own little experiment. This is also great for ladybirds who do so like to come into the house when we would rather they were eating the aphids on the roses.