When we were in England, my cousin Olivia raved about essential oils. She uses them for everything from perfume to cleaning to baths. I was so intrigued! Here are 13 amazing everyday uses...
First things first: What are they, exactly? An essential oil is simply a very potent extract from the leaves, stems, roots, flowers or bark of plants. Essential oils are relatively inexpensive and come in hundreds of varieties, from basil to lavender to sandalwood.
For the ultimate bath: Add a couple drops of an essential oil to bathwater to help you decompress. (Scents that promote relaxation: lavender, camomile, bergamot, cedarwood and jasmine.) If you have sensitive skin, you can also mix the oil with coconut oil or a bit of shampoo before adding it to the bathwater.
For a signature scent: To make your own fragrance, mix 25 drops of your favorite essential oils (sandalwood, patchouli and bergamot are all sexy scents) with 1/4 cup of high-quality vodka (the higher the alcohol content, the better) in a clean glass bottle. Allow the mixture to sit for two weeks before using. Voila: custom perfume!
For incredible moisture: Sweet almond oil, which contains vitamins A, B, and E, is a wonderful natural moisturizer. You can rub it on hands and feet, use it to heal chapped lips and even dab a bit underneath your eyes before going to sleep to help reduce dark circles.
To heal a pimple: Tea tree oil, known for its healing properties, is great for controlling oily skin and calming blemishes. Neem oil is a natural antibacterial and makes a fantastic pimple-fighting potion. Mix a few drops each of neem and tea tree oil and dab directly on your blemish with a cotton swab. (As with any topical treatment, it's best to spot test a tiny area first to make sure your skin isn't sensitive to it. Also, beware the strong odor!)
For a natural room freshener: Add a few drops of essential oil to a spray bottle filled with purified water and shake it up for an all-natural air purifier. (Lemon, lavender and peppermint work well for freshness, but this will work with any scent.)
To make your whole house smell amazing: Add a few drops of your favorite scent to a pot of boiling water and let it simmer. Voila! Your whole home will smell fantastic. Warm scents like nutmeg and cinnamon are especially welcoming around the holidays.
To make shoes stink less: Put a few drops of lemon or geranium essential oil on a cotton ball and then place into shoes to freshen them up.
To freshen while cleaning: You know how vacuums can smell kind of gross? Put a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball, then place it in your vacuum cleaner bag for help freshening while you clean. If you have a bag-less vacuum, mix a few drops of essential oil with a small spoonful of baking soda, then vacuum it up!
To make your own massage oil: Mix a couple drops of your favorite essential oil(s) with an unscented carrier oil, like avocado or coconut. (The scents of lavender and patchouli help you relax, while vanilla and orange are heralded as aphrodisiacs.) Perfect for an at-home date night.
For relaxation: Lavender promotes relaxation, but did you know it may also help with stress and even teeth grinding? Some sources suggest rubbing a few drops on the bottom of your feet (!) before you go to sleep to ensure a restful night.
For an energy boost: Peppermint is said to boost your mood and reduce fatigue. Keep a small bottle on your desk to sniff during a long work day or in your bag before you head to the gym. (Note: Peppermint oil can sometimes cause irritation when applied directly to the skin.)
To reduce congestion: Eucalyptus oil is lauded as a wonderful decongestant. The next time you have a cold, simply sniff the scent or place two to five drops on the shower floor and let the scented steam work its magic.
For overall well-being: Jasmine oil is said to reduce stress and combat depression. Rub a few drops on your pressure points, like your wrists or temples, when you need a pick-me-up. Jasmine is safe to apply directly to your skin. Bonus: It doubles as a heady perfume.
Would you try them? Or do you already use essential oils? I'd love to hear any tips or recommendations...You can find a bunch of essential oils here—I think I'm going to order sandalwood and eucalyptus:)
P.S. Lovely fall nail polish.
(Research and tips written by Caroline Donofrio. Photos by Kate Jordan for Cup of Jo. Tips found via Real Simple, Style Craze and Edens Garden)