When I’m teaching yoga, I’ll often use essential oils at the end of class. A gentle shoulder and neck rub with a little drop of lavender, vetiver or grapefruit seed oil can greatly enhance a student’s state of relaxation, and help her drop deeper into Savasana. It’s a lovely thing.
Essential oils are far, far more than just aromatic accessories to a yoga class. They have specific healing and medicinal purposes beyond smelling nice. They’ve been used for thousands of years the world over and are potent, effective and natural remedies to many ailments. Not just for physical healing, essential oils also have profound effects on emotional and mental healing, too.
Last fall I bought a basic handbook and started making my own blends. I’ve amassed many bottles of different oils (most oils you can find at Whole Foods, or at nicer pharmacies) and have used them for everything: from spritzing valerian on my pillow when I’ve got insomnia, to dabbing tea tree oil on the dog when she’s got an itchy bite. Here I’m sharing a few treatments to help relieve some common winter problems.
Essential oils are potent and specific, and should be treated like medicine. A few basic things to keep in mind when using them:
– We absorb essential oils into our bodies through the skin and breathed from the air, so don’t swallow them. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can damage the lining of the throat and stomach.
– If you have skin sensitivity, do a patch test on the inside of your wrist before slathering yourself head to toe. Common sense!
– If you have a nut allergy, avoid nut oils (kukui, sweet almond, macadamia).
– Be aware of contraindications: in the blends below, I list contraindications, if any (pregnancy, epilepsy, sensitive skin, etc.), for certain oils. Do take care when experimenting with your own blends.
– Know your nose. Essential oil use is scientific, but we can also count on our olfactory nerve to guide us in the right direction. It’s primal and it’s intuitive: if something smells foul to you, it probably is. This is your body’s way of protecting you: it’s no good to inhale or massage into your skin a blend that’s gross. At the very least, these blends below should smell really nice!
TREAT WINTER-DAMAGED, CHAPPED & CRACKED HANDS. Blend:
4 tsp. of a carrier oil (a carrier oil acts as a base and diffuses the concentration of the other essential oils. I use Apricot Kernel as my carrier; it’s calming and mild. Other carrier oils include Sunflower, Grapeseed, Sweet Almond, Jojoba, and Avocado. Any will do!)
5 drops of German Chamomile
5 drops of Myrrh
Rub into hands every night until fully absorbed.
german chamomile: a soothing anti-inflammatory.
WARD OFF DEPRESSION & BRIGHTEN DARK MOODS DUE TO LACK OF SUN & SHORT DAYS. Blend:
4 tsp. of carrier oil
2 drops of May Chang (avoid if you have very sensitive skin)
4 drops of Neroli
4 drops of Orange Leaf
Gently massage into upper body, concentrating on shoulders, neck and chest.
neroli: comforting, supports emotional healing.
RELIVE SYMPTOMS OF A COLD, INCLUDING DRY COUGHS & CONGESTION. Blend:
4 drops of Eucalyptus
2 drops of Myrrh
4 drops of Himalayan Cedarwood
Add these to a warm bath and soak. You can also add the above oils to 4 tsp. of a carrier oil and rub into your chest to unblock respiratory passages.
eucalyptus: clean, powerful, expansive, the go-to for colds and coughs.
WARM COLD LEGS, FEET, ARMS & HANDS & INCREASE CIRCULATION. Blend:
4 tsp. of carrier oil
2 drops of Cinnamon Leaf (avoid if you have very sensitive skin)
4 drops of Ginger (avoid if you have very sensitive skin)
4 drops of Lavandin (avoid if you suffer from epilepsy)
Rub this blend into your limbs twice a day. A little Ayurvedic massage tip: massage up and down the muscles of your arms and legs, and side-to-side around the wrists, ankle and elbow joints.
cinnamon leaf: fiery, warm spiciness supports immunity and digestion.
There are many plant-based oils out there, all with varying benefits to your vitality and well-being. Survive the winter, and use these blends in good health!
* Blends have been adapted from The Essential Oils Handbook by Jennie Harding, Watkins Publishing, 2008.