Essential oils are the organic compounds which are extracted from plants, usually by distillation. This extraction is preserved with alcohol and makes a highly concentrated and aromatic oil. Since they contain the very essence of the plant, these ‘essential’ oils are rich with regenerative and healing properties. They have the potential to make a big impact on our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
How Essential Oils Work
Did you know that essential oils act on the same receptors in our brain as alcohol and tobacco? Fragrance really can affect our mood and function, and thus our perception.
Did you also know that the molecular structure of an essential oil is such, that it’s easily absorbed by the epidermal and dermal layers of skin, unlike other larger molecules? This allows it to permeate the capillaries and enter the bloodstream within minutes of being inhaled or applied topically.
The Power Of Essential Oils.
The knowledge of essential oils and their medicinal properties is known as aromatherapy, meaning, quite literally, ‘smell treatment.’ We’ve relied on plants, herbs and hedgerow healing to meet our mental and physical needs since the dawn of time. This custom and healing folklore is often passed through the generations, and makes essential oils an ideal component for spell casting. You can burn them to set the mood, use blends to annoint candles or tools, and incorporate them into poppets, charms, powders, brews and many other magickal workings.
(See HERE for custom blend essential oil recipes by Enevow Holyer.)
Buying Essential Oils
I have an ever expanding collection of oils, but it can get expensive. I recommend building up slowly by getting to know a few oils at a time. Really learn about their individual properties and how they interact with each other and the human body. If you buy them as you need them, there is less initial outlay and you develop a broader knowledge base around what you already have.
Look for pure essential oils wherever possible, or extracts for the more expensive items. Don’t be fooled into buying cheaper scents of lesser quality. If you want it to work, it needs to be as pure as possible. A little goes an incredibly long way, so you won’t need to be replacing them very often, provided you exercise caution.
Choosing Your Essential Oils.
There is a bewildering array of essential oils out there, so how are you supposed to know where to start? Each oil has its own individual properties, but they can be grouped together into categories depending on what you want to use them for. For example, if building a herbal medicine chest, you would want to have oils with antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties amongst others. This can get confusing at the beginning, especially as a lot of oils act in the same way but are otherwise completely different, and don’t always smell great when blended.
An easier way to get started is to forget about what they do and just concentrate on how they smell. Categorising essential oils by scent – floral, citrus, woody etc – is a great way of getting to grips with the basics and learning how they blend. Then you can develop a further understanding of how they work and which combinations will best benefit you.
Where To Start
It can be difficult to know which oils you would consider ‘the basics’ as everyone’s opinion is different, and there can be a lot of conflicting information out there. Worry not! I have put together a list of my top five essential oils for beginners.
1. Lavender Oil
The daddy of all essential oils, Lavender has an amazing array of medicinal benefits and long standing traditions associated with the plant. It also smells amazing. If you were only going to buy one oil, Lavender would be the one to go for, in terms of versatility. It is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants, a great relaxant, has healing antibacterial properties and can be applied directly to the skin to soothe cuts, burns, scrapes, stings, acne and rashes. Lavender is an effective killer of beastly bathroom odours and an instant lifter of spirits. Whenever I’m not sure what is needed, I choose this one first.
2. Tea Tree Oil
This ‘wonder-oil’ is often described as an entire first aid kit in a bottle. It has a distinctive medicinal smell which acts as an effective decongestant when burned or inhaled. Tea Tree is the go-to spot treatment for many people because of its fantastic antibacterial properties. It is also antiviral and antifungal making it a really good all-rounder and a great natural remedy for warts, verrucas, thrush and other fungal infections. Also a good nail strengthener and can be added to shampoo to counteract dandruff.
3. Rosemary Oil
Another epic addition to your collection. Anyone familiar with herbs will know the refreshing, tangy, woody scent of this little beauty. But Rosemary is much more than just a lovely scent and a tasty addition to your sunday roast. A recent study showed the powerful affect it has on the memory and the healing impact it can have on the brain. in fact, Rosemary has been shown as extremely beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimers Disease. it is also the number one herb for detoxing the liver and can be used to stimulate hair follicles, calm digestive upsets, reduce pain and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
4. May Chang Oil
I always think May Chang gets a bit forgotten about. It is a lovely little oil with a fresh and sweet lemony scent which is both energising and uplifting, and widely used within cosmetology. May Chang is known for being an effective tonic for skin complaints, and is good for asthma and other respiratory conditions, as well as low mood and lethargy. You can use it as a floor wash or cleaning agent when mised with Tea Tree. I like to wipe it around my window and door frames to deter creepy crawlies as it is fresher than Citronella which can be a little cloying.
5. Peppermint Oil
Another must have ingredient in your collection, Peppermint is incredibly useful in treating digestive issues. Peppermint tea is widely used for indigestion and nausea, but less well known is the efficacy of massaging a few drops into the stomach area. It has fabulous cooling, anti-inflammatory properties good for sports injuries, and can help to keep you alert and decongested during flu season. Peppermint even freshens bad breath. Another fabulous all-rounder.
And that’s just five of them!
There is a wealth of information out there on aromatherapy and essential oils, but as I mentioned earlier, there is also plenty of misinformation doing the rounds. Here are some good sources from people who know their stuff.
Any of the books by Valerie Ann Worwood are a great place to start. The Fragrant Pharmacy is my favourite and lives in my handbag for reference purposes.
Starchild based in Glastonbury are a great company with a wide variety of herbs and oils in stock. I really love the way each listing provides magickal and medicinal uses.
Last but by no means least we have Dr Axe who really knows his stuff and has a fascinating website full of articles all about essential oils.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of Enevow Holyer for spells, tarot and more on herbal healing. You can also join my community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. 🌞