After being plunged into “Daylight Saving” its time to take out the candles, and bring warmth into your life with warming foods – stews, casseroles, soups as well as festive aromas. We can also bring warmth into the long dark evenings by diffusing essential oils. Essential oils bring natural, delicious, warming, soothing and uplifting fragrances into the home. Combined with the flicker of candlelight and the warm glow you are set to see the long winter nights through with ease.
What are essential oils?
“Essential” as the Oxford Dictionary defines it, is “Absolutely necessary, Extremely important”. In other words something we cannot do without. Essential oil as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is “A natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.” In other words essential oils are volatile liquids that are distilled from plants including seeds, bark, leaves, stems, roots and flowers. They do not only smell wonderful, but the plant constituents are beneficial to health as well as positively affecting and enhancing mood.
To support wellbeing we can use essential oils in different ways, such as topically, in some cases internally as well as through diffusion in a diffuser, usually powered by electricity, or in a tea-lighter warming vessel. Using oils through diffusion breaks the oil into a fine mist that is dispersed into the air, creating the aroma of the essential oil put in the diffuser to bring about the desired effect whether to neutralize cooking smells, influence mood and emotions, bring on a festive spirit, or to improve health.
All pure essential oils are taken from the plant itself, and used in this pure form, with no additions needed. The oil is highly concentrated and therefore only 1-2 drops are enough to stimulate the olfactory process, resulting in the desired atmosphere and emotion. Many essential oil constituents provide health benefits, for example antibacterial, (Aguiar et al 2014) and antiviral properties that support the immune system (Serafino et a; 2008), to name a few.
Why are they essential? Essential oils have the power to influence both the respiratory and olfactory epithelium, which creates our sense of smell. The olfactory nerves and the portion of the brain that processes smells are closely tied to the area of the brain that processes emotions, our hormones and the autonomic nervous system. Ever been in a place where you have smelt something and it has brought back a certain memory? This is because smell is closely connected with the part of the brain that affects long-term memory. (Herz et al. 1996).
Oils can be calming, energizing for example wild orange, rosemary and peppermint. Relaxing - for relaxation think about lavender, geranium and roman chamomile. To invoke the Christmas season, oils such as spruce, cinnamon and frankincense come to mind. Oils can also be used to ease breathing, such as eucalyptus rosemary and thyme.
In the colder weather we fall back on hot baths to relax, unwind and warm up. Make this a calming and relaxing ritual by adding 3-6 drops of your favourite essential oil or mix of oils to the bath water. Try lavender, bergamot, or sandalwood. For a more uplifting bath when you are feeling exhausted, but have a full schedule ahead try peppermint and or rosemary.
Cooking with essential oils gives concentrated flavour to the dish you are preparing.
Not all oils can be used internally, however lemon, rosemary, thyme, oregano and cinnamon are just a few that can be used in cooking, or added to warm drinks such as coffee, rice and almond milk to give that little bit of added natural flavour. (Use only pure essential oils that can be taken internally). The benefit of the oils is not just the concentration and natural goodness, but also the fact that they can be used all the year round, when fresh herbs are not available.
Recipe for Creamy, Cream-less Raw Tomato Soup (Modern Essentials, 9th edition, Aroma Tools)
- 6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- ½ cup water
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 small onion chopped finely
- Salt to taste
- 1 ripe avocado chopped
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 drops basil essential oil
Place tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and water in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add avocado and olive oil, blend again until smooth. Add basil essential oil. Tip into a bowl and stir. If wanted this soup can be served warm or chilled. For warm soup heat until just boiling, remove and serve. For chilled soup, leave in the refrigerator for 2 hours and serve.
Essential oils are loved by everyone. The perfect Christmas gift.
Modern Essentials, Aroma Tools, 9th edition. www.AromaTools.com