As a natural health enthusiast, I’ve long been interested in essential oils and have dabbled in them a bit here and there. So when Sarah Williams, a reader near Nashville, TN, contacted me to see if I’d be interested in having her share more about oils with SlowMama readers, I said sure! Sarah is a homeschooling mom of four with a penchant for natural living and she became such a huge fan of essential oils that she ended up joining a company called doTerra. I’ve heard good things about doTerra’s products, and am eager to try some, but mainly I wanted to learn a little more from Sarah about oils more generally and thought you might, too.
By the way, if you are new to essential oils, be sure to do your homework. Oils work, which means they should be taken seriously — after all, anything powerful enough to heal can also harm (says the woman who gave her husband heart palpitations by diffusing the wrong oil, which he was clearly sensitive to). So get informed about the best ways to use oils, how to determine safety, what’s advised for children, etc. Essential Oils Everyday is one book that’s been recommended to me. Here’s another that’s apparently the bible of oil safety, but expensive. There are others, I’m sure.
Okay, without further ado, here’s my interview with Sarah…
What got you interested in essential oils?
When my oldest child was born over seven years ago, I started learning about nutrition, and about other natural options to support our family’s health. When I was growing up, my mom would take me to the doctor for any little symptom, and that often resulted in antibiotics. I didn’t want to have to go to the doctor and spend that money, or use that many prescription drugs with possible side effects, if there were safer, more natural and effective options. Friends suggested essential oils so I started reading about them and finally tried them out for myself. I have found them to be an amazing tool in keeping my family healthy.
Can you give me some examples of how you use oils in your family?
Generally, there are three ways to use an essential oil: aromatically (by inhaling directly or using a diffuser), topically (massaging into the skin), and internally (only if you’re using a high quality oil tested for purity).
I love lavender for occasional bug bites, bee stings, and burns. Just the other day, I stepped on a wasp and got stung. I hobbled inside for the lavender, and just a couple of drops completely took care of that sting. Lavender is also very relaxing and wonderful for decreasing stress at the end of the day and supporting sleep. I use tea tree oil on occasional skin irritations like rashes or pimples, as well as behind my kids’ ears (never in the ear canal!) to encourage drainage. Frankincense is one I absolutely love, as it’s very supportive of immune health and cellular health. I diffuse it, or put in on the bottom of my feet at night to support my immune function and decrease inflammation. (The bottom of your feet is the most absorbent part of your body.)
Now that it’s back-to-school season, I also rub an immunity/protective blend on my kids’ feet every night before bed, to support their immune systems as they’re getting back into close proximity with lots of kids and germs! My husband appreciates the muscle soothing blend rubbed onto his lower back after a long day at work and I love the digestion blend and rub it onto my kids’ tummies when they feel upset. One of my sons woke up in the middle of the night screaming that his stomach hurt and after an unsuccessful trip to the bathroom, I rubbed this on and he was calmly sleeping in minutes. I also love a respiratory blend for supporting kids’ breathing during the night. When they’re not waking up, I’m not waking up!
We have pets and kids and mess, but I wasn’t willing to use chemical laden air fresheners. When I started diffusing essential oils, my husband was thrilled with how wonderful the house smelled.
So what is an essential oil and how is it made?
Essential oils are compounds that occur naturally in plants — in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, or other parts. The oils inside the plant essentially act as the plant’s immune system. They protect the plant from environmental threats and keep the plant healthy. They’ve been used throughout history for their benefits for health care, beauty treatments, and cooking. They are either cold-pressed or distilled from the plants (both methods provide quality oils, it just depends on the plant itself which one works better). When done properly, the oil is removed from the plant without anything else being mixed in. So, ideally, you end up with only what comes out of the plant in your bottle of essential oil. They are antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antifungal. Plus, they smell amazing!
How can someone be sure of getting a quality oil — what should we look for when selecting one?
One important factor is purity. You want to use an oil that does not contain any additives, fillers, pesticides, or contaminants. To be sure about the purity, you want to use an oil that has undergone rigorous scientific testing to ensure that the oil is what it claims to be and nothing else has been added. The company should be willing to share that testing information and claims about the oil’s purity.
How can we be sure essential oils are safe, especially for kids?
Essential oils are generally safe and effective. Of course, different people have different levels of sensitivity and children especially, may be more sensitive than adults. I recommend diluting any oil you use on a child with a carrier oil. So, for young children, you could use about a teaspoon of a carrier oil for every drop of essential oil, then you can decrease the amount of carrier oil for older children. It doesn’t sound like much, but essential oils are super concentrated. The carrier oil can be pretty much any kind of oil. Some popular options include: fractionated coconut oil (because it is liquid at room temperature), olive oil, almond oil, argon oil, avocado oil … there are so many choices. You can start by applying just a small amount on a child or adult to test for any sensitivity, then increase the amount if desired once there is no adverse reaction.
If you could recommend a few oils every household should have, what would they be?
I think this depends somewhat on the particular issues that you deal with in your own family. Oils can be targeted to support any area of health. That said, some of the most versatile and easiest to start with may be lemon, lavender, and peppermint. Those are generally considered “starter” oils. However, there are many great uses for oils when it comes to taking care of a family; it’s hard to narrow it down! The “top ten” oils are often considered to be: lemon, lavender, peppermint, tea tree, frankincense, oregano, a respiratory blend, a muscle soothing blend, a digestion blend, and an immunity/protective blend.
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing some basics about oils with SlowMama. If you want to find out more, she has two free live web classes coming right up this month that you can check out. Each has a slightly different focus, but Sarah says attendees will get a good foundation in oils with either one. (After registering through the forms below, she’ll send you a link for the class.)
Essential Oils 101 – Sunday, Sept 25 at 4pm Eastern / 3pm Central
Family Health Essentials – Tuesday, Sept 27 at 8pm Eastern / 7pm Central
Friends, do you use essential oils? If so, which are your favorites and what do you use them for?
Images: 1 – Pixabay, 2 – Sarah Williams