An Oil for What Ails You

Essential oils have been used for centuries for their medicinal properties.



Erika Rech; Photo Styling by Anna Ware

When Emily Ruff feels a headache coming on she doesn’t swallow an Advil; she reaches for her tiny bottle of peppermint essential oil. “I drop one or two drops on a cotton ball and breathe it into my sinus passages.” As executive director of the Florida School of Holistic Living, Ruff has studied and taught the medicinal effects of plants and herbs for over a decade. “Essential oils are concentrated extracts from aromatic plants with a lot of antiseptic and antimicrobial elements and health benefits,” Ruff says.

How To Use

“It’s important when applying oils to the skin that you blend with a carrier oil—coconut, almond or olive oil, for example—because if applied directly on the skin, oils can cause irritation,” Ruff says. “I start with one drop and if I need more, I increase from there.”
Essential oils can also be used aromatically via a diffuser, which can be purchased online or at local herb stores, such as Leaves & Roots, which also makes its own essential oils (leaves-androots.com). “Candle diffusers, plug-in diffusers, and even car diffusers help deliver the aromatherapy benefits to the air,” Ruff says.

While others might disagree, Ruff believes strongly that essential oils shouldn’t be administered orally. “They can be caustic to the mucous membranes and cause long-term damage to the esophagus and stomach lining.”

Buying Tips

Be sure you’re purchasing an essential oil versus a fragrance oil, which has been synthetically manufactured to smell the same but has no medicinal properties.

Ruff also opts for certified organic oil. “Essential oils are made of so much plant material in their raw form that if they are laden with chemical pesticides these will come off as residue in the distillation process.”

She also suggests to watch for claims such as “therapeutic grade” or “100% pure.” “There is no industry standard labeling for oils, no governing body. These terms are self-imposed.”


Getting Started

Three essential oils to kickstart your home health care kit:

Lavender

  • Apply to minor cuts and insect bites to protect them from infection.
  • Mix with a carrier oil and apply to blemishes.

Lemon

  • Add to white vinegar as a cleaning and disinfecting solution in your kitchen.
  • Diffuse a few drops for use as an air freshener.

Eucalyptus

  • Diffuse to open respiratory passages.
  • Use in an aromatherapy burner to keep mosquitoes away.

Want to learn more? Emily Ruff will be offering a weekend Aromatherapy 101 course in July. For more info, check out holisticlivingschool.org

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