THE WHAT, THE WHY & EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
Potential Client: Hi. I was referred by your friend, Amor. I’d like to buy some oils. What do you currently have in stock?
Me: Hey. Thank you for calling us. Amor is a good friend. We stock both carrier/base oils and essential oils including moringa seed oil, baobab seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, avocado oil, eucalyptus essential oil, patchouli essential oil……
Potential Client: By the way, what exactly are essential oils?
Me: Essential oil is an umbrella term used to describe highly concentrated, steam-distilled or cold-pressed extracts of almost any part of a plant, such as seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, rinds, barks or fruits, and usually derives its name and smell from the same. Not all plants produce essential oils though.
Potential Client: Why are they called “essential oils”? Is it because it is critical that we must use them?
Me: No, essential oils are great for your overall health and wellness but they are called ‘essential’ because they represent the very essence of odour and flavour of the plant they are derived from.
Potential Client: I see! Interesting. So, what are the uses and benefits of each?…….
Such conversations and genuine interest by the Kenyan and African market in this relatively new area of essential oils keeps the flame of our passion for plant-based oils burning and further fuels the pursuit of innovation and knowledge transfer in this sector. For a long time, essential oils have been considered an elitist product by many, thus the small market in Kenya and many other parts of Africa.
But numerous species of medicinal plants from Africa are important aromatic and ornamental plants, as well as being medicinal. Many of these species produce essential oils, which have applications in folk and modern medicine, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. In essence, oils have been part of our African heritage from as early as 10,000BCE and have been used for status symbols, forms of ancient payments for labour, beauty and grooming, aromatherapy, pain management, gifts, ritual cleansing, burial preparations/embalming, spiritual ceremonies, and so on, in many cultures across Africa.
Fast forward to our modern, contemporary world, how can we pragmatically incorporate essential oils into our lives and space? Essential oils affect our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and take effect via topical application or inhalation. Long term use of essential oils – in small quantities – can have a great impact on our overall health and state of wellbeing. I am by no means an expert, but as I’ve been integrating essential oils into my daily life, I have learned a lot about how versatile they are and have had fun trying them out in a wide variety of ways.
I have compiled a categorized list of 30 ways you can utilize them, but this is only a start! Leggo….
Ailments & Pain Relief
1. There’s a good reason just about every massage therapist uses essential oils in his or her practice: They have incredibly powerful soothing effects when applied topically to the skin and are beneficial for relaxation, sleep and pain relief. Example: In a small bottle, combine 15mls grapeseed oil and 3-5 drops each of lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus essential oils. Shake together and rub on areas for added comfort, relaxation and rejuvenation.
2. Ginger or nutmeg essential oil can help relieve nausea just by the smell, but also rubbing a few drops on chest or stomach can relax the digestive system.
3. Soothe a headache by massaging a combination of 2 drops of peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils, diluted in 10mls of a carrier oil (like coconut oil) into temples and the back of the neck.
4. Clary sage, basil, or rosemary rosemary oils mixed with a coconut or sweet almond oil can relieve intense menstrual cramps when massaged into abdomen.
5. Keep essential oils in your first aid kit! Birch, eucalyptus and peppermint can all be used as a local anesthetic. Also, tea tree essential oil can sterilize cuts and take the itch out of bug bites.
6. Regular steam therapy with eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils can aid in nasal and/or chest decongestion.
7. Tea tree, lavender or lemongrass essential oils are great for supporting treatment of mild to moderate skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and so on.
Cleaning & Disinfecting
8. Persistent little fruit flies can be a huge pain, but getting rid of them doesn’t have to be! Fruit flies strongly dislike the smell of many essential oils. Peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass and lavender can all be used to deter these annoying creatures. Place several drops of one of these essential oils on a cotton ball and hide in any room where you’ve seen the bugs. You can also dip tea bags in the essential oils and hang them throughout your kitchen. It will keep the fruit flies away and make your kitchen smell great!
9. Add several drops of essential oil to a cup of baking soda and sprinkle over mattress or carpet. Leave for an hour and then vacuum up to clean and freshen the items.
10. Repel household pests by placing a few drops of peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball and put them wherever you see bugs or signs of mice. To discourage mice from entering your home, apply several drops of straight, undiluted peppermint essential oil to cotton balls and place them where you suspect the critters are entering your home. They do not like the smell and this simple solution will usually keep them from entering.
11. There’s nothing like crawling into a lovely smelling bed at the end of a long day. To bring a spa-like calm to your own bed, fill a clean, empty spray bottle with a cup of water and add a few drops of an essential oil. Lavender is a proven soother, but be wary of citrusy scents; they are invigorating and might keep you up!
12. An essential oil that packs a punch? You’ll find tea tree oil in a lot of green cleaners for a reason. Mix one teaspoon of the essential oil with a cup of distilled water in a spray bottle, spritz over the tile in your shower, and let it dry. Don’t rinse and it will help fight mold and mildew.
13. You can also add several drops of your favourite essential oil to 1 part water and 1-part white vinegar for an all-purpose cleaner to clean and disinfect your home or space.
14. Use several drops of lemon essential oil on a rag to remove permanent marker from surfaces around the house. You may need to apply a little pressure while rubbing out the mark. As always, it’s a good idea to test a small, inconspicuous area first.
15. You can use tea tree oil to eliminate odours from smelly shoes! Take a spare sock and put a handful of baking soda, then add 5 drops of tea tree essential oil. Tie the sock off with a rubber band and place it into a smelly shoe overnight. The baking soda absorbs odour-causing moisture, and the tea tree oil neutralizes unpleasant odours and helps kill bacteria.
Beauty & Skincare
16. I have just resumed the practice of taking long baths for self-care. Simply add 2–3 drops of your preferred essential oil to 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil and mix with Epsom salts. Then, release the worries of the day while you let the detoxing bath salts and the alluring aroma of essential oils lure you into a state of relaxation. For your bath, you can either run a small diffuser in the bathroom, or put a few drops of essential oils on the floor and/or walls of the shower or onto your washrag or loofah to intensify the smell. Just make sure to avoid using cinnamon, cassia, oregano, wintergreen and lemongrass in baths with essential oils as they might irritate sensitive skin.
17. Mix 1 cup (about 250mls) carrier oil with 30-60 drops essential oil. Use as a body oil/moisturizer after a shower or add to a bath. The carrier oil (in the bath) will also make your skin feel super soft when you get out of the tub. An added bonus! (Note: extra caution should be taken as oils can make the bath tub/bathroom floor very slippery).
18. Unscented lotion/beard oil/face oil and essential oils are a match made in heaven. There are endless options available for mixing your favourite scents with any unscented lotions
19. Add one or two drops of geranium oil to your favourite face cream to promote tighter, firmer skin. Geranium essential oil can also helps slough off dead skin cells for brighter skin. You glow girl!
20. Use rosemary essential oil to help promote healthy hair growth. You can add some drops of the oil into your shampoo bottle for convenience or add a few drops of rosemary oil to a tablespoon of your favourite carrier oil, then apply the mixture to your scalp after shampooing. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse.
21. Use essential oils like frankincense (also referred to as ‘King of Oils’) to make an effective anti-aging serum for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought ones!
Scents & Smells
22. Be your own perfumier – make your unique signature natural scent! Nothing as indulgent or intimate as making your own bespoke fragrance. My personal faves for this: sweet orange, bergamot, rose geranium, lemongrass and vanilla.
23. Lol…did any of you add a perfume scent to a love letter maybe to denote how sweet your young love was….oooh my, high school memories! Moving on swiftly, you can use essential oils to scent your letters or cards for an extra special touch!
24. Use a floral essential oil like geranium, ylang ylang, etc, to add a floral scent to silk flowers. Add a few drops of the essential oil to a small spray bottle of distilled water and apply to silk flowers. Spray as needed to refresh the scent.
25. Help neutralize paint odours and fumes with peppermint essential oil. Some say that adding 10ml of peppermint essential oil to a gallon of fresh paint will do the trick!
26. Many people suffer from bouts of insomnia. When this happens, try placing a drop or two of lavender essential oil on the underside or in the corners of your pillow to help promote a sound night’s sleep. You can diffuse it too.
27. To keep germs and odours off of household surfaces, yoga mats or gym bags, fill a small spray bottle with distilled water and add a few drops of tea tree and lavender essential oils. Simply spray down and let dry!
28. If you’re afraid of leaving a candle burning, essential oils can leave a wonderful scent that won’t pose a risk of your home catching fire. Having a diffuser is one of the easiest ways to add some life to any room, make your home not only smell good but spread healing, happy vibes. You just fill the diffuser with water, add around 10 drops of your favourite essential oil (or blend of oils) and boom you’re done. Just let it run.
29. If the air in your car is feeling a little stale, make a quick “air freshener” with your favourite essential oil. Add a few drops of your favourite oil to a cotton ball, then clip the cotton ball to your air vents. The scent of the oil will freshen your car in no time! I like to use peppermint essential oil for this, because it has the added benefit of keeping me more alert when at the wheel!
30. Infuse your wardrobe with a fresh scent using your favourite essential oil. Just sprinkle about 10 drops of essential oil onto some cotton balls or a small cloth(s) and toss it in corners of or between folded clothes in your wardrobe/closet.
Lastly, it is estimated that around 3,000 essential oils are produced from diverse aromatic plants around the globe and more than 400 essential oils are traded in the global markets. Despite mammoth scientific and technological advancement, modern science can still not unlock the secrets of essential oils. Chemical components that nature combines to make up the oils could not be replicated till date. Even after identifying hundreds of constituent chemicals, mixing those constituents in right proportion and with the best human efforts, one would still not have identical oil. Such a copy of oil will not be found to have the same impact as the natural and pure essential oil. Marvels of mother nature.
Note: I am not making any medicinal claims here, this is the information I have discovered while researching this article and through personal use of some of the essential oils. Keep in mind that not all essential oils are safe for everyone to use (e.g., expectant women or if one has a health condition). Please do your own research and never use undiluted essential oils directly on your skin. The recipes in this article are not intended to take the place of regular medical care or advice. Safety is important with all DIY endeavours. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Contact us through our social media pages.
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Alexis is the founder and CEO of Kakia Oils, a community-interest agribusiness that celebrates the versatility, potency of plant-based oils from the best of African produce to promote wellness for all. The easy-going, adventurous mother of two struggled with eczema into her young adulthood, which she successfully controlled using botanical oils. When she quit formal employment, she pursued her passion for plant-based oils entrepreneurially. She is Christian, a student of nature and a seasoned Social Development Specialist.