My past experience with essential oils was limited. I was mostly familiar with tea tree, peppermint, lavender and citronella oils. I used to add them to my baths, and sometimes as a scent on my skin, with no understanding of their unique purposes. My interest to know more about the oils started while on holiday in Mexico, where I attended a yoga class given by a teacher who specialised in the healing properties of essential oils. At the end of the class during the ‘shavasana’ she warmed wild orange oil in her hands and held her palms over my face. I was gently hit with the deeply warming aroma of the oil, and instantly felt a powerful calmness pour down my body. Intrigued and slightly overwhelmed by the effect that a simple aroma had on my body, I knew there was more to know about the properties of these oils.
Since then, I began looking into the day-to-day uses of certain oils and how I could introduce them into my routine. What I came to realise was that the list of different oils was endless, and all with unique uses and purposes. I invested in a good quality lavender oil, (or so I assumed judging by the price) as I was told that it’s the best natural remedy for burns. This was at the time when I started baking bread more frequently and as a result, acquired new burns on my arms almost daily. The oil worked like magic and now I’m never in the kitchen without it.
When I found out that Gus Grima, Health Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, was hosting an ‘Introduction to Essential Oils’ workshop here in Malta, I knew I had to attend. There was a certain mysticism that surrounded these oils and as someone interested in the holistic picture of health, needless to say, I was intrigued.
The mood for the evening was perfectly set, with the dreamy aromas of wild orange oil filling the room with the use of the oil diffuser. Gus began by introducing us to the natural role of the oils in the plants that they come from, and then to the process of extraction of these oils. From there we learnt about the brand doTERRA and their unique methods of oil extraction, in order to retain their purity and the maximum health benefits that they offer.
To give you an authentic taste of the wonderful workshop Gus offers, I’ve asked her to give you the low-down on doTERRA’s essential oils and how she applies them, not only on herself and her children, but also in her everyday life…
Gus, what are essential oils and what is their natural purpose?
Essential oils are volatile aromatic compounds that are made up of a staggering variety of plant chemicals or compounds. Each essential oil has a different mixture of these chemical compounds and this is what gives each oil its special properties. Plants make essentials oils to help them ward off pests, repair themselves when they’re damaged and also to attract helpers. In effect an essential oil, in its purest form on a plant, acts like its immune system. At a biochemical level, humans have a similarity with plants in that we are carbon-based and when we use truly pure and potent essential oils, we are able to take them into our body and utilise them with ease, to support our own body to protect itself, heal itself and be well – not just physically but emotionally too.
What role do the oils play in your life; as an individual, a mother and functional health and nutrition practitioner?
Before I used doTERRA essential oils, I had tried several different essential oils but not to great effect, I have to say. I didn’t know how important the potency of an oil was for it to work properly and after using doTERRA oils I realised that the oils I’d been using were nowhere near as potent, and not even as pure, as I thought.
I use these oils in my life everyday. They’re part of my daily ritual just like washing my face in the morning or cleaning my teeth. I’ll often rub Balance (doTERRA’s grounding blend) on the soles of my feet in the morning, have something like peppermint and wild orange in the diffuser if I need to be focused for work and add a drop or two of lemon, lime or doTERRA’s detox blend Zendocrine in my water to drink. I wear them as toxin-free perfume and I even use them as my moisturizer too.
As a mother, these oils make me feel so empowered. Once I was taught the basic safety aspects of the oils and how to use them safely around children, I truly feel that I have something in my home that, to me, is the perfect natural medicine cabinet. Essential oils are the first thing that I turn to when anything happens with the children: bumps, bruises, cuts, burns, stings, sniffly noses, coughs and colds, fevers, growing pains, travel sickness… I could go on and I am always so impressed at how effective they are, along with being natural and safe too.
As a functional health and nutrition practitioner, I obviously look after myself really well, however I’d be lying if I didn’t say that striking a balance was easy as a mother. So even though I eat incredibly well, a rich and varied wholefood, mostly organic diet, I prioritise sleep, move my body daily, practice mindfulness – even I feel like I need an extra layer of support on top of this. This is where the oils come in. They provide a bridge between how you’re feeling and how you want to feel! So in my work, I always introduce my clients to some essential oils and guide them on how they can use them to enhance the work they’re doing with me as a practitioner.
In your opinion, which are the 3 essential ‘essential oils’?
Oooh this is such a difficult question to answer!! I don’t think I can do it justice but I’ll try. I suppose if I was to choose 3 general, essential ‘essential oils’ it would be lavender, peppermint and lemon. These 3 oils cover an awful lot of bases.
Lavender is a calming, soothing oil that is fantastic for the skin – it is super for anything itchy, takes the pain out of and heals burns (including sunburn) very quickly, helps skin heal so is great for wounds and also scarring (including acne). It is a wonderful oil to use to de-stress with and therefore helpful for good sleep.
Peppermint is supportive of the digestive system, also the respiratory system – a sniff of peppermint opens up all of your airways, fast! It’s helpful with fevers, travel sickness and also wonderfully energizing and brilliant at keeping you focused.
Lemon essential oil is a powerful detoxifier, hence why I drink it in my water. It’s also good for anything like a hoarse, tickly, sore throat or cough. For skin, it’s a great cleanser, helping to move toxins out of cells, so as part of a a facial cleanser or body scrub, it works brilliantly.
If I could squeeze in one more it would be one of doTERRA’s blends, On Guard which is fantastic when it comes to supporting the immune system, containing a powerhouse of oils that can really support the body when its becomes run down.
What are the methods of application of the oils?
You can use doTERRA’s oils in 3 ways:
1. Aromatically: diffusing certain oils can support focus, memory and concentration, calm and soothe, or invigorate…you get to choose! Whilst some oils have more physical health benefits, others are wonderfully supportive of mental and emotional well being through their ability to interact with your brain’s chemistry and alter mood. If you have no diffuser, then using yourself as a human diffuser by wearing the oils as perfume on pulse points, or putting 1 drop in the palms of your hands, rubbing your hands together and then inhaling from there also does the trick. Of course you can put a drop or two on your pillow at night too.
2. Topically: this is where you would apply the oil to the skin. I would always suggest diluting the essential oil in a good quality carrier oil. It’s important to remember that these oils are extremely concentrated and potent so a little goes a long way. You could use the oils in this way to support a particular issue: a cut, burn, headache, some muscular tension etc, or it could be for general use in which case I like to rub them on the soles of the feet. The oil gets absorbed through the skin and enters the bloodstream so that it can support systemically. This is one of my favourite ways to use essential oils when me or the family are run down or sick.
3. Internally: this definitely only applies to doTERRA’s oils as they are standardised and each batch is tested to extremely high standards not just for their potency but also their purity. This makes them better than food grade, in my opinion and they are approved by the FDA for internal use. I already mentioned using the oils this way to support gentle detox in your body but this is also a great way to use the oils therapeutically when you get sick.
I had no idea essential oils could be ingested until your workshop. Is it always safe to do so?
I would definitely not recommend people to ingest any essential oil. As a health coach, I’m very fussy about what I ingest anyway – food or drink – and a lot of it doesn’t pass the mark!
When it comes to doTERRA’s oils, I did my research and found not only is there positive scientific research out there showing the benefits of internalizing pure essential oils but I also found the company’s testing credentials to be impeccable. Their mission is to create a therapeutic grade essential oil and this means that it is safe enough to be taken internally alongside aromatic and topical use. Of course this isn’t for everyone, however internal use can be very effective especially when sick or with digestive issues, in my opinion. There are also some essential oils that are contraindicated for internal use but because of doTERRA’s commitment to ‘education first’ and correct labelling, anyone using the oils is made aware of this.
Are essential oils used in cooking simply to contribute to flavour, or do they have a nutritional impact?
I would say both, depending on how you’re using them.
If you heat these essential oils, their therapeutic qualities get damaged, however you still have the incredible flavour and fragrance that the oils give (and they are completely pure too), so you can use them for soups, sauces, marinades, cakes, biscuits and a few of my personal favourites: healthy hot chocolate and golden (turmeric) milk!
If you use them in their raw state, without heating them, then you are also getting some therapeutic benefits too. Even though you would use small quantities (because they are very concentrated, a few drops is often enough), this is enough to have some benefits.
How do you use essential oils in the kitchen and can you suggest a couple of essential recipes?
My favourite way to use the oils is in the raw chocolates that I make. I play around with a basic recipe adapted from Victoria Leith. I love to make wild orange chocolates or peppermint chocolates but other combinations that sing are lime with ginger essential oils, ginger with wild orange essential oils and if you like floral notes, the teeniest amount of geranium or lavender essential oil.
Chocolate recipe which makes around 30 small chocolates or a big slab!
- 200g raw cacao butter melted over the lowest heat possible in a bain marie.
- Add it to a high speed blender with:
- 4 tbs shelled / hulled hemp seeds
- 3-4 tbs organic maple syrup
- 3 heaped tbs raw cacao powder
- 3 tbs lucuma powder
Whizz on high speed until smooth and creamy (about 30 seconds). I then briefly whizz in around 10 drops of my chosen essential oil, or to taste. Pour the chocolate into silicone chocolate moulds or into a glass Tupperware container to make a slab.
Experiment with what else you might add, and refrigerate to set.
Fantastic Gus, thank you!
Gus will be teaching more classes on essential oils in Malta in January/February 2018 – dates to be confirmed.
If you’re interested in joining these educational classes please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Belle Grima on 9947 2122 so that you’ll be the first to know when the dates are confirmed.
If you can’t wait until then, Gus has an essential oils forum on Facebook where she delivers regular education about the oils so feel free to email her to find out more.