by Tash Jayasinghe.

It started in my nose. I used to use incense once in a full moon then found that essential oils did a better job. Now I have an ongoing love affair with aromatherapy. I use oils as soon as I wake up and sometimes when I can’t seem to get to sleep. If I have an aliment, I see what aromatherapy I can use before heading for the medicine cabinet. And while that may seem a bit full-on, it’s easier than you think.

This post will cover the basic set of oils to get you started, what a base oil is and how to use your oils in your day-to-day life.

Four oils to get you started:

  • Lavender: Everything you ever wanted in an oil. It activates the immune defense system while it relaxes you with it’s sedative effects. Lavender has anti-bacterial properties and helps cell rejuvenation. Most skin products would have lavender in them, especially those that get rid of scars or helps aging skin. Can’t get to sleep? Put a couple of drops on your pillow.
  • Tea Tree: Dab the tiniest bit of Tea Tree oil on a pimple once every night and it’ll be gone before you know it. Use it to cleanse your skin or to disinfect an area by mixing 2-3 drops with a glass of water and washing the effected area. Aromatherapy for Scentual Awareness by Judith White and Karen Day call this oil “First Aid in a bottle” but warns that it’s extremely potent so should be used sparingly.
  • Rosemary: This is for muscle aches. Mix it with a base oil and massage into the sore area. It stimulates metabolism, adds lustre to hair and prevents balding. Add 40 drops into your favourite conditioner, shake vigorously and then forget about it while it works it’s magic. Smelling Rosemary stimulates the brain. If you’re having a forgetful day, burn some rosemary oil to heighten your sensory and memory recall. Rosemary can affect people that have epilepsy.
  • Peppermint: The companion for a nauseous person. Next time you’re catching a plane or hopping on a boat, take a whiff of peppermint from the bottle whenever you feel ill and it’ll invigorate you. I know, I do this every time I take off. Yes, you can take small bottles of essential oils on a flight. Peppermint invigorates your mind and it tingles your skin when used sparingly in a base oil. I burn this in the morning to wake up. Peppermint has been a stomach remedy for eons. Make a massage oil and rub it into your stomach area. It relaxes the muscles and blocks pain. This also works for period pain. And to top it all off, inhaling peppermint clears your head, throat and nose when you’re suffering from a cold. Please note that pregnant women should only inhale and not apply peppermint.

Of course there are tens more oils out there and some of them can be really expensive so when you’re first starting off, buy these four and see if essential oils work for you. One of the best exercises to do is: go to a store that stocks aromatherapy oils and smell everything. Take notes of what appeals to you. What might be really great for others could do nothing for you. Clary Sage, an oil that’s euphoric and can break through any bad mood, smells like “yuck” to me and even though I have it, I always mask it with other smells.

Buying oils online are 20-60% cheaper than buying it in a store. Oils are extremely cheap in the States so it might do you good to compile a list of everything you want before hand and then buying in bulk from Amazon.

Base oils:
Base oils are used to mix your essential oils so they don’t burn off your skin when you apply them. Essential oils are very, very concentrated so a little goes a long way.

I’ve tried all of the base oils nature has to offer and have found that Jojoba oil is the best and the most expensive. It’s the oil that has the closest genetic make-up to our skin so it gets absorbed fairly quickly. Keep in mind that if you use a cheaper oil, say Avocado or Apricot oil, it would work the same but it’ll leave you oily and you could wait 20 minutes for it get absorbed fully. If I had to use a cheaper oil I would definitely go with grapeseed.

As a rule of thumb, mix four drops of essential oil for every tablespoon of base oil.

Never ever use plastic bowls/bottles to mix your oils. It can cause adverse effects. Instead use glass.

How to use essential oils:
Your body gets lazy so it’s always good to shake it up by changing things. An example in point is shampoo. If you change the brand of the shampoo you use, your hair has to work out how to balance against this new product so it works harder to be healthy. Same goes for your nose/face/skin. Keep yourself guessing!

Remember that these are just suggestions. You don’t need to go out and buy every single oil at once, just use the ones you have and if they don’t work, get new ones.

  • Massage oil: If it’s stress-related, make a massage oil that uses Lavender, Geranium and Cedar wood. Up for sexy time? Ylang ylang, rose and vanilla. A massage oil that includes Rosemary, Eucalyptus and Peppermint can ease tension, aches and sport injuries.
  • Moisturiser: I’ve been using a Geranium and Lavender blend on my face twice a day during Summer and once a day during Winter. Over the last year it’s cleared up my skin. You would think that applying oil to your face would make it a grease-fest but it actually dries up my T-zone and gets rid of pimples. Mix 5 mls of Jojoba or Grapeseed oil with one or two drops of a flowery oil. Lavender is great for older people while Geranium helps younger skin. Put the mixed oil on your face straight after a shower, while your pores are still open. You can triple the quantities and apply it to all over your body but it takes about 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the oil. Don’t use Peppermint, Tea Tree or Eucalyptus oil unless you want to get a slight burning sensation on your face. It’s too uber sensitive for these oils to be applied all over.
  • Oil Burner: An obvious choice to brighten a room. When I’m feeling sleepy/sad/lazy I mix up Bergamont and Sweet Orange or Lemon and Peppermint. When I’m inviting guests, again I go with the Bergamont to entice conversation and to get their brains working. If you want to meditate, go with magical lavender or something muskier like Frankincense.
  • Hair Care: If I want to have a particular smell around me but I’m going out, I put a couple of drops of essential oil into my hands, rub them together and then run my hands through my hair. It’s a subtle way of carrying the scent. It’s close to your nose so you can smell it without disturbing people by carrying around a couple of essential oil bottles. I do this if I think I’m going to be stressed. Some lavender or sweet orange and then I’m out the door. Rosemary encourages hair growth, lustre and prevents hair loss. Bung 40 or so drops in a full container of conditioner, shake it up and forget about it.
  • Bath time: Add 20 drops of your most calming oils into a warm bath. If you want silky smooth skin, also add a tablespoon of your carrier oil, or even olive oil. It does amazing things for your skin.
  • Sleep Inducer: Put three drops of lavender on the corner of your pillow. Breathe deeply. Sleep well.
  • Headache Cure: Applying a couple of drops of Peppermint or Lavender on your temples alleviates headaches. What I prefer is to carry a tissue that I’ve blotted with the oils and to smell it intermittently.
  • Clean your clothes: If you use a clothes dryer, give your clothes a scent by lacing a wash cloth with ten drops of your favourite oil and putting it in with the rest of your clothes.
  • Carpet Cleaner: Mix a cup of bicarb soda with 40-50 drops of Peppermint, Eucalyptus or Geranium. Sprinkle this all over your carpets, wait 10 minutes then vacuum up. The smell (and anti-bacterial qualities) will stay.Any mix I’ve written about here can be applied in every way described. For example, if you’re in a romantic mood, you can burn Ylang Ylang instead of making it into a massage oil. Whatever works for you, works for you. Don’t question your opinion.

For further reading, I recommend Aromatherapy for Scentual Awareness by Judith White and Karen Day.

Tash Jayasinghe is a journalist and photographer that has been obsessively practicing Aromatherapy for one year. She believes that almost everything can be cured by Lavender. Read her blog at Tash wants to hear how you incorporate Aromatherapy into your life so drop her a line.