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Essential Oils Are Essential Self-Care

From Miranda Kerr’s lavender oil sleep secret to Kourtney Kardashian’s love of manuka, essentials oils have long been the source of celebrity health secrets—but the world of essentials oils goes far beyond the celebrity era. We unearth the benefits of essentials oils to your self-care

Essential oils are highly concentrated solutions, which are extracted from different sections of a plant such as the flower, leaves or roots. The extraction methods used to form the solution are cold pressing, whereby the plant is mechanically pressed to obtain their essential oil and steam distillation, where plants are passed through dry steam and the emerging vapor is condensed.

Essential things to remember

Before you start slathering bottles of essential oils onto your skin, you should know there are three ways you can incorporate essential oils to your routine: topically, orally or aromatherapy.

If you choose the topical route, make sure you dilute your essential oil with a carrier oil, for example olive oil or jojoba oil. A carrier oil can improve the absorption of an essential oil via the skin and prevent any irritation. For sufferers of sensitive skin, coconut oil can be an excellent carrier oil—a useful rule to follow when diluting oils: 12 drops of essential oil to every 1oz of carrier oil.

For internal use, an individual essential oil can be adopted to target a specific concern, though it’s imperative you keep to dosage instructions on supplements. Finally, you can use essential oils as part of aromatherapy, by adding them to an essential oil diffuser or an empty spray bottle with water to use as a mist.

Mix and match

In addition to using an essential oil on its own, you can mix and match by creating your own blend of oils. One popular oil blend is lemon and lavender oil, due to their anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties and the rejuvenating aromas they give off.

The essential oil you decide to use all depends on your reasons for needing them. For example, if you’re stressed, you could benefit from rosemary oil. If your concerns are about banishing an illness, cinnamon oil in aromatherapy can assist with alleviating symptoms.

Other essential oils with anti-inflammatory effects to both support and boost your physical and mental wellbeing include turmeric essential oil, eucalyptus, ginger, hemp and lemongrass.

Just breathe

Another trend in the world of essential oils is to use a diffuser to release the molecules into the air. Inhalation, in fact, is the most common way to reap the benefits of an essential oil When you breathe in the scene, receptors in your brain identify the scent and send trigger sensory stimulation messages, causing your body to react to the essential oil triggering different reactions.

Essential oil diffusers have a whole host of benefits depending on which oil you’re diffusing. If you want to purify your home, try adding a few drops of basil or tea tree essential oil. If you want to improve sleep and help you relax at the end of a long day, choose lavender, chamomile, rose or vanilla. The scents of these oils affect the limbic system, which is responsible for controlling emotions, including symptoms of stress.

Essential oils can also relieve pain. Diffusing a peppermint essential oil can sooth nausea and migraines, as well as improve digestion and reduce allergic reactions. Oregano essential oil can relieve heartburn and menstrual pain, and sandalwood oil can ease a sore throat.

Have you ever burned a citronella candle to ward off bugs? Diffusing essential oils can have the same effect. Try using a lemon oil to get rid of mosquitos or a peppermint oil to keep away spiders.

Before jumping in

As with all wellness-related practices, Internet pseudo-science abounds, and research should be done to make sure you’re using essential oils in a way that’s right for you before jumping into the practice.

Essential oils are a pharmaceutical grade natural remedy. One drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 26-28 cups of peppermint tea. If you wouldn’t drink over two dozen cups of herbal tea in one sitting, you should probably consider that before consuming the equivalent amount of an essential oil.

When you start using essential oils, begin by using a small amount and diluting your product. This is especially important if you’re planning to use the oil topically. Start by doing a patch test to make sure you won’t have a strong reaction.

But even though they’re strong, when used correctly, essential oils are a wonderful resource that can solve a variety of problems.

Testing quality

A quick way of assessing if an essential oil is pure and has not been diluted by vegetable oils, is by placing a small amount of the oil on a piece of paper or fabric and allowing it to dry. Pure essential oils should not stain. So, if a stain appears, you know the essential oil has been diluted.

See also: How to Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving
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Brush Off Your Midterm Woes: It’s World Sleep Day

Tired of reviewing for midterm exams on top of putting in extra hours at your campus job? Well, we have the perfect excuse for you to take that much needed break! Today is World Sleep Day.

Forget waking up or pressing the snooze button, you can dismiss the alarm completely (unless you’re heading off to a graded lecture). Here are our top tips for napping on World Sleep Day.

The power of napping: Improve cognitive processes, alertness and memory

Short naps, often referred to as power naps can amplify your memory and allow you to absorb information faster. Axel Mecklinger’s study published in his journal, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, observe memory retention rates in two groups of people.

One group watched a film, while the other took a short nap. Afterwards, both groups we asked to complete a learning task. Findings demonstrated that the group who had napped had five times better memory retrieval than the group who had watched the film.

A brief 40 to 60 minutes of sleep is an essential, especially during midterms when it’s likely that students are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep. Brief naps aid with improving motor skills, while longer naps over an hour enable the brain to make new connections and work to enhance your problem-solving skills.

Sleeping in the dark

Blue light reflected by our various digital gadgets—phones, tables, computers and laptops—have been shown to suppress the sleep regulating hormone melatonin. Sleeping in the dark, without any blue light pollution, is an essential way of insuring your sleep is undisturbed.

In a recent study by researchers at the University of Granada, melatonin was been shown to fight obesity and diabetes in rats, leading researchers to stressed sleeping in the dark to prevent obstructions in the body’s creation of this vital neurohormone.

Aromatherapy: Making sleep smell like paradise

If you’re into essential oils, two that are highly recommended for sleep in aromatherapy practice are lavender essential oil and cedar-wood essential oil.

In a study conducted by the University of Southampton testing the sleep patterns of 10 adults, there was a 20 percent improvement in the sleep patterns of adults sleeping in the room with lavender essential oil dispersed in the air, in comparison to the other adults sleeping in the room with the almond oil diffused air.

Other health perks of  diffusing lavender oil in your room include a decrease in anxiety, blood pressure and a more relaxed state of mind.

Cedrol, the key element of cedar-wood essential oil, on the other hand works to produce a gradual sedative effect, helping you fall asleep.

As well rubbing oils onto your wrists and hands before smelling them, essential oils can be dropped into your fragrance diffusers to allow the smell to gently waft into your room and slowly coax your brain into sleeping.

Image courtesy of Flickr

The art of bathing

Although, a quick shower before work or a lecture is usually the most common way of keeping clean, a warm bath with essential oils and massages allow you to achieve that quality ‘me time.’

Lowering your body temperature with a bath an hour before bedtime soothes the body and prepares you for sleep.


See also: Words of Wisdom on International Women’s Day