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Sure, they smell good, but essential oils can do so much more than delight your senses. Here’s how to harness the healing power of these potent drops using DIY recipes and store-bought blends for everything from headaches and stuffy noses to stinky mats and household pests.
It’s no secret that yogis adore essential oils. Your teachers probably give recommendations for their favorites during class or use them on students in Savasana—the oils may even be for sale at your local studio. And that can be a good thing when it comes to your health. “Although many people think of essentials oils as just perfume, they actually have medicinal effects,” explains Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, naturopath and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health. “Essential oils contain compounds used by the plants to prevent bugs from eating them and bacteria from growing on them.” That’s why, when we distill plants into highly concentrated extracts, they also have the ability to help us repel pests and fight off infections—plus they provide myriad other physical and mental benefits.
True, many essential oils don’t come cheaply (and you should beware of those that do!). That’s because it takes pounds of plants to make just a few ounces of oil. “To produce eight ounces of lavender essential oil, a grower needs to distill 75 pounds of freshly harvested lavender plants,” explains Hope Gillerman, author of Essential Oils Every Day.“That’s the equivalent of 250 plastic bins of salad greens!” And while this may sound wasteful, Gillerman stresses that by spending a little more for high-quality, organic essential oils, it helps ensure that the farmers producing those plants are following sustainable practices. It’s also a good reminder not to be careless or lavish when using your oils, in part because you don’t need much to get a benefit. “The chemical components in essential oils are effective in very low dilutions,” says Mindy Green, herbalist, aromatherapist, and instructor at the University of Arizona’s Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. “Think of them as medicinal, not just recreational.”
There are many ways to tap into the therapeutic effects of an essential oil: You can massage it into your skin, inhale it from the bottle, diffuse it throughout a room, drop it into the bath, or spritz it onto your yoga mat to keep it fresh.