The healthy and beauty benefits of essential oils

All my life, my mother has kept a shelf in our kitchen packed with tiny glass bottles of essential oils, with a few reference books stacked beside it to explain their uses.

Every time I had some sort of issue – a sore throat, a zit, trouble sleeping – she would immediately consult the books and select a combination of oils to treat the problem.

As an adult, I find myself turning to essential oils more than ever.

There are more than 90 different plant-extracted essential oils, each with its own distinct properties and unique aroma. They can work alone, be combined with other oils or be used as ingredients in various products.

Essential oils are percutaneous, meaning that they are able to enter the body by permeating through layers of the skin. This means that, when applied externally, they can treat anything from skin conditions to muscle pains.

The scents from essential oils also can produce a range of effects on moods and pain, so they are frequently used in aromatherapy.

Have a headache? Try smelling some peppermint oil. Feeling anxious? Grab the lavender oil. Are you a bit sad today? Take a whiff of geranium oil. The list goes on and on.

Apart from their health benefits, essential oils can also be luxurious and surprisingly powerful additions to your beauty routine.

To get started, there are two principal oils I would suggest buying: tea tree and rosehip.

Tea tree oil is one of the most versatile essential oils in my regimen. It’s also a very potent oil, so it’s best to dilute tea tree with water or another oil before applying it to skin – and it should never be ingested.

I use tea tree oil to make a gargle every time I catch a cold, since it’s an antiseptic and antibacterial. These properties also make it a powerful acne spot treatment – just dab a little diluted oil on a blemish and it will quickly work to clear up your skin.

Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your regular lip balm can cure chapped lips in a day, or you can mix it with a carrier oil like jojoba or argan oil and massage it into your scalp to fight dryness and clear up dandruff.

Rosehip oil, sometimes called “rosa mosqueta,” is another oil that does wonders for skin. It’s gentler than tea tree, so it can be applied directly to skin or you can use products that contain it.

Since rosehip oil naturally contains retinol, vitamin C and a number of fatty acids, it can help reduce wrinkles, fade scars and balance any uneven skin pigmentation.

It also can be applied to nails and hair to strengthen them and repair damage or you can combine it with other oils, like carrot seed oil, to rejuvenate your skin all-around while moisturizing.

If you’re trying to move away from chemical beauty products, essential oils can also be used as ingredients in homemade natural soaps, shampoos, body splashes or lotions.

Customized recipes allow you to combine oils whose properties will be beneficial to your particular hair and skin type and also smell however you want them to.

Depending on your preferences, different oils can make your products smell fruity, crisp, earthy, spicy or soothing.

If you’d like to learn more about essential oils, I would suggest first reading “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy” by Valerie Ann Worwood. This guide explains the different types of oils, their medicinal properties and their uses.

It also contains a whole section of recipes for all sorts of beauty concoctions!

After you’ve done some research, go forth and start stocking up on essential oils. They’re usually found in health stores and in some pharmacies.

Assembling a well-rounded assortment of essential oils requires an initial investment, but over time it will be worth it, considering their versatility and effectiveness. Besides, a little oil goes a long way – you’ll generally only use drops at a time.

At any rate, I suggest giving them a try – essential oils can be fun to experiment with and their results might impress you!

Motter, a native of Jersey Shore, is a Lock Haven University graduate. Her column is published on the third Friday each month.

She may be reached at