My Favorite Essential Oils: A Journey
I first got into essential oils when my spiritual teacher, Gabrielle Bernstein, suggested using them for my meditation practice. I bought a couple of blends at Whole Foods, and even though I kept insisting to myself that they were working, after a few weeks I had to admit that all they really did was making my wrists smell nice. Which bummed me out, but also propelled me to find oils that *would* enhance my meditation practice.
Fast-forward a few months ahead – I’m digging into my old friend Sara’s blog, and I notice that she loves essential oils. Sara’s one of those whip-smart and discerning types…when she recommends something? You listen. In a fun event of serendipity, that very same week it just so happened that a local friend was hosting an essential oil class at the studio space I shared with my friend Meg. So I went to the class, bought my first oil – a “joyful” blend – and, thanks to that + a few samples I took home from the class, I was hooked.
Since then, I’ve seen the oils work some ridiculous magic. No joke, it’s like having a box of potions at the ready (a.k.a., always wanted to be a wizard, nerds? Here’s your chance). These oils can pretty much do anything when it comes to curing ills, heightening happiness, and bending other people’s emotions and thoughts to your own personal will.
(That last part is maybe not an FDA sanctioned use, but…)
And because I love the oils so much and they’ve become such a big part of my life, I wanted to start sharing about them on here. We’ve created some intimacy here, you guys. It doesn’t do our relationship any good to keep things from each other, you know? And I don’t want to hide this from you. Not anymore!
So here are my favorite tricks when it comes to using essential oils:
You’ve got a full day tomorrow (the kind that, if your six-year-old self were in charge, would include a mono-colored three-piece leather miniskirt power suit, matching pumps, a Salon Selectives hairstyle, Ban deodorant, and Whitney Houston’s self-titled album blaring out of your cherry-red Mustang convertible’s tape deck) and you need to get a full night’s sleep. But instead, you’re lying in bed, wide awake and staring at the ceiling, trying to decide if Kirk Cameron really was the only boy on earth who looked good in a permed mullet. You need something to help you sleep, and you don’t want to take one of those sleep aids because you’re scared of oversleeping or waking up all “waaahhh?” groggy.
Like Sonny and Rico driving a boat in the opening credits of Miami Vice, lavender and Cedarwood smoothly cruises in to save you from yourself. You give yourself a sweet little foot rub with the Lavender (how come no one else is ever around to rub your feet? NEVERMIND, don’t think about it now, we can discuss this tomorrow) and massage some Cedarwood onto the back of your neck. Before you know it, you’re making eyes at Ricky Schroeder while Kirk Cameron spins you around the dance floor at the Bayside Ball.
Of course those are references from three different shows. Dreams aren’t supposed to make sense, sillyface!
You know who likes to party all the time? You do, playa! And you know who partied a little too hard last night? You did! (high-five!). You wore your leather leggings and cutest heels out for a night of dancing with your girlfriends, because hello, there might be boys at the bar, and guess what? There were! Five really hot ones, to be exact, who all danced up a storm and kept buying you and your friends Rumplemintz shots. Which you threw back, despite your better judgement and the fact that you ran around all day and barely had time to eat anything. Which, according to science, means that you were Electric Sliding your way right into a fully drunken / dehydrated state. And the next morning? CONGRATULATIONS, YOU NOW HAVE THE WORST HANGOVER IN THE HISTORY OF HANGOVERS. This includes the worst headache you’ve ever experienced… We’re talking more splitsville than Ygritte and Jon Snow after he shot her with his arrow*. Even more bad news? You stupidly decided to plan a full day for yourself on Sunday, so now you gots to get up and grab at it.
If you can manage to shuffle the distance from your bathroom to the kitchen, grab a glass (a real glass, not a plastic one, son), fill it with water, and spill in a few drops of lemon essential oil. Drink it down. Next, grab some peppermint oil and rub some on your forehead and the back of your neck. Take a few minutes to drink another glass of water, and BAM! You’ll be over that hangover so quick you’ll be able to stomach loud noises like BAM! before you can say “Hey, why don’t you shut the hell up with your BAMs.”
- Spoilers! HAHAHAHA
You’re all, “I’M GONNA DO THIS” when it comes to working out, so you start lifting weights and doing that Couch 2 5K gig (C U L8R, body fat) and doing a bunch of stuff that normal, lazy people like me don’t really understand. You’re committed to your fitness, and you get on a streak – there’s no stopping you now! – worthy of it’s own 80’s movie hero montage. One day you’re doing squats with a kettlebell, and then that night you go for a run (which is crazy, tbh – why are you working out twice in one day? Do you not have a job?). Halfway through your run, though, you notice that your inner thighs start feel really tight…so tight that you have to stop running. Looks like you just pulled a groin muscle, pro.
WHAT ARE YA GONNA DOOOO? IF YOU QUIT NOW, YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO START AGAAAAIN!
Answer: You massage a blend that includes wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, blue tansy, german chamomile, and helichrysum onto your inner thighs (haaaaay) before you go to bed that night, and in the morning, you stretch out to discover that all that muscle tightness? GONE, BABY.
Also, your inner thighs now smell really sweet, and you can’t help thinking about how it kind of reminded you of that KY Fire & Ice stuff that you and that one “hey, commitment doesn’t have to mean boring!” boyfriend used to break out during your love sessions.
This stuff is versatile, yo. I’m not here to judge you on what you use it for.
The Crimson Wave
So you’re nannying for the week for a super cute and fun 7 yr old. You’ve planned a jam-packed day of running around with this kid, and you’ve just started off on your adventures when you feel that familiar dull ache in the lower part of your abdomen. Oh god, you think, as the 7 yr old asks you her 50th billionth question of the day. There is no possible way you’re going to get through this day if you have to deal with Total Sucktown Lady Time Cramps: They hurt like a mother, plus they make you super tired and cranky…which is not conductive to an action-packed day of anything, much less nannying. Suddenly, you remember that you have a blend of clary sage and lavender at your house: It’s supposed to be super good for PMS and menopausal stuff, so you figure today is as good a day as any to give it a shot. You make a pit stop at your house, answer another 50 billion questions from the 7 yr old, and then run up the stairs to your room, where you rip open that rollerball and smooth the oil all over your stomach. Praying it works, you head downstairs and corral the 7 yr old back to the Escalade you’re driving for the week (’tis a sweet nanny gig). As you’re preparing to hop into the driver’s side, you realize that your cramps? Are gone. TOTALLY GONE. So gone that you wondered if you just imagined them (however, you do have tangible evidence that proves that you did not). Nothing has ever worked for making your cramps totally disappear – even O.D.’ing on Midol or ibuprofen only lessened the constant ache. You’re so happy that you want to roll down the window of the Escalade and shout, “I have finally found the cure for Total Sucktown Lady Time Cramps! Women of the earth, follow me and I shall show you the path to Lady Time Bliss!” But you don’t because that would be crazy, and also because now the 7 yr old is asking you about your house and why you don’t have a family of your own, so the day is speedily moving on just as it should.
So you’re tending bar and this lady keeps asking you where she can get really big cords of woods and if you happen to know of any local loggers in the area, and you’re starting to get a splitting (HA!) headache because A. You’re a not a fucking Google Search and B. Do you LOOK like you know any local loggers? (Trick question: You did, because you dated them all, but you don’t anymore, because you dated them all). And you absolutely cannot let this conversation or headache continue, because you’ve still got four hours of work ahead of you + plans to go out tonight…BIG plans. Plans that include live music, friends from out of town, and meeting up with your latest crush. So you dig out your lavender (if you’re basic) or your blend of lavender AND peppermint (if you’re a baller) and you rub some on your temples and the back of your neck. 10 minutes later, your headache is gone, you feel calm and serene thanks to the bonus of the super sweet smell of the oil(s), and you’re ready for action.
Just as soon as you tell this lady to go get herself a Yellow Pages and then get lost.
You’ve been personally invited to a campfire party by this super hot guy that you dated last summer who’s now back for another summer. Even though you doubt that there’s any relationship potential left for you two, there’s still maaaybe a chance that you might make out again, which you would be totally down for (it’s been a long and slow winter) so you want to make sure you look as “campfire” hot as possible. Which, in wardrobe terms, means your favorite jeans and the black tank top that is super flattering and also offers just the right amount of “Remember these?” cleavage. However, this party is in the middle of the woods and near a huge body of water, and thanks to the long-ass winter that skipped right over spring and jumped into summer, the mosquitoes? Are a nightmare (the dragonflies haven’t hatched yet, and the bats are nowhere to be found. Bet you didn’t think I was good at nature stuff, did you? WELL I AM, SO NAMASTE, BITCHES). You dig around for the lemongrass oil you had procured a few weeks ago after someone told you it was good for insect repellant, and you slather it all over your arms, neck, face, and feet. When you arrive to the party an hour later with your friend, you exit her vehicle only to see a massive horde of mosquitoes begin to descend on your skin…and then STOP. They literally just hover right over your skin. “Oh my god!” you yell to your friend. “This lemongrass stuff literally repels mosquitoes!” However, she doesn’t hear you at first because she’s too busy swatting away and slapping the mosquitoes that are now swarming her. The night ends up being a bust – the super hot guy from last summer gets really drunk and kind of dumb, and you end up leaving early with your friend – but you feel like you still gained something valuable because now you know the secret to being totally mosquito-free for the rest of the summer.
I mean, that doesn’t really compare to the value of making out with someone who’s super hot, but it’s still cool.
So you’re working when suddenly there’s a weird tingle in your throat. A weird sort of grogginess starts to fill your brain, and then you notice that your muscles are feeling all achy. “Oh god…am I getting sick?!” you wonder. Which, on any other day, you’d be all, “YAY! Screw you guys, I’M GOING HOME”, but today is different because you have a billion things that you actually want to get done for work, and also, you have a date tonight with someone so devastatingly attractive that every time he goes in for a kiss, you kind of feel like you’re going to die from a heart attack (but that’s a risk you’re still willing to take). If you guys were in that place in your relationship where you could be all, “Oh noes! I’m sick :-(” with the viable expectation that he’d offer to come over and make you feel better with movies and ice cream and back rubs, then game on. But you’ve only been on enough dates where you’re still pretending to be flawlessly perfect and he’s pretending to believe you, and you’re pretty sure that if you don’t keep up the momentum that you two have built up over the last couple of weeks, you’re never going to get to see this guy naked. Hence, you need to find something that stops that sickness in its tracks, STAT. So you grab a glass of water, shake a few drops of both lemon essential oil and a protective blend that includes wild orange peel, clove bud, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus leaf/stem, and rosemary leaf/flower essential oils, and gulp it down. Your lips feel tingly from the cinnamon and the lemon soothes your throat, and with every drink, it feels like the flavored water is flushing away the illness in your body. You drink a couple more glasses, and by the time you’re done with work, you’re in tip-top shape and debating about which tracks on your Spotify playlists are best for tonight’s super hot makeout sesh.
So you’re at work (AGAIN. Ugh) and it’s the middle of the afternoon and all you want to do is lay down and take a nap, but instead you have to work plus deal with the 500th question from the new girl about how to do this thing that she’s already asked about and done 500 times before. And snapping, “How did you even manage to stay alive this long? Like, how is it possible that you haven’t been picked off the herd of the human race by now?” is not something that you wish to do as your best self, so instead you dig into your bag for your dõTERRA keychain, which contains a 1/4th dram bottle of your personalized mix of Frankincense, peppermint, and wild orange. Like an ’80s Legal Eagle dying for her next coke fix, you hurriedly shake that little dram so a couple drops spill into your palm. Then you rub your hands together, cup them around your nose, and inhale. And inhale. And inhale again. And then literally exhale with a huge “Ahhhhhhhh.” The Wild Orange clicks into your brain’s happy epicenter like your favorite Snap Bracelet; the Peppermint makes your energy rocket into David Lee Roth air splits; and the Frankincense gives you that peaceful, “Oh please, I gots alla dis” serene, collected feeling that you need to get through the rest of the day. Even when your coworker spends the next 20 minutes marveling over the knowledge bomb you just dropped about limes growing on trees. (#TrueStory)
You’ve never really given a shiz about your dental health until you’ve had to. Actually, that’s not true – you didn’t give a shiz about your dental health until you saw this British commercial of this really beautiful woman whose face was falling apart as she was trying to put make up on, and then you cut to the end where she’s brushing her teeth and spitting blood into the sink and then she smiles and she’s missing, like, 15 teeth because she has gum disease.
Yeah. That freaked you the eff out.
So even though you hate buying toothpaste almost as much as you hate buying tampons because it’s money taken away from your New Boots Fund, you start paying attention to the toothpaste selection in the grocery aisle. Then you get annoyed, because all the toothpastes you see in the grocery store say that they only prevent gum disease…what if you already have it? What if, maybe, because you traveled around a lot and moved a lot and were kind of a starving artist at one point and then you worked for a really crappy company that didn’t have benefits, you skipped going to the dentist a lot? And even though you brushed your teeth twice a day and flossed daily, that still wasn’t good enough to prevent gum disease? You don’t wanna lose your teeth!! You need them, and for lots of things…like, for smiling at boys and winning at selfies and pretending you have lockjaw when you don’t like a guy enough and wanna get out of co-duty (and that thinly veiled threat just will not work if you’re working with a mouth of toothless gums). So what good is a toothpaste that prevents it when you need one that will fight it? Enter in toothpaste mixed with wild orange peel, clove bud, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus leaf/stem, and rosemary leaf/flower essential oils, which you weren’t exactly psyched to use (because it’s toothpaste), but after investigating, you learn that it totally fights gum disease…doesn’t just prevent it, but fights it. So you start using it, and you LOVE it. You never ever
thought that you would ever love a toothpaste, but you love this one – it tastes great, it makes your teeth whiter, and your mouth just simply looks healthier. And then you get kind of scared, because now are you going to turn into the kind of nerd who buys their own dental kit and talks a lot about gum health and tooth decay at parties?
Naaah, you decide. You’re just gonna be a really hot older lady who still has all of her teeth.
And knows how to use them! #haaay
Deep, Restful Sleep
Let’s just be honest: For you, sleep is a spiritual practice. Tyra Banks once said, “Everybody says that sex feels so good, but I think sleep feels better”, and even though that sounds slightly Crazy Town, you also kind of get it. Nothing compares to the way you feel after a good sleep.
But lately, you’ve been waking up a lot in the middle of the night, or you’ve hit the snooze button a billion times because you’re still super tired after sleeping for 8 hours. Which, like, just does not work for you, because poor sleep makes you cranky and emotional, and before you know it, you’re crying over that Honey Maid “This Is Wholesome” commercial. So you do a little research and find out that adding a few drops of clary sage, lavender, Spruce needle, Frankincense, and chamomile to your diffuser is supposed to help with deep, restful sleep. Even though you haven’t really used your diffuser since you got it because you felt like all it was gonna really do was make your room smell nice, you decide to give it a whirl anyway. That night, after you climb into bed and turn the diffuser on, you immediately notice how amazing the air smells…that clary sage, man. You could smell that stuff forever. Also, the subtle sound the diffuser makes is really calming, and before you know it, you’re waking up the next morning, feeling so relaxed and well rested that you almost can’t believe how blissed out you feel. If you had had sex at any point in the last 6 months you’d probably compare it to a really great trip to Pound Town, but you haven’t and so this is all you have right now and we’re all going to be really okay with that, okay? Hoping the diffuser thing wasn’t a fluke, you try it the next night: Same thing. Soon, lying in bed and reading the newest New York Times Bestseller (okay, US Weekly) while letting the diffused oils relax and calm you before you drift off to join the Dream Team is one of your favorite parts of the day.
So even though you might come off as a snarky and loudmouthed when you write and tweet and stuff, you’re actually a pretty zenned-out person in real life, and your meditation and yoga practice is all part of that. Howevs, because it’s a practice, that means it’s not perfect. Sometimes you feel so scattered and sporadic and negative that you don’t even want to meditate (even though you know that’s exactly *when* you need to), and sometimes yoga is hard and exhausting and you just want to end your session in the middle of your practice so you can go back inside and check Facebook. So first you try lavender and clary sage when you meditate. It quickly becomes your favorite oil, and you literally feel like a cool drug user when you put some in the palm of your hands, inhale, and feel it trigger a total serene high, which you definitely dig during meditation. Then you read about putting Frankincense on your heart space and third eye to help you “tune in” during meditation and yoga, and it totally changes everything – you feel super blissed out and present all at the same time. (So much so that you’re like, “Maybe I should do this all the time…maybe I should go in for my yoga certification and teach classes!” But then you realize that would be crazy and kind of boring and so you decide to just stick to using the oils and looking really good in yoga pants). You also start to put peppermint, eucalyptus, and melaleuca on your wrists, shoulders, chest, and knees during yoga so that whenever you’re in a pose, you can breathe it in and let the oils open up your heart center and create better balance. And THEN you learn that, much like a daily meditation and yoga habit, using those oils a little bit every day actually strengthens their effects, which you had been wondering about because you’re starting to feel a lot more zen and blissed out during your entire day and not just right after you practice. Plus, now you feel like the word “practice” doesn’t so much necessarily mean “gotta do it even when I don’t want to” but more “Hey, I’m getting so much better at this and pretty soon I’m going to dominate the whole world with my meditational mind power + bless my future boyfriend with my bendy acrobatics.”
Everything zen, y’alls!
Written & Published August 15, 2014