Oil Up: A guide to essential oils

From anxiety to crow’s feet, there’s an essential oil for nearly everything that ails you—and it’s not all about patchouli and chanting circles.

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Lucky for us, we live in a world where the healing power of nature can be extracted, processed and packaged into cute little bottles.

Essential oils come from plants and trees from all over the world and have a number of medicinal uses as well as aroma therapeutic powers. The oils are often used as an alternative to synthetic, chemical-ridden pharmaceuticals and beauty supplies.

From anxiety to crow’s feet, there’s an essential oil for nearly everything that ails you—and it’s not all about patchouli and chanting circles. Many of these extractions are highly potent, offering more than just psychosomatic relief to stinky armpits. So remember, it’s important to always read the label on the bottle. Pure essential oils can be toxic and have adverse affects if they aren’t diluted properly.

Not Just for New Agers

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to aid in the treatment of a person’s health and mood. Popular use of these oils includes medicine, healthfulness, beauty treatments, massaging products and any topical application. Aromatherapy is based on the influence of aroma on the brain in addition to the pharmacological effects of essential oils.

To get started, pick a few favourite scents that treat a number of maladies and use accordingly.

If you’re planning on using the oil directly on your skin, mix the essential oils with a vegetable oil base. Olive oil makes a great, cheap base, but there are a number of other options, each with their own specific benefits. Try grapeseed or almond oil for a bit of a sweeter smell; both also have regenerative qualities when applied onto skin. Or try cranberry seed oil, which has a one to one ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Rosehip oil also has a slightly sweeter scent and is a key ingredient in modern anti-aging skincare products. Vegetable oils can be rubbed directly on skin and they work wonders even on the toughest and driest of them all.

The oils can also be diluted in a bath or used in a vaporizer. Or try an aromatherapy tea-light diffuser, which can be decorative as well.

Most of these essential oils can be found in healthy lifestyle stores as well as craft stores. Check out Deserving Thyme, a local manufacturer of aromatherapeutic bath and body products. The downtown outlet store is a great place to find new things to try. If you know what scent you’re looking for, you can order online as well.


Cardamom Oil

India, Ceylon

Scent: Spicy and exotic; blends well with cedarwood

Medicinal Uses: Aids the digestive system; clears coughs; treats impotence and low sexual response.

Aromatherapy: Refreshes and stimulates the mind; has an uplifting effect

What we say: This one acts as a pick-me-up in a few different ways. Dilute some in a bath to get through the cold, dark winter.


Cedarwood Oil

North America

Scent: Soft woody smell

Prevents itching; cures urinary tract infections; moisturizes dry skin and scalp

Aromatherapy: Calms and soothes nerves

What we say: Mmm, the smell of pencil takes us back to first grade. Add about 6 drops of cedarwood to 4 oz. of warm almond oil, massage into a dry, itchy scalp and leave for 20 minutes.

Tea Tree Oil


Scent: Spicy and pungent; blends well with lavender

Medicinal Uses:
Stimulates the immune system; fights bacterial, fungal and viral infections; manages sweaty feet when used in a bath; zaps zits

Aromatherapy: Helps the mind cope after shock

What we say: There’s no need to zap zits with harmful chemicals. Clear skin naturally. Prepare a spray bottle with about 500 ml of water and a few drops of tea tree oil then spritz before bed. And that same mix can be spritzed onto an itchy scalp to relieve dandruff and irritation.


Middle East

Scent: Fresh, woody and spicy

Medicinal Uses:
Whole-body calming agent; works on joints and muscles; soothes respiratory illness; prevents scarring.

Puts your mind at ease; promotes perspective when you’re faced with a difficult decision.

What we say:
Hey, if it’s good enough for the baby Jesus, it’s good enough for us. If a big decision has you tense, use some frankincense in a vaporizer to relax your mind and muscles.

Juniper Berry Oil

Europe, North America

Pungent sweet, crisp and fuity

Medicinal Uses:
Treats addiction, nervous tension, hangovers and over-indulgence in food; manages cellulite, arthritis and liver problems

Bolsters the spirit in challenging situations (gives you that “Gambatte!” spirit they so love in Japan)

What we say: Cures hangovers and manages cellulite? We’ll take it! Mix a few drops of juniper berry oil into a a few ounces of rosehip oil and use as a body moisturizer to keep your skin young and firm.

Melissa Oil (lemon balm)

The Mediterranean

Scent: Sweet and citrus-like

Medicinal Uses:
Eases nausea, menstrual pain, fever and headache; fights fungal infections and cold sores.

Aromatherapy: Calms nerves and fights depression.

What we say: If you’re fighting foot fungus, you’ll want melissa on your side. The fresh lemon scent and cleansing power makes melissa oil a perfect addition to homemade soaps.

Aniseed Oil

Middle East, U.S., Europe, North Africa

Scent: Smells like black liquorish

Medicinal Uses: Stimulates the circulatory system; benefits migraine and vertigo sufferers; treats coughs and promotes healthy lungs.

Aromatherapy: Calms anxiety.

What we say:
Get rid of a headache or stop the dizzies. Just put a few drops in a handkerchief and smell away.

Peppermint Oil

Italy, North America, Japan, U.K.

Scent: Sharp and fresh; menthol

Medicinal Uses:
Manages the digestive system; reduces itchiness and redness; treats toothaches, menstrual pain, respiratory disorders and a long list of other ailments

Aromatherapy: Refreshes the spirit and stimulates mental agility; treats apathy and shock

What we say:
Try peppermint in a tea-light diffuser instead of caffeine for late nights.

Lavender Oil

France, Mediterranean

Light, fresh aroma; slightly spicy

Medicinal Uses: Useful for allergies, anorexia, dizziness and hay fever; reduces emotional effects of trauma, anxiety, hysteria, fear and nightmares; excellent bug repellent

Induces sleep; reduces moodiness

What we say: Nothing beats a Sunday night lavender bath—just don’t forget the candles and Michael Bublé. Try lavender in a non-DEET bug repellent.