As I get older, my relationship with the heat has morphed inversely; to an extent that I actually put off daytime errands due to paranoia of the heat. If you resonate with my predicament, you would already be having a list in place of the things you need to do to help you through summer. Fortunately, being an aromatherapist has led me to make use of a few essential oils that both revive and cool me – mind, body and soul, through our hot summer months.
I agree. Oil and summer seem as implausible as eating ice-cream while it’s snowing! But you see, an essential oil is not an oil technically. It is the pure water-based extract of plants.
A bit about Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy which uses essential oils as the major therapeutic agents to treat several diseases. Recent times prove it is effective in achieving the balance of good mental health.
The pure essential or volatile oils are extracted from the flowers, barks, stem, leaves, roots, fruits and other parts of plants by various methods. Aromatherapy gained more favour after scientists deciphered the antiseptic and skin permeability properties of essential oils.
Inhalation, local application and baths are the major methods used in aromatherapy that utilise these oils to penetrate the human skin surface with marked aura. Once the oils are in the system, they remodulate themselves – owing to a low molecular composition they can travel through the bloodstream — and work in a friendly manner at the affected area.
Aromatherapy utilises various permutations and combinations to get relief from numerous ailments like depression (extremely useful), indigestion, headache, insomnia, muscular pain, respiratory problems, skin ailments, swollen joints, etc. Aromatherapy is found to be more beneficial when other aspects of life and diet are given due consideration.
Here are a few oils that you can keep handy – (only in your hands; and away from pets and children), this is because we do not generally prescribe using essential oils “neat”. They may seem harmless, but due precautions need to be adhered to whilst using concentrated essential oils.
Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a small, perennial herb that has highly aromatic leaves. There are different types of peppermint plants including white peppermint and black peppermint; both have different coloured leaves and flowers.
Peppermint oil helps you keep cool because it contains the chemical menthol. Menthol’s ability to chemically trigger the cold-sensitive (TRPM8) receptors in the skin is responsible for the well-known cooling sensation that it provokes when inhaled, or applied to the skin. Using peppermint oil will give you instant relief from nausea, indigestion and bloating, giddiness, headaches and migraines when you’re coping with too much sun or heat.
Sweet orange oil (Citrus sinensis)
For me, there is something fantastic about the aroma of fresh oranges and summer. Perhaps because this oil is my ‘go to’; it uplifts me from any sub-state to revival and renewal. The oil is extremely uplifting when you feel a bit low, sad or depressed. Using sweet orange essential oil certainly helps you feel cooler in summer. You can also add a drop or two of lavender and neroli (essential oil of orange blossom) for a boost to your cool down.
Lemon (Citrus limon) and lime essential oils are very similar to sweet orange essential oil. They are all high in Vitamin C and purify and protect your skin while uplifting your energy and spirits on a hot dry or sultry day. Lemon, lime and orange oils are best organic and the aroma needs to appeal to your senses.
Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
Also known as true lavender, it literally is helpful for everything; and adding a few drops to any oil will only enhance the properties of that oil. On its own it stands so powerful – it relieves fatigue yet helps you calm down and sleep better, it soothes the nerves, and works excellently with the nervous system. I have this habit of adding a few drops of pure lavender to a warm or cool bath at the end of a long, tiring or stressful day – it melts away physical fatigue and erases mental negativity.
Sandalwood oil (Santalum album)
The same unfortunate story of rose oil is repeated with sandalwood. India had vast reserves of sandalwood trees especially in Southern India. Sandalwood oil is just amazing. It keeps you refreshed, it helps skin against ageing, it is one of the best oils for calming and relaxing the mind, nerves and muscles of our body. Traditionally and till today, a paste of pure sandalwood and rose water is made on a stone and used on the skin. This paste helps cool the skin and take care of scars and heat rashes.
These are some of the products you could use to blend your essential oils:
Glycerin is great for the skin because it acts as a humectant, which is a substance that allows the skin to retain moisture. It can increase skin hydration, relieve dryness, and refresh the skin’s surface.
Aloe vera in a pure preferably organic gel form is the best coolant for inflamed, sunburnt and hot irritated skin.
Distilled water is the cleanest safest bet for your hydrosols (flower / herb waters)
Carrier oils like sweet almond, avocado, jojoba and wheat germ are amongst the safest for sensitive and elderly skins.
How to use the oils
Your basic 3 step process should be:
- 6 ml of essential oil + 5ml glycerine (for dry skin types); 5gm aloe vera (for sensitive skin types) + 2ml pure distilled water
- Shake the blend or whisk it thoroughly and add it to a spritzer bottle. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.
- Close your eyes. Hold the bottle up and away from your skin and spray your face gently.
Do not spray peppermint on your face ever! The best way to use peppermint oil, especially if you are new to it, is to first dilute it in distilled water. 1: 5 ratio (one drop peppermint to 5ml distilled water). Add 1 drop of pure lavender essential oil.
Cold compress works wonders
Making an aromatic cold compress is simple. If you choose peppermint — Add 2 drops of peppermint essential oil; if you opt for any other oil— and 6 -10 drops of any of the other above mentioned essential oils to a 100ml ice- water bowl. Make a cold compress by soaking a small face towel in the ice aromatic water and squeezing out the excess water. Use the aromatic cold compress on your forehead and pulse points. Repeat till you feel better.
Carry this along if travelling makes you a bit giddy and headachy. Hold a cool mint towel on your forehead, press it against the back of your neck, or rub it over your tummy clockwise; and take a few deep breaths of the aroma. You can do this with any of the above essential oils that you connect with but peppermint works best for any aches and nausea.
Inhaling the aroma is an essential part of using aromatherapy. The healing process is kickstarter when the limbic system in your brain inhales an aroma through your nose, and sends messages via neural pathways to the brain and via your nervous system to the rest of your body.
Precautions when using essential oils
- Please make sure your source of oils is credible. Buy the purest and organic grade quality. I have mentioned their specific botanical names in consideration of their benefits.
- Do not use peppermint oil in conjunction with any homeopathic treatments.
- Peppermint oil might cause skin irritation, due to its high menthol content. Do not use peppermint oil around new-borns, children and pets.
- Check for allergies. Citrus oils, peppermint oil, even aloe can cause redness, itching, burning, or irritation, when you are pre- disposed to allergies.
- If your skin is sensitive, take more precautions. LESS is always MORE! Essential oil, aloe vera and any product has the potential to aggravate dry sensitive and inflamed skin. When in doubt, use only ice-cold water to splash your skin. Do this frequently on a hot day.
- Always dilute essential oils in glycerin, aloe vera, carrier oils etc. before applying them on your skin.
- Be aware of any contra-indications for use and if in doubt consult a qualified and experienced professional aromatherapist for further advice.
I have mentioned the ways in which you can use essential oils to cool and calm your senses. There are diverse other ways in which we use essential oils as a complementary treatment for therapy.