Essential oils often get filed under “new age nonsense” and overlooked, but essential oils are actually one of the most effective and direct ways to improve your health, lifestyle and well-being. What with so many Hong Kong students smack bang in the middle of the demanding DSEs at the moment, one more way to help you de-stress can’t be bad, right? Young Post talks to expert Helen Norman of Aromatherapy Associates for advice on how to use essential oils, and the best ones for Hong Kong teens.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are a 100% concentrated form of the original plant or flower.
How are essential oils used?
Essential oils can be used directly on the skin, inhaled or ingested, and it all depends on what you need it to do and which oil you’re using. They’re even suitable for those with allergies or sensitive skin, but because they’re so potent, it’s best to follow instructions exactly or ask a professional aromatherapist to explain how to use an oil.
“On a physical level, because essential oils have very small molecules, they are able to penetrate into our bloodstream and help many ailments,” Norman explains. “For example, they can ease muscular aches and pains, improve circulation, ease sinus congestion, and act as a strong antioxidant.”
They’re even good for treating skin conditions like acne and eczema.
On an emotional level, she says that because our sense of smell is our most primitive sense it is linked to the parts of our brain that governs our instincts, memories and emotions. Inhaling essential oils is a direct way to address issues such as stress or insomnia.
Some essential oils are so concentrated they can irritate the skin, so it’s important you understand fully how best to use one, and don’t use more than recommended directly on your skin.
If you’re looking to inhale it, there are a few ways. You can invest in a diffuser, which heats up and releases the oil slowly into the air. If that’s too intense, add one to two drops (no more!) to a bowl of steaming water, drape a towel over the back of your head and the bowl to trap all the steam under the towel and breathe in deeply. This is particularly good for breathing problems, but it’s very potent, so remember to keep your eyes closed while you’re under the towel, or wear goggles to protect your eyes. The easiest way to inhale essential oil is to drip several drops onto a cotton ball or pad, and leave it sitting out somewhere close by.
If you have the luxury of a bathtub, you can also have an aromatherapy bath. But don’t just drip essential oil into the water, it’ll only float on top and may be too intense for your skin to come into contact with. Instead, drip about six drops of essential oils onto bath salt, sea salt or Himalayan salt and let it sit for about 15 minutes before adding it to your hot bath.
What should people be careful of with essential oils?
Norman warns against cheaply or badly made essential oils: “if it’s too good to be true, it usually is!”
Many oils are mass produced and are mixed with other chemical ingredients, reducing their effectiveness. “However there are expensive products containing these cheap essential oils, so best to seek a professional recommendation,” Norman adds.
Five essential oils you can use:
- Many teenagers suffer problematic skin, which tea tree oil can help with. Don’t apply 100% tea tree oil concentrate on your skin though, just look for products with 5% tea tree oil in it and dap it onto problem areas daily.
- Exam coming up and need help focusing? Try rosemary or frankincense, which helps concentrate the mind.
- Stress is so bad for you. It can cause anxiety and self-doubt, none of which you need. Luckily, chamomile is great for relieving stress and calming the mind.
- Not only is lavender great for relieving stress as well, but it also has natural antibacterial effects and can help to rebalance the skin.
- If lavender isn’t helping you sleep, try sandalwood instead, which has powerful slow-the-hectic-world-down properties that will help you reach la la land.