by Karen Keller Capuciati
It has been awhile since we published a “Gifts and Gadgets” article. But it’s November already — time to start thinking about those on your gift list. My sister Kim and I started a tradition years ago, which is to buy “our favorite things” as gifts. The idea is to simply exchange those items that we found added value to our own lives, whether it was a small luxury like a body cream, a book we couldn’t put down, or a gadget that made life just a little bit easier.
So, this year, I’m putting essential oils on the top of my Christmas list for my sister and my friends (Kim, just forget that you saw this until December 25th).
Essential oils are the aromatic liquids extracted from plants, trees, flowers, seeds and roots. They not only smell amazing, but they’ve been used since biblical times for relieving physical discomforts and calming frayed nerves.
Essential oils have piqued my interest ever since I was introduced to them in yoga class. At the end of some classes, as we laid on our mats with our eyes closed in relaxation, the instructor would walk past and gently mist a bitter orange water over my face, or drop a little lavender oil on my eye pillow before applying it. The scent of the oil would instantly soothe and relax — it was like magic! And still is.
Behind the magic is the fact that our sense of smell is the only sense directly linked to our limbic lobe — the emotional control center of the brain — and thus has a profound effect on emotional responses. Certain essential oils are also said to have an impact on memory, our ability to focus, uplifting our spirits and soothing our nervous system. Aside from the emotional/mental aromatherapy benefits, there are oils that can aid in digestion, relieve sinus and respiratory issues, raise or lower blood pressure, boost the immune system — the possibilities are endless.
Our friend and In Care of Dad contributor Christine Taylor talked to me about the important role essentials oil now play in her life as a cancer survivor. She helped me recognize even more benefits of these powerful elixirs. “I started learning about essential oils when I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Christine explained. “And now I use lemon oil as part of my prevention protocol. It is believed to have an anti-tumorial chemical naturally occurring in the rind. So I put a few drops in water and drink it every morning to detoxify my blood, support my liver and strengthen my immune system.”
Keep in mind that essential oils are highly concentrated. In most cases you’ll need just a drop or two. There are many ways to utilize them: shake a couple of drops onto a facial tissue and place it near your nose to inhale the aroma, or put a few drops into a bowl of steaming water for the same effect. You can even rub a tiny amount onto the skin in some cases, though many oils are too strong for direct application. And remember that only therapeutic-grade oils can be ingested. It’s vital to read the package instructions before using any essential oil.
I purchase my oils at nice, little mom-and-pop pharmacies and health-food stores. Everything I’ve read on the topic advises you to buy the best quality that you can find in order to get maximum purity and benefit without the risk of pesticides or chemicals. Look for organic, steam-distilled or peel-pressure extraction (not the solvent-extraction method which involves unwanted chemicals). In her inspiring book, Crazy Sexy Diet, Kris Carr recommends two online resources: essentialthree.com and youngliving.com. Both websites are stocked with enticing essential oils, as well as explanations of their benefits. I already have my “shopping cart” full.
When someone you love is going through a difficult period in life, whether it’s stress, illness or some other emotional turmoil, the gift of a particular essential oil is a very thoughtful gesture, as it may help ease their troubles in a lovely, simple way. Essential oils are a meaningful gift because they not only help with the present difficulties but also welcome the recipient into a whole new world of relief.
Karen Keller Capuciati is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad.