Food, Days Out and Travel stories from Brighton, London and the Rest of the World


Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms

In December I found out about essential oils, how they benefit health, why provenance matters and why going to a workshop to make your own balm is 100% worth doing.

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac

The essential oils workshop I attended was run by Essential Oils Consultant Laura Hoy in the must-visit YouJuice cafe in Brighton. I've met Laura a few times thanks to a self-employed group I regularly attend called the Healthy Business Hub. Listening to Laura talk about essential oils is always hugely informative and endlessly fascinating. Her level of knowledge is impressive and she is very generous with sharing all that she knows.

I knew that essential oils have health benefits and I love the scents that natural oils produce but more than that I had yet to learn. Read on to find out which essential oils to use to support your health.

The balm we were going to make would be composed of a simple mix of beeswax, shea butter and olive oil, to which we would add our own choice of essential oils. To start becoming familiar with the basic ingredients, each product was handed around, one after the other. The beeswax, we were told by Laura is great for winter because it brings a layer of protectiveness to the skin; shea butter, made from the shea nut, found in tropical climes, adds a creaminess to the mixture and olive oil enables smooth application. For the olive oil Laura explained that she uses a Spanish extra virgin cold-pressed oil. Other oils she had brought with her were rosehip oil and avocado oil. Rosehip, we found out, is particularly good for healing and scarring.

All the ingredients we were going to use would be organic and the oils cold-pressed to keep as much of the nutrients in the oil as possible, assured Laura.

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac
Beeswax, shea butter and olive oil

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac

How to purchase good quality Olive Oil

Usually, if the oil is pale and without scent it means the oil has been processed and is not good quality. Olive oil can be sold on for a second press to extract more oil and sometimes this is done by a chemical process.
Look for sediment at the the bottom and Organic label. However, be careful because organic does not necessarily mean that chemicals have not been used to extract the oil.
Other useful ways to tell a good quality oil is if it smells and importantly, the label mentions that the oil has only been mechanically pressed.

How to breathe in scents

Take a drop of scent on a scent strip and breathe in gently a couple of times from the tip of your nose. "Scents molecules are volatile", Laura Hoy told us, "as you breathe in the smell, you'll notice the lighter notes first, such as camphor in the Woody essential oils, then sweeter notes will emerge."

Rosemary essential oil

Good for cognitive function. It supports focus and is mood uplifting at the same time.

It also has anti-microbial functions.  In the Middle Ages, rosemary was one of the herbs used to protect thieves when they went out to steal valuables from victims who had died from disease. At the time of the Black Death, an epidemic that decimated Europe, everyone knew not to go near the bodies of the dead because they could catch the same illness. Thieves using anti-bacterial plants would dare to venture near and this is how an oil mix containing these herbs acquired the name Thieves Oil.

Today this mix can be used to fight bugs and it makes a really good chest balm for respiratory illnesses.

How are essential oils beneficial for health?

All essential oils are anti-microbial, they can be helpful for digestive imbalance, as well as long term conditions with no unwanted side effects. Quite often medication can be as disruptive to the body as it is supportive.
Essential oils can also be used to relax the body internally and externally and stimulate the mind.

Does provenance matter when buying essential oil?

Laura explained, "I know exactly where all of my oils come from. I know they come from an organic source, I have certified documentation to prove they are not diluted.
Loads of countries produce oils, valuable oils such as rose and frankincense but with some sources adulteration can happen. If it's a source you can't trust and the oil is cheaper it may have been diluted or made using synthetic ingredients.
With expensive to produce oils, the oil you think you're buying may have been substituted with a similar oil. People smell my oils and say they smell different to other brands. For instance rose is so expensive to produce that it costs about £18,000 per litre. It's very precious when you get the real thing and it can be hard to make it financially viable."

What is the most effective way of absorbing essential oil?

Just smelling essential oil is a really effective way of getting essential oil directly into the body.

Frankincense essential oil

Made from the resin of trees, a tree produces resin when its bark is cut. The tree produces resin to protect itself from infection. The oil is created from the resin rocks using a distillation process.
In churches the resin was burned to purify the air. Laura Hoy's frankincense come from Somaliland,
hydro-distilled in small batches from the oleo gum resin.

Myrrh essential oil

Good for wounds that are difficult to heal. Laura said, "it's a powerful oil for use with difficult to heal wounds, including bed sores and and funguating open wounds. It is useful in oral hygiene and care. I often use this oil directly on mouth ulcers and in many skin care products. It's very beautiful to massage into wrist at night as part of a wind down ritual."

Clove essential oil

Traditionally cloves would be stuck into oranges. As the cloves pierced the peel of the orange, the oil would be released into the air purifying the atmosphere. Cloves are great for pain relief and are strongly anti-microbial. Laura suggested, "Place them around your home, especially close to the fire as the heat will encourage more essential oils to be released."

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac
Laura Hoy, Essential Oils and You

Essential oils for digestion

"Spicy essential oils are particularly good for digestion, and so is Peppermint, also good for bugs and bloating; Cardamon and Basil."

How to support arthritic complaints

"Massage into the area on a daily basis, essential oil treatments require patience and consistency of application over time. Rubbing alone becomes an act to combat inflammation. Add in essential oils, such as Black Pepper, which has a warming effect to it and some Lavender for its soothing properties and it will help ease the pain."

Essential oils for Flight anxiety

"Try a combination of Spearmint and Lavender essential oils, this is a great combination to help you relax when tense."

By the end of the workshop botanical balms had been made for "dodgy knees", dry skin patches, mental alertness, arthritis and internal adhesions.

This all took place in the upstairs of the fabulous YouJuice cafe, where we had been served plant-based bites of cashew cheese and sweet potato as well as aubergine and cashew cheese on turmeric crackers. For dessert we were brought a plate of delicious chocolate made using Laura's essential oils of Peppermint and Geranium.

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac
YouJuice Cafe, Brighton

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac

Essential Oils and You, Botanical Balms photos by modernbricabrac
Turmeric crackers, cashew cheese and sweet potato

Click here to find out about Laura Hoy's workshops
Follow Laura on Facebook @LauraHoyEssentialOilsandYou, Twitter @OilsandYou and Instagram @essentialoilsandyou

With huge thanks to Laura Hoy for inviting me to her Essential Oils workshop, I would highly recommend going along to one.
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