By Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist
Welcome back to Essential Education. I hope you are finding this series is encouraging greater confidence toward exploration of your essential oils by distilling down some basic information. At the same time, we want to encourage you to continue your education through reputable books and classes. This is just a start to help support you on your way.
So far, we have discussed:
Aromatherapy – The Wonderful Wide World of Aromatherapy
Learning Your Essential Oils – Welcome to Essential Education
Choosing for Your Concerns – Getting to Know Your Essential Oils — Part 2
Basic Blending – Beginning Blending, 1, 2 3
With that under our belts, I now want to address another question we are often asked. As aromatherapists, folks want to know our list of favorite oils. This is actually a hard question to answer for a few reasons.
First, ask a bunch of aromatherapists the same question, and you very likely will not ever get the same two lists. Maybe some overlap, but that’s it. Even if you limit the sample group to the Plant Therapy aromatherapy team and the essential oils Plant Therapy stocks you likely will get some shared oils, but the not the same two lists.
- First, because choosing essential oils is a very personal choice. Look at patchouli for example. Goodness! Talk about a polarizing oil based on scent. The patchouli lovers will sing its praises while the patchouli haters will be running for the hills. It doesn’t matter how wonderfully patchouli works for various wellness concerns, you won’t get a patchouli hater on board.
- Second, choosing essential oils must be matched to the concern and the unique needs for whom you are choosing it. What you choose to ease soreness and stiffness at bedtime in an adult might be very different that what you choose for a child during the day. And, there are very often multiple choices. Added to that, see #1 above.
What that means is that, while there are multiple choices of essential oils available within the world of aromatherapy, the best are those that match the unique needs of each individual. Once you distill this down, the lists become shorter and varied, not only from person to person, but even for the same individual at different times.
What you really might want to know is why certain oils have made our favorites list(s).
If we can frame it this way, then, you can explore if the choices others make might match your needs as well. This is really important when you are reading a recipe, getting a recommendation, or reviewing a list of possible essential oil choices.
Within this framework, I am going offer My Top Five Workhorse Oils, and I am going to tell you why. My intention is that by sharing some insight about why they made my list, it will provide inspiration to build your own, much like you would take inspiration for home decor, or fashion from design pages in a magazine. If some of these essential oils suit your personal needs and preferences, great! If not, I hope it will give you a boost to build your own list!
So, what do I mean by workhorse oils? I mean these little powerhouses can pack a punch by pretty much covering all the basic bases. They are well rounded in their application with very few safety concerns. If could only choose five to cover my needs, these would be it.
Here they are and here is why.
Bergamot — Citrus bergamia
This is an all-around favorite essential oil for it’s many uses, its uplifting scent, and it’s ability to infuse a joyful spirit into any blend.
Bergamot can be used for relaxing the mind, relaxing the body, releasing tight knots and tension, lifting the mood and spirit, helping to balance the nervous system, supporting the digestive distress, soothing the skin, and as support during times of seasonal threats.
Cautions: I choose bergamot that is bergapten-free so it is sun safe and Kidsafe. Bergamot that contains bergapten is highly phototoxic.
- Calming to the mind
- Relaxing before bedtime
- Eases worries
- Relieves nervous tension
- Eases sadness and grief
- Uplifts the spirit
- Supports a balanced nervous system
- Powerful support for smoothing tight knots in the body
- Excellent at reducing muscle tension, tightness and soreness
- Soothing to digestive distress
- Calms oily skin issues and eruptions
- Cleanses and clears the air
- Supports the immune system during seasonal illness
Chamomile Roman — Chamaemelum nobile
This is one of the most powerful, yet gentle, essential oils for relaxing mind and body.
Roman Chamomile is strongly supportive for easing into sleep and for easing tight knots in the muscles. It is very soothing to the nervous system for children and adults, alike. Wonderful for easing tension around the head and neck, especially if the feeling is intensive enough to make you feel unwell. Wonderful for soothing the skin, especially if you’ve experienced too much sun, have reddened or irritated conditions, or have itching or stinging from bug bites.
Cautions: None known. KidSafe.
- Cleansing and clearing
- Calming and relaxing
- Provides a powerful assist before bedtime
- Strongly supportive in reducing intense worrying
- Soothes nervous tension
- One of the best at smoothing tight muscle contractions
- Helps to soothe discomfort of the head and neck.
- Eases tired, tight and aching muscles and joints
- Soothing to the skin, especially for reddened, irritated and itching conditions, including bug bites and stings
Fragonia — Agonis fragrans
Cautions: None Known. KidSafe
This is, by far, my favorite nurturing go-to. This is a sweet little powerhouse with an amazingly wide range of potential uses due to a uniquely balanced composition.
Fragonia recently replaced both tea tree and eucalyptus on my short-list of workhorse oils for its comparable applications, but with a more gentle approach and softer scent. This is my go-to for all things respiratory during times of seasonal illness, whether I’ve been exposed, or the yuckies have already boarded. It is also my go-to for tired and overworked muscles that need some support to relax. It is wonderfully relaxing before bed and emotionally supportive.
- Broad-spectrum support for clearing and cleansing
- Powerful support for respiratory health for seasonal pollen or illness
- Promotes clear breathing when congested
- Supports the immune system, especially during convalescence
- Soothing to irritated skin and eruptions
- Helps to alleviate discomfort for overexertion of muscles and aging joints
- Balancing to the nervous system
- Promotes relaxation before sleep
- Helps to reduce worrying and nervous tension
- Uplifting to mood, especially during times of sadness and grief
Lavender — Lavandula angustifolia
This oil has been revered for years as the workhorse of all workhorses.
Oh my goodness. For many of us, lavender is what drew us in. It might not be the most powerful in some situations, but it covers the bases and is a supporting oil in many blends. Balancing to the nervous system for a wide range of distress, soothing before slumber, a workhorse for all things related to discomfort of the muscles and soft tissue discomfort and distress, and broad-spectrum applications for supporting the skin.
Cautions: None known. KidSafe
- Promotes calm
- Helps to reduce nervous tension
- Helps to reduce worry and fear
- Soothing before slumber
- Balancing to the nervous system
- Helps to soothe aches, discomfort and stiffness of muscles and joints
- Helps to smooth tight knots in the tissues
- Supports soothe discomfort with tension around the head and neck
- Helps to soothe digestive distress
- Soothing to the skin after sun exposure, minor burns and bug bites.
- Reduce the appearance of scars and bruises
- Soothes red, irritated or itching skin
- Uplifts the spirits
Peppermint — Mentha x piperita
This powerhouse packs a potent punch whether you need to calm down problems in the body, or stimulate the mind. It can be either warming or cooling topically depending on how it is applied.
Peppermint is my power tool of workhorse oils for the boost it brings blended into synergies for the mind and body. Powerfully stimulating and focusing to the mind, powerfully supportive for digestive distress, powerfully supportive for a congested respiratory system, and powerfully relieving for an achy and weary body, or tension around the head and neck.
Cautions: Do not apply near the face of infants or children. Maximum dilution of 5% for topical applications. If you want to use a KidSafe oil, you can replace with Spearmint (mentha spicata) from the same family, which provides more gentle, but similar actions.
- Eases discomfort and aches in the muscles and joints
- Powerful support in reducing muscular contractions
- Reduces tension around the head and neck
- Soothes spastic digestive distress, a queasy stomach and general upset
- Helps to clear congested breathing during seasonal illness
- Cooling when feeling overheated, or in hot weather.
- Mentally stimulating.
- Supports alertness and concentration
- Uplifting to the spirit
So, now that I have provided some information about why I have chosen my Top Five Workhorse Oils, I am hoping you will take inspiration for the following challenges should you choose to accept the mission:
- Create your own list of Top Five Workhorse Oils.
- Practice some simple blending from the last Essential Education Blog, Beginning Blending 1, 2, 3. (Using this list or your own).
- Compare notes by sharing what you have crafted and why.
Looking forward to seeing what you create!
Shutes, Jade. The Dynamics of Blending: A Guide to Aromatic Medicine Making. Willow Springs, NC: NW College for Herbal and Aromatic Studies, 2011. Print.
Lawless, Julia. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health & Well-being. London: HarperThorsons, 2014. Print.
Worwood, Valerie Ann. Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 800 Natural, Nontoxic, and Fragrant … Recipes to Create Health, Beauty, and Safe Home an. Place of Publication Not Identified: New World Library, 2016. Print.