My first introduction to essentials oils was at the end of a particularly relaxing yoga class. We were laying in our final pose (Shavasana—the best pose some might say) and the instructor walked around and massaged an oil onto our temples.
Boy, was that relaxing. Ever since then I’ve been fascinated with essential oils and I’ve been investing in some myself.
Scents are so powerful. The smell of maple syrup always brings me back to my Kindergarten classroom and smelling bread brings me to my grandmother’s kitchen. Essential oils take that experience to another level—they are believed to have cleaning and healing powers like nothing else, and you can harness some of that energy throughout your home year-round.
Egyptians are often believed to have been the earliest users of essential oils. They were used in cooking, beauty, wellbeing, and more. But it’s not as cut-and-dry as “Egyptians first used essential oils.” Around the same time, China and India are believed to have been using them as well.
Cleopatra’s beauty is often attributed to her use of essential oils and Egyptian royalty wore perfumes made from essential oils as well. Hippocrates, the Greek philosopher, had said the key to health was taking an aromatic bath and having a scented massage each day. In fact, he used aromatic fumigation to combat the plague in Athens.
Essential oils are and have been key in the Indian Ayurvedic health care system, including aromatic massages. These practices are estimated to be nearly 5,000 years old and are still practiced today. The Romans used essential oils for bathing and massages as well, while the Chinese used them for medicinal purposes dating back to around 2,700 BC.
During the Middle Ages, the use of essential oils and herbs died down because it was deemed inappropriate by the Catholic Church and many saw it as witchcraft. Writings on the uses of oils and herbs persevered and then people began to notice that those who processed herbs and flowers for perfumers were untouched by Tuberculosis in France. Essential oils were tested for the first time in a lab in 1887 for anti-bacterial properties.
The term “aromatherapy” was coined in the 1920-30s by a French cosmetic chemist named Rene-Maurice Gattefosse. He had burned himself when working in a lab and submerged his hands in a nearby vat of lavender oil. The gasification of the tissue on his hands ceased and healing began the next day. He started treating WWI soldiers with essential oils and the field has grown in popularity and developed ever since.
On top of smelling great, many oils have antibacterial and cleaning properties. They are all-natural and appeal to many as home cleaning agents and as another means to freshen up the home.
One easy way to do this is to use cotton balls as a vessel for your essential oils. Place a few drops onto each one and strategically place them around your kitchen cabinets, bathroom, closet, wardrobe, and dresser drawers to for a clean, fresh scent. You can even place a few drops on the cardboard part of your bathroom’s toilet paper to freshen up the room!
Mix a few drops into a baking soda box in the refrigerator for a fresh scent or use the mixture to clean your carpet by mixing 10 drops of oil with 7 ounces of baking powder. Let the mixture sit in an airtight container for two days, then mix and sprinkle on the carpet. After a few hours, vacuum it away and enjoy the fresh scent!
You can add any scent to your laundry by adding a few drops of your favorite oil to a terry cloth and tossing it in the dryer. Do the same with a vacuum bag by adding a cotton ball with essential oil right in the bag.
If you’re looking to reap the benefits of essential oils during your shower you’ll want to place a few drops of your favorite oil on a washcloth or pad and place it on the shower floor. Make sure it’s in an area where the water can reach it but not directly under the showerhead or the oils will wash out. Not sure which ones to use? Lavender, patchouli, and sandalwood are great for relaxing. On the other hand, peppermint and eucalyptus are both great for waking up and energizing in the morning.
Kayleigh is a content writer with a BA in technical writing/literature and an MA in creative writing. When she’s not at work writing, she’s at home writing, reading, or binge-watching television shows… for research, of course. A big do-it-yourselfer and crafter, Kayleigh loves testing out projects and gifting them to friends and family—all in preparation for when she owns her own home one day and decorates with her own personal creations. Her work has appeared on The Writing Cooperative and as an Honorable Mention in East Meets West American Writers Review.