If you don’t have at least a couple of bottles of essential oils in your house, you are missing out on one of nature’s greatest gifts. We use them every day. In fact, they are such a part of every day life they have become like wallpaper~ it has taken me this long to think about writing about them, even though I credit Lavender with keeping my sons away from most of the illnesses that travel around their circles. I also credit it for helping them fall asleep, especially when my oldest was a toddler and had refused to sleep much his entire life. Lavender, the fun and ritual of blowing out a candle, and putting him to bed earlier (at 6:30), are what finally worked and he never fought sleep again. To understand why scent has such a powerful effect on us, you must know a bit about the brain, and more specifically, the limbic system. This is the part of the brain located up front and is responsible for emotions, among some other things. It is the oldest part of the brain and it has a direct portal to the outside world~ the nose. Here is a quote from the Social Issues Research Center, which, honestly, I know nothing about, but they at least phrase this really well: Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion. Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where ‘cognitive’ recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated. (http://www.sirc.org/publik/smell_emotion.html). This does not mean all scents are equal. Artificial fragrances abound, which can often cause headaches, anxiety, itchy eyes, and other issues. Even if they are pleasing, the limbic system does not recognize these scents as from nature, and therefore the bodily results will be different. Everyone reacts differently to smells, but there are basic guidelines to the essential oils: lavender is calming, the citrus scents are stimulating, Eucalyptus opens up sinuses, etc. But scent is actually just one of the ways essential oils are important…there is actually much more to them, such as helping in dermatology type issues, but for now I’ll just focus on scent. So, once decide what kind of essential oil or oils you want in your life, you then figure out how best to use them. There are more than a few different diffusers to choose from. Some require heat, others do not. Wherever you buy your oils will have a few options to choose from, which is a great place to start. (Whole Foods and other natural food stores have essential oils. I buy mine in bigger quantities though at Zenith Supplies in Seattle. It is a store that sells all kinds of massage materials, soap and candle making materials, etc. Love that place!) I actually don’t use a diffuser at all~ the way I use essential oils most of the time is by adding lavender to my sons’ baths (7-10 drops at the most. They are powerful!) Or by just putting it directly in my hair, on my clothes or even right on my skin, but you have to be careful doing that. It might burn sensitive skin, and never do it to a child. I also have a big bottle of EMC (eucalyptus, menthol, and camphor) which is awesome when someone has a stuffy nose. This is a very powerful combination, and all three of those essential oils have bite, so do not add these to a bath. What does work well is to put a few drops on a wall of the shower that does not get directly hit by the stream of water, and instead the steam diffuses it. That is probably enough for one post~ I’ll have to continue with a part II.