Feeling run down during the winter months is almost a given. However, as we search for quick fix remedies for relief and support, there's another route that many people are turning to - aromatherapy.
Essential oils are one of the fastest-growing groups in natural medicine. Why? Their antibacterial and antiviral properties make them great for boosting wellbeing and fighting illness.
"Incorporating essential oils into your daily routine can help keep your immune system stronger, speed up your recovery time from illness and uplift your spirits when the winter blues strike," says the Director of Natural Health at Neal's Yard Remedies, Susan Curtis.
The trickier issue is finding an oil that fits your needs. And there are a lot of options to choose from.
We asked Curtis to pick some of the best oils to use in winter. She suggested adding two or three drops each of cinnamon, thyme, rosemary and lemon to a diffuser when coughs and colds are prevalent. Curtis also warned that pregnant women "will need to be careful and should always check with a qualified aromatherapist before trying any at home blends."
So - what are the benefits of essential oils? Here are a few to know about:
Lavender is the most versatile and well-used of all essential oils, a valuable remedy for everyday use. It is soothing and balancing and one of the very best skin remedies. It restores the skin by powerfully stimulating the growth of healthy new cells and is an excellent antiseptic. It is very healing and may be used for burns and sunburn, wounds, bites, dermatitis, and any inflammation of the skin. It promotes rapid healing and helps prevent scarring.
Jasmine is the most uplifting - but simultaneously relaxing - of all the essential oils. It can relax physical and emotional tensions and create a sense of enjoyment. This makes it a good aphrodisiac, an anti-depressant and a confidence and optimism booster. It is beneficial for treating hot, dry and inflamed skin, especially if this is linked to emotional stress.
This rich, cold pressed, traditional beauty oil beautifies the complexion, stimulates hair growth and aids in the healing of wounds by helping to regenerate skin cells. It softens hard skin and can be used to soften the skin on the feet or elbows. It is one of the best oils for soothing dry, parched skin and is also useful for the prevention of stretch marks. It is frequently used as a base for massage oils and in creams and lotions.
Stimulating and expansive, this is anti-viral and decongesting for the head and sinuses. Eucalyptus has a refreshing effect on the nervous system and may be used to treat tiredness, poor concentration or headaches. It's excellent when added to a salve for use as a chest rub or in inhalations.
Calms and uplifts the spirits when feeling stressed, tired or overwhelmed, whilst increasing energy. It's also great for chesty coughs. Use in a massage blend, lotions and balms or as an inhalation.
Although initially cooling and refreshing, peppermint also stimulates the circulation and has a warming effect. These properties are particularly valuable at the onset of a cold to combat the chilly and depressed feelings that often precede the sneezing and runny nose and feverishness. Peppermint is great for aiding digestion and is helpful in treating nausea.
Ginger is a deeply warming oil that can help to strengthen immunity. For instance, it can be used in baths at the beginning of winter to strengthen immunity to colds and flu. Ginger is also anti-catarrhal and is therefore good for sinus congestions. It settles the stomach by toning the stomach lining and it's an excellent remedy for travel sickness.
Considered by many aromatherapists to be the number one essential oil in the treatment of colds and flu, this is a brilliant anti-viral, immune boosting and decongestant oil that's great for chest rubs and inhalations.
Tea tree has a seemingly endless range of antibacterial uses; it is a good gargle for sore throats; an inhalation for colds; as well as a powerful anti-viral agent, tea tree is effective in fighting many common infections. Dab small amount on cue tip to infected area or use in inhalations or balms.
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The wonders of lavender