Uplifting Essential Oils: Using Aromatherapy To Lift Your Mood

essential oilsI’ve been a fan of aromatherapy since I learned about essential oils in a workshop at my local yoga studio awhile back. I’d been using scented candles and those plug-in air fresheners to keep my home smelling good, but I was wary of the ingredients in those products. Aromatherapy with pure essential oils solved that problem. The benefits turned out to be more than I expected, especially when I discovered uplifting essential oils.

Diffusing essential oils does more than keep my home smelling great. Each oil has specific benefits as well. I learned that certain aromas have a direct effect on specific brain centers. Aromas travel through the capillaries in our sinuses and trigger nerves that send direct signals to the brain. Many of these signals have to do with emotions.

A number of uplifting essential oils can be used to boost mood and even alleviate depression. And you can go a step further to target specific kinds of depression. For example, do you tend to feel tired when you are feeling down? You can lift both your mood and your energy level with geranium, lavender, peppermint, basil or rosemary. Anxiety can be calmed with clary sage, frankincense, patchouli, ylang ylang or chamomile.

How to use uplifting essential oils to lift your mood 

There are many ways to use essential oils. Start by simply opening the bottle and inhaling the aroma! Some other great uses include:

Diffuse them. Place a few drops in a room diffuser and the aroma will last for hours. There are many types of room diffusers on the market.

Bathe in them.  Add your favorite oil to warm bath water and soak your way to good mood. Scented water is extremely relaxing and very therapeutic.

Use them in lotions or bath products. You can make aromatherapy products yourself by adding essential oils to unscented bath products, or you can buy them already made.

Spray them in your room or car. Essential oils can be added to pure water in a spray bottle and used sprayed anywhere to instantly fill your space with pleasing aromas.

Sleep with them. Put a few drops of essential oil on a tissue or piece of cotton that you slip under your pillow case. You can even put a drop of relaxing oil inside each nostril at bedtime. If you choose to latter, make sure to choose oils that will not irritate your skin. The labels on most essential oil bottles will indicate if you can use them directly on skin.

Use them for a relaxing massage.  You can make your own massage oil by adding essential oils to unscented massage oil. Another option is to buy aromatherapy massage oils infused with essential oils.

Once you discover the benefits of aromatherapy with essential oils, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

How to Make Safe and Healthy Reed Diffusers with Essential Oils

reed diffuserI’m one for nice smells, and I like my house to be filled with pleasing aromas, but I’m wary of the ingredients in air fresheners, scented candles and other common items people use to mask odors in their homes. So, I was very excited to come across a very easy way to make homemade reed diffusers from pure essential oils. All you need is mineral oil, vodka, the essential oil (or oils) of your choice, a small vase and some diffuser reeds, which you can buy in any craft store (I got mine at Pier 1 Imports).

Here’s what you do:

Pour ¼ cup mineral oil and 2-3 tablespoons of vodka into the vase. Then add a small bottle of essential oil. Stir everything with the reeds and then let it go to work. Flip the reeds every once in a while to diffuse the oil better.

It really works, and the fragrance you’re enjoying is not compromising your health! In fact, it is probably enhancing it with the wonderful properties of the particular oil you’ve chosen for your diffuser. I have geranium and lemongrass in mine.

Questions? Ask a Tree!


Trees are awesome. I know this is true, but I was happy to be reminded of the many ways in which it’s true when yoga teachers Jan Jeremias and Dee Andalkar chose trees as the theme for a recent yoga and aromatherapy workshop. On this March afternoon, we talked about the gift of trees and considered ways we can be more like them.

Why would a person want to be like a tree? Well, the words we associated with trees at the beginning of the workshop might give you a few reasons:

  • Grounded
  • Strong
  • Branches
  • Flexibility
  • Roots

Trees Offer Many Gifts

Do you remember the book, The Giving Tree? Indeed trees have a lot to offer, most notable the oxygen that keeps us alive, of course. Trees also give us the gift of aromatherapy. There are many tree essential oils, including the one Jan and Dee diffused for the group: Douglas fir. The oil has a light, citrus-like quality. It’s a clean, purifying scent that’s good for the respiratory system. It’s also uplifting and can help with focus.

Another essential oil we sampled was cardamom. While not a tree oil, cardamom does have the grounding quality associated with trees. A combination of white fir and grapefruit was another treat that enhanced our yoga practice.

Get Grounded, Branch Out, Ask a Tree

One of the great things about trees is that they are strongly and firmly connected to the earth—to their source—yet they are flexible and able to sway in the wind. This gives trees a foundation from which to weather the storms that come their way. And that’s one thing I’d like to have in common with these beautiful beings.

I was especially struck by Dee’s description of the conversations she has with trees. Now before you start thinking she’s perhaps a bit crazy, let me explain. Better yet, try it! I’ve had a few chats with trees myself. If you’re stressed, confused, overwhelmed, sad, or feeling any other emotion that you’d like some help with, go outside and sit with a tree. Watch its branches sway. Watch its leaves rustle in the wind. Notice the beauty and strength of its trunk, the color of its leaves, and the uniqueness of its branches. I promise if you do this long enough (and without thinking about it too much), answers will come.

Whether the answers actually come from the trees or from somewhere within us is another issue. Trees, after all, don’t look to others to solve their problems. Perhaps they serve as reminders that when we need answers, we can find them within if get grounded, strong, and quiet. When we align with our higher selves, we can navigate what comes our way.

How to Be More Like a Tree

If you’re a yogi, you can be more treelike with a grounding yoga practice. Jan led us through a series of poses that were both grounding and expansive. Tree pose, of course, was one of them. In fact, we did some variations of tree pose that built upon the basic pose.

Poses like crescent lunge and warrior, which we also practiced, are treelike as well. We even did a wonderful flow in which we more or less became trees, moving from an “acorn” to a full-grown tree with “branches.”

My Chat with Trees

spring tree.jpgAsking for answers, as Jan noted well, is part of the human condition. We all want answers; we all wanted to be guided, and we hope that we’re able to be guides for ourselves. But all of us also need help. With this in mind, I spoke to the trees in my own yard the next morning. I had to listen intently to hear their reply since for the most part, the branches are still bare. But on that morning, the first of spring, as I watched the swaying seed pods (you know, those prickly balls that appear before the leaves return), the trees whispered these words: patience, hope, and renewal. Great answers to my questions for sure!

I urge you to speak with trees as often as possible.


How to Cultivate Passion (for Your Life)

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Last weekend, I attended the second of a year-long series of monthly yoga and aromatherapy workshops at Ma Yoga in Mahwah, New Jersey. The theme this time was passion, and so I decided to prepare myself to explore this theme by asking myself the obvious question…

What, exactly, is passion?

After some thought, I decided that passion is a strong connection to someone or something—so strong that you lose yourself in the object of your passion. I have a passion for writing, yoga, and The New York Mets, for example. I also have a passion for certain relationships.

The type of passion I’m describing isn’t always there, of course. Sometimes I’m not lost in my writing or I’m watching the clock in yoga class or I turn off the game because the Mets are losing. And of course there are times when I need a bit of space between myself and loved one. I was excited about the workshop because, I thought, it would be great to discover some tools for cultivating passion for the people and things I love more often; in other words, tools for keeping that passion alive.

Passion for Everything

To my surprise, Jan Jeremias and Dee Andalkar, the workshop presenters, went a step further with their take on passion. In fact, Jan described something that in a way was the reverse of what I was thinking. She suggested that, rather than think about passion as coming from the things we’re drawn to, we can be passionate about everything.

Really? Everything? Can I really be passionate about doing the laundry or the tedious job of editing a technical document or listening to a loved one rehash a problem for the sixteenth time this week?

Well…maybe I can. It turns out that passion is presence. And when we do things with passion (that is, when we are compassionate), we are simply there experience those things fully. And when we do that, we come alive.

Here are some ways to cultivate passion for everything in your life:

1. Practice yoga, of course. To make your yoga practice more about living with passion, do the poses with more presence than ever. Of course, we yogis know that being present is a key aspect of the practice, but we really do need to be reminded of this often. So when Jan led us through poses, she made sure that we were present by cuing us to slow down, breathe first, and even to add movements purposefully—for instance stretching our arms out to a “T” position and pausing there before reaching them up in high lunge. Try this when you practice, and you’ll begin to appreciate each pose even more. Then take that off the mat and into your everyday life.

2. Use essential oils. We were treated to a beautiful essential oil blend called Passion, which is a combination of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, clove, sandalwood, jasmine, vanilla, and damiana leaf. I couldn’t help noticing that most of those ingredients are the comfort spices I associate with autumn; I don’t know if there’s a connection, but I do notice an extra energy for life in the early part of that season. Another oil combination we sampled was ylang ylang and wild orange. This is a simple blend, but its effect is amazing. Other oils that can help cultivate passion and enthusiasm include

3. Chant the mantra “Ang Sang Wahe Guru.” Dee led workshop participants in this Kundalini Yoga chant that celebrates passion for life. According to Spirit Voyage, the translation of the mantra is, “The dynamic, loving energy of the Infinite Source of All is dancing within my every cell, and is present in my every limb. My individual consciousness merges with the Universal consciousness.” Every cell. Every limb. It’s hard to think about that and not to have more passion for your life!

4. Be present! You can’t be passionate about a life you’re not there for. So to connect with this simple truth, we did a short mindful eating exercise. I’ve done this before, and although I usually do make an effort to eat mindfully, it never hurts to be reminded of the power of attention to the simple things in life. I chose a slice of juicy tangerine and noticed the not-too-sweet burst of citrusy flavor that filled my senses when I bit into it, then very slowly chewed it until only the pulp remained to swallow.

A few days after the workshop, as I finish writing about it, I realize that I’ve gone through the first part of the week with a noticeable boost in my passion for life. I’ve started two new, exciting projects, so that helps, but it’s more the overall feeling of connection to my life that I’m noticing. When it begins to wane (I’m human; I know it will), I have these awesome tools of yoga, essential oils, mantra, and mindfulness to turn to, and for that I’m very grateful.

Using Essential Oils as Herbal Remedies: What I Learned from ACHS

essential oilsI’ve been interested in therapeutic uses of essential oils for a while now, so when I was offered the opportunity to attend a free webinar on the topic, I jumped at the chance. The event was presented by Dorene Peterson, a trained naturopath from New Zealand who is currently the president of the American College of Healthcare Sciences. I discovered this school recently while searching for places to learn about essential oils. ACHS is located in Oregon and offers accredited training in herbal medicine, holistic nutrition, aromatherapy, and other wellness topics. I signed up for their newsletter and got an email inviting me to attend a webinar, so I thought, “Why not?”

The webinar topic was “Harnessing the Herbal Powers of Essential Oils.” At first, I wasn’t exactly sure why the phrase “herbal powers” was being used to describe oils, since I’ve always thought of herbs more in terms of the stems and leaves of plants. But, of course, essential oils are also derived from plants, and they have therapeutic properties in the same way that other constituents of plants often do.

The therapeutic herbal properties of essential oils

As the webinar progressed, I was happy to see that there are many studies to back up the claims that one oil or another can be used to treat a particular problem or ailment. Of course, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence as well. I’ve personally experienced a number of therapeutic benefits from using essential oils; ylang ylang, lime, lemongrass, frankincense, and lavender are my favorites. Lavender is apparently the most popular oil by far, which, of course, is not surprising. If you’ve used essential oils for any purpose, I’d be willing to bet you’ve had some experience with lavender. I’ve personally used it as a sleep remedy, to de-stress, and even to help reduce swelling (it sure seemed to work for me, though perhaps that particular result was just a coincidence).

Peterson went on to discuss four of the most popular oils: lavender (of course), peppermint, frankincense, and eucalyptus. Here’s her rundown on the uses of each:

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)

• reduces pain
• reduces anxiety
• improves sleep/reduces insomnia
• antimicrobial
• antibacterial
• antifungal

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

• anti-carcinogenic
• helps with nausea
• reduces mental fatigue (uplifting)
• antibacterial
• antifungal

Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)

• anti-inflammatory (great for arthritis, IBS, and any other chronic disease rooted in inflammation)
• helps enhance memory

Eucalyptus (globulus & E. smithii)

• antimicrobial
• antibacterial
• enhances absorption and penetration of topical remedies

Choosing essential oils for their herbal properties

Another issue discussed during the webinar was how to choose an effective product. As Peterson pointed out, there are a lot of essential oils on the market, but in order to be therapeutically effective, certain quality standards must be present. Some oils have interesting labels like “therapeutic grade” and “all natural,” but, according to Peterson, these labels are mostly marketing tools because the terms themselves are not regulated. That doesn’t mean the products that use these labels are ineffective; it just means that the labels themselves don’t distinguish one product from another in any meaningful way.

So, I asked, what should you look for when choosing an essential oil for therapeutic use? As it turns out, there’s no simple answer to that question. The only way to ensure the quality of an essential oil is to research the product and make a decision about its quality after gathering as much information as possible. Here are some tips recommended by ACHS:

1. Find out if the oil was tested for purity (and what the results were).

Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry are the methods used to test essential oils for purity. While they are somewhat expensive tests to administer, they provide essential (no pun intended) evidence that an oil is pure (or not). You can contact a manufacturer or distributor and ask about the use of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Some companies provide this information on their website or as part of their marketing materials.

2. Look for the product’s Latin name and know what it means.

You don’t have to be fluent in Latin to discern which oils are therapeutically useful, but it’s important to understand that many oils have more than one variety, and the one you choose may make a significant difference in the oil’s effectiveness. For example, many lavender products are made with lavandin (Lavenula intermedia), which, according to ACHS, is not as effective for therapeutic use as true lavender (Lavendula agustifolia). When you read or hear about a study touting an essential oil’s effectiveness in treating a certain condition, make sure you know which variety of the oil was used in the study.

3. Remember that (most of the time) you get what you pay for.

We all love to save money, and it’s certainly possible to purchase good quality essential oils without emptying your wallet, but don’t expect to buy safe and effective products at bargain basement prices. Remember that quality oils must be tested; the process costs money. In addition, pure oils cost more than oils with additives and extenders. But spending a bit more for products that work can be a wise investment. In the long run, it will be a lot less expensive than prescription drugs and visits to a doctor. The bottom line is that most inexpensive essential oils have little use beyond the pleasant fragrance they may provide, so if you’re interested in health benefits, you’ll probably need to invest a bit more. But before you choose the most expensive product on the market, do some research; compare prices and ask for recommendations from health care providers who have experience with these products, and perhaps be wary of any company that claims to have the only oils worth buying.

4. Find a supplier or practitioner you can trust.

Once you find a supplier that meets the criteria we’ve discussed, you can simply return to that source for all of your essential oil needs. Many companies have rewards programs or offer free products and other incentives to regular customers, so it’s actually a good idea to have a go-to company. Just be sure to choose that company based on the quality of its products, not the cleverness of its marketing campaign. If you’re not sure you can do this on your own, ask someone who is trained in aromatherapy or contact an aromatherapy school for recommendations.

Essential oils are a true gift of nature, and there are many ways to incorporate them into your healthy, happy life. They can be used to calm the mind, help you sleep, heal the body, sanitize your home, and even to improve the health of your pets! But don’t take my word for it. First, spend some time learning for yourself. Find out as much as possible about the science behind essential oils from experienced people who know the facts so you can be sure that you’re choosing products carefully and using them appropriately. I’ll be writing more about this as I learn more myself!






Essential Oils for Your Drinking Water

oils for waterRecently, the knowledgeable women at Spanda Living recommended a refreshing way to drink water. It’s simple: add a drop of peppermint essential oil and a drop of lemon essential oil to a full glass of water. Before I read this tip, I hadn’t found a blend of essential oils that I liked in my drinking water, but I tried this, loved it, and have been drinking it ever since. If you’ve been looking for a refreshing way to drink water, this might be the blend for you too!

Since I didn’t have any lemon essential oil when I first tried this, I used lime instead. Whether you use lime or lemon, the combination of citrus and peppermint really hits the spot! It’s not only refreshing but it’s also energizing, and you’ll feel the effects for quite a while after you drink it! Beyond the great taste, you’ll get some wonderful health benefits from both the peppermint and the lemon (or lime).

Peppermint Essential Oil Benefits

Peppermint oil is great for digestion and for headaches. If you’re prone to tension headaches, you

may know that drinking water and staying hydrated will help. Adding a few drops of peppermint oil to your water will help even more!

Peppermint’s digestive benefits go beyond calming an upset stomach. It will a

lso help curb your appetite, especially when combined with lime, lemon or other citrus oils. So if you’re trying to lose weight or if you want to keep your stomach from grumbling in between meals, carrying a water bottle with this tasty combination of peppermint and citrus will keep you hydrated and happy all day!

Lemon Essential Oil Benefits

Lemon and other citrus essential oils are excellent natural detoxifiers. This is one reason you’ll often see lemons or limes in drinking water, and holistic health care providers often recommended drinking water with lemon or lime every day.

Lemon is also great for colds, flu and respiratory problems, so drinking water with a few drops of lemon essential oil will help you breathe better if you’re experiencing any kind of respiratory issue. Lemon essential oil will also boost your immune system and help you recover from any kind of infection faster.

How to choose Essential Oils for your Drinking Water

The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing essential oils for drinking water is to be sure that the oils you choose are pure, therapeutic grade and suitable for internal use. If you’re not sure if this is the case, check with the company that makes the oil. Oils vary in quality, so you’ll want to be sure to choose a product that is not only safe to use internally but also one that’s tasty. I’ve been using Doterra peppermint and lime essentials oils in my drinking water. They’re 100% therapeutic grade, and they taste great!

Ylang Ylang Essential Oil Benefits for Calming Mind and Body

ylang ylang flowers

ylang ylang flowers

In a recent post about natural ways to get a good night’s sleep, I mentioned ylang ylang essential oil as one possible remedy for insomnia. I’ve been diffusing this oil every night lately, and I’ve noticed that I definitely sleep better when I do this. In fact, ylang ylang is quickly become one of my favorite oils for any situation that requires calm!

Ylang ylang is really a fascinating gift of nature. The oil is steam distilled from the flowers of the ylang ylang tree, which is native to rain forest climates. The sight of the tree itself will make you feel calm and relaxed. It has small unusually-shaped flowers that blend beautifully with the leaves of the tree. The flowers have a very sweet, almost fruity floral scent.

Ylang Ylang Distillation

When ylang ylang essential oil is produced, the flowers are distilled in three steps. That’s why you might notice that your bottle of ylang ylang essential oil has a Roman numeral following the name. An oil labeled “ylang ylang I” is the result of only the first distillation of the flowers. The most effective type of ylang ylang is labeled “ylang ylang complete,” which means that it contains oil from all three distillations.

Ylang Ylang Benefits

Ylang ylang essential oil is used in aromatherapy for its soothing and relaxing qualities. Ylang ylang helps to calm the nervous system, so it’s excellent, as I mentioned, as a remedy for insomnia. It’s also a good choice when you’re anxious, angry or stressed. The uplifting aroma of ylang ylang can also help lift a low mood in people with depression. Likewise, it can boost libido, making it effective as an aphrodisiac. The oil’s relaxing properties are also said to help lower blood pressure.

For those interested in chakra balancing, ylang ylang essential oil is used as a third (solar plexus) chakra tonic. This makes sense, since the third chakra is our center of creativity and personal power, qualities that shine when we’re not tense, anxious or depressed.

Blending ylang ylang

If you have an essential oil blend that has been created for any kind of calming effect, check the label. It’s likely that ylang ylang is included in the mix. Ylang ylang blends well with cedarwood, bergamot, lavender and grapefruit.

So if you’ve never heard of ylang ylang, or if you just haven’t tried it yet, be sure to look for it when you need an essential oil to help you relax. One sniff and you’ll understand why this oil has become so popular with so many in the aromatherapy crowd!

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