essential-oilsFor thousands upon thousands of years essential oils have been used in medicine and the healing arts, and in the 21st Century they are still sought after as an alternative means of healing. Aromatherapy seems a little confusing at first glance. There are so many oils and so many uses for them it is a little hard to know where to start. First, let’s talk history.

Medicinal plants, and the oils that are abstracted from them, have long made up part of the armory of medicine men and women. Cave paintings discovered in the Dordogne region of France show medicinal plants being used, with the paintings dating back as far as 18,000 BCE. The ancient pharaohs also used essential oils for all manner of ills and applications.

Essential oils have played their part in religious rites and many swear by them as alternative form of therapy. The oils may also come under a variety of names. Many talk of essential oils, other names include aromatic oils, volatile oils, aetherolea and ethereal oils. The oils are taken from the plant or herb and are made up of a variety of different elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen — the same elements in fact that make up a human body.

So if you are keen to stock up and get started with essential oils, where do you start?

Firstly, do a bit of reading. Pure oils can be costly, so it’s important to do your research before you start. Ask yourself what it is you want the oils for? If you just want your home to smell nice by warming oils in a burner, you can pretty much choose any oil that appeals to you. Certain oils display certain properties, however, and you may like to choose oils best suited to your needs.

Here’s a bit of an introduction to some of the oils and their properties. Maybe just purchase a handful to get you started or look around for a starter kit that may come with a handbook as well as the most commonly used oils.

Number one oil for many people is lavender. The calming scent of lavender is perfect for relieving the stress of a hard day. Drop a little lavender oil in the bath for the most calming soak ever or sprinkle a little under your pillow on a Kleenex for restful sleep. Lavender can also be used for minor wounds and minor burns.

Over winter, eucalyptus is a must have. It can help ward of coughs, colds and fever and its refreshing scent will put an extra zing to your day.

Had a tough session at the gym? Mix a little massage oil with rosemary and have a loved one massage away those aches and pains.

If you’re looking to downplay the effects of a dodgy curry, peppermint is the oil to have in hand. It can help with digestive complaints as well as freshen up a dull mind.

Rose can help relieve tension and emotional upsets as well as have a calming effect to combat the woes that go with menstruation.

Now that you’ve selected a few of your favorites, be sure to shop around online. There are many companies dealing with essential oils and it’s important to read the fine print to ensure you are getting what you pay for. It is important that your oil is called “pure oil” rather than “fragranced oil” or similar. It’s hard to know whether the oils you are buying are from top quality crops but look around for a few other clues that indicate that the producer knows what they are doing. Oils are best kept in dark, colored glass bottles — is that what your vendor is supplying? Not all oils should be of the same price. Different plants have different values, so you’d expect their oils to have varying price tags as well. And, as with everything, read the fine print so you are sure that you are getting what you expect.