Essential oil being dripped from bottle (c) Christin Hume

Plants and essential oils

Looking back to where my connection with plants began I think it was essential oils that were my gateway drug. I have no doubt about the positive effects they can have on your wellbeing because I’ve felt the calming affect of lavender and the clarifying impact of peppermint. So what’s going on?

What are essential oils of a plant?

Essential oils are the volatile, fragrant liquid extracted from a single botanical source. Their complex chemical mixture forms the lifeblood of the plant. They:

  • heal the plant
  • protect it against disease
  • attract pollinators
  •  repel pests.

How do we use them?

We create the pots of essential oil we’re all familiar with by harvesting the plant and then distilling the oils, usually with steam. It takes the blossom of 120 trees to create a single litre of Neroli essential oil.

We can absorb essential oils in two ways:

  1.  the nose – creating an emotional response
  2.  the skin – creating a physical response

Essential oils are highly concentrated and they must be diluted appropriately before use. If you don’t mix to the correct ratio it can be quite harmful. If you’re applying it to your skin you can blend with a carrier oil, such as almond oil. This is a great way to create your own body lotion to your preferences.

What affect do different oils have?

The amygdala gland in the limbic system of the brain plays a major role in storing and releasing emotional trauma. The only way to stimulate this gland is with fragrance or the sense of smell.

Essential oils can be a powerful way to help unlock and release emotional trauma. You can also use them to help wake you up in the morning, or relax you in the evening. My favourites to energise me are orange or peppermint. When I have a cold I use eucalyptus to fell less foggy. When I need to chill out lavender always works.

You can also consume essential oils by diluting them in water or adding them to food, but you have to seek advice on how to so this. They can act as an antiseptic or help discharge toxins in the live or kidney, amongst other beneficial things.

Which ones should I use?

Look for the soil association organic standard certification symbol, it looks like this:

soil association organic standard icon

Here are a few suppliers I’ve found:

Discover more


Sign up for the free online taster course by Neal’s Yard:


Modern Essentials – a contemporary guide to the therapeutic use of essential oils

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