Top 10…essential oils

Essential oils have long been a medicine cabinet mainstay. Venita Machnicki, aromatherapist and founder of organic beauty company, Skin Nectar, rounds up the most useful

Aromatherapy essential oils are oils extracted directly from the fruit, flower, nut, bark, leaves, root, or resin of a plant or tree. This produces a natural product totally different from the synthesised ingredients we experience in modern medicines and beauty products. Most of these tend to be the result of isolating a single element from the natural world and recreating it in a lab. The problem with this is that the hundreds and sometimes thousands of supporting elements are lost. Without them, the isolated element simply doesn’t work as well.

For a chance to win one of four radiance face oils from Skin Nectar, click here.

What makes essential oil so special is that with just one drop you can experience the entirety of the plant and with it, all the healing and beautifying powers it has to offer. Essential oils work to support the body’s own healing systems and with these wonderful plant essences in your medicine cabinet, many a trip to the doctor can be averted. But which ones are worth having around? Rose and Jasmine are both fantastically effective but are worth more than their weight in gold. Instead, I decided to pick oils that are both affordable and useful, so here goes, get ready for a whistle stop tour of the top 10 essential oils that you shouldn’t be without.

Lavender is one of the mainstays of aromatherapy, and is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and can dramatically reduce the amount of time that burns, cuts, bites and stings to heal. It’s also one of the only oils that can be applied neat. Lavender also has great value as an aid to relaxation and sleep. Studies have shown that after the inhalation of lavender, the left and right brain waves come into balance.  A few drops in a bath to relax, or alternatively, a few drops on the pillow can help after a stressful day.

Roman Chamomile
This oil has a lovely scent reminiscent of straw and apples but don't let the gentleness of the aroma deceive you.  Chamomile is a powerful anti-inflammatory and as such has a real value for treating a range of maladies. Chamomile is also a wonderful oil to use in the treatment of acne or any skin that is red and inflamed.  As gentle bactericide, it’s much better for delicate skin than the better-known tea tree oil.

Rosemary can improve memory and clarity, so is often used to help those sitting exams and is also handy when dealing with a hangover. Just sniffing it will help but it also works when blended with a carrier oil and Dead Sea salt to make a shower scrub that will put a real spring in your step. Rosemary also helps to relieve aches and pains. Either blended with a carrier oil alone or with extra lavender, it works best when added to a hot bath or massaged directly into the skin.

Orange is a cheerful oil which stimulates lymphatic drainage so is good for combating water retention and aiding detoxification. It also delivers a dose of vitamin C, which can be used to great effect on dull skins.  Orange oil is also an effective household cleaner.  Just add a few drops to a basin of warm water and use a cloth to wipe down areas of wood, tile, porcelain or even metal. This astringent oil will cut through grease and grime and leave your home smelling wonderful.

Sandalwood can be used to soothe and soothe and heal a sore throat.  Just add a few drops to a glass of water and gargle morning and evening. It’s also renowned for its ability to dramatically increase moisture levels within the dermis, so is a wonderful tonic for dehydrated skins. Sandalwood is a gentle bactericide and its woody smell lends itself well to male grooming so it makes a great aftershave tonic, helping to preserve the integrity of the skin in the face of irritation caused by shaving.

Fantastic for cutting through sluggishness and apathy; whenever my skin is looks a bit dull or puffy I use a few drops of grapefruit blended with a carrier oil to brighten it up. Grapefruit stimulates the lymphatic system and is also a diuretic.  These properties make this oil useful in cases of water retention or congestion and it’s renowned for its effectiveness in treating obesity and cellulite. Rich in vitamin C, the fresh citrusy scent alone can refresh and focus the mind beautifully.

This oil is incredibly warming and can increase circulation especially when blended with lemon. Ginger is also a powerful digestive aid, one of the reasons it is served with sushi. It’s also incredibly useful for arthritis sufferers, especially when blended with other detoxifying oils such as juniper.  Ginger oil is traditionally used in the treatment of nausea, especially morning sickness in pregnant women.

Eucalyptus was and is used by the Aborigines for most maladies, ranging from cuts and scrapes to stomach complaints and migraines. It is indeed a powerful anti-spasmodic, anti-viral and anti-bacterial agent. When dealing with coughs or colds, add a few drops of eucalyptus to a basin of steaming water and inhale the steam.  The steam will disinfect your nasal passages and lungs.  Another way to use it is by adding a few drops of eucalyptus to a tissue and sniffing at regular intervals. If caught early enough, it can prevent a full cold from developing.

Ylang Ylang
Just as rose oil can be used to treat depression and grief, ylang ylang is great for reducing feelings of anger.  Prolonged periods of anger can have devastating consequences on health and just sniffing this oil can help. Used in skincare, Ylang Ylang balances the sebum glands and is used to great effect in blends for combination skin, as it helps to bring oily and dry areas into balance. This oil is also aphrodisiac and works by relaxing the user, melting away tension and nerves.

Peppermint oil is wonderful for getting rid of an insect invasion without bringing toxic chemicals into your home.  Just add a few drops to a basin of warm water and then use a cloth to wipe down all your surfaces. For humans, peppermint oil works as a mental stimulator and also a refrigerant, which means it can cool you down. Peppermint can also reduce feelings of nausea even in quite extreme cases.  When blended with lavender and applied to the temples, peppermint oil can also alleviate headache and migraine.

For more about essential oils and choosing the best blends for you, go to

Add to StumbleUpon
Scents and sustainability: the Green Grocery's organic scent
Combining rose, sandalwood and jasmine essential oils, the Green Grocery’s Love Letter perfume is organic, eco-friendly and utterly gorgeous
Beat the Winter Beauty Blues
Whether it’s dry skin or chapped elbows, Sophyto founder, Karen Drake, has the solutions to your winter beauty woes
Can I trust my 'natural' or 'organic' body cream?
What does it take for a company producing skincare or haircare products to be truly 'natural' or 'organic'? Laura Sevier sorts fact from fiction in the health and beauty stakes
New series Green business: Lush
Cosmetics company Lush is a zero-packaging pioneer on the high street. In the first of our new 'Green business' series, founder Mark Constantine discusses gourmet consumerism, dream factories and why his ethical creation is a work in progress
Perfume: how natural are you willing to go?
In a world of synthetic fragrances it's important to remember that there are natural alternatives. Here's where to buy them, what to look for and... how to go beyond patchouli