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10 Essential Oils to Always Have at Home

10 Essential Oils to Always Have at Home

If the average person hears the words “essential oils,” it’s quite likely that the first association they’ll make has something to do with the perfume industry, soap, or flaky aromatherapy practitioners. Yes, essential oils (which may be referred to as EOs) are indeed used to perfume various personal care products, but they have many uses other than enhancing one’s mood or making one’s underarms slightly less offensive.

The 10 essential oils listed below have a number of different benefits that range from health care to home and garden maintenance, and many other uses in between. Many other oils out there also have numerous uses, but if you only plan to have a few in the house at any given time, these may be your best bet.

1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, aka Lavandula officinalis)

If you only plan to have one essential oil in the house, make it this one. Lavender has been used for medicinal and home care purposes for thousands of years, and is one of the most versatile EOs you can get. When it comes to therapeutic uses, lavender can be applied topically to alleviate:

  • Skin rashes
  • Acne
  • Insect bites
  • Minor burns

It’s also an effective disinfectant for cuts and scrapes.

A few drops of lavender oil in a bath can help to soothe frayed nerves and help you get a good night’s sleep, and rubbing the oil into your temples and forehead can relieve headaches. Add a drop or two to a paste of baking soda and water for an effective underarm deodorant, and those same few drops can help to alleviate sinus issues and respiratory infections when added to a steam inhale.

In the home, sachets of dried lavender with some extra oils dribbled in can keep moths away (just tuck the sachets into your closet or chest of drawers), and adding a few drops to your laundry’s rinse cycle can eliminate odors from stinky socks and sweaty gym clothes. Add lavender oil to the water you use to wash the floor to freshen up your living space, and a drop or two placed inside fresh toilet paper rolls will release their scent whenever someone tugs a few sheets free.

2. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

This is one of the most beneficial and useful essential oils to have on hand, and with good cause: it’s often been called “a medicine cabinet in a bottle,” as it can be used to treat almost any common ailment. Although you’d never consume tea tree oil, you can use it topically to treat the following:

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  • Athlete’s foot
  • Dermatitis/eczema
  • Acne
  • Cold sores
  • Nail fungus
  • Warts
  • Insect bites

…just to name a few. You can add a few drops of it to unscented shampoo to alleviate dandruff and psoriasis, and a few more drops in that same shampoo will treat head lice as well.

For use around the home, you can add a teaspoon of tea tree oil to the water in a misting bottle to create a disinfectant spray for counter tops, door handles, etc., and a few drops of undiluted oil around your pet’s bed basket will keep fleas at bay.

3. Lemon (Citrus limonum)

This is one of the best essential oils for home use, as it has more applications than most other oils will ever dream of. A few drops of lemon EO added to olive oil makes a gorgeous furniture polish, and we add the EO to dish detergent, homemade laundry soap, floor cleaners, and spray cleaners. You can add a drop or two to a mixture of coarse salt and baking soda and then use that as an antibacterial scour for wooden cutting boards and butcher blocks.

Lemon essential oil also has therapeutic uses:

  • Add a couple of drops to a glass of water and gargle with it to relieve bad breath.
  • A few drops added to shampoo can alleviate dandruff.
  • Lemon oil added to a bath or diffuser can alleviate anxiety.
  • Blended with aloe gel, it acts as an anti-microbial hand sanitizer.

One thing to keep in mind is that lemon essential oil can make your skin photosensitive, so don’t slather it on and then go sunbathing: wait 12 hours before exposing lemon-daubed skin to sunshine.

4. Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Most people have probably taken a cup of peppermint tea to alleviate nausea or an upset stomach, but you can also massage your abdomen with a carrier oil that has a few drops of peppermint essential oil added to it to relieve stomach cramps and queasiness.

If you or your pet has a tick under your skin, a drop or two of pure, undiluted peppermint EO will draw the insect out so it can be eliminated. Blended with pine and eucalyptus and added to a carrier oil, peppermint is great for applying to the chest and throat to calm coughing fits and help relieve bronchial congestion, and a drop or two added to cool water can make a great foot soak to soothe tired, overheated feet.

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Around the home, you can spray diluted peppermint oil into stinky shoes and boots to eliminate odors, and add a teaspoon of the EO to floor-washing water to add fresh scent, as well as antibacterial properties. Placing a few drops of peppermint oil around cracks in walls will also deter rodents and spiders: they can’t stand the scent of it.

5. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

Hailing from Australia, this essential oil can be recognized easily by scent.

As mentioned above, eucalyptus EO is great for alleviating chest congestion (either blended with other oils or alone), and a salve made with it can also ease asthma attacks when spread on the throat and chest. That same salve may help to alleviate the pain of fibromyalgia if rubbed into the affected area a few times a day. A few drops added to a compress and placed on skin affected by shingles can ease the pain associated with that condition, and may speed the healing process.

Eucalyptus’ disinfectant properties make it ideal to use in a spray for your kitchen and bathroom, or diffuse the oil in your bathroom to eliminate germs and odors.

6. Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

Clove oil has been used for dental issues for centuries, and is one of the best treatments available for toothaches, gum disease, cold sores, and canker sores. It should always be diluted (as it’s very strong), and shouldn’t be used by those with super-sensitive skin.

You can also use the diluted oil for:

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Prickly heat rash
  • Wounds and cuts
  • Fungal infections
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Bruises
  • Ear aches (poured on a cotton swab and tucked just inside the ear canal)

For home use, diffuse the oil in bedrooms to repel mosquitoes, and add a few drops to baking soda to sprinkle over carpets before vacuuming to get rid of fleas. You can also tuck cloves into an orange to make a pomander and hang that in a closet to repel moths, or in the kitchen to keep flies away.

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7. Chamomile (Arthemis nobilis)

Gentle and soothing, chamomile has been used as a calming herb since the Roman era, and a cup of chamomile tea can work wonders to quieten frayed nerves. Used topically, chamomile essential oil can be used either diluted or neat (full strength) for:

  • Boils
  • Dry skin
  • Eczema
  • Dermatitis
  • Acne
  • Bee and wasp stings
  • Cuts
  • Bruises

You can also diffuse it to alleviate insomnia, stress and anxiety, depression, and irritability, especially when associated with PMS or menopause. Around the house, you can diffuse the oil to calm children who may be hyperactive or argumentative, and it can be dribbled near open doorways to repel mites and fleas.

*Just a note: people who are allergic to ragweed may have adverse reactions to chamomile as well.

8. Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)

Considering that oil of frankincense was found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb, it’s safe to say that this fabulous substance has been valued for quite a while.

Topically, you can use this EO to improve the following issues:

  • Acne
  • Warts
  • Cuts and scrapes (it’s a great disinfectant)
  • Boils
  • Scar tissue
  • Cysts
  • Insect bites

This oil can be diffused to alleviate stress, and some people find that it helps to reduce migraine headache pain as well.

For home use, diffuse the oil to repel mosquitoes and flies. The scent may also help to alleviate stress, anxiety or panic attacks, depression, and insomnia.

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9. Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)

Bright and cheery, grapefruit essential oil is uplifting and multi-purpose.

You can use it topically for:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Oily skin and hair
  • Cellulite
  • Acne
  • Migraines or tension headaches (massage into temples and forehead)
  • Deodorant (add a drop to a mixture of baking soda and water, then apply to underarms with a cotton ball)

*Note: like lemon, grapefruit can make your skin photosensitive, so stay out of the sunshine for 12–24 hours after applying it.

In the home, you can sprinkle a few drops around your dog’s bed to repel fleas (but keep the oil away from cats), and use it in the same way as lemon for anti-bacterial cleaning sprays. You can even sprinkle an old sock or handkerchief with grapefruit EO and then toss it in the dryer with your laundry to give it a fresh citrus scent without the use of any harmful chemicals.

10. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

With its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, anti-microbial, and antiseptic properties, oregano essential oil is as great to use around the house as it is on the body. It should never be used undiluted, however, and pregnant or nursing women should avoid using it.

Oregano EO can aid with:

  • Fungal infections
  • Bruises
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Sprains
  • Arthritis pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tendonitis
  • Cysts
  • Warts
  • Candida
  • Shingles
  • Herpes

Diluted in water, it makes a fantastic anti-bacterial spray for counter tops and high-traffic areas in your house, and you can use the undiluted oil around your bed to repel bed bugs, mites, lice, and fleas. The undiluted oil can cause skin irritation, so wear gloves if you’re going to use it full strength for home cleaning purposes.

Keep in mind that the quality of oil you get will determine efficacy as well. If you plan to use these oils mostly for health care, first aid and such, it’s worth investing a few extra dollars on high quality, organic essential oils. If you’d prefer to use these in cleaning products and the like, the standard EOs that you can find in pharmacies and health food stores should be just fine.

Before using any essential oils, please do your research on it to educate yourself thoroughly on their uses and possible toxicity (i.e. lemon essential oil should be kept away from cats), and employ common sense when using them.

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Last Updated on June 15, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

Video Summary

Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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