Plant power: A beginner’s guide to essential oils

Fresh herbs

With healing plant remedies becoming ever more popular, we spoke to essential oils educator Tara Walsh to find out exactly where to start when it comes to the world of aromatherapy and alternative healing…

Tara is yoga teacher and essential oils educator living and working between Barcelona and London.  She has dedicated most of my working life to the practice and study of yoga, and through this journey has come across many healing modalities that have had a profound effect upon wellbeing.

Essential oils have been part of Tara’s life for a long time but just four years ago she decided to deepen her understanding of these healing plant remedies and began to study and share what she was learning with a wider community. Tara now leads regular workshops and classes on the benefits of essential oils where she shows people how to use them on a daily basis to support wellbeing and health on all three levels: physical, mental, and emotional. 

Essential oil

We spoke to Tara and asked her a wealth of questions aimed at helping anyone interested in starting their aromatic journey with these potent little plants. Here’s our Q&A…

What exactly is an essential oil?

An essential oil is a substance produced by a variety of plants, flowers, trees, herbs, spices and grasses which contains healing aromatic compounds that can be extracted and used to support our health and wellbeing.

What are the most important qualities you should look for when buying an oil?

Unfortunately there is a lot of adulteration in the essential oil market, and now over 80% of essential oils are diluted or “cut” with synthetic ingredients in order to bring about economic gain. Look for companies that are transparent about their sourcing and distilling processes. Don’t just believe the label on the bottle. Many essential oils falsy advertise that they are “pure” and “natural”.  You can tell a lot from the aroma of an oil, and even the colour. There are a handful of companies that now provide all the test results from their labs, so you can see clearly that the bottle of oil you hold in your hand only contains pure-grade therapeutic essential oil with no fillers.  I personally choose to use doTERRA essential oils and am always blown away by their purity and therapeutic benefits.   

How can you incorporate oils into your daily life?

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years throughout human history and we can trace them back to Biblical times, Ancient Egypt and Ancient China.  Traditionally they have been used to treat infections, wounds, emotional health, digestive health, hormonal imbalances and a huge variety of different health issues. We can use them daily to support our immune system, for glowing healthy skin, for respiratory health and emotional stability. They are also used frequently in massages to bring about relaxation and to ease tension on a muscular level.  I also use them regularly in my yoga practice to quieten the mind and bring about meditative states. 

Fresh lemons

Tell us 5 interesting ways you like to use oils

  1. A couple of drops of citrus oil in your flask of water to cleanse and detox the digestive organs
  2. A drop of Frankincense in your moisturiser  
  3. Lavender and Clary Sage on the abdomen during your moon cycle
  4. Melaleuca (Tea-tree) for the occasional outbreak of acne
  5. Peppermint or Fennel under the tongue after a heavy meal to ease indigestion

Can you ingest essential oils? If so, what’s the best way?

You can ingest very small amounts of essential oils, but ONLY if they are 100% pure-grade.  Most of the essential oils sold on the highstreet are NOT SAFE to ingest as they are filled with synthetic ingredients. 

Can they be applied directly to the skin?

I would always suggest diluting essential oils first before applying them to the skin.  There are tons of useful graphs and tables you can find online to discover the safe ratio of dilution for adults and children.  There are some oils which we call “hot” oils, such as oregano, cinnamon, clove, and peppermint, which could irriate the skin if applied without dilution.  Other oils such as Lavender and Roman Chamomile are much more gentle and can be used neat, but I always recommend using a carrier oil first as they will help the oil be absorbed into the skin tissue for healing to take place.  Examples of carrier oils are almond oil, fraccionated coconut oil, and sesame oil.

Herb table

Would you ever blend oils? What’s your favourite combination?

Essential oils are wonderful to blend and you can have lots of fun creating and crafting your own natural perfumes and blends.  Many essentials oils are very compatible and in some cases their benefits are even enhanced when mixed with others. An example of this would be combining Frankincense with Myrrh – these oils have a synergestic effect when combined and their healing benefits are greatly enhanced. I love to combine peppermint and orange oil to uplift and bring joy to the heart.

What oil would you recommend for supporting stress and anxiety?

There are a great many oils that can be used for treating and easing stress and anxiety.  Many of the floral oils such as Lavender, Rose, Jasmine, Magnolia, Ylang Ylang and Roman Chamomile are wonderful for softening the heart space and relaxing the mind and body.  The tree oils are also wonderful for grounding and stabilising the emotions. Try using Frankincense or Sandalwood essential oil on the forehead, temples, and soles of the feet to bring about feelings of calm and centeredness.

Lavender in a jar

If you could only have 3 oils in your life what would they be and why?

I would probably have to choose Frankincense for it’s incredible array of healing properties and for it’s versatility.  It can be used for skincare, immune strengthening, calming and relaxing, and meditation. Lavender for similiar reasons – it’s incredibly versatile and can be used to treat allergies, respiratory issues, skin issues, sleep problems, stress and anxiety.  And finally Peppermint for it’s antibacterial properties and respiratory benefits.

Any particular oils you’d recommend for travelling and why?

I never go anywhere without my oils!  For travel I use a little travel keychain filled with 8 tiny vials of my favourite oils for travel.

  1. Melaleuca (Tea-tree) for cuts and wounds, it’s an amazing anti-septic and anti-fungal oil
  2. Lavender for sleep, jet lag, anxiety, sunburn and rashes
  3. Peppermint for indigestion, allergies, respiratory support, and jet lag
  4. Lemon for my water – to cleanse and purify the internal organs, and for uplifting mood and emotions
  5. Cedarwood is an amazing insect repellent and also great for sleep support
  6. On Guard is one of my favourite blends by doTERRA – it’s a mix of spices and citrus fruits and I use it every 2hrs whilst flying to help strengthen the immune system and protect me from air-born bacteria on long-haul flights
  7. Balance – this is another blend by doTERRA which is wonderful for jet lag and for balancing emotions and the nervous system.  I use it as a perfume, on my pulse points, behind my ears, and on my temples.

Can you recommend any good sites or workshops to learn more?

There is more and more research coming out about the benefits of essential oils.  For scientific studies and research you can visit, pubmed.com  

doTERRA also provide a ton of information on their website, and they have another page specifically dedicated to the ethical sourcing and distillation of essential oils, visit, sourcetoyou.com.

I also recommend books by Robert Tisserand, Kurt Schnaubelt, and Valerie Ann Worwood.

You can look for local workshops happening in your area in our community facebook group: Europe Live A Cause: Sharing Oils and Love with a Purpose, or contact me directly and I can point you in the right direction.

We hope you found this guide interesting. We can’t wait to start incorporating some of Tara’s tips above into our daily routines!

Kat x

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