Essential oils: your friend who’s obsessed with holistic health swears by them, your masseuse loves them for the aromas and the internet raves about sleeping better and feeling less anxiety after using them.
It can seem like essential oils have become a recent trend in the health and wellness community, but they have used for medicinal purposes since ancient times.
We spoke with Jeanette Wages, owner of The Wellness Cooperative in Alexandria, to get the inside scoop on how to use essential oils and their benefits. Highlights from our conversation are below.
What are the main health benefits of essential oils?
Essential oils are extracts from plants containing hundreds of compounds, making them extremely versatile to combat threats (physical and emotional) without building up resistance in the body. Because the plant “DNA” was nature’s original medicine, it works wonders addressing root issues on a cellular level, without causing side effects that some more modern approaches can have. I personally use essential oils for everything from emotional needs to my natural medicine cabinet; the benefits are endless for those looking for more natural remedies and products.
What are your favorite essential oils to use on patients at The Wellness Cooperative and why?
Lavender is obviously the go-to essential oil for the majority of the public. We all know the aroma helps soothe and calm anxious feelings and stress and can promote sleep. Its benefits go far beyond relaxation—soothing skin irritation is one of the things I constantly teach about. It also tastes great in a latte.
One of my absolute favorite oils for massage clients is lemongrass. Not only does it smell delicious, but it is the perfect end to a hard workout or massage service.
Is there a difference between which oils you use for your clients’ mental needs versus their physical needs?
Each oil we use for our guests will vary, depending on what they are coming to see us for, and that makes how we apply it is also different. For an emotional or mental-health-related guest, we would discuss what they are feeling and how they would prefer to feel in order to determine the proper oil or oils. For instance, lavender for someone needing to relax, or a citrus such as bergamot orange for someone wanting to feel lifted up or empowered.
Scents are experienced long before words, aroma enters the olfactory system, and in turn the limbic system and amygdala, hypothalamus and other parts of the brain and body. Depending on what aroma is introduced and the information it conveys is what determines the brain’s response. For emotional responses, I have guests either diffuse the oil, add it to a diffuser jewelry piece, such as a lava bead bracelet, or have them apply it to pulse points with a carrier oil.
For physical health, we do tend to go with a more direct, and far less complicated, approach by applying the oil to the area needing support or the corresponding reflexology point on the hands or feet.
How do you feel about the essential oils trend itself and how they are becoming more popular and mainstream?
Obviously, I am thrilled! But, I’m also cautious. We in the holistic and alternative health world have been using ancient, plant-based remedies forever and are happy to see people looking to go back to our bodies’ root needs. Personally, having grown up in Europe, I have had bad reactions and side effects to traditional modern medicines that had left me choosing to suffer things out over seeking out medication.
We are by no means anti-modern medicine because, of course, it came into existence for a reason and everything has its place, but having a natural alternative is life changing for people like me who were just done with side effects. On the other hand, like with most trendy things, we urge caution and research. Make sure that you know what you are using and how to properly use it.
Essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, so there are a lot of oils floating around that claim to be pure and organic but are actually full of chemical fillers. Research the brands you use, look for certified pure therapeutic-grade oils that are backed by third party testing. And always, always consult a professional if you are using them beyond diffusing for pretty smells.
How does The Wellness Cooperative incorporate holistic health into its services?
The Wellness Cooperative was actually founded by an acupuncturist eight years ago as Holistic Touch. In April 2018, I purchased the non-acupuncture side of the business and we actually still have NOVA Acupuncture renting rooms in our space. We wanted to continue the idea of whole-body wellness—connecting the physical, mental and emotional aspects of everything going on in the body.
Our massages are all therapeutic and medical-grade, helping the body to heal as well as release tension, lower cortisol levels and increase serotonin. Our facials are not only luxurious, natural and pampering for the skin, but soothing and relaxing for the mind, as well as focusing on lymphatic drainage and the root cause of any skin issues.
We also offer reiki, hypnotherapy, guided meditation and health and life coaching to be there for whatever our clients need to achieve their version of wellness.
For those who want to use holistic health practices at home, what is your main advice to them?
There is so much advice out there about what self-care looks like, what being holistic or healthy means. My number one nugget I hear myself saying all the time is do what makes you feel healthy, happy and at peace. For some, that may be a yoga practice, meditation and complete non-toxic living. For someone else, it may be starting an aromatherapy practice when they are stressed. Just be as you are, listen to your body and don’t be afraid to ask for help and explore your options.
Two of Wages’ favorite essential oils are lemongrass and lavender. She provided information on how to use each with “what is compliant according to the FDA to say the oils can be beneficial for.” See below for more:
- Combine with carrier oil and massage yourself after a hard workout
- Add to your DIY cleanser to tone and purify skin
- Combine with melaleuca and apply to toenails for clean, healthy nails
- Use as a natural insect repellent
- Ease feelings of tension by applying it to the temples and back of the neck
- Soothes skin irritations and reduces the appearance of skin imperfections
- Add a few drops of lavender to pillows, bedding or bottoms of feet for a restful night’s sleep
- Freshen your linen closet, mattress, car or the air with a light mist of lavender combined with water in a spray bottle
- Add lavender to bath water to soak away stress, or apply it to the temples and the back of the neck
- Lavender makes a great addition to any hair treatment, shampoo or conditioner to help keep the scalp looking clean and healthy
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