Expert tips

As more of us detox our beauty routines, cleanse our bathroom shelves and seek out products to bring us closer to nature, essential oils feel more relevant today than ever.

Not only do powerful extracts attribute to improving our skin’s condition, but the aroma itself can ease anxiety and improve our sleep. “Essential oils are aromatic, volatile substances extracted from a single botanical source by distillation or expression,” Beverly O’Connell, integrated therapist based in Dubai, explains. “They are found in leaves, the hairs on leaves, flowers, tree bark, or roots, fruit pulp and peel. They are sometimes referred to as the life force in plants.”

She explains that extracts of neroli or frankincense can treat anxiety and insomnia, while the uplifting bergamot can boost the immune system and lime is your go-to for tackling colds and fatigue. All can be used during aromatherapy to treat stress and a variety of chronic conditions. “The history of aromatherapy dates back to a very important Arab man called Abd Allah ibn Sina (980 -1037) usually referred to as Avicenna. He described over eight hundred plants and their uses. He devised and detailed very specific instructions on massages and was credited with discovering distillation which is how oils are extracted,” adds O’Connell.

Sunita Teckchand is a Clinical Aromatherapist and a Trustee and Board Member of The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists England. She also has her own brand of certified organic and A-grade quality essential oils ‘Essensuals’. “Being in this field for as long as I have, I truly believe that pure essential oils totally help boost our immune system. In fact, the daily use of essential oils can boost one’s immunity tremendously,” she says, adding: “They can help with pain management, hair loss, cellulite, all skin types, stressful conditions, depression – the list is endless.”


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Essential oils can be used in various ways, including diffusion. “It takes 22 seconds for the oil to reach the limbic system (primal brain) in order to make emotional shifts,” explains Steph Hamilton, who has experience in medicine as well as attaining certifications in yoga, reiki, aromatherapy and Aura-Soma colour therapy. “I use the oils for mental health on a daily basis, particularly now that my daughter just got back from Canada and we are all quarantined for 14 days. Without the oils I’m not sure what I would do. They have incredible healing and nurturing properties. Helichrysum, otherwise known as ‘liquid stitches’ can heal wounds at incredibly rapid rates.”

Essential oils can be used topically as well, but it is really important to dilute your oils. “All essential oils need to be diluted in a cold pressed base oil-like sweet almond or jojoba before applying on the affected area you want to treat,” says Teckchand. “If you are sensitive or highly allergic, do a patch test on the crook of your elbow as the skin there is the softest and see if there is a red patch or itchiness before using essential oils. Some oils like clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, basil or thyme are skin irritants and need to be used safely. Always know the dilution rate of blending essential oils to base oils before using it – our theory is: ‘less is more’. People use too much and their skin reacts.”

Essential oils are plant-based with an indulgent aroma, while also containing chemical compounds that can do wonders for your skin, even if you have acne. However, it is best to seek professional advice as certain oils can be detrimental to the skin: “If you use heavy base oils like wheatgerm, avocado or rosehip seed – yes it can clog pores, but lighter base oils like grapeseed, apricot and kernel will not. In fact, choosing the right blend when creating a face blend can really help with clogged pores,” adds Teckchand.

With the current fears and increased anxiety spreading through the world in the wake of coronavirus, creating your personal sanctuary of peace and serenity has never been more crucial. Many have chosen, or had to, self-isolate and one of the best ways to calm your body and mind is with candles containing essential oils. Bhawna Verma Sehra is the founder of Dubai-based candle company Palm Lights, which is licensed to sell essential oils, but mainly focuses on the production of candles. “I see essential oils as a fast track method to achieve wellbeing. One can use it on its own or compound the benefits with other healing modalities. Example: when you sit for your morning meditation, light a frankincense incense stick or a cedarwood candle to internalise your senses and eliminate distractions.”

“Frankincense oil has been highly regarded since ancient times and we are lucky to be near the source of Royal Hojari (Medical grade Loban suitable for ingesting) in Oman. It has so many uses –I cannot possibly list them all, but I personally use the resin for making frankincense water. Another popular use of frankincense resin is to burn it in a Makhbara, to naturally disinfect the house,” she adds.

She recommends introducing the scent of lavender, neroli, jasmine and vetiver to relieve stress and anxiety, but she also recommends something a little more unusual. “I attended a health retreat in Kerala (the home of Ayurveda) when the therapist used an uncommon oil for a massage. It was rejuvenating and relaxing at the same time. The results were so amazing that I vowed to create a candle with it. This was the birth of ‘Bit of Aftershock’, one of my most popular candles at Palm Lights. It is made of cinnamon berry oil, and is a tonic for the nervous system and can relieve chronic stress and chronic fatigue.”

Whenever you’re introducing something new into your wellbeing routine, it’s always important to do your research, as it’s a common misconception that if something is natural, then it must be safe to use. “Most essential oils are safe to use, however if you are pregnant or have epilepsy and high blood pressure, there are certain contraindication protocols we follow before using specific essential oils,” Teckchand shares. “Always consult a qualified clinical aromatherapist to check if certain essential oils are safe to use or not and what the dilution rate should be.”

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