I started using essential oils (a liquid that is generally distilled, usually by steam, from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant) as a cleaning alternative to harsh chemicals in my home but soon realized their incredible benefits..

Initially I knew very little about essential oils. I was hesitant at first, as all my mind could conjure up were images of patchouli wearing hippies in San Francisco.

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But after some research I found out that they are actually a really natural substitute to most products. As it turns out essential oils have been used for thousands of years in food preparation and in beauty and health products.

The oils are carefully distilled from a plant source and thus are truly gifts of nature. There are several brands of essential oils out there so be sure to look carefully into the product itself, as the FDA is not required to regulate essential oils and not all of them are 100% actual essential oil.

Personally, I like to use Young Living since they have their own farms and are really committed to quality. There are many uses for essential oils and a quick search online will help you find what you need in no time.

Once I saw how well they worked as substitutes for cleaning products around the house, I was hooked and ready to try them out in other ways. Check out my top favorite uses for essential oils.

To wind down.

After long day of work, school, or basically anything, winding down is number one on my list of things I want to do, but usually number 25 on the list of things I actually get to do. That’s where essential oils come in.

Right after I walk through the door, I put a few drops of lavender, chamomile, and vanilla in a diffuser and let it do its thing. As I start to get dinner ready or laundry or any other number of things that are part of my second shift, the house fills with a calming aroma and I actually start feeling like I’m able to unwind. Even my kids and dogs start to settle, plus the house smells like I’ve been baking cookies. Can’t go wrong there.

To get rid of pet smells and “accidents.”

It’s no secret essential oils smell good. And they are good at making rooms smell great. But they are even handier when you have pets. We have two dogs, one of which has an incontinence issue. She’s on meds to help her but every now and then she has an accident. And if there’s one thing that no one likes it’s cleaning up animal pee on your sofa.

Essential oils to the rescue! Mix a little bit over ½ a cup of hydrogen peroxide, one teaspoon of white vinegar, one teaspoon of baking soda, and ½ a teaspoon of orange essential oil. Shake it all up in a bottle and spray the affected area. Allow it to dry and then vacuum up the excess powder. Repeat if needed.

When this scenario happens on the carpets, I do the following: six to nine drops of lemon essential oil with one cup of baking soda. Mix well and sprinkle on affected area. Leave it for three hours or more and vacuum it up. I love doing that one whether or not I have a mess to clean up, since it makes my home smell like lemon bars.

To decongest.

I have terrible allergies and have gotten to the point that I no longer want to be popping decongestants. Enter essential oils! Rather than taking a pill I make a little mix of one part eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, and peppermint. I keep it a little in a container and take it out whenever I need it. I put some drops in my hands, cup them to my nose and inhale all the goodness. Alternatively you can also use this same mix in a steam using one drop of each in a steaming bowl of hot water. Drape a towel over your head and breathe in. Try breathing in for about five minutes, taking breaks as needed.

 To open up airways before physical activity.

I’m an active person—roller derby, rock climbing, running—but every now and then I’m just not feeling it. I know keeping myself active is important to staying healthy both physically and mentally, but I have days when just getting out of bed is a chore. Bring on those essential oil cheerleaders. Using equal parts eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree and lemon oils, I mix it up and breathe. This mix not only gives me the zing I need to get going but the spring in my step to actually start doing by helping clear my airways.

To deter lice and nits.

If you have kids you are guaranteed to have, at minimum, five cases of lice outbreaks in your lifetime. There are several non-toxic ways to get rid of them and I’m all for that or paying someone to do it. But a surefire preventative, if an outbreak happens around your kids or to keep them off once you’ve gotten rid of them, is peppermint. I don’t know what lice have against smelling like candy canes but apparently they hate it.

Tea Tree oil works the best but some children don’t like the smell of that as much, so I make a little concoction that meets somewhere in the middle. Using equal parts peppermint and tea tree oil, I add a few drops of lavender, and one drop of eucalyptus with two ounces rubbing alcohol and two ounces water. I mix them in a spray bottle and apply to their hair before they go off to school and when they get back. Works like a charm.

As bug repellent.

I don’t know what it is about my genetic make up but mosquitos love me. I’m that person who gets bit on 90 percent of her body while everyone else maybe gets one bite. Life was unfair until I found out mosquitos, much like most insects, do not like peppermint! Bad for them, good for me. I was skeptical at first but after two nights of unbearable California heat and having to sleep with my windows open, I gave it a try. I poured some drops of peppermint oil in my diffuser and put some on my wrists and went to bed. The next morning I awoke with no new bites! I still had the old ones to contend with, but no new ones.

As a muscle soak.

After a day of long distance running my legs and the rest of me are ready to melt into a bathtub. And that’s exactly what we do. I pour in about two cups of Epsom salt with 10 drops of lavender, and five drops of eucalyptus. The lavender calms and relaxes me, the rosemary helps the muscles and joints, and the eucalyptus helps my respiratory system. It’s the perfect way to unwind while helping my body recover.

These are just a few of the ways I’ve used essential oils. Aside from being incredibly medicinal; they’re fairly inexpensive, and so very versatile. What started off as something I needed turned in to something I actually really liked and something that was good for me and my family.

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