The Basic Aromatherapy Kit: tools and equipment

As you start out, you can make your kitchen equipment and utensils do double duty. Just make sure that you clean them out before either cooking or making your beauty concoctions!

 

If you think that you’ll be making more of your own beauty recipes, then it would be wise to start investing in equipment that will be used for that purpose alone. Check out what type of recipes you do the most, and what equipment you use, and start acquiring those.

 

Here’s a list of the basic tools of the trade that you’ll need. Take note that you don’t need all of these at the same time. 

 

For formulating

·         A variety of different-sized glass or ceramic bowls, preferably heat-resistant ones. You’ll use these to mix ingredients.

·         Measuring cups. Again, glass is preferred for its non-reactivity. The glass measuring cups are also easier to clean and read.

·         Measuring spoons. Don’t use silver, copper or aluminium spoons as they may react with certain ingredients.

·         Double broiler. Or a pot big enough to hold a medium-sized bowl or container standing on a trivet.

·         Tea kettle or electric kettle, for easy heating of water.

·         Wooden spoons for mixing.

·         Wire whisk. It helps mix ingredients more evenly and emulsify them.

·         Chopping board and knives, to chop up herbs and other ingredients.

·         Strainer. 

·         Glass droppers for adding essential oils (the oils may react with or melt plastic droppers).

·         Mortar and pestle.

·         Blender or food processor. Glass still works best.

·         Glass jars and bottles, to put your concoctions in. Make sure that they’re clean and sterilized, to prevent any contamination or molds growing.

·         Plastic bottles. Flip tops work well, and spray bottles can be of good use too.

·         Funnel, for easy pouring into bottles.   

 

For application

·         Large bowl or small basin, to use for steaming your face.

·         Medium-sized basin, or at least one big enough to soak your feet in.

·          Bath mitt, puff or sponge.

·         Natural bristle brush.

·         Pumice stone or skin file for exfoliating feet and other rough spots.

·         Shower cap, to intensify the effects of hair treatments. You can also use plastic wrap or a clean plastic bag.

·         Towels: oversized bath towels for your body, regular ones for your hair or for steaming, washcloths for compresses.

·         Disposable rubber gloves, for applying mud or other messy treatments.

·         Large plastic sheets—to stand over while applying messy treatments, to make cleanup easier.

 

Some notes

·         Sterilize plastic containers the same way you would baby bottles—boil gently in clean water for a few minutes, then lift out and drain (make sure that the plastic containers are heat resistant).

·         You can also sterilize glass containers and their lids in boiling water. Or you could stick the glass in a 100F oven for about 10 minutes.

·         When preparing your beauty concoctions, prepare your area first. Put away all food items. Make sure that you have access to clean hot and cold water, and a stove. Prep all ingredients and equipment.

·         Don’t use equipment with or tools made of silver, copper, aluminium, Teflon or cast iron—these could react with some of the ingredients. Use glass, stainless steel or enamel.

The Basic Aromatherapy Kit

The essential essential oils

The number of essential oils available—there are over a hundred of them—can be overwhelming. Each one has its own special properties, and each is potentially useful.

For beginners, here are the must-have essential oils for your aromatherapy kit. Take note that you shouldn’t apply essential oils directly to your skin, nor should you ingest them. Pregnant and lactating women also are advised to avoid certain oils.  In general, essential oils should not be used on babies and children, with very few exceptions.

  • Lavender. The ultimate in stress relief. It’s soothing and calming scent can also aid in sleep problems and muscle pains. Known to be antiseptic and antifungal as well, making it good for treatment of skin issues like acne, inflammation and wrinkles. Also aids in healing wounds and burns.
  • Tea tree. An all-around healing oil, tea tree is antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal. Great for treating acne and other inflammations and infections. Its strong lemony-woody scent may take getting used to, and it may cause skin irritations in some.
  • Rosemary. Not just for your pasta and lamb, rosemary is popular for boosting memory, relaxing and soothing tired, sore muscles, stimulating hair growth and relieving headaches, rheumatic and arthritic pain. You can also use it to freshen your breath—and freshen the room. It can also be used for respiratory problems: infections, coughs, colds, even asthma.
  • Chamomile. One of the most mild essential oils, chamomile can be used on children. It is soothing and calming, good for treating inflammations. It helps reduce pain in the muscles and joints, toothaches, headaches, sinusitis, and a whole lot more. There are two varieties: the Roman Chamomile and the German Chamomile; the former is more common.
  • Peppermint. Cool and refreshing come to mind when you think about peppermint. Aside from freshening your breath, it can also help soothe skin inflammations and itchiness and skin ailments like scabies, ringworm and acne. It helps relieve nasal congestions, headaches and muscle pains, and it also helps increase mental alertness.
  • Lemon. Lemon gives off a fresh, clean scent which can uplift your spirits. It’s useful for acne treatment, dealing with oily skin and hair and removing dead skin cells. It can even be used for cellulite. Since it has antiseptic properties, lemon can also be used to deal with minor cuts, wounds and burns.
  • Eucalyptus. This oil is mostly known for its power to ease respiratory ailments. But it’s also great for headaches and muscle pains. It also aids speed up healing of skin wounds and insect bites, soothe skin eruptions and clear congested skin.
  • Patchouli. One the lesser known essential oils patchouli is superb for skin. It stimulates the growth of new skin cells, thus speeding up healing and preventing scars. It also helps improve dry, cracked skin and also works to heal acne, sores, fungal infections and scalp problems. It’s said to be an aphrodisiac to boot.
  • Rose geranium. Known as the balancing oil, rose geranium helps balance the emotions and skin condition. It keeps skin supple and prevents it from becoming too dry or oily; helps in healing of wounds and sores; and can be used for edema, eczema, cellulite and bruises. It is also effective in repelling head lice.
  • Cedarwood. Almost masculine and woody in aroma, cedarwood can calm and soothe nerves. As a beauty component, it’s great for acne and oily skin, as well as treating dandruff. It can also work to ease respiratory problems, urinary tract infections, rheumatism and arthritis.

 

Aromatherapy Basics

Lighting a scented candle and playing soft new age music does not an aromatherapy session make. Aromatherapy is the use of natural plant extracts and oils to help improve a person’s mental and physical condition and health. Simply inhaling (through a burner or steam) pure essential oils like lavender, for example, can help relax you; inhaling something like rosemary, on the other hand, helps sharpen your memory. Applying tea tree oil (through creams or massage oil or other concoctions) can help lessen and heal acne while chamomile can soothe redness and swelling.

Aromatherapy works mainly through the olfactory system. In simpler terms—when you smell the essential oils, the molecules of the oils enter your body through your nose, and through the nerves of your nasal passage, end up in the limbic system of your brain, which controls emotions. The limbic network also controls heart rate, blood pressure, hormones, breathing and stress levels. That’s why even inhaling lavender can help de-stress you. The EO molecules can also enter through the skin, where they end up in the blood, passing through the blood capillaries. As they circulate throughout your body, they gradually exercise their therapeutic properties.  

Take note that you have to use 100% pure and natural essential oils. Fragrance oils or perfumed products, while they smell good, will give you the same effect that essential oils will; they may even harm you.

You don’t need to spend a lot to experience the restorative powers of aromatherapy. With a few select supplies and a little knowledge, you can create your own aromatherapy products to pamper yourself.

Essential Oils 101

  • Not everything that is marketed as ‘essential oil’ is essential oil. Some may be fragrance oils, which may smell the same but are synthetic, hence have no real aromatherapy properties. How can you tell the difference? Usually, if it’s cheap, it’s most likely synthetic. Be wary also of unusual ones such as coffee or melon-cucumber—these are merely fragrance oils.
  • Store your EOs (essential oils) well—in dark glass bottles, in a cool dark place. Some people keep their EOs in the refrigerator, though the ones with higher wax content may solidify (dip the bottle in a bowl of warm water before use). Most EOs, when cared for will last two years. Citrus ones like lemon typically last six months. Heavy, musky ones like patchouli and sandalwood improve with age. Oxygen deteriorates the quality of your oils, so when a bottle of EO is half-empty, transfer the contents to a smaller bottle.
  • Never apply undiluted EO directly to your skin; always use a carrier oil or other base. You can also add EO drops to your bath or soaking water or compress; inhale it via steam or fragrance burner; or mix EO with alcohol or water for a room spray. EOs are also used to create soaps, lotions, scrubs and other body care products.
  • Essential oils are not recommended for very young children and infants, though some practitioners may recommend mild ones like chamomile or lavender in a vaporizer or massage oil. Some EOs are also not recommended for pregnant women, such as sage or rosemary. Some oils also are more likely to irritate skin, like cinnamon or lemongrass.