Essential Oil Q&A + Simple Sweet Tooth Recipes

This is a long one, guys.

I didn’t mean to leave you hanging after that last post, but life went a bit crazy.  I took another trip to Glasgow, I had crochet orders coming out of my ears, I had foolishly scheduled both of my classes to submit essays on the same day, and we had what amounted to a four-day Valentines extravaganza involving buses and trains and concerts and Dublin and running here and there with the hopes of making it anywhere on time.  We survived by the skin of our teeth (what does that even mean?).

I have had several questions since my last post about essential oils.  Two of the main ones have been: ‘What does it mean to use an oil?’ and ‘What does a typical day using essential oils look like?’  I’m really glad I was reminded of the first question because it was actually one of those things I originally wondered and forgot to share.  The second one will differ, of course, depending on what an individual’s needs are, but I can show you what my day looks like.

What does it mean to use an essential oil?

I think the term ‘use’ is a bit vague, and it’s because it is there to encompass loads of things.  The main ways to use an essential oil are by diffusiontopical application, and, in some cases, ingestion.  I only recommend Young Living essential oils, especially for ingestion, because I can trust their processes and protocols.

  • Diffusing an oil puts it into the air in tiny particles.  You can smell it, changing your environment the way that a candle or a good soup on the stove (It is me we’re talking about, after all.) does.  It also means that you are breathing it into your body.  It can affect your mood, change your breathing, and can even remove bad smells and toxins from the air.
  • Topically applying an oil simply means putting it on your skin.  It can be particularly useful for things like blemishes, burns, cuts, etc. where you want to affect a specific place on your body.  It can also be helpful for muscle aches and joint pains because you can apply it directly to the sore spot.  Topical application is also good for oils that you can’t or don’t want to ingest or diffuse (They don’t all smell great.).  Some oils should be diluted before applying because of their strength.
  • Ingestion is not something you should do with all essential oils, but many of them are labelled as safe.  You can buy empty capsules to swallow them, and some you can even drop onto/under your tongue if you like the taste of them.  Ingesting oils can be helpful for things like helping to combat a virus or easing digestive discomfort.

What does a typical day using essential oils look like?

When I wake up, I usually already have a pile of work ahead of me.  Often I’ve gotten a ton of student emails while asleep — the wonderful part about living five time zones away from your students — and I have either (or both) student work to mark or crochet orders to fill.  Whatever is on the agenda, I typically need help focusing first thing in the morning.  I stick on the diffuser with lavenderpeppermint, and lemon.  This trio is super-helpful in reducing sinus inflammation, which prevents those sinus headaches I used to get daily, and it’s very light and uplifting.  The diffuser, itself, acts as a humidifier but doesn’t produce any heat, so it helps with the early-morning dehydration grumpiness.


Go, little guy, go!

Because I have hormonal issues ranging from thyroid to reproductive to digestive to sleep, I use some oils in the morning and one at night.  I put Progessence Plus blend on the insides of my wrists and rub them together, and I do the same with Lady Sclareol blend on my ankles.  These spots are really good for getting into your bloodstream faster because your veins are so close to the skin there.  I also use a roll-on of cypress on the tops of my feet and hands to help with circulation. [I tried cypress for my awful circulation on a bit of a whim since I got a bottle in a kit as a present from my mum. I actually have before and after photos of my toes taken only three days apart to show the difference it made, but I figured nobody really wants to see my stinky feet.]

When I let Zoe outside for the first time in the morning, I pop over to the fridge and grab my bottle of Ningxia Red juice.  It’s made with whole crushed wolfberries (you may also know them as acai berries) and a handful of oils already mixed into it.  It gives me a mental and physical boost and helps to balance blood sugar throughout the day.  I can always tell when I forget to have any of it because I’ll start to really drag around 3-4pm.  It only takes a little bit — think of a shot glass — so I usually mix it equal parts with coconut water to give me extra electrolytes, too.

ningxia red bottles

Juice juice juice

About a half-hour before I have lunch, I make a capsule to take.  I use grapefruitpeppermint, and Thieves blend and swallow it with a glass of water.  Grapefruit helps digestive motility and aids in metabolism issues.  After seeing a dietician in the past few months, I learned that I actually have slowed my metabolism by not eating enough food most of the time.  It shocked me because I love food, but I don’t get hungry all the time and often let myself get too busy to stop and take care of myself.  Peppermint eases digestive discomfort; pain when eating was yet another reason why I avoided eating throughout the day.  I actually don’t experience pain when eating anymore. Whoo!  Thieves helps my immune system by fighting off anything I might pick up and boosting my natural immunities to the world around me.  That’s right — I don’t have to be sick all of the time!

Most of the time, I will try to have a salad or a green smoothie for lunch.  I try to have a little fun with it.  When I make my salad dressing, I will often add lemon essential oil to it.  It doesn’t separate in the oil and vinegar like lemon juice can, and it’s just easier to handle.  If I’m making a smoothie, I might add the grapefruit oil (instead of taking it in a capsule) or any other ingestible oils that sound good at the time.  All of my oils help me in some way, so I’m not wasting them by adding them to my food — I’m just finding another way for them to help me.

Day 7

Don’t tell me you wouldn’t gulp that down.

In the afternoons, I usually get a bit stressed out, so I’ll put the diffuser on again, this time with peppermint and Release blend.  I was given the bottle of Release for free at a meeting I attended in town; I have to admit I probably never would have bought it myself because it (and some of the others) has a bit of a silly name to me, but it was exactly what I needed at the time.  It helps to, well, release stress and bad emotions, while the peppermint uplifts.  It’s the perfect mix for a slump.

Before bed, I put EndoFlex blend on the arches of my feet.  This oil is one of the most important for me, as it’s the other side of the hormonal equation for me.  I use it before I go to sleep so that I can truly rest.  It is what has made the biggest impact on my rest cycles and what actually allows me to wake up feeling less tired than when I went to sleep — you know, like you’re supposed to.

The very last thing I do is put the diffuser on one more time.  It helps me to get to sleep and stay asleep.  Most nights, I’ll diffuse orange, cedarwood, and Valor blend.  I use orange a lot (you may have noticed) because it is great for triggering natural melatonin release, aiding sleep but also calming nerves throughout the day.  I actually bought it ‘just because’ one month, and it turns out it’s my favourite. Coincidence? Cedarwood is great for breathing issues, and it has helped me to not wake up reaching for my rescue inhaler at night.  I used to need it at least once through the night — my breathing was inhibited enough that I would wake in a panic — and again as soon as I woke up in the morning; I don’t need it at all during the night, which is clearly a good thing for my lungs, but it also means I’m not working up those stress hormones while asleep. Valor is in the mix for another type of sleep discomfort altogether.  Since I added it into the nightly routine, CB has stopped snoring.  I didn’t even notice the difference — because I was asleep! — until we were in a hotel recently.  Once the chainsaw started up, I had a devil of a time drifting off.  It wasn’t until I read about Valor reducing snoring that I put it all together.

If that all sounds like a lot, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) Most of the time, I’m only using 1-2 drops of each oil. A 5ml bottle has just over 80 drops, and a 15ml has about 250 drops. 2) I haven’t taken anything else (other than my inhalers, and I’m working on that!) in months — not pain relievers when I threw out my back, not Sudafed when I got an awful cold and sinus infection, not sleep aids for my life-long insomnia. My essential oils have completely replaced medications for me.

Bonus for your sweet tooth

One of the things I like to do (like I mentioned with my lunch above) is add essential oils to sweet treats.  One of my favourite oils to use is orange because it just tastes great.  I have used both it and peppermint in milkshakes and chocolate-banana-shakes (four drops per shake).  At Christmas, I made little chocolate candies with a few drops of orange essential oil and sea salt — if you’ve ever had a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, the reviews were better for mine than his, though I don’t have a fun orange-shaped mould.  Considering today is Shrove Tuesday, I think we might find a way to make some specialty-flavoured pancakes after dinner tonight!

Want to know more about essential oils? Leave me a comment or send me an email!  If you’d like to order, you can go here to sign up and get your starter kit. Four of the oils I mentioned above come in the Premium Starter Kit, along with others and a diffuser!


Chocolate Chip Smooshy Bars

As it is crazy marking season in my Real Life, I’m opting for quicker meals and easy treats.  This recipe is one of my new favourites; it is sweet and satisfying, but you don’t feel like you’ve eaten a big, stodgy dessert when you’re done.  If you want to make it more of a treat and not quite as good for you, leave out the oats and flax, reduce the agave nectar to just under 1/3 cup, and only include 1 tablespoon of milk.  I like a bit more texture, and I like the addition of the oats and flax for mixed fibre.  Without it, they are softer and smooshier, almost like a blondie. Both are tasty, and both come recommended by my husband, the undisputed King of Desserts Sydney Makes.

Chocolate Chip Smooshy Bars

This one is the oat-free version

This one is the oat-free version

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 cup gluten-free oats
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
Extra coconut oil or other oil for greasing pan

large mixing bowl
small mixing bowl
measuring cups and spoons
8×8 baking pan

Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.  Lightly grease the bottom and sides of your baking pan.

In the large mixing bowl, combine your almond flour, flax meal, oats, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk well.  Almond flour won’t clump as badly as other flours, but, because it has a slightly wetter texture, it can stick to the bottom and sides of your bowl and keep it from being properly mixed.

In the small bowl, combine the agave nectar, coconut oil, vanilla extract, milk, and eggs.  Whisk to combine.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk together.  Let stand for five minutes.  Whisk again.  Fold your chocolate chips into the batter with the spatula.

Scoop (yes, it will be scooping instead of pouring) your batter into the baking pan and smooth.  Try to get the top as smooth as you can to ensure even cooking.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven.  You want a golden colour on the top.

Remove and let stand for at least 30 minutes before cutting.  If you’re impatient (like we were), they taste just fine scooped out with a spoon after 15 minutes, but they won’t hold their shape.  They actually taste the best the next day once they get a bit more smooshy!

Seriously, you have to wait.  I know it's not fair.

Seriously, you have to wait. I know it’s not fair.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I really love to make desserts. I never had much of a sweet tooth growing up (I was the kid who gladly handed over most of my Hallowe’en candy to my mum, or else left it rotting in a plastic bag inside my pumpkin basket until discovering it in time for the next years trick-or-treating.), but I’ve definitely developed one in the years since. One of the candies I have become attached to is the Reese’s peanut butter cup. I don’t know if they have them over here in the UK, but my experiences with local peanut butter so far have not been completely positive. In fact, peanut butter seems to be on the top of the lists of foods Americans bring back from their first return visit to the States. You’ll be happy to know, though, that UK peanut butter does just fine in these little guys; even the Americans give their thumbs up.

1 bag of chocolate chips (around 200g) (milk or dark, sweet or semi-sweet, doesn’t matter much. The dark seems to be a big hit for me.)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs (digestives will substitute on this side of the pond)
1/4 powdered/confectioners/icing sugar
1 pinch of salt

mini muffin cup liners
glass or metal bowl
pot in which the bowl can sit above water inside
microwave (optional)
clean tiny paint brush (optional)
mini muffin tin or silicon muffin cups (optional, but helpful!)
large mixing spoon
mixing bowl
2 regular spoons

Pour a little bit of water into the pot and place on low heat on stove. Pour the chocolate chips into the glass/metal bowl and place over the pot. Stir the chips occasionally until they all melt. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave. Heat the chips for 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval, until they all melt.

If you have a small brush, use it to paint the chocolate up the sides of the muffin liners. Make sure the bottom of the cups are coated in chocolate as well. Placing the liners in silicon cups makes it easier to manipulate so the paper doesn’t flop around in your hands. A muffin tin also does the job, though it allows a little less flexibility. You should use a little less than half of your melted chocolate for this stage.

Place the cups in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This time allows them to set up and makes the final construction much easier.

While the cups freeze, mix the cracker crumbs, peanut butter, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, but do not whip. A slightly crunchy consistency makes for a better end product.

If your chocolate needs reheating, it’s time to do that. Remove the painted liners from the freezer and scoop a bit of the peanut butter mixture into each cup. The easiest way to do it is with two spoons scooping each other. Make sure not to spread it to the edges. Scoop more chocolate on top of the peanut butter to cover. Be as generous as you want and as your chocolate will allow.

Pop the finished cups back into the freezer to set. You can store them in the refrigerator after about 20 minutes, or just take them out and share.