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.

diffuser

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!

One Lie about Cupcakes and One Curiosity Fulfilled

As I mentioned in my last post, CB got a job.  We have started and ended house-hunting, and, for those of you crossing your fingers for me, I got a great kitchen and a yarn room that I don’t have to share (except with this spoiled rotten little gem).

zoe

Until we move in, I’m basically chronicling thoughts and meals, which, admittedly, isn’t the most interesting way to keep a food blog.  Every time I think about getting into creative mode in the kitchen, I’m confronted with the idea that this is not-my-kitchen and these are not-my-things.  So, back to CB got a job, and we looked at houses.

The day that he found out he had gotten the job, I decided he needed a little something of recognition. I spoil him, I do.  I secretly arranged with the woman who made our wedding cake to make a tiny congratulations cake for him.  The best part of her cakes is that not only are they tasty, but they have little clay figurines on top.  I dare say more people commented on how good our little figures looked on the big day than commented on how good we looked!

CB cake

The reason I mention the cake, besides just being very tickled by it, is that The Little Cupcake Cafe is one of the few places in Belfast to get a decent gluten-free treat.  I had already arranged with CB’s mother to help me pick up the cake, but it was turning into a logistical nightmare to try to get it without him knowing.  Thus, the little white cupcake lie.

Ah, yes, the sunny days of house-hunting.  While the rain was holding off, we decided a constructive use of our time was to simply take a taxi to a nice neighbourhood and walk until our feet fell off.  We made notes of real estate agencies and houses that looked pleasant.  We walked, got a little sunburned, and ended up with just about nothing once we looked up the prices.  We kept fairly good moods, considering the poor luck we were having.

Until Cake Day.

We were well across town from the shop, and I declared that I wanted a cupcake.  An hour later, it escalated to my needing a cupcake.  Another hour and CB was simply refusing me a cupcake.  Never mind that we were too far away for either of us to do anything about it.  By the end of our house search, I said that I was going to get a cupcake because his mother wouldn’t like to hear of his refusing me a simple pleasure; she would surely drive me to get one.  She played along brilliantly, feigning exasperation at her son and immediately driving to the only shop which could provide me with what I wanted.

We sat down for a cup of tea and a cupcake.  Cathy, the fondant artiste, silently showed me the cake and placed it behind the till.  I managed to signal to the girl working the counter that I was to pay for the cake while asking for a glass of water; she casually slipped my change on the counter and walked away, enjoying the bit of espionage.

As we were standing to leave, I said to CB, “That box behind the till says ‘Burke’.  Do you think it’s for us?”
CB: “Burke is a common name.  I’m sure it’s not.”
Me: “But it could be?”
CB’s Mum: “Did you buy Sydney a box of cupcakes?!”
CB: “No, let’s leave.” (getting a bit embarrassed by now)
I peek behind the till.  “But, it has MY name on it.”
CB: “Sure it does.”
I am handed the box.  “Look, it does!”  I open the box and all is revealed.  I thought he was going to hit the floor with shock.  After he eyes up the little figure of himself, I add: “I didn’t even want a cupcake.”

Less sneaky but equally as exciting (for me. Only me.) was the idea of eating on our short trip to Dublin.  As a thank you present for helping him with the application and interview preparation for his job (and probably for constantly stating how much I believe in him), CB bought two tickets to see Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance in the Gate Theatre in Dublin. [Go!  See it!  Bring a wee hand fan because it is boiling inside!]  We already had our mind set on where to eat dinner before the show, but we still had an opening for lunch the next day.  CB sent me a link with gluten-free possibilities to browse, and there it was.  The restaurant that had managed to slip my mind that I used to obsess over visiting.

Cornucopia.

It was somehow a hundred times better than I even imagined it.  We got there just before the major lunch crowd, so we got a table just as we got our food.  By crowd I mean that the queue was completely out the door, and people were sharing every little corner of tables just to be able to eat.  The menu is a set of blackboards behind the counter.  Not everything is gluten-free, but everything is vegetarian.  There was a legend hanging above the blackboard explaining what was egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, chili-free, vegan, etc.  It truly felt empowering not to have to ask what was in something before I ordered.  I am aware that that last statement will sound completely alien to anyone without dietary restrictions, but I felt like I owned the place when I ordered my food.

cornucopia

THIS was the amazing, empowered meal I had.  Curry and rice with sweet potato, carrot, chickpea, fine beans, and broccoli; kidney bean, tofu, and rocket salad; and a garlic and almond potato salad.  100% vegan, 100% gluten-free, 100% giddy-inducing.  Eat there.  Just do it.