Essential oils have been used for centuries for their therapeutic qualities and aromas.  They can be used in many ways around the home, but it is important to always follow any safety advice on the label.  Some oils should be avoided completely during pregnancy, others such as citrus oils can cause skin sensitivity/photosensitivity and should not be applied directly to the skin.  Follow the instructions, and if in doubt consult an aromatherapist for advice. Essential oils should never be ingested so keep out of reach of children.

Anyone who has had a chat with me about aromatherapy will have heard me harp on about the benefits of Rosemary essential oil.  One of the things I love the most about it is that you don’t really have to purchase a bottle of the oil in order to reap the benefits – perhaps you or someone you know already has it growing in a pot or in the garden.

Rosemary happily growing in my garden.

Simply rub your hands over its leaves or pick a small sprig and you can get many of the benefits.  It is a potent oil, and should only be used in small amounts, but since it is such a clear and powerful aroma you probably won’t be tempted to overuse it!  Rosemary should be avoided completely in pregnancy (and, I would argue, when you are trying to conceive), and also if you have a history of high blood pressure.

So what to use it for?  My personal favourite use is for clearing my mind and helping me stay alert.  There have been some studies into it’s uses for memory, and my own experience is that it gives me a mental boost when I’m revising or studying for exams.  I’ve also recommended it for clients who regularly work nights shifts as a gentle boost when that 3am slump hits (although I used to experience that as soon as my shift started…)  I actually don’t use the oil directly for this purpose – I rub my hands over a sprig of rosemary and deeply inhale.  Careful though, there’s a chance that it could also remind you of roast dinner!  If you have an aromastone or an oil burner you could try burning a drop, perhaps combined with two drops of marjoram and a couple of drops of lavender – very relaxing but also revitalising.

Another popular use is for relieving the symptoms of cold and flu.  One drop of rosemary added to a steam inhalation (hot water in a bowl, cover head with towel, lean over bowl, breathe in) can be really helpful in relieving congestion and painful sinuses.  Blending it with a drop each of peppermint and eucalyptus makes an even more effective sinus reliever.  It was once used in hospitals in Europe to help cleanse the air, and I can tell why, it definitely has a “clean” smell.  One drop of rosemary and one of eucalyptus used in  vaporiser or oil burner also recreates the smell of a Turkish Spa – bliss.

If you do happen to have your own plant – and it’s well worth getting one – you also have the advantage of being able to add the fresh herb to your meals.  Delicious with chicken and tomato pasta, and way better than the bottles of dried herbs available at the supermarkets.