Be scent-sible

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 April, 2009, 12:00am

Hibernating in an air-conditioned room may seem like the perfect way to survive the humid summer heat, but there is a greener, healthier way - essential oils.

The use of essential oils is called aromatherapy. It uses natural plant essences, called essential oils, to cure ills and promote health. The oils come from the flowers, leaves, bark or roots of a plant and are extracted by a process of either cold pressing or steaming. Aromatherapy is said to ease the discomfort of injuries and other health problems.

While aromatherapy is very popular as part of expensive spa treatments, you can also try it at home. The oils can be used in the bath, burned in special essential oil heaters or, mixed with a carrier oil, used as a massage oil.

According to Patsy Leung, assistant training manager from Jurlique Wellness Sanctuary Day Spa, aromatherapy is easy to do at home.

'Lavender essential oil has a fresh, sweet, floral, [grassy] aroma that is soothing and refreshing, and therapeutic lavender oil ... can assist the body when adapting to stress or imbalances,' she says.

'Because it is the most versatile of all essential oils, no home should be without it. It is a great aid for relaxing and winding down before bedtime, yet has balancing properties that can also boost stamina and energy.'

Peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree and lemon essential oils are also particularly useful during Hong Kong's hot and steamy spring and summer.

Ms Leung suggests the following combinations of different oils to cure some common problems.

Five drops each of peppermint and rosemary and two drops of lemon essential oils, or five drops each of eucalyptus and tea tree and two drops of lemon, makes a useful odour-killing mixture which purifies and cleanses bacteria in the air. It also repels insects and mice, keeping your home safe from pests.

To help you relax and sleep, mix four drops each of lavender, mandarin and orange oils.

If you're having trouble concentrating or staying upbeat amid the grey skies and gloomy atmosphere, try blending four drops of lavender essential oil with two drops of geranium and six drops of orange essential oil to repress negative emotions.

You can put these mixes in your bath, or you can heat them in special burners. If you put them in the bath, clean it thoroughly afterwards, as some essential oils can damage fibreglass baths and polished surfaces, rubber and plastic. If you use a burner, fill the dish with water and add a few drops of the oil. Keep the oils away from the open flame.

One final warning: never use undiluted oil on your skin as it can burn and damage it.