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Using Essential Oils for an Environmentally Friendly Home

By Carol Driskill, Oregon, USA

Would you prefer that your home smell like the harsh chemicals used in many cleaning agents, or the essence of real lemon, rosemary, and lavender? Not too hard to make the choice. Many earth-friendly, mild household cleansing products scented with essential oils are popping up on store shelves everywhere these days, and why wouldn't they? Essential oils are proven to be safe and gentle and are known to have antibiotic, anti-viral, antiseptic, and anti-fungal properties, among their many other virtues.

What makes essential oils different from the synthetic perfumes sold in most retail outlets? Synthetic perfumes, or fragrance oils, use isolates of a single molecule of the plant. True essential oils, on the other hand, are a complex mix of the plant's hormones, nutrients, and biochemicals; and the manner in which these oils are extracted makes them purer, helping to retain the plant's medicinal properties. Only by using pure essential oils will you be guaranteed to obtain the stated results.

For only a fraction of the cost of commercial items, you can actually make your own natural cleaning products for your home, garden, pets, and family, as an alternative to toxic pesticides and repellents, while at the same time lifting spirits and creating a sense of well-being for everyone who shares your home.

To help you understand why these oils work in protecting your environment, here's a brief profile of some of the oils that I  recommend for use in your home:

Lavender oil (Lavandula officinalis) is used extensively to scent soaps and air fresheners, and can be used around the home as a very effective deodorizer and air freshener. A lavender cachet is wonderful in the linen cupboard and chest of drawers to keep away moths and other insects, while giving off a fresh scent. Lavender will keep away ants and insects if sprayed from an atomizer, or you can simply place a few drops in a saucer. Lavender at the strength of 4.5% dilution (use 10 drops of essential oil to one tablespoon of water or carrier oil) is known to kill typhoid bacteria and at 5% to destroy diphtheria bacteria. It is also used as an anti-depressant and is deemed beneficial for insomnia.

Lemon oil (Citrus limonum) is a powerful disinfectant and is anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and anti-viral, according to Jean Valens, M.D., a noted expert in the use of essential oils and author of The Practice of Aromatherapy. It is said that the vaporized essence of lemon can kill meningococci in 15 minutes, typhoid bacilli in one hour, staphylococci in two hours, and pneumococci within three hours—that even a 0.2% solution of lemon oil can kill diphtheria bacteria in 20 minutes and inactivate tuberculosis bacteria. Lemon is a powerful oil to use in your home to fight infections, and it smells great. It is invigorating and has an anti-depressant effect.

Tea tree (Melaleuca altemifolia) is a large-spectrum anti-bacterial agent effective against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. The antiseptic action of tea tree oil is thought to be 100 times more powerful than that of carbolic acid, and yet it is nonpoisonous to humans. Add a few drops to the toilet bowl, scrub, and leave overnight.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is effective against house dust mites and their allergens in clothing and bedding. Just add a half-teaspoon to the wash taking care not to drip the oil directly on fabric. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, and anti-viral. To make an all-purpose disinfectant spray that goes a long way in declaring your home a germ-free zone, add 1/4 teaspoon of eucalyptus and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon oil to 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar and add 1 cup of water. Put in a spray bottle and use it on floors, countertops, sinks, and glossy painted walls in your kitchen and bathroom.

A great insect repellent: add 5 drops of eucalyptus, 2 drops of lavender, 2 drops of lemon, 8 drops of cedar, and 2 drops of peppermint to 2 ounces of sweet almond oil. Mix together and apply liberally, but keep out of the eyes.

To keep carpets fresh: try adding 20 drops of essential oil to 2 cups of borax (dry). Mix well and test on an inconspicuous area. Sprinkle over carpets, let set for about 20 minutes, and vacuum.

A very effective garden spray to repel insects: take 5 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne powder and mix them in a blender. Strain through a very fine strainer or coffee filter (the mixture needs to go through a sprayer when you use it), add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint oil, 1/4 teaspoon of rosemary oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of a biodegradable liquid dishwashing soap.  Any left over will last for several days if stored in a cool place.

For general house cleaning and for floors: add 10 to 20 drops of essential oil (try lavender, rosemary, lemon, or pine) to a gallon of hot water.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the use of essential oils around the home. Don't forget to diffuse frankincense or sandalwood for a deeper experience while doing yoga and meditation. Use a cold air diffuser or simply combine water and essential oils in a spray bottle and use as an air freshener.

Enjoy the wonderful world of aromatherapy!

Carol Driskill received her certification in flower essence and aromatherapy from the Australasian College of Herbal Studies. She is a Kundalini Yoga practitioner and lives with her husband, Dan, in Bend, Oregon.