The power of essential oils
A freak accident got Michelle Rafferty hooked on essential oils.
She was making soup in a blender when the lid popped off and shot scalding liquid onto her face and chest, causing second degree burns.
Doctors predicted she would be permanently scarred, but said that lavender essential oil might help reduce the damage.
“I didn’t know anything about it. I got some lavender and used it daily. I mixed it in with a cream and put it on.”
Today, her scars are gone.
“Lavender is amazing for all things skin,” Ms Rafferty said. “It is such a versatile oil.
“Everything that a plant needs to survive in the natural world — to attract, to defend, to protect — all of that is contained within essential oils. You find them in all parts of the plant, from the flowers to the seeds to the bark to the roots and fruit. Humans have learnt over centuries that we can use those properties to help us as well.”
To use essential oils for aromatherapy, you can open a bottle and inhale, put a few drops on your hand and smell that or place a few drops into a diffuser.
On a wet, dark afternoon Ms Rafferty loves to sprinkle a few drops of lemon and peppermint oil into her diffuser.
“It is very uplifting,” she said.
She admits that some essential oils can be quite expensive. Driving the cost of rose oil is that thousands of rose petals are needed to collect a useable amount of oil.
Sniffing a little of it is said to release “happy hormones” and help with pain relief.
Ms Rafferty decided to study essential oils after she developed encephalitis, a viral brain infection, in 1990.
It was years before she felt fully recovered.
“I was having extreme reactions to chemicals,” she said. “I couldn’t lie down in a room where bleach had been used. I would get such a bad headache.”
She began experimenting with natural cleaning products that contained essential oils. Then she started using a blend of cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus radiata, rosemary and lemon essential oils to help improve her immune system.
A year ago she enrolled in an online programme with the School for Aromatic Studies.
“There is so much to learn,” she said. “After my certification I don’t plan to stop taking courses.”
Friends started asking for help; Ms Rafferty now gives advice through a Facebook page, Essentially by Nature; on Instagram she leads a discussion on what she puts in her diffuser each day.
“Most people who come to me are looking for natural alternatives and looking to get a good source,” she said. “When I first started I felt a bit lost. I needed some guidance because there are so many oils and different plants. That is one of the reasons I started studying.”
Interest in aromatherapy has increased as a result of Covid-19, she said. In the United States, where sales of essential oils are not regulated, some companies push products that contain low-quality oils or synthetic chemicals.
“Having as many tools in our tool box as we can is really helpful,” she said. “People are starting to look for more natural cleaning products. On one hand you think that is great, but the quality is hugely important when you are using essential oils.”
Ms Rafferty is not sure what she will do once she has completed her studies.
“I don’t want to define what that looks like right now,” she said. “I am open to everything. I am enjoying the process and learning as much as I can and helping the small community that I do. I would love to work with people and create blends specifically for individuals. I love serving people and helping people on their journey.”
• Contact Michelle Rafferty on MichelleandChris@northrock.bm. Follow her on Instagram, @Essentially_by_Nature, and Facebook, Essentially by Nature
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