If you’re a LUSH fan then you’ll know that familiar pull when you walk by one of their shops. It’s like a wall of scents that hits you before you even see the window displays.
I tend to play it safe and have always stuck to my favourites in LUSH: butterbear bath bomb, floating island bath melt, mmmelting marshmallow moment bath oil and of course, mint julips lip scrub. While topping up my supplies the other day I noticed this beautiful little (free!) book, ‘The Essential Oils Handbook’ by LUSH.
The foreword by Simon Constantine, Head Perfumer and Buyer hit the nail right on the head when he said…’essential oils have had a rough time of it image-wise over the last few decades.’ I for one am certainly guilty of assuming essential oils are simply over-priced, ridiculously small bottles of ‘smelly oils’ that make your home smell nice, and well, that’s about it. They’re generally associated with any self-wellness practices, yoga being one of them. For years I viewed anything like that to be an airy-fairy scam, but since experiencing how mounting daily life and work pressures can be overwhelming, I have turned to the help of mindfulness, and generally had my eyes opened to the importance of looking after myself.
I used to view any time spent on myself as selfish. I should be spending this time more productively not wasting an hour soaking in a bubble bath.
But taking this time for myself helps me refocus and ‘centre myself’ – jargon in the past I perhaps used to raise an eyebrow at, but now value.
So back to essential oils. Since a few home truths and awakenings over the last few years, I read through this ‘Essential Oils Guide’ making an effort to dismiss my preconceived opinions.
Within the first few pages of this handy guide you’ll read that, surprisingly, essential oils are in pretty much everything. From modern medicine, detergent and food, as well as the obvious, perfume and cosmetics.
Essential oils have been used since the 10th Century, from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Persia, through to the Middle Ages and Renaissance to as part of rituals, to the Enlightenment where they started to be used for ‘status and seduction’.
As you would expect with LUSH, the guide lifts the veil and reveals the truth behind the sustainability issues with the sourcing of essential oils. Take a look at the guide to read more on this, you wouldn’t believe what goes on.
Nowadays the term we hear most associated with essential oils is ‘aromatherapy’, a word where many cynics would shut the book, get off the train, or any other metaphor you like. The guide says that this is more of an umbrella term ascribed to the use of essential oils for health and well-being, used as ‘alternative medicine, for cosmetic effects and for spiritual benefit’. The truth however, is that these oils go deeper than these loose terms give credit: ‘As technology has advanced it had become possible to investigate the chemicals behind the claims…It’s always amazing when you see a traditional use confirmed by research.’
Those old wives’ tales that you’ve heard about or those herbal remedies you thought were a total con actually have scientific validation on their side. I didn’t see that one coming.
But there are so many essential oils, because there are so many sources to make essential oils from via three different processes, steam distillation, absolute extraction and expression (see the guide to learn more).
Robert Tisserand, an essential oil educator explained, “The medicinal action of an essential oil is absolutely determined by its chemistry, and it is very complex.”
Overall, the guide explains how aromatherapy is an industry ‘establishing itself as a science, as well as an art’.
So I did a bit of research and looked at the LUSH website at my all-time fave product of theirs – floating island bath melt – and took a look at the ingredients: air Trade Organic Cocoa Butter Sodium Bicarbonate Organic Shea Butter Perfume Laureth 4 Citric Acid Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Sandalwood Oil Lemon Oil Labdanum Resinoid Almond Oil Vanilla Pod Powder *Farnesol *Limonene. That’s a lot of essential oils, doing a whole lot of good.
This one little handy guide from LUSH has actually inspired me so much I am looking into workshops to design my own perfume and blend my own selection of essential oils. Which would you recommend?