There are three prerequisites my apartment has to meet before I can feel fully relaxed and at home: (1) good music has to be playing (2) the lighting has to be good, and (3) it has to smell nice. It might seem a little strange, but once these three criteria have been met, I’m in my happy place.
For years, I lit pleasant-smelling candles of all flavours, from mahogany teakwood to vanilla lavender… until I discovered aromatherapy and essential oils. Little did I know that these potent little numbers could do so much more than just make my apartment smell divine.
First Thing’s First… What are essential oils, anyway?
Essential oils are oils from from seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants that are highly fragrant. Amazingly, these oils play a number of important roles in plants, including: attracting pollinators, defending against insects and animals, protecting themselves from fungus and bacteria, and so many other important functions. If they can do all of those things in a plant, think of all of the benefits they can have for us, too! However, each essential oil has different chemical compounds that affect its smell and how it can be used.
Aromatherapy refers to the practice of using essential oils for healing purposes.
Not all essential oils are made equal.
In recent years, essential oils have become extremely popular. Unfortunately, however, many unqualified companies have been hopping on the band wagon, which has led to the creation of low-quality essential oils that lack any real benefits.
The problem is, current guidelines make it easy for this to happen; essential oils can be labeled 100% pure even if they’re chockablock full of synthetic chemicals, additives, cheap stretcher oils, and other essential oils that aren’t listed (I know, this is upsetting to me, too)! Companies might also use chemical distillation methods rather than steam distillation, which can leave harmful residues and byproducts behind.
Quality is uber-important considering you’re inhaling and even ingesting oils in some cases, so they absolutely need to be pure and high quality.
How to Pick an Essential Oil
The key here is to do your research. If a company is not transparent about their distillation methods and ingredients, that’s a red flag. It’s also important to use common sense. For example, peppermint essential oil shouldn’t smell like a sweet candy cane; if it does, you can bet your life they’ve added some gunk to their formula. No expiration dates are something else to look out for as these plant-based products should expire at some point!
I personally only trust Young Living essential oils. They’re the oldest essential oil company in the world, are very transparent about their distillation methods (which is steam-based, by the way), and are the only essential oils being used in certain hospitals around the world due to their high quality. Plus, their selection is incredible and the entire company has so much knowledge about how to use these oils. (Can you tell I’m a little obsessed?)
NOTE: If you're interested in buying a starter kit from Young Living, message me through my site to get a discount code that can get you 50% off!
But I love my candles!
Candles are an easy way to hide odours, make a space smell amazing, and have the ability to make any moment seem that much more romantic. However, a number of studies have revealed the harmful effects of using scented candles.
One study by South Carolina State University revealed that certain types of candles can be hazardous to human health and cause poor indoor air quality. Some of the undesired chemicals produced—including alkenes and toluene—can contribute to the development of cancer, common allergies, and asthma, according to the researchers. Soy candles, however, did not pose such risks, they found.
A professor at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science also discovered that limonene—a citrus-smelling chemical found in scented chemicals and cleaning products—also poses dangerous health concerns to humans. Why? When released in the air, a reaction occurs that causes it to be converted into formaldehyde, which is associated with several types of cancers according to the National Cancer Institute.
Finally, candles contain phthalates, which are hormone-disrupting chemicals that lurk in most fragranced products (including candles). While the U.S. and Europe have imposed laws against this harmful chemical in children’s toys due to the harmful effects, there aren’t any guidelines against candles.
The Bottom Line
I’m always cautious of bashing commonly-used items (like candles) because to be honest, I don’t want you to be scared of everything in life like some hardcore nutritionists and dieticians. That being said, sometimes the research makes it difficult for me to not tell you to try other things, as was the case in today’s post. Essential oils not only smell amazing, but they’re filled with health benefits rather than hormone-disrupting chemicals like some candles. If you want to keep your candle habit kicking, though, try switching to the beeswax or soy varieties, which don’t contain phthalates.
In the future, I’ll post about different ways to use essential oils and what my favourites are, but today I wanted to keep things simple by introducing you to what they are in general.
Oh, and as I said earlier: if you're interested in getting your own essential oils kit, send me a private message because I can get you a whopping 50% off a kit that contains 11 essential oils!