An Introduction to Essential Oils

The use of essential oils, a practice known as aromatherapy, is a centuries old method believed to have originated in Arabic countries. Essential oils are obtained by collecting the oil that seeps from flower blossoms. These oils are very concentrated and often take thousands of blossoms to create just a few teaspoons of essential oils. While essential oils could be used like an early form of perfume simply because they smell good, their more common use was in methods of healing, and are still vey popular today for that reason.

Our sense of smell, while often viewed as one of the lesser of the five senses, is in fact far more potent than many people realize. Our sense of smell is often responsible for imprinting memories on our brains, and many of deepest memories are triggered when we experience the scent of whatever we smelled when that memory occurred. Our sense of smell has a unique effect on our emotions and moods, and as much of the body’s physical well-being derives from the mind, essential oils help to balance out ones mind and thus heal ones body.

Different essential oils affect a person in different ways. You can achieve your desired outcome, whether it be more energy, treating depression, or easing the pain of a headache, simply by using an appropriate oil. The most common way of using essential oils is probably the bath method, in which a person runs a bath and put 4-5 drops of essential oil on the surface. The drops of oil spread across the top of the water and are absorbed by the person’s skin; the hot water aids in the absorption. Few things de-stress the body better after hard day than a hot bath bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil.

Candles made with essential oils are equally effective, as the scent of the oil is released while the candle burns. Be sure the candle is actually made with pure essential oil, however, and not a synthetic fragrance oil or it will not have the same effect. Soaps made with essential oils are also a safe way to experience their benefits.

Because essential oils are so concentrated, they should almost always be diluted in a bowl of water or “carrier oil” such as sweet almond or canola oil (in the case of a bar of soap, the soap itself is the diluting agent). Lavender oil is the exception, as it is gentle enough to use straight on the skin without diluting, but some other oils can burn the skin if used in large doses or directly on the skin. When in doubt, dilute. 2-3 drops of essential oil in a bowl of water or carrier oil with generally do the trick for most ailments. Use your fingers or a cloth to apply the diluted oil to the skin. Essential oils should never be taken internally.

Because the brain can only process so many smells at one time, do not use more than 3 or 4 different types of essential oil at once, or the brain may have trouble discerning which is which. Also, using the same oil for too many days in a row will desensitize the olfactory and make the oil less effective. It’s best not to use an oil for more than 10 days in a row without taking a break in between.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Hand-Dipped Taper Candles

Hand-dipped TapersHand-dipped tapers provide charming light in the darkness of winter.

You will need:

  • Beeswax or another type of wax
  • Wicking
  • A tall dipping container
  • A tall container of cold water
  • Washers or bolt nuts
  • Double boiler (or two pans)
  • Newspaper
  • Scissors or sharp knife

To begin, cover the area with newspapers as this is one of the messiest forms of candlemaking. Decide how long you want your candles. You will be dipping two at a time, so measure a piece of wicking twice your desired length, then add two inches. Cut the wicking. Tie the washers, bolt nuts or a similar small object to the wick. These will be used to weigh down the wicking and keep it straight during the dipping process.

Beeswax makes the best taper candles, as it adheres to its own layers very well, however, any wax can be used to produce decent result. Heat the wax in a double boiler, or if you don’t have one, make one by placing the wax in a pan that sits on top of a second pan filled with water. Heat the wax until it is melted. It is very flamable, so if it begins to smoke, remove it from the burner immediately.

You don’t want the wax to be too hot for this project or the dipped layers will be too thin to adhere. As soon as the wax is melted completely, remove it from the heat. Pour it into the tall dipping container; the container should be several inches taller than your wicking.

Holding the wick in the center, dip both ends into the wax, almost to the top; just beware your fingers don’t touch the wax. Wait until the wick hardens. Dip the wicking into the hot wax once again, then quickly dip it into the container of cold water. This will immediately harden the wax. When you pull the wicks from the water, run your hand down them to remove excess water, which could cause bubbles in the finished candles. Continue alternating dips in the wax and the cold water, removing excess water each time. Keep your dipping hand steady as possible to ensure straight candles. Keep dipping until the candles reach your desired thickness. Usually about 25 dunks makes a good candle.

Using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, cut the now wax-covered weights off the bottom of the candles. Once more, dip the candles into the wax, then the water to give them a smooth finish. Drape the candles over a stick or a dowel and leave them to completely harden for a few days. At that point, you can cut the wick in the center. The candles can be made into a lovely gift by bundling several together and tying them with ribbon or raffia.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf