Recently, a friend asked what essential oils might best help with managing back pain, and I realized through answering the question that I take a minimalist (less is more) approach.
Most folks I know either invest in a wide variety of essential oils or don’t use essential oils at all. In contrast, I’ve found a few favorite oils—ones that I know reliably help me with recurring issues—and I don’t expand my collection because, well, essential oils take a lot of investment: time to research, space to store, money to purchase, and more.
Specifically, I travel with three essential oils:
- Tea tree, which I apply to cuts and scrapes and add to Epsom salt soaks whenever my feet need extra attention (typically, after long days hiking).
- Peppermint, which I rub on my belly whenever having stomach upset or GI troubles.
- Eucalyptus, which I use for allergies, asthma, and whenever fending off a cold.
At home, I additionally use these three:
- Lavender, which I buy in bulk for use in Epsom salt baths, to relieve headaches, and for sprinkling on my pillow whenever I need sleep support.
- Lemon, which I use whenever my digestion is off or I need some extra digestive support. I also add lemon to homemade deodorant and cleaning solutions, apply to mouth sores, and rub into swollen lymph nodes.
- Grapefruit, which I use like lemon as an addition to homemade deodorant and cleaning solutions. I also apply grapefruit when I need an energy or mood boost.
I appreciate essential oils for their healing properties, and I appreciate the range of information online about essential oils and their uses. Lists like this one of “10 Essential Oils Everyone Should Stock up on” suggest other oils to have on hand.
In contrast to what’s recommended in many articles online, I’ve found that having fewer oils helps me use those few more often. It may be that I can only remember so much at a given time, so limiting myself to 3 or 6 helps me remember to reach for an oil when having a new or recurring health issue.
Why Essential Oils?
Though I’ve come to essential oils through my history with back pain and through navigating systems of integrative and holistic medicine, I’ve subsequently realized their role in settling the body and calming the nervous system—actions that are crucial for responding to injustice.
So many sources—from adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy and Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands (both released in 2017) to Tada Hozumi’s work on cultural somatic therapy and the organization Generative Somatics: Somatic Transformation and Social Justice (and the list could go on, centering BIPOC)—we see the central role that the body plays in healing trauma + injustice and in building possibilities toward liberation + justice.
Healing the body is part of the story, part of what’s involved in showing up day after day, for the long haul, toward justice. And essential oils can support healing—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.
Certainly, the use of essential oils isn’t essential. Still, I hope that this simple guide—a short list of essential oils to try—may help on journeys to uproot, dismantle, and transform oppression in its many forms.
This post is written by Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “Learning from and Healing Scars, Both Personal and Collective” and “Today Healing Looks Like …”
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Love this! I get overwhelmed with all the oils out there so it’s reassuring to hear that you’ve settled into just a few that work for you.
Thanks for this feedback! I’m glad to hear this approach resonates with you. I keep thinking that surely I’m not alone in appreciating and wanting to remember only a few oils?
I so appreciate you reaching out to share your experience.