5 Essential Oils You Absolutely Want In Your Life

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for everything from aromatherapy to natural home cleaning.  They come from plant cells found under the surface of leaves, bark, or peels, and are extracted by way of steam or pressure from the plant. The final substance is a very concentrated scented liquid. In fact, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it takes 220 pounds of lavender to make one pound of its oil.

Here, Hope Gillerman, author of the book Essential Oils Every Day, Rituals and Remedies for Healing, Happiness and Beauty and creator of H. Gillerman Organics, talks up the benefits of 5 common essential oils used today. Gillerman recommends using certified organic essential oils to guarantee purity.

1. Eucalyptus

Benefits: Promotes respiratory health; aids in the relief of muscle aches.

How you can use it: Put a couple of drops of eucalyptus essential oil in boiling water, close your eyes, and slowly put your face over the bowl. Inhale this concoction deeply at least five times in a row, three times a day.

2. Lemon

Benefits: Refreshing scent; has cleansing properties.

How you can use it: To remove household odors, put two to three drops of lemon essential oil in an essential oil diffuser, and run it for 30 minutes for a thorough odor cleansing. You can also mix six drops of lemon essential oil with two tablespoons of baking soda and two tablespoons water as a gentle scrub to help clean kitchen counters, cutting boards, and refrigerator shelves.

Related: Shop essentials to promote an atmosphere of relaxation and joy.

3. Cedarwood

Benefits: Cleansing and relaxing; used as a DIY moth ball recipe

How you can use it: Draw a warm bath and run a few drops of cedarwood essential oil under the faucet. Soak for 15 minutes for a purifying and relaxing at-home spa experience. To make all-natural moth balls, put a few drops of cedarwood essential oil on a cotton ball, and leave them on the floor of your closet. (The larger the closet, the more cotton balls you will need.) Replace the treated cotton balls when the scent fades.

4. Lavender

Benefits: Relaxes and calms; helps promote restful sleep.

How you can use it: At bedtime, put a few drops of lavender essential oil on a tissue or cotton ball, hold it up to your nose, and slowly inhale five to 10 times to promote a feeling of calm. You can also create a linen spray for your pillow: Simply combine one cup distilled water, 1-½ tablespoons of witch hazel or vodka, and 12 drops of lavender essential oil in a small spray bottle. Shake before each use, spray on your pillow and linens, and relax.

Related: 15 Beautifying Ingredients That Are Sitting In Your Kitchen Pantry

5. Peppermint

Benefits: Stimulates mental focus, helps ease tension, and refreshes breath.

How you can use it: Mix three drops of peppermint essential oil with an unscented body lotion or another oil (like coconut oil) in the palm of your hand. Massage it into your neck and shoulders to promote relaxation and revive your energy levels. For a breath-saver in a pinch, carry a small vial of 100 percent pure peppermint essential oil and simply put a drop on the tip of your tongue.

Related: Shop aromatherapy diffusers and get ready to unwind.

What Being In A Wheelchair Has Taught Me About Independence

Life has a funny way of teaching you lessons when you need them the most but expect them the least. My big lesson came at age 35, on an unnaturally warm February day in the middle of a soccer field, just after my wheelchair flat-out broke down.

Thirty minutes earlier, my mother and I had set out on a morning walk.  The weather was perfect—in fact, everything felt pretty perfect. But as I was wheeling myself over a tiny hill on the field, my wheelchair stopped. And it would not budge.

I was relieved when my mom and sister (who had joined us to help with the situation) were eventually able to push me to the safety of our car, but I was significantly rattled. I couldn’t shake the sense of helplessness I’d felt in the middle of that field, even days later.

I’ve used an electric wheelchair since I was in the first grade because I was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder. It causes joint deformities, face and eye issues, and, for about one-third of people with the syndrome, intellectual disability. It’s a rare disorder and I’m one person in about 100 reported cases.

I couldn’t shake the sense of helplessness I’d felt in the middle of that field, even days later.

Although my wheelchair has allowed me to be fairly independent, I still need assistance with day-to-day things like showering and dressing. I know there will always be things I’ll need help with, things I won’t be able to approach or avoid on my own. The upside? I got rid of any sense of modesty super-early in life.

Related: What It’s Like To Have Arthritis In Your 20s

I was seven years old when I got my first wheelchair and I can still remember the distinct sense of freedom it gave me. When I turned the power on and started zooming around, I realized I could finally go where I wanted. I could do what I wanted. It was, essentially, the moment my life actually began.

My mom tells me all the time about that day: I just kept repeating, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Before my wheelchair, my parents had to carry me everywhere or I had to use my walker, which meant I wasn’t very fast. The wheelchair allowed me to keep up with my friends on the playground. That may sound like something small, but as a kid, recess is basically your entire life. I could zoom from the swings to the basketball court like a pro. Basically, I felt “cool.” Like the other kids.

When I turned the power on and started zooming around, I realized I could finally go where I wanted.

But as I got older, I started to notice just how different I was from my peers. I’d see them hop in their cars to go to an amusement park or the movies, leaving me feeling like an outsider.

Related: Shop a variety of joint and muscle health products.

My parents were always unbelievably loving and supportive, but the last thing I ever wanted was to be a burden on anyone. The teen years are rife with their own sets of challenges, regardless of whether you are able-bodied or not.

On top of having to rely on other people, I was uncomfortable about asking for help. Teenagers notoriously want independence, but my case was so different. It was literal.

All of these memories came crashing back when I found myself stuck on that soccer field. It wasn’t just about having mobility and physical freedom; it was about the need to overcome an emotional sense of helplessness.

I was forced to come to terms with my physical disability as a teen, and being stranded in that field forced me to come to terms with it all over again. I really thought these feelings were well behind me, but I was wrong.

For so long, I equated asking for help with a lack of independence; I thought if I asked for help—even just a little bit—then that meant I was giving up all the independence I’d carved out for myself. But that day, while I strained to gain some perspective, I realized something pretty poignant: Maybe things don’t have to be so black and white? Maybe I can ask for help and still maintain my independence?

I really thought these feelings were well behind me, but I was wrong.

I decided that it wasn’t a sign of weakness to ask for help; it’s a sign of strength. First of all, people want to help. Second, it actually makes me feel powerful when I use my voice to assert what I need. It makes me feel as though I’m more in touch with myself than I ever was as a teen, when I’d let my uncertainty and worry get in the way of my success.

Everyone—people in wheelchairs, athletes, everyone—has their own set of challenges. No matter what yours are, asking for help is part of the process of finding strength and taking your own healthcare in your hands. That’s brave and that’s beautiful.

8 Simple (And Tasty!) Ways To Add Coconut Oil To Your Diet

Spend more than 10 minutes online and you’re bound to come across something about coconut oil. People use the sweet-smelling goop to style their hair, moisturize their skin, and remove makeup, along with about a billion other things. But it also happens to great for something else: food.

“Coconut oil contains saturated fat, but a different type than you’ll find in food sources like red meat,” says Brooke Alpert, R.D., founder of B-Nutritious Dietetics and Nutrition and author of The Sugar Detox. Its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are metabolized differently and used more rapidly for energy than the long-chain fatty acids found in red meat. This makes MCTs more satiating and less likely to lead to weight gain, according to a review published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Related: Check out the plnt line of products, which features a few different coconut oil options for cooking.

Plus, coconut oil has a higher smoking point than many other cooking fats, making it super-versatile in the kitchen, Alpert says.

Feel free to keep rubbing the stuff all over your face (we do it every day!), but add these eight delish ways to eat coconut oil to your kitchen arsenal, too.

Related: 12 Health And Beauty Uses For Coconut Oil

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You Had No Idea Epsom Salt Could Do All Of These Things

Chances are, you’ve got a bag of Epsom salt hidden in the back of your sink cabinet, ready to pull out when your muscles are sore. But have you ever wondered why this simple salt is so soothing—and if there are any other ways you can reap the benefits?

Epsom salt (also called magnesium sulfate) is essentially a form of the vital nutrient magnesium. Bruce Roberts, MD, an integrative medicine physician, explains: “Epsom salts are a magnesium salt. Magnesium is a co-factor in over 300 different metabolic processes in the body including energy production, detoxification, muscle, and nerve function.”

So, when you soak in a bath filled with Epsom salt, you are essentially replenishing your magnesium stores—and that’s why it’s so ahhh-worthy.

Here are some solid benefits found in this special salt.

1. Promotes Relaxation

“[Magnesium] tends to be one of the first minerals to be used up during times of stress,” says Roberts. And we’ve all experienced its dreadful symptoms: “When people are under stress they tend to get depleted in magnesium resulting in tight, sore muscles, irritable nerves, insomnia, high blood pressure, and constipation,” says Roberts. That’s where Epsom salt comes in. The calming effect of the magnesium can make a big difference in times of stress or upheaval, too.

2. Supports Regularity

Having trouble going number two? Epsom salt is a proven gentle laxative. A small amount of salt, mixed with water, can be taken internally (check the directions on your box and speak with your doc). Dr. Roberts warns that some people cannot tolerate magnesium orally because of the bowel effect, though. Not to fear! “Epsom salt baths are a good alternative way to get magnesium into the body without going through the GI tract,” says Roberts. (But don’t think a bath has the same effect as taking it internally).

Related: 8 Foods And Drinks For When You Just Can’t Poop

3. Exfoliates Dry Skin

Rub a little Epsom salt on your body (combined with an oil, like coconut or jojoba), to moisturize cracked, scaly skin on knees, elbows, and elsewhere!

4. Aids Healthy Sleep Patterns

Magnesium is also a powerful sleep aid (no)—a study in the Journal of Research in Medical Science found that magnesium supplementation helped support sleep in elderly people. But you don’t have to pop a pill to feel its effects, as an Epsom salt soak before bed can calm you down and prep your body for a solid night of slumber.

5. Soothes Bruises & Aches

Soaking in an Epsom salt solution can help relieve sore muscles, minor strains, general aches and pains, and post-workout pulls.

Related: Shop our Epsom salt products and get your relaxation on.

6. Helps Plants Grow

Epsom salt can be applied to the soil in your garden or houseplants, as it helps to promote a healthy soil composition (after all, magnesium is a mineral!). An Epsom salt solution can also help keep bugs away, when sprayed on plants.

7. Cleans Your Home

As a cleaning aid, Epsom salt works wonders on dirty tile and grout (just combine with a liquid soap). They’re also useful for scrubbing gunk (think caked-on food on your plates and pans). Another bonus? If you find that your washing machine is in need of a clean, a quick cycle with a healthy scoop of Epsom salt can also remove detergent buildup.

Which Of These 3 Body Types Do You Have?

We’ve all heard (or said) it before: ‘I’m big-boned,’ or, ‘No matter what I eat my weight stays the same.’ Thanks to genetics, every single body really is different. Whether we devote time every day to cardio, avoid any food that comes out of a wrapper, or lift weights until our muscles give out, some aspects of our physique are predetermined.

But we’re not talking about being ‘pear’ or ‘apple’ shaped here—we’re not fruit. Scientists use the following three categories to identify body types (not shapes): ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.

Most people display some mix of all three body types, with one type being more dominant, explains Lindsay Carter, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University School of Exercise and Nutritional Science. So while one of these categories might seem the most spot-on, keep in mind that it’s not necessarily your end-all-be-all.

ectomorph.jpg
photo: iStock

Ectomorph

We all know someone who can live off of microwave mac and cheese and soda without gaining a pound (the injustice!). These naturally thin people—sometimes called ‘hard gainers’ in the fitness world—are classic ectomorphs.

“Ectomorphs tend to be thinner and leaner, with a smaller bone structure,” explains Ryan Andrews, M.A., M.S., coach at Precision Nutrition. Picture a marathoner or endurance athlete with little body fat and a slim build. Look out for thin limbs, in particular.

They may also be a little more high-energy—always moving—thanks to a high metabolism, Andrews adds.

Related: 5 Myths About Your Metabolism—Busted

mesomorph
photo: iStock

Mesomorph

People with a naturally athletic build and balanced proportions fall into the second category: mesomorphs.

“They’re not overly thin or stocky, but have a good amount of muscle mass,” says Andrews. Think bodybuilders and athletes whose bodies have a more built, strong appearance.

Mesomorphs stay pretty lean, but may put on muscle more easily than others when exercising or strength-training.

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health And Well Being

endomorph
photo: iStock

Endomorph

Those who carry a little extra weight or describe themselves as ‘big-boned’ fall into this third category.

“Classic endomorphs have a stockier build with a bigger and heftier base and bone structure,” says Andrews. They typically carry their weight pretty evenly throughout their body. Football linemen, powerlifters, and women who identify as curvy often have these characteristics.

Endomorphs may find that their diet impacts their body more easily, and have the tendency to store fat instead of burning food off as fuel.

Is Your Body Type Your Destiny, Though?

So maybe you identify most with the ectomorph body type. Does that mean you’ll never have the strong, curvy legs you’re after? Or maybe you’re an endomorph. Is dropping a few pounds or racing a triathlon out of the question? Absolutely not.

“Genetics are definitely a factor, but your environmental patterns and behaviors are also important,” says Andrews. If you focus your training and nutrition on the goals you want to achieve, you can change your body to a degree, he says. So don’t abandon that strength-training routine or your dream of running a marathon. If you feel like your efforts are stalling, working with a nutritionist and coach or trainer may help push you closer to those goals.

Related: Find the performance supplement that’s right for you.

And the environmental factor? It can affect any body type. “Someone may be born naturally leaner and skinnier, but if they have an unhealthy lifestyle and a poor diet, they may end up looking more like an endomorph,” says Andrews. The best way to avoid this? “Living a healthy lifestyle with plenty of physical activity, balanced nutrition, and ample sleep is key,” he adds. This goes for everyone. You’re not stuck!

 

My Size 18 Body Doesn’t Mean I’m Unhealthy

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I’ve played on varsity sports teams, in travel clubs, through individual programs, and even recreationally. Over half of my closet is dedicated to athleisure. Nonetheless, my athletic career (and my dedication to eating well and staying strong and fit) has always been questioned and overshadowed by my size. I am a size 18.

I’m constantly having to explain my body to people that can’t grasp anything outside of the thin-equals-healthy and fat-equals-unhealthy binary. One time, someone asked a group of people I was sitting with if they wanted to do a group SoulCycle outing. They totally skipped over me because I don’t look like your typical spin class rider (um, I basically live at SoulCycle).

LD-weightliftingAnd my experience isn’t mine alone. The average American woman is a size 16, according to the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education.

So, isn’t it about time we start giving all sizes a seat at the fitness conversation table?

To start with, let’s talk about the word “healthy.” Sure, it’s a word often associated with photos of acai bowls and green smoothies on Instagram, but it’s also  a word that only seems to be attached to people of smaller frames. But healthy doesn’t always mean skinny.

In magazines, bodies like mine are consistently and stereotypically labeled “before” bodies, as if I magically house a skinny person underneath all of my fat. This furthers the myth that plus-size people have given up on their own health, are unmotivated to be healthier, or haven’t set a foot in a gym since it was required of us (ah, high school).

That couldn’t be further from the truth, though—lots of thin and plus-sized people alike worry about and want to care for their bodies in the same ways.

Related: Shop training accessories to make your workout the best it can be.

The only difference is that people are socialized to believe that being thin has more value; we’re taught to see bigger bodies as lazy or incapable of fitness or sport achievements.

The reality is that there isn’t always a correlation between body size and healthfulness. A 2016 study in the Journal of International Journal of Obesity showed that a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is not an accurate way to determine a person’s healthfulness. The study found that half of Americans considered overweight by their BMI are actually healthy, while 30 percent of Americans who happen to have an average BMI are actually unhealthy cardiometabolically (which means they have a risk of diabetes, heart disease, or stroke).

Despite this information, size 18 isn’t (at least not yet) considered a healthy size. But my size 18 body is the strongest and fittest it has ever been in my entire life. I can thank the fact that I run, do yoga, and lift weights several times per week for that.

Related: How Parenthood Helped Me Redefine The Meaning Of Fitness

At my smallest size, which was a size 10, I hit a low point. I wasn’t doing any of those things. I was crash dieting, shaming myself out of eating, doing elimination diets, and suffering from disordered eating (which, according to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, have very high mortality rates, proving thin doesn’t always equal healthy). At this point in my life, I was very depressed and very angry.

LD-hanging bar

Sure, I would get compliment after compliment when I was thinner—which only exacerbated my disordered eating and bad habits (I just wanted to keep feeling valued by my peers), but it was truly an unhealthy way to live.

It’s taken years to undo those effects, but I’m finally at a place with my body where I feed it what it wants and needs with without compromising my sanity to do it. And I take care of it by making it strong. I’ve got to tell you—it’s so much better on this side.

I’m grateful for the many body-positive campaigns we’re seeing lately in the media. They’re expanding public understanding of how a bigger body can be a healthy, fit body. They’re showing that ‘healthy’ has no jean size associated with it.

It’s a step forward in the right direction, and hopefully, all people will eventually realize that size doesn’t determine worth.