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.

6 Floral Waters That Can Totally Replace Your Skin Toner

Toners have, for a while now, been touted as a necessary step in our skin-care rituals. And that’s because they’re made to balance your skin’s pH levels while brightening, cleansing, and toning it. A little flower water, however, can provide all of that, while also offering up the unique properties of natural ingredients.

Floral waters are made from various types of plants and flowers that are generally used to make essential oils—such as chamomile, rose, or lavender. The flower is boiled in distilled water, and the resulting steam (once it has cooled off) becomes the floral water. The water carries the same properties of an essential oil, but because the plant or flower is diluted in water (rather than concentrated like essential oils are) they are safe to use directly on the skin. Plus, floral waters smell like a dream!

Here, six of our favorites—and the beauty benefits of each.

roseRose Water

According to a study in Current Microbiology, the essential oil of rose and hydrosol boast both antioxidant and cleansing properties when applied topically. And, rose water is known to be gentle on skin that tends to be sensitive to other ingredients.

Try: Organic Bulgarian Rose Water


mintMint Water

If you’re looking to finish your cleansing routine feeling invigorated and uplifted, mint water is your go-to. According to Toxicological Research, mint can be used to condition the skin, leaving it hydrated and refreshed. Also, a cool splash of mint is a great no-caffeine-needed way to wake up during those early mornings.

Try: Moroccan Menthe Beauty Water


tea treeTea Tree Water

Tea Tree oil has been used in dozens of ways, from helping to keep bugs away to cleansing the home. But it’s also great for the skin (especially sensitive skin), due to its mega-cleansing properties, according to Europe PMC.  With its fresh cooling properties, it can also be used to awaken dull or tired skin.

Try: South African Tea Tree Beauty Oil

chamomileChamomile Water

Chamomile is beloved for its super-soothing properties. Whether in the form of a relaxing tea or as a calming floral water, this gentle giant of an herb can be helpful to having good health. According to The Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, chamomile also shows some antioxidant properties, which the skin loves. Win! Beware ragweed allergy sufferers, however: Chamomile can occasionally trigger reactions in people with ragweed allergies, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

                                                       Try: South African Cape Chamomile Beauty Water

lavenderLavender Water

Lavender has an incredibly relaxing scent, which makes it an ideal nighttime skin toner. As a floral water it’s both cleansing and soothing to the skin, making it ideal for sensitive skin that can’t handle other heavier facial skin products.

Try: South African Lavender Soothing Facial Water

 

witch hazelWitch Hazel Water

Many people don’t even realize that witch hazel, which, as a toner can be made with lavender or rose, is actually a flower! Without the alcohol and other potential ingredients, you’re left with an astringent floral water that is soft and gentle on the skin. Not only can it tone and cleanse your skin, it can also protect it with its antioxidant properties, according to Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Try: Certified Organic Witch Hazel Astringent  

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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.

5 Moves That Torch Major Calories

No one heads into the gym thinking, “how few calories can I burn today?” Nope, we want the maximum burn from every rep and bead of sweat.

To make that happen, you have to tune into two important exercise factors: the number of muscle fibers used and the intensity to which you work them, says Gavin McHale, a Winnipeg-based kinesiologist and certified exercise physiologist. After all, calories are nothing more than energy. So, if you work more muscles, and work them hard, you are going to churn through more energy.

Even better, exercise intensity is the main driver of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Commonly called “the after-burn,” EPOC refers to the number of calories you burn after you leave the gym as your body works to recover by lowering your body temperature, repairing muscles, and flushing metabolic byproducts from your system.

These five exercises are the perfect combination of both muscle recruitment and intensity, helping you to burn the max number of calories possible. That said, we don’t recommend performing them all in a row. They are all doozies on their own, so packing them all into one workout could wipe you out more than we want—and potentially lead to injury, says McHale.

Instead, try integrating one or two of these moves into each of your workouts. Ideally, you should perform them near the beginning of your workout, after your warm up, when your muscles are fresh and you’re ready to hit it hard.

kbs

1. Kettlebell Swing

“Kettlebell swings are one of the best bang-for-your-buck exercises,” McHale says. “A perfect combination of strength and cardio, these will fry anyone’s posterior chain [think glutes, hammies, and lowback] and lungs when done correctly.” According to research from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, a high-intensity kettlebell workout can burn up to 20.2 calories per minute—that’s roughly the equivalent of running a ridiculously fast six-minute mile.

Instructions: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab a kettlebell with your palms facing into your body. From here, push your hips back and bend your knees just slightly (most people bent their knees too much; this is not a squat) so that the kettlebell swings back behind your legs. Immediately squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips forward to stand up, sending the kettlebell directly in front of your chest until the handles parallel to the floor.

Get more burn: Swing the kettlebell using your glutes, not your arms. Choose a weight that allows you to perform 12 to 25 reps with proper form, McHale says. As soon as you catch your breath, start your next set. Perform two to four sets.

Related: 5 Moves Every Gym Newbie Should Master

turkish getup

2. Turkish Get-Up

Another kettlebell staple, this exercise burns a ridiculous amount of calories because it literally works every muscle in your body, McHale says. And, for an exercise that’s just “getting up off of the floor,” it’s incredibly taxing.

Instructions: Lie flat on your back on the floor and hold a kettlebell by the handle with your right hand. Fully extend your arm toward the ceiling so the kettlebell is directly over your shoulder. Bend your right knee to place your right foot flat on the floor.

From here, lift your torso up onto your left elbow and then onto your left hand, your right shoulder pushing up off of the floor. Lift your hips off of the floor so that your body forms a straight line from left foot to right shoulder, and then swing your left leg under your body.

Raise your torso that it is vertical, the kettlebell still over your right shoulder, and you are in a half-kneeling position. Extend your legs to step your rear leg forward. Reverse the movement to return to start.

Confused? Check out this video: 

Get more burn: Get the exercise steps down pat (this one is complicated!) before introducing the kettlebell. Then, it’s time to go heavy with the weight (not so heavy that you risk dropping it on your head) and perform two to four sets of two to four reps per side, McHale suggests.

pullup

3. Pull-Up

Kettlebells are great. But sometimes, your own body weight is all you need to torch calories. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that pull-ups burn an average of 9.95 calories per minute (granted you perform 10 reps in a minute). By using your own body weight, the pull-up hammers your lats (the largest muscle group in your upper body)along with your shoulders, biceps, and core, for a nice caloric burn. “Also, having the arms in an overhead position ramps up the heart rate, which is great if you’re hoping to burn calories, McHale says.

Instructions: Stand in front of pull-up bar, and grab the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core like you are about to get punched in the gut, then pull your shoulder blades together and bend your elbows to pull your body up to the bar. When your collarbones reach the bar, pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start.

Get more burn: A lot of exercisers can’t do multiple (or even a single) unassisted pull-ups. If that’s you, don’t worry; the less skilled your body is at a certain move, the more calories you’ll burn with each rep. Try performing pull-ups (aim for three sets of 10 reps) using an assisted pull-up machine, or with an exercise band wrapped around the bar and strung around your knees. Just don’t “drop” on the eccentric portion. Lower back down to the starting position slowly for an increased burn.

Related: The Right Way To Do A Lat Pulldown

deadlift

4. Conventional Deadlift

“Because you can load these up with weight and they require input from so many major and meaty muscle groups, deadlifts are an excellent way to burn more calories both during and after a workout,” McHale says. Expect to feel the burn through your glutes, lats, quads, hamstrings, and core.

Instructions: Stand in front of a loaded barbell with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back and slightly bend your knees to grab the bar with your hands spaced shoulder-width apart, palms facing your body. (You can also use an alternated grip, one palm facing your body and the other facing away from you.) Your arms should be fully extended, shoulders slightly in front of the bar, with the bar about an inch from your shins. From here, keep your lats tight, thrust your hips forward and straighten your knees until you are fully standing and your hips are extended in front of the rest of your body. The bar should nearly scrape your body throughout the entire movement, and it should hang against the front of your thighs at the top of the movement. Pause, then reverse the movement, making sure not to round your back, to return to start.

Get more burn: Perform three to five sets of three to 10 reps, using an amount of weight that allows you to just eek out your last rep with proper form, McHale says. If you’re using a heavy weight for six or fewer reps, you can rest up to two minutes. Otherwise, keep the rest short, between 30 and 90 seconds.

Related: Shop a variety of performance supplements to fuel your best workouts.

squat to press

5. Squat to Press

This move recruits major muscle groups throughout your lower and upper body for the greatest calorie-torching potential, he says. Meanwhile, by including a healthy dose of explosive power, it gives your heart rate a swift kick in the butt.

Instructions: Grab a racked barbell with a grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width. Position the barbell on the front your shoulders with elbows pointing straight out in front of you and your upper arms parallel to the floor. Bend your hips and knees to lower into a full squat, keeping the bar in line with the center of your feet. Once you reach the bottom of the squat, immediately reverse the movement. As you do so, rotate your arms so that your elbows point toward the floor. Press the bar overhead. Once you reach a full standing position, your arms should be extended straight overhead with the barbell just behind your ears. Lower the bar to your shoulders, then either repeat or return the bar to the power rack for rest.

Get more burn: Start by taking a quick 15- to 30-second break between reps. Then slowly reduce the rest periods until you move immediately from one rep to the next without rest. Perform three to five sets of five to eight reps.

 

 

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.