Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from.
I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in the old post below is true--with an asterisk. Now that I am a wise old elder millennial, I am very careful to ensure that the "science" behind claims of what essential oils can do comes from real and unbiased scientists, not product marketers or fitness instructors who say "om" in a convincing tone. Fortunately, I learned before I had a baby or adopted a cat that some essential oils pose serious hazards to children's sexual development and that most of them can poison pets, even in small amounts. I would recommend that anyone with a baby or a pet check with their pediatrician or veterinarian about any specific essential oils they would like to use on or near their little one.
And of course, during a pandemic, there is no messing around with disinfection. There are certain cooties, like Norovirus, that must be destroyed with bleach. There are other times when a little rubbing alcohol goes a longer way than any aromatherapeutic blend. I still use harsh cleaners sparingly, but I keep them stocked for those occasions when they are truly the best tools for the job--along with some essential oils, which I also use sparingly and carefully to protect my cat.
I have also learned that most everyday household cleaning can be accomplished with cheap, mild, safe cleansers such as diluted castile soap, vinegar, and baking soda. And the magic of clean tap water.
Some essential oils smell really nice, though.
The Magic of Essential Oils
Check this out, modern Cinderellas! I have recently fallen in love with the practical magical properties of essential oils. Apparently they are good for everything from healthful housekeeping to warding off flesh-eating bacteria, bubonic plague, and the dreaded Swine Flu.
They have been used for centuries as effective treatment and prevention of diseases and symptoms, both mild and very serious. There are all kinds of diffusers you can buy to freshen and scent the air inside your house while protecting you from infectious disease.
You can make insect repellants, mold and mildew killer, disinfectant, dusting and glass cleaning fluids, and air fresheners with essential oils that are nicer smelling and less toxic than many store-bought cleaners. Oh, and they're cheaper, too, recessionistas! Each bottle of oil can seem pricey, but you only need a drop here and there. It's like precious magic potion... except not supernatural at all, just old-school practical science from Fairy GodMother Nature.
In my opinion, if you're going to keep your house clean, you may as well do it with something that will improve indoor air quality and boost your immune system rather than pollute the air and surfaces with toxins. I've opted to start cleaning my laundry and bedding with essential oils, which kill dust mites and brighten fabric without giving Mr. G an allergic rash.
Furthermore! Lemongrass and eucalyptus and other yummy natural scents don't clash with wholesome good smells inside the house from fresh cut flowers, cooking, and my famous cookies. Essential oils are very concentrated and not safe to drink, so be careful with them. But they are much healthier, safer, and more pleasant than your old bottle of bleach.
Jean Michelle Miernik is the author of Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World.