Although my friends in Florida (where the temps are still relatively high) are choking on their coffee at this, we had to close up the house and turn on the heat earlier this week. I know it will warm up again for a couple of weeks but that got me to thinking about all the things I need to do to prepare the house for winter … drag out the air deflectors for the HVAC vents, change the furnace filter, turn off the dehumidifer in the basement and turn on the humidifier upstairs … you get the idea. One of the things I do during the months the house is closed up is have some sort of air freshener going to avoid the mustiness that comes with no true outside air circulation.
In years past I have burned candles scented with pure essential oils. However, candles need to be watched (especially with klutzy cats in the house) and my schedule has gotten to the point I can’t be around 24/7 to do that. Oil warmers require either a candle or electricity. Other types of diffusers or nebulizers also require electricity – that costs money and I’m too cheap to spend any more than I have to! (Something to keep in mind: cold diffusers or nebulizers are really best from a medicinal aromatherapy standpoint.)
Recently I’ve been seeing reed diffusers in the stores but those use fragrance oils, to which I have an aversion. First, they don’t smell as good as the real thing (some are downright stinky). Second, if I’m going to diffuse oils, let them have some sort of beneficial effect!
But I like the concept so I started ‘sperimentin’ (as we call it around here). Bottles in various sizes and shapes I have aplenty, as well as pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils. It remained to figure out what to use for a base oil, what proportions to mix, and what to use for a reed.
After some searching around the Internet, I found that most people used baby oil as a base and many suggested bamboo skewers as the reed. Well, commercial baby oil is mineral oil, not vegetable, and most have fragrance added so I discarded that idea. I bought 100 bamboo skewers at Walmart for $1 so that part of the experiment was relatively inexpensive.
I chose fractionated cocoanut oil as my base. (Cocoanut oil is solid in its natural state. Fractionated is the liquid form.) Fractionated cocoanut oil has had the fatty acid triglycerides separated out and as such, is light enough that it will go through a sprayer without clogging, will never go rancid, and has virtually no fragrance of its own.
To test the “reeds”, I put 10 drops of peppermint oil (inexpensive to experiment with) and a few drops of food coloring into one ounce of oil, and inserted a bamboo skewer. More than two weeks later, the skewer had only wicked up about half way and, although I could smell the peppermint in the oil itself, I couldn’t smell it on the skewer. Not the result I was looking for. Next step: buy true reeds that are marketed for reed diffusers. Within 48 hours, that reed had wicked all the way up and I could smell the peppermint on the reed. Lesson learned.
Now that I had determined the base oil and what type of reed, it remained to figure out the essential oil mixture. Medically I know that cold diffusers are best but I figure if the odor is strong enough, some of the beneficial molecules will be getting out there. Especially this year, colds and flu are of a concern. We usually don’t get sick and if we do, it’s mild, but neither of us can afford a prolonged bout with a cold or the flu this year.
More research. Did you know there are over 200 types of cold viruses and they mutate slightly with each person they infect? I didn’t. But that certainly explains why science hasn’t yet found a cure for the “common cold”. The other interesting thing I found is that there are “enveloped” and “non-enveloped” viruses. An enveloped virus (like cold and flu viruses) wrap themselves in a piece of the host membrane (your cell), making it easier for the virus to survive and infect other cells. This is why it takes so long to get rid of a cold. However, these types of viruses can’t survive outside the host environment (your body) so they’re easier to kill in the air and on hard surfaces than non-enveloped viruses.
With that information in hand, I went searching for which essential oils are best for enveloped viruses. There’s a nice list of them:
Basil, Bay, Black Pepper, Cedarwood, Chamomile (German or Roman), Clove, Eucalyptus (Globulus and Radiata), Fennel, Frankincense, Ginger, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Myrrh, Orange, Oregano, Peppermint, Pine, Ravensara, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Tarragon, Tea Tree, and Thyme.
Many of my friends swear by Ravensara. I’ve never used it but have some on order to see what it smells like. In the meantime, I mixed Eucalyptus Radiata (sort of minty rather than the stronger-smelling Globulus), Peppermint & Rosemary in equal parts.
The rest of the recipe: for every ounce of the bottle’s capacity, use 60 drops (one teaspoon) of the essential oil mixture. This is a strong proportion of EO to base so be careful not to get any on your skin. Then pour in the cocoanut oil, but not all the way to the top. You need to leave space for the reeds. Cap the bottle and turn it several times to mix the oils together. (If your bottle doesn’t have a cap, you can use a piece of aluminum foil squished tightly around the top.) Uncap, stick in as many reeds as the bottle opening will accommodate while still allowing them to fan out and place somewhere as close to the center of the room as possible to get the oil molecules dispersed as widely as possible.
With such a long list of essential oils, I can change the mixture with my mood and still be somewhat protective against cold & flu viruses. Around the holidays, I’ll probably switch to cedarwood and pine, maybe with a wee bit of ginger to get the atmosphere right for the season.
Now, what to do with 99 bamboo skewers?