Guide to Essential Oils

We’re hearing a lot about essential oils, but honestly, we have been too busy and stressed to explore how they might be beneficial. Turns out essential oils might be able to help ease that tension and restore calm, in addition to many other potential uses.

Lisa Abernathy, founder of Blue Heron Acupuncture and Apothecary, offers some guidance about the benefits of essential oils and how to use them. She frequently puts together essential oil blends for her patients.

“They give people an opportunity to engage with medicine,” Lisa says. “They are so hands-on and user-friendly.”

What are essential oils:
Essential oils are concentrated oils derived from plants. They have been used for centuries to help people manage physical and emotional conditions.

How essential oils may help:
Boost your immune support
Prevent or help manage allergies and other respiratory conditions
Alleviate aches and pains
Aid digestion
Improve circulation
Diminish headaches
Relieve menstrual cramps
Decrease emotional and mental stress

Popular essential oils:
Eucalyptus: May help prevent the common cold and flu, helps relieve respiratory symptoms
Neroli: Helps support the digestive system, calms anxiety
Patchouli: Helps aid digestion
Rosemary: Can increase alertness and focus, supports circulation and the cardiovascular system
Sandalwood: Works as an anti-inflammatory, may boost mental clarity
Vetiver: Can help relieve tightness in neck and shoulders, helps reduce stress and anxiety
Ylang-Ylang: Helps ease insomnia and fatigue, reduces stress

How to use essential oils:
The easiest way to use essential oils is to open up the bottle and take a sniff, Lisa says.

During her workshops on essential oils, Lisa encourages participants to pick a couple of oils and then sit quietly and smell each of them. “Take a few moments to see what you experience in your body,” she says. “Ask yourself, ‘Do I feel it in my upper body? Do I feel it in my head? Do I feel uplifted using it? Do I feel grounded and calm?’”

If you’re interested in trying essential oils, Lisa suggests going to Earth Fare, Whole Foods or a natural health store, such as Wildcraft, and sniffing tester bottles to see what appeals to you.

Other ways to experience the benefits of essentials oils:
Soak in a bathtub of up to 10 drops of an essential oil and Epsom salt.
Dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil such as almond, coconut or jojoba oil and then massage it on a desired area of your body.
Use a diffuser to release the essential oil particles into the air.
Make candles using an essential oil blend and a natural wax, such as soy, coconut or vegetable.
Lisa warns that you should never take essential oil internally, unless you are under the guidance of a health care practitioner.

Where to learn more about essential oils:
Candlefish offers essential oil and fragrance building classes each month led by Jennifer Gorline. Jennifer’s favorite oil blends are vanilla, lavender and peppermint to help aid sleep, and vetiver, lemon, peppermint, lavender and rosemary to reduce tension and stress. During the classes, you can create your own two custom blends and pour two candles. 6 p.m. Sept. 20 and Oct. 18. The class is $65. To sign up, visit

Lisa Abernathy of Blue Heron teaches classes at Wildcraft in the Windermere Shopping Center in West Ashley. She and Wildcraft owner Holly Thorpe are teaching a class Sept. 25 about facial cupping and gua sha. You’ll learn about essential oils and Chinese medicine techniques to change the health and beauty of your skin. 6 to 8 p.m. The class is $45. For more information, visit