Food: The essence of essential oils
Have you ever caught the aroma of baking bread and immediately thought of Grandma? Or walked through a pine forest and Christmas came to mind, or sniffed the clinging fragrance of a rose and were reminded of a long ago prom?
Smells have a very real way of taking our minds to a different time and place, and this has always intrigued me. How can an aroma do this and what effect does it have on our state of mind? In fact, I’ve been doing some Internet research on the benefits of aromatherapy and essential oils lately in my quest to become healthier this year, and there is a lot of information out there on this topic. With some confusion I turned to my good friend Michelle Wich, who has been using these oils for more than 10 years.
Michelle has always had a love for horses. For most of her life, she’s been a rider and loves and shows her Morgan horses from her stable outside of Rhinelander. This good friend had a cancer scare a few years back and I just assumed she turned to essential oils and aromatherapy because of this.
But I was wrong. Michelle actually started using essential oils on her horses more than 10 years ago as a way to soothe them when they were in the show ring. Today she uses them if they are sore or even in a bad mood.
“I always enjoy the first response of a horse to essential oils,” she said. “Their curiosity is incredible. Many of my horses know when I’ve brought the oils into the barn. They are more excited than if I bring them treats.”
Michelle has an entire collection of different kinds of oils that she uses not only on her horses, but for herself as well. And some of the names of these oils have a familiar ring. Take for instance, frankincense.
This oil comes from the Boswellia sacra tree which grows in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India and Asia. The oil is harvested from the sap of the tree, which drips out of the bark, similar to maple sap. The sap forms golden nuggets which are then submerged in a bath of oil and steam distilled.
Back in ancient times, frankincense was the economic basis for many countries and its scent could often be detected in the palaces of kings and royals as it wafted through the air. It was also used as a holy anointing oil and was included in many religious ceremonies. It is purported to relieve depression, anxiety and even help ease grief, among other maladies.
Michelle introduced me to many different types of oils during my visit, including those that are harvested from just one plant such as lemon oil, to mixtures of different oils used for everything from skin care to respiratory distress to basically, you name it.
Essential oils can also be used to prepare homemade cleaning products, for uses in bug bites and natural insecticides and to freshen laundry, and they can be used in diffusers for fresh-smelling air. One popular and familiar essential oil, lavender, can be used to aid in insomnia simply by applying a drop or two to a pillow.
While some of these oils are not recommended for consumption, some are and their concentrated forms lend a distinctive taste to everything from baked goods to sauces. You just have to make sure they are therapeutic grade oils that are OK to consume.
This week I’ve included a salad dressing Michelle shared and I plan on using it on some fresh greens from my garden.
I never imagined that there was such a history behind essential oils and the vast amount of information and uses for these interesting plant-derived substances. But it makes sense to me that they could be used for a variety of purposes, and there’s no doubt that many of them do affect my sense of smell in a very tantalizing way.
Just like the fresh baked aroma of bread coming out of the oven always takes me back to Grandma’s house.
Lemon Tarragon Dressing
1 Tbs. fresh tarragon diced, or 1 tsp. dried tarragon
1 Tbs. fresh or 1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 cup organic, extra virgin olive oil
Dash of pepper
Dash of red pepper
Dash of sea salt
6 drops lemon essential oil
Mix all ingredients together and stir well. Can be used on greens, fish or chicken, or as a sauce when grilling.