HOLISTIC PLANT OILS

 

Oils are as diverse as the plants they are derived from, and provide us with a multitude of uses and benefits. Whether drizzling on a crisp salad with cold pressed Italian olive oil, cleansing your face with organic virgin coconut oil or spritzing yourself with your favorite natural perfume- essential oils are a vast scented realm offering a healthy alternative to chemical fragrances - you may be wondering what these precious nectars are all about. Are they healthy? Beneficial? Important? The answer to these questions is a resounding YES.

By Carolyn Mix

 
Model Kristin Gerbert Photographer Brian Sassmann, Hair & Make up Mara Schiavetti

As a culinary enthusiast, natural skincare maker and botanical perfumer I have a great passion for our provider - Mother Earth. And provide she does! Perhaps we’re arriving at a juncture in the life spiral… by this I mean that we’ve come around again to a familiar, yet different, more evolved place.

Many of us are seeking simplicity and purity amidst all our technological, industrial and economic advances. If you’re like me, you feel that knowledge is power - if you know better, you do better. 25 years ago I would not have been able to Google search a food ingredient and origin. Now, my laptop sits on my kitchen counter and I reference the health index of ingredients daily. I adhere to a whole foods diet, aiming to keep processed foods to a minimum. I like to keep it simple. Less is more. Fresh is best.

The oils we consume and apply to our skin are very much worth considering when it comes to our health and the
health of our planet.
 

My Great Grandmother lived to the ripe old age of 98. She grew up on a farm (the very same land I grew up on), lived through the Great Depression, and was born before women were allowed to vote. In her lifetime she saw the invention of toilet paper, plastic, cars and microwaves. Though she marveled at all the inventions the 20th century offered, I can’t help but think that her foundation was one of wholesome simplicity… with equal parts strife and struggle, no doubt. She ate the food she grew. After all, there was no such thing as a super market! Therefore she had quite a first-hand understanding of the origins of things. Now, in 2017, I am highly interested in the origins of products I put in and on my body. I want to know where they’ve come from, the conditions and method in which they are produced, and the level of processing that occurs before products reach my hands and mouth.

The oils we consume and apply to our skin are very much worth considering when it comes to our health and the health of our planet. Where once upon a time it was common to reach for that clear plastic bottle of vegetable oil (and probably still is in many households), we have a growing number of alternative options at our fingertips. The challenge lies in being mindful of our choices and knowing our sources. FYI - over 90% of Canola oil is genetically modified. The history of this oil is fascinating and scary, and that’s a whole other article.

 
 

I’m not sure my great grandmother would have known what to do with an avocado, having grown up in New York State, let alone the oil of an avocado. We are lucky! We are able to access a world harvest. Though my personal mission is to eat as close to home as possible, I happen to live in a region that doesn’t produce vegetable oil. Thanks to modern technology and a global market, we are afforded much in the way of options and opportunity. I can get my hands on just about any oil.

Knowledge and production of oil has been around since at least 8000 B.C. As a bio-intelligent species we’ve long understood that oil (fat) provides sustenance on some level. Today we know that oils have the potential to offer us many different nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Some are also known for their antioxidant, anti fungal and antibacterial properties. Oils are an integral and essential part of our well-being, both internally and externally. With a little thought provoking, you may think differently and think twice about the oils you use, and how and what you use them for.

When purchasing oils for culinary and skincare use, oils that are labeled: raw, unrefined, extra virgin and/or cold pressed are most beneficial. Organic is always best, as otherwise you risk exposure to harmful pesticides. These oils are sensitive to light and oxygen, so make sure you store your cold pressed oils in dark bottles and cool temperatures.

There truly are so many oils to choose from these days, all with their very own list of health benefits. In this article, however, I’ll focus on several oils that you can use in both culinary and skincare applications - avocado, coconut, sesame and olive. I’d like to highlight the tandem qualities of these oils because of what I refer to as the “screen door theory”… The screen door pertains to your skin being a living, breathing organ (and your largest!) by which matter passes in and out. In essence, whatever you put on your body, (skincare) ends up in your body, and whatever you nourish your body with (culinary nutrition) on the inside affects the health and balance of your skin on the outside.

Avocado Oil: Prized for it’s high oil content since Aztec times, this oil is one of the richest sources of beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids (MFA) like almighty oleic acid. Avocado oil also contains immune boosting Vitamin E and
detoxifying chlorophyll. It’s a great addition to your diet and can also have an immediate effect on the texture and appearance of your skin.

Topically, it has the potential to: enhance the skin’s ability to generate collagen (a key element of firm, smooth skin), retain moisture in the skin, soothe and moisturizedry and itchy skin, treat skin conditions such as acne, eczema, keratosis pilaris (bumpy skin) and other forms of skin inflammation, and accelerate the healing of wounds and burns. I’ll stress again that it’s important to seek out cold pressed avocado oil in order to reap the multitude of restorative benefits. Important plant sterols, chlorophyll, vitamin E and other antioxidants are preserved this way.

Skincare ideas:

Detox Bath: Combine 1 cup of sea salt with 1/2 cup of sesame oil, 20 drops of grapefruit essential oil and 20 drops of lavender essential oil. Mix together and add to a warm bath. Soak for 20 minutes while gently massaging your skin with a wash cloth. This bath will balance your skin and help to detoxify and alleviate dry skin. It’s also a great bath for relieving stress. Be careful getting out of the tub, and remember to clean it out afterwards, as it will be slippery.

Weekly Facial: Combine 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon water. First steam your face with a warm wash cloth and then massage the mixture into your face using gentle, circular motions. The sesame oil softens and moisturizes skin and the vinegar lightens discolorations, kills bacteria and loosens dead skin cells. Rinse with cool water and pat dry.

* Make sure to purchase cold pressed sesame oil and not toasted sesame oil.
* Beware that sesame oil has a rather strong scent/flavor profile.

Here are some pros for including sesame oil in your diet…

Your Heart: Sesame oil contains a wide range of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including sesamol and sesamin, which can aid in maintaining balance in your cardiovascular system and keeping cholesterol levels low. It can also help to lower cholesterol. Your Bones: Copper, zinc, and calcium are among the many important minerals that can be found in sesame oil. These three minerals are integral to bone growth, development, health and strength. Your mood: Tyrosine, an amino acid found in sesame oil, has been directly connected to serotonin activity and release in the brain. Tyrosine can help boost your mood by flooding the body with enzymes and hormones that produce a feeling of happiness.

Your mouth: Sesame oil is antibacterial and can greatly improve your dental health. You may be familiar with a process called oil pulling (putting oil in your mouth and then swishing it around before spitting it out) This Ayurvedic therapy has been directly linked to whiter teeth, lower levels of dental plaque, and protection against certain bacteria that can cause illness...

FOR FULL ARTICLE CONTINUE READING IN ISSUE NO.7

Carolyn Mix is a musician and co-owner of 2 Note Botanical Perfumery in Hudson, NY