Every year, I dread Christmas. Part of it is due to my procrastination tendencies. It always sneaks up on me, and I find myself trying to plan my gift-giving at the last minute. I like to find gifts that have meaning attached, but every year, I can’t seem to recall all those brilliant gift ideas I didn’t write down throughout the year.
The consumerism of Christmas drives me bonkers, too, which I’ve mostly managed to escape without cable and newspaper subscriptions. Regardless, I’ve certainly felt the pressure of dropping lots of dough because ‘tis the season of “giving,” because we’re “supposed to,” because I don’t want to look like a cheap skate in comparison. Those feelings really put a dreary damper on the holiday spirit. And isn’t this supposed to be a religious holiday? Santa’s got Jesus beat, hands down.
Needless to say, finding the perfect gift for every person on my list in a short amount of time that doesn’t break the bank makes my holiday season quite the stress fest.
Last year I decided to do something different, ditch my cycle of stress, forget about getting it “perfect,” and instead, prowl the thrift stores for great books and make big batches of stuff that I knew most of my family members would put to use. I made sauerkraut, lip balm, essential oil sprays and cleaning products.
As my family members opened their hand-painted packages, I recounted all the love my son and I poured into our makings, instead of remembering all the time I spent driving from store to store to find that perfect little gift. It was the most enjoyable holiday season I’ve had since adulthood brought with it the pressure to keep up with the Christmas rat race.
This year, I’m going to mostly DIY it again and try out a few new things I thought I’d share with you. But first, a few thoughts on why the homemade alternative to what can easily be bought.
WHY DIY YOUR HOME AND SELF-CARE PRODUCTS
So many of the commercial products out there are loaded with ingredients that are harmful to the environment and our health. Parabens, for instance, are found in beauty products, like cosmetics, moisturizers, shampoos and soaps. They are xenoestrogens and linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. Phthalates are a class of chemicals that are used in beauty products, perfumes, plastics and even our food. These are linked to low liver function, low testosterone, low sperm counts and cancer, to name a few. Women, in particular, are more susceptible to these toxins, likely due to their increased exposure to products containing the chemicals. In one study, young women were found to have 20 times more phthalates in their body in comparison to men. These chemicals are banned in Europe.
Your favorite scent might figuratively make you sick when you learn that the ingredients can literally make you sick. According to EWG, fragrances are rated an 8 on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the worst. Synthetic fragrances are linked to allergies, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity and are known hormone disruptors.
When it comes to lip balms, many of them are loaded with products that actually dry out your lips, causing you to crave the re-application to soothe your dry, chapped skin. The most common ingredient, petroleum jelly, is a byproduct of oil drilling and the trace elements can be carcinogenic.
And anti-bacterial hand sanitizers–toss those bad boys to the curb! In a culture obsessed with banishing germs, we’re constantly slathering on and ingesting products that kill bacteria, the good and the bad. Our body needs a balance of bacteria to function properly, and when we don’t have that balance, it causes our gut health to suffer. Not only do digestive symptoms appear, but anxiety, mood imbalances and a whole slew of other symptoms not directly tied with your intestines can emerge.
That’s because our nervous system and immune system are deeply embedded in our gut. From birth control to antibiotic drugs to factory-farmed meat, hand sanitizers, soaps and more, all these “little things” are adding up and wiping out our gut flora at an alarming rate and paving the way for antibiotic resistant “superbugs” to thrive (which is a terrible thing in the emergency event your life depends on a pharmaceutical antibiotic). While essential oils may be handy for minimizing harmful bacteria, they don’t create resistance, because the plant substance contain hundreds more compounds than antibiotic drugs. Plant medicine is smart enough to do the right job; synthetic drugs are incapable of such intelligence.
With each of these recipes, you can choose one essential oil and use it for every recipe. Or choose a few and tailor the scent or affect to those you’ll be giving it to.
I love candles, but I don’t love basking in a swirl of chemicals when I light it up. As we inhale the sweet scent of our favorite fragrance, chemical additives like benzene and toluene make their way to our lungs, brain and central nervous system causing damage and developmental difficulties. Try this simple recipe using natural ingredients instead.
What you’ll need:
Drill a hole in the lid of your glass jar. Once that’s there, you’ll feed through your wick. You can use an old t-shirt here, too. Cut a strip and twist it up. Fill your jar with any decorative elements. Combine oil and essential oils and pour into container. Fifteen drops per ounce is a good rule of thumb. My mom loves frankincense, so that’s what I’m using to make candles this year. Frankincense is known for it’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which makes it a powerful remedy for mental and emotional issues. It’s also great for the skin and is helpful in severe immune system issues.
Make sure to blend the oil and essential oil together well. Lower the wick, screw on the top, and voila. You’ve got yourself a healthy homemade candle. Give the wick time to soak up the oil before it lights, otherwise the wick will just burn down. (I found the how-to for this here.)
Everything Spray (hands, mouth, feet, countertops, you name it)
For this spray, I use our Z Oils Winter blend. It contains the ingredients key to the tale of the four thieves’ secret blend of immune-boosting herbs. During the Bubonic Plague, four spice traders rubbed themselves with this blend of herbs to avoid catching what was going around. They stayed healthy while they looted goods from plague victims, and when caught, gave the king their secret blend to avoid death. While the king didn’t keep his word, the recipe has been handed down by generations since, keeping immune systems strong and healthy with the herbs chock-full of anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-septic and many more properties.
I use this spray all the time, all year long, and it was definitely the family favorite last Christmas. I spray it on my son’s neck before he heads out to school in the morning. When I feel the flu or a sore throat coming on, a couple sprays in my mouth or rubbed into the soles of my feet a few times a day, plus lots of extra rest and nourishing food seems to always do the trick. A little spritz after a meal heavy on the garlic and onions makes for a nice breath freshener, too. I spray this on my doorknobs, in my car, and anywhere else that needs a good clean. Use a bigger jar to make a longer-lasting spray and use it for all your home cleaning needs.
What you’ll need:
Using 15 drops essential oil per one ounce of water, combine ingredients in your jar. I like to use a 1 or 2 ounce amber jar with a spray cap. You can pick those up at Continuum Healing or online at a place like Amazon. Shake it up before each use.
Blend together everything but the water. Shake it for two minutes. Then let it sit in a dark place for at least 48 hours or up to 6 weeks. The longer it sits, the better it smells. Once it’s done sitting, add the water, shake some more, then transfer it to your storage container using the funnel and coffee filter.
I love Compose, a blend by Z Oils that we carry here in The Remedy Room. It contains rosewood, patchouli and pine needle and promotes inspiration. It’s amaaaazing. One of Z Oils chakra blends would be really good, too. Not only do you get a lovely spritz of scent, you get the medicinal impact associated with these powerful remedies.
Using distilled water vs. tap water is important because it’s not filled with contaminants like chlorine that could kill the properties of the essential oils. The alcohol helps to preserve the oils but will evaporate once sprayed onto skin.
Lavender Detox Bath Salt
Last year, my mom loved this lavender bath soak. Grab a big bowl if you’re making a large batch for several people. Combine all your ingredients and stir. I use a tablespoon or so of lavender to two cups epsom salt along with about 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Fill your containers with your mixture, and you’re done!
Lavender calms the nervous system, making it a great addition to the epsom salt. It’s also considered the universal essential oil, as it has so many properties. Healing burns, skin issues, headaches and cleaning agent are among a few of the many benefits.
Epsom salt is full of magnesium, which also soothes the nervous system. It pulls out toxins from the body, adding yet another health benefit to this gift. And that, we literally sell by the barrel in the Continuum Healing Remedy Room.
Last year, there were a few mishaps (following directions to a T isn’t my strong suit), but I received requests for refills on a few things throughout the year. That was a good sign. This year, I’m enjoying the process again and looking forward to sharing them with my family. I may be getting it done last minute, but having a plan feels much less chaotic.
What have you made with essential oils that would make great gifts?
Author: Kara McNabb is a naturopathic practitioner at Continuum Healing.