I do not talk about it much here on the website, but I am frequently interviewed about this or that. Mostly, the “this” is about prepping and the corresponding role of women within the context of survivalism. Lately, the “that” has been about essential oils.
Along those lines, when my long-term BFF, George Ure, decided to dabble in essential oils, he had a bunch of questions. He posed them in an interview format and posted them on over his site, Urban Survival.
Here for you are my answers. They represent my current thoughts on essential oils, presented in a question and answer format.
History First: Friends for life
My longtime pal of 45+ years, Gaye Levy, is not only a widely-acknowledged “princess of prepping” but she’s also one of the best sources on the Internet when comes to something called “essential oils.”
Before we get into the specifics here, a few words about our “co-mingled histories.”
In 1972, or so, we both lived in a large apartment complex in south Seattle. We knew each other from work — she did a short stretch in government service and I was a young rock & roll news director at the time.
We never dated – it was more a sister-brother kind of relationship (still is). I met her husband-to-be back then and she met what would turn out to be the “one before Elaine.”
Personal stuff, but it gets to a point: We would occasionally cook large meals that we would share. I made high-calorie Danish food (meatloaf and gravy, anyone?) but her specialty was a burgundy beef stew that was absolute, blow-your-socks-off, great.
Since we’re both intensely curious sorts, I asked her “How the hell do you get such amazing taste out of your stew?”
She revealed her secret: fresh herbs that she grew on her apartment balcony. That, along with a few tomato pots, and carefully-chosen meats and….just incredible.
There was fresh rosemary, basil, tarragon…well, she’ll have to rerun her recipe over on the Strategic Living Blog site one of these days, but I think this “grow it yourself” and then actually using FRESH plant essence left an indelible mark on her.
Nowadays, she’s totally into “essential oils” and is (rightfully) opinionated about what works.
One of her recipes (to fight aging) involves a handful of oils (lavender, frankincense, and rose hip oil in a jojoba carrier oil) and it’s so good that Elaine’s taken to using it on a daily basis. The recipe for this “serum” is on her site over at Make a DIY Anti-Aging Face Serum Using Essential Oils.
Gaye’s Note: Elaine is Mrs. Urban Survival, George’s wife.
One more story, then to some questions. A year or two back, I asked her in passing “What can I do to keep wasps and mud daubers out of the shop?”
“Get some clove oil, mix about one part oil four parts water and spray around the doorframes.”
This year (and it was a buggy one) there wasn’t a SINGLE new mud dauber nest to be found anywhere in the shop. Plus, the place didn’t have that “stale shop smell” you can get, either.
Point is, there are a lot of very cool uses for essential oils for repelling bugs and for emergency medical uses. See her article on how to “Find Relief from Pesky Mosquito Bites with this Anti-Itch Spray“.
How does this fit into prepping? I mean besides Elaine will continue to look like a cover-girl right up to the last and I won’t be killed by a cloud of bugs?
To the questions!
Curious Minds Want to Learn About Essential Oils
1. What are some of the top essential oils you would recommend preppers have on hand? Got a “top 5” or “top 10” list?
With so many essential oils available, it is difficult for even the most experienced users to find a use for every single one. Case in point. I have over two dozen oils in my backup stash that I have not even tried. Why, you might ask? The reason you do not need to own every single oil on the planet is that there is a lot of overlap in EO properties. This means that a number of oils can do the same thing and deliver the same, very similar results.
To answer your question, though, here are the oils that I consider my top 5 must have oils: Lavender, Rosemary, Peppermint, Melaleuca (also known as Tea Tree) and Oregano. In addition, there are two blends that I rely on. One is an immunity/protective blend and the other is a digestive blend. I happen to get these blends from a company called Spark Naturals, but other companies sell these blends as well.
Tip: You can also concoct your own immunity blend from a variety of single oils. This is only cost effective, however, if you already own the other oils. Here is the recipe if you want to check it out: Make Your Own Essential Oil Protective & Immunity Blend.
2. How well do they store?
The best way to store essential oils is in a cool, dark place. Think food storage; the same conditions apply. During the hot summers of Arizona, I keep my unopened, backup oils in the refrigerator although, since my thermostat is never set higher than 85 degrees, this may not be necessary. I have never had an oil go bad.
One thing to note is that quality oils are sold in dark bottles so the “dark” part is taken care of for you.
3. Have you put together a compendium (or do you know of one) where newbies can get a few recipes for key prepping uses like bugs, medical, and skincare?
Hahahaha, George, talk about a subtle nudge. Seriously, though, I really should do that. Or, at the very least, post more of tried and true recipes on my website.
4. I know when we’ve talked in the past, you get livid at some of the quality issues with essential oils… which brands are most dependable and where can people find out whether a given brand is good or not so not?
As essential oils have become a mainstream commodity, a number of marketing companies have put together their own brands using a process called “white labeling”. Many of these oiks are sold on Amazon or at stores like Wal-mart or your local grocery store and they are fake. Here is a rule of thumb: if the price is too good to be true, move on. For example, a 5ml bottle of Lavender will cost $5 to $10 dollars. If you see a large, two ounce bottle for this price, you are likely dealing with a fake.
Another thing: good oils smell nice. If you open a bottle of essential oil and it smells like paint thinner, it is a fake. And remember, any reputable company will back their product and exchange it or offer a refund if you are not satisfied.
I happen to purchase most of my oils from a Utah company, Spark Naturals. Over the years, I have gotten to know the owner and key members of his staff. I trust them and get the results I want from their oils. They sell direct via their website (shipping is free) plus they have an Amazon store.
But they are just one brand. Other brands to consider are Plant Therapy (sold direct or on Amazon), and Florihana (sold by Tropical Traditions). In addition, a budget-friendly brand to add to you cleaning products is NOW foods. These oils are the real thing but not quite as potent as some of the other brands.
Missing from this list are the two big brands sold by independent representatives: doTerra and Young Living. These are excellent oils but very expensive with minimum purchase requirements and everything else that comes with an MLM organization.
5. Can you make any essential oils at home? Like grow the plants, extract the oils…and how’s what all work. Anyone making a stainless steel oil press?
Essential oils are distilled from plant material and not pressed. It is not an easy process and to do this at home, you would need a lot of technical knowledge. In addition, there would be a significant cash outlay for equipment and raw materials.
On the other hand, something you can do at home is make an infusion by soaking dried flowers or herbs in an oil (such as olive oil) for a few weeks. You can then use this infused oil as an ingredient in a homemade healing salve. I have done this in the past with great success, using infused oregano oil as a substitute for EVOO in my “Miracle Healing Salve“.
6. You’re fairly precise about whether something’s a mix, a serum, or a (whatever)…Since precision of language precedes precision in thought, help us understand what a “serum” is as opposed to a what…potion?
First of all, it is important to note that essential oils must be diluted before use. They are highly concentrated and it is wasteful and sometimes dangerous to use them full strength. Typical dilution rates are 2% to 5% although is some isolated circumstances I go up to 10%.
To put this into perspective, a 2% dilution would be 12 drops per ounce of carrier oil, 5% would be 30 drops, and 10% would be 60 drops. As you can see, a little goes a long way.
Back to your question.
I imagine that there is a more precise definition then I am going to make but for all intents and purposes, a serum is quite viscous, like a thick liquid, whereas a salve is more of cream.
In addition to serums and salves, you will also see the term “roller ball” used. A roller ball vessel is a small glass bottle typically filled with some essential oils plus a liquid carrier oil. It is topped by a roller ball that makes the application both simple to use and portable.
7. There’s no question about essential oils for some things – like bug bites – but what about some of the other “natural treatments” (mud, stinging nettle, and so on) that get written up on “prepper sites.” Do you even bother collecting the “natural/aboriginal” cures or are essential oils the best bang for the buck?
I have never had much luck with herbal remedies and even the widely touted Elderberry did nothing for me. That is not to say they don’t work but rather that I have chosen to take a different path.
8. How much should a typical urban couple have tied up in “essential oil inventory?” Is there a way to start cheap ($50 bucks, say) and then slowly acquire what you need?
The top 5 oils I listed above plus the two blends will set you back about $50 if not less. I would start there.
Once you are comfortable with essential oils, start thinking about problems you want to solve and research the oils that will work best. Don’t do what I did and acquire a bunch of oils up front that sit in a drawer because you do not know what to do with them.
9. Let’s talk about mixing: Tell us about containers and how closely you have to follow the recipes calling for “so many drops of thing, so many drops of that…”
This is really a two part question.
For containers, I have a variety at my disposal. They include 1 ounce and 2 ounce jars, roller balls, inhalers, and even some small glass spray bottles. I prefer glass but have been known to use plastic jars as well. I have listed a number of my favorites on the Resource page on my website.
As far a precise mixing goes, I try to be as accurate as possible so that I am not wasteful. Less is more when it comes to essential oils so often times, I will start with one formula and cut back on the number of drops to get the results I want. Occasionally, I will kick things up a notch to get better results but that does not happen too often.
The 5 Essential Oils Everyone Should Own
This is a bit of rinse and repeat but it is important enough to call it to your attention.
In my opinion, the top 5 must-have essential oils are:
With just these five, you can cover most if not all day to day first aid needs as well as providing for the anti-viral and anti-bacterial needs of your DIY household cleaners. Lavender, rosemary and peppermint used singly or in combination, are effective mood enhancers that will relax you, relieve anxiety, and help you sleep.
Who Is George Ure?
Although I am a bit biased, the mold was broken when George Ure was created.
He has got to be one of smartest, yet easy going and accountable guys I know. When I first started blogging, he encouraged me with tips and the motivation to keep writing, even when it meant working through the wee hours and getting little or no sleep. (For many years, blogging was a side gig to my full-time accounting practice.) Without his encouragement, there would not have been a Backdoor Survival.
Note: I am no longer involved with content development at Backdoor Survival.
These days, the term “urban survival” is frequently batted around various prepper sites and prepper communities. Let me set the record straight.
George started his own site, UrbanSurvival.com in 1998, long before the term prepping was coined. Prepping back then focused on Y2K. Check out this page from the archives: https://web.archive.org/web/19981202012338/http://www.urbansurvival.com:80/.
In addition to Urban Survival, George also has a fee-based, online newsletter, Peoplenomics.
We have remained friends throughout all these years and although we are separated by distance, still manage to carve out a weekly video call on Skype. This call keeps us grounded in this crazy missed up world. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see George weigh in on his thoughts on living a strategic life!
You can read more about George here.
A Word About My Favorite Essential Oils
Since the beginning of 2019, I have struggled with the fact that I have primarily been using essential oils from a single company. On many levels, it was time for a change.
Alas, this was easier said than done since I needed to assess the performance of various EOs in my tried and true salve and roller ball formulas. In addition, I wanted to find a budget-friendly company that offered 100% free shipping all of the time.
My first successful tests have been with essential oils from Plant Therapy. This was a logical choice since Plant Therapy has always been my preferred source for carrier oils such as Fractionated Coconut oil and Jojoba oil. They carry a huge variety of EOs and are available to purchase directly both on the Plant Therapy website and on Amazon. As a bonus, their web site posts test results individually by oil along with the corresponding batch number. This assures me that the oils are not fake.
While there are many excellent EO companies, I am happy with my choice and hope you will check them out. Wherever you decide to purchase your oils, let your nose guide you. If your essential oil smells like paint thinner, return it. Good oils smell nice.
Suggested reading: The Snarky and Surprising Truth About Essential Oil Companies
Summing It All Up
While I have your attention, let me share one more thought.
One of my major gripes when it comes to essential oils is that many online sites tell you what an individual essential oil is used for but provide no real information about their practical application.
You know what I mean. “Buy lavender essential oil because it is calming.” Well duh. The real issue is what do you do with it to make it calming?
For that reason, I am on a mission for 2019. I am going to blog more extensively with the specifics you need to actually use your essential oils. These are going to be my own tried and true uses, including wellness, first aid, skin care, household uses, and diffuser blends. If I don’t use it, I won’t post it.
Now don’t expect some long-winded posts nor a ton of gorgeous pictures to go along with them. Nope. Not going to happen. I am going to give you some background and the recipe and leave it at that.
With that said, methinks it is time to get off my soapbox. If you have some questions for my next Q&A, be sure to leave them in the comments below.
Yours for a Joyful Life,
There are a few tools and one book that every essential oil user should own. Here are what I consider must-haves.
Essential Oil and Roller Ball Opener: Where have these been my entire EO life? This recent purchase has made using essential oils so much easier. Instead of prying off the orifice style droppers with my nails, I now use this nifty tool to get the job done. Ditto the tops of roller ball bottles. Well worth the $5 or $6 cost.
Glass Liquid Droppers: It was only recently that I discovered the value of droppers that have measurements on the side. What this means is that instead of dropping oils into my blend one drop at a time, I can now, for example, use the markings on a dropper to measure 1 ml of each oil I am using in a 50/50 blend. I just did this yesterday with lavender and cedarwood, a calming diffused blend that I frequently use when I need to relax. You will love these glass droppers and of course, they can be used over and over again.
Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser by AromaSoft: As with many of the products I promote, this diffuser is not going to be the cheapest on the block, although $20 is not bad especially when I used to pay $60 or more for a diffuser. This BPA-free diffuser puts out a strong mist that can fill a room. All that in spite of its size. Plus, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: This book, by Valerie Warwood, is my essential oil bible. I purchased the first version in the late eighties and have never looked back. Highly recommended for your home remedy and first aid library.