Gill South finds taking a deep breath - of oils diffused in water - can be both relaxing and curing.
Essential oils, when used correctly, are said to stimulate the immune system. To be honest, I'm really struggling with my wellbeing at the moment. I have aches, sore throats and headaches pretty regularly. I'm pumping myself full of supplements but I'm still feeling pretty washed out.
So I am taking myself off to see Jane Wilks, author of the book The Essence of Living Simply, at her home. Jane produces the essential oil brand Herb Heaven. She takes me down to her basement of goodies and we go through some of the essential oils that might give me some zest and energy.
Plants and their essential oils have been used to help prevent illness and heal the body naturally for centuries. In aromatherapy, through baths, massage, compresses, diffusers and inhalations, essential oils enter our body through either the skin or inhalation. They then enter the blood, transporting the oils through the human body.
Essential oils, when used correctly, are said to stimulate the immune system.
Jane reckons essential oils are now taking their rightful place in the world - becoming increasingly recognised by the enlightened. They can't get enough of essential oils in France apparently.
Jane says she hasn't been sick in the past three-and-a-half years, thanks to her regular use of essential oils. They bring protection. The mother of three will often have an inhalation during breakfast, popping a few drops of lemon or lavender into a bowl of boiled water, putting her head over it with a towel covering her head. I can't imagine doing this on a school day - I'd get a dozen interruptions from small boys asking where their socks were. Another option is to dampen a facecloth with the water and oil mixture and drape it over your eyes and the bridge of your nose.
For my constant coldy aches, Jane recommends the uplifting citrus essential oils - sweet orange, lime or lemon. Lavender is good, meanwhile, for soothing headaches. A few drops at the temple or on my pillow case can work wonders.
I have just met a tight deadline, where I needed a clear head to write. Jane tells me putting some rosemary essential oil in an electric vaporiser as I'm writing would be just the thing. Rosemary is mentally stimulating. Also, rather bizarrely, lemon essential oil is meant to increase keyboard efficiency.
Jane introduces me to some essential oils particularly good for women. There's clary sage but I don't like the herbaceous scent much. I do like the smell of geranium though, which I can just mix with a sweet almond oil in a blending dish and rub in at the nape of my neck and, rather quirkily, in the vicinity of my solar plexus. Apparently it regulates and balances the release of hormones in the body.
I depart, clutching bottles of lemon, lavender, geranium and eucalyptus essential oils. Eucalyptus is great for clearing the head and for colds. Jane suggests diffusing eucalyptus oil at night before sleeping, to ease Nasal congestion and inhibit the proliferation of the cold virus. I try some lavender on my temple that afternoon and it works, I then inhale some lemon the next morning. A moist experience but lovely.
Note, don't put on your mascara beforehand.
I'm not big on facials, they make me feel a bit claustrophobic, but I am told the Facial Radiance treament at re:ab on Selbourne is a natural facelift, which will leave me with a wonderful sense of wellbeing.