Gingerbread? How could the sound of this simple word bring back the smell of the Christmas season? What about hot wassail with apple cider, cinnamon, and orange or lemon slices? No matter what the special scent is you remember, did you know that the essence or oil of a plant is probably responsible for the way your emotions and body responds?
If you, like me, are seeking to incorporate the same sights and smells of traditional holiday favorites, while updating with healthier lifestyle option, I wanted to share with you a few free resources. These are keto/paleo websites I’ve come to trust for familiar flavors without the sugary downside, such as the Apple Cider Donuts.
I’ve also discovered that the smell of the food baking or cooking draws me back to those memories again and again, and those smells are rarely affected by a change in the sweetener. Another wonderful website (MyMontanaKitchen.com) has a yummy Keto Snickerdoodle Cookie recipe, delicious enough to become a holiday favorite for decades. But by far, my favorite keto-cooking website was originated by a former software engineer (who is also a mom) who has created not only great recipes but her own brand of keto sweeteners (Nature’s Besti) that bake up so much better than previous low-carb sweeteners. I have her first cookbook, as well as her Keto Holiday Cookbook, but originally started enjoying her expertise with her free recipes from the website, WholesomeYum.com.
The scents of Christmas also remind me of being with family and the carols of the season. I never realized until this year how often the lyrics integrate a particular sight, sound, and/or smell and how our five senses actually work together to help us appreciate them more. How blessed we are here in America that this traditional music fills the air in most of the places we shop over the holiday season! Of course, the carols are truly an expression of the Special Gift from our Creator, the ultimate free gift that God provided at Christmas with the fragrance of Life!
What if you could recreate some of your favorite scents even without cooking? When you take a fresh orange and peel it, essential oils from the peel burst forth into the air and provide an immediate mood booster. Did you know that because of the elements within essential oils, almost all of them have some type of mood-lifting characteristics? Maybe because the smells travel to our brain and connect to memories, such as how the smell of a campfire can provide feelings of security if related to a happy previous experience. And how many times have you noticed that when the smell of a cedar or pine tree permeates the room, you are transported back to childhood memories! But it isn’t just an emotional response: Most essential oils can actually cross the blood-brain barrier, affecting us at that level.
The holidays will be different this year, for the world is different. Families around the world have been longing for this season of pandemic to be over, but might not realize the power of scents and music to lift moods, to promote a more positive outlook. Nature is full of amazing aromas, different ones that come in different seasons, and as a clinically certified aromatherapy practitioner (CCAP), I have had hundreds of essential oils in my possession and found their uses to be varied, yet consistent and powerful. I always look for the highest-grade 100% pure essential oils without dilution of cheaper ingredients, as did our hospital system during our year-long certification aromatherapy course.
Within the certification course, we learned a multitude of ways to use topical, inhaled, or infused aromatherapy to compliment our health. First, we learned that essential oils should always be kept out of the reach of children, because even a teaspoon could be dangerous for young children. We were also taught that internal essential oil use was not recommended professionally, for that should only be prescribed by a physician and taken under medical supervision. But once aware of such concerns, anyone can safely create their own soaps, hand lotion, or even spray mist with a purpose, to allow you to enjoy the benefits of essential oils. A couple of non-MLM companies (Eden’sGarden.com & RockyMountail.com) produce their own quality oils, one even offers a free detailed guide with 150 ways to use oils including free DIY recipes. Most of the recipes use single essential oils instead of oil blends that have to be purchased from a particular company, so you can use whatever type of essential oils are readily available to you. As a nurse, I don’t recommend any particular essential oil brand, but would recommend that you get quality, certified oils.
So how do I use essential oils? Anytime we have a large family gathering, I diffuse them into the air for their anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. One favorite is Tea Tree Oil with its strong anti-infective components, alternating it with Ravintsara, that is a powerful anti-viral. If using oils topically, I always dilute to a very small percentage, usually 1-5%. Sometimes, I just infuse essential oils into the air for the sheer pleasure of the aroma. Here is a list of my 12 all-time favorites. In a future article, I will talk more about the uses of each:
- Tea Tree
- Cedarwood or Pine
Even with all of the challenges of this year, I believe that we are stronger when together, so I am looking forward to experiencing the variety of sights, sounds, and smells with family and friends as we come together to celebrate Christmas. It is my prayer that no matter what you’ve faced this year, that you will find a way to make peace with the past and prepare for the coming year. Hopefully, the reality and familiarity of Christmas will help.