In early January, the days begin to lengthen as we turn again toward spring. And though we recently celebrated the solstice and held various festivals to mark the return of the light, it may be too soon to detect the lengthening days. To get us through the winter, for millennia we human beings have used oils from plants to sustain our spirits and bodies. Here are five oils to bring into your life now and use all year round.
1. Sesame oil is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. To soothe dry skin on the feet, and to calm the Vata (the biological energy which governs movement in the body), which gets stirred up in winter by the cold dry air, try this bedtime ritual: take a warm bath, then lightly towel dry your feet and massage sesame oil into their soles. Slip your feet into wool socks and let the sesame oil work its soothing, grounding magic all night long.
2. Coconut oil is lovely for moistening dry, peeling cuticles and brittle nails. You can rub a little in any time, and it’s especially nice to do this before bed, then put on light cotton gloves so your body can soak it in as you sleep.
3. Almond oil makes an excellent whole body massage oil. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for some aromatherapy: lavender will calm you down, lemon will refresh you, eucalyptus can help open your sinuses.
4. Since Cleopatra’s time, olive oil has held a well-deserved place in the cosmetics kits of the young and old. Olive oil soothes and moisturizes the skin, and does not clog pores. After your shower or bath, leave your face a little moist and massage a teaspoon of olive oil into your skin. Leave it on fifteen minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water–or leave it on your face overnight.
5. Argan oil lives in my medicine chest, because it’s cold outside, and though we are not bears, I’m still thankful for my full head of hair, which does its part to keep my head warm. To thank my hair and the scalp that holds it, I apply a tablespoon of argan oil several times per week. This fairly new oil on our shores comes to us from its native Morocco, where it has long been used for beauty and health. Cute bonus fact: my sources tell me Moroccan goats enjoy hanging out in Argan tree branches.
Quick quiz: Did you notice that all of these oils are edible? The skin absorbs substances you put on it, just as efficiently as your digestive system absorbs what you eat. So, as with any substance you would eat, make sure the oils you choose to put on your body come from sources grown without pesticides; cold press is the purest method of extraction of the oil from its source. The Co-op carries many brands of oils in jars, or you can find them in the bulk aisles, along with a few pretty glass bottles or jars for storage. Do not store oils in plastic, but rather in glass or stainless steel; keep these in a cool, dark location to keep your oils fresh from this winter through spring and even into summer.