Winter is a time for rest and renewal and building inner strength for the re-birth of Spring, a necessary part of the cycle of life. It is a time for preserving energy and spending time quietly, allowing yourself to take things easy, for curling up in front of a fire with a cat or dog on your feet.
However, for those of us with animals the forced inactivity brought on by bad weather and long, cold nights can take a toll on mental and physical health. Animals who are confined can become bored and all their systems are compromised by lack of movement. Old animals, in particular, can suffer from the cold or damp weather.
Essential oils can provide you with an easy enjoyable way to support your animals’ body and mind at this time. Plus, as we humans often need a reason to stop ‘doing’ and honour the rhythms of winter, offering essential oils for self-selection is the perfect excuse to hang out quietly and just ‘be’ with your fur-friend.
Essential oils can help two and four-legged family members stay healthy and happy, whatever the weather throws at you. First of all, essential oils reduce stress. Keeping stress levels low keeps the immune system fighting-fit so it can hold off winter bugs. Essential oils can also be anti-infectious, immune stimulant, relaxing, and anti-depressant. The best oils to offer in winter are those that are warming or uplifting, or strengthen the Kidney meridian.
Here are my top ten winter essential oils/hydrosols.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia): brings sunshine to a gloomy day, lifting depression and balancing moods. In human therapy it is used for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is also anti-viral, kills airborne bacteria and tonifies the Kidney meridian. Add 10 drops of bergamot and 20 drops of Eucalyptus oil to 10ml of rubbing alcohol or vodka, then add that to 250 ml of water, shake well and spray to ward off infections. Caution: phototoxic donot apply to skin that will be exposed to sunlight.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis): one of the best oils for old animals or anyone who seems more adversely affected by cold. Deeply warming this oil can take the chill from your bones and is great for arthritis, also combats lung infections and stimulates digestion. Makes you feel you have the strength to lift your feet out of the mud! Caution: harsh on the skin.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus): opens up the airways to ease breathing and combats upper respiratory tract and sinus infections, use with bergamot as described above. It also helps relieve the frustration of being enclosed.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita): because of its ability to focus the mind and stimulate the brain peppermint can help relieve boredom, useful for those who are in forced confinement, especially if they are a little defensive of their personal space. It also cools the lungs relieving airway congestion and is an excellent digestive. Caution: do not use on broken skin.
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) where would Christmas be without Frankincense? This oil slows and deepens breathing so is good for asthmatic conditions. It is the best oil for fear of known things, very useful if there are fireworks, or other scary holiday celebrations.
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha): another winter special, myrrh is good for those who suffer from the mud and the rain with reactive skin. It is anti-fungal and anti-infectious and helps heal cracked, oozing skin. Emotionally, it can lift the spirits giving a feeling of calm relaxation.
Lemon (Citrus limonum): a very good immune stimulant, so helps fight off infections of all kinds, and is anti-viral. It is also uplifting bringing a hint of spring brightness to the darkest days.
Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) This oil is a powerful immune stimulant, anti-infectious agent, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, so indispensable for getting you through the winter months. It is also good for muscle fatigue. Psychologically it is relaxing.
Marjoram (Origanum majorana) Marjoram is another warming oil. It is anti-spasmodic and analgesic so is good for sore muscles, arthritis and gastric spasms. It is deeply relaxing and lowers blood pressure, very good for anxiety and addictive behaviours. Caution: do not use if blood pressure is low.
Juniperberry (Juniperus communis) Another one for aching bones and muscles, and especially good for arthritis. It is also cleansing for the kidneys and lungs. It is very good for those who feel unsettled in crowds or are disturbed and unable to settle in a busy environment with lots of coming and going.
Always let your animals select the oils they need as in the video below. Or you can read the basics of how to offer essential oils for selection here. If you would like to learn more check out our online courses
I leave you with this from Su Wen, one of Chinese medicine’s seminal treatizes.
“The three months of winter
are called closing and preserving.
Water freezes, the earth is broken up.
One goes to bed early, one gets up late,
doing everything according to the light of the sun;
exerting the will as if buried or hidden,
taking care only of oneself.
One must avoid the cold and seek the warmth..
letting nothing flow out of the layers of the skin
through fear of losing qi.
This is the way that is natural to the qi of winter
which thus corresponds
to the maintenance and preservation of life.
To go against this current would injure the kidneys
causing weakening in spring
through insufficient contribution to the generation of life.”