My Problem with Essential Oils

There are so many fads out there it’s really hard to know what’s legit and what’s a scam. Diets, winning millions of dollars, organic versus ‘certified organics’ and even essential oils that only cost a couple of dollars.

A couple of years ago I was in remote Kenya doing a school program  and got badly sunburnt on my forehead. I didn’t even know it until I got to the Ngoswani Health Clinic to look at a potential project. Straight away Dr. Tonya marched me to an examination room and I had one of their international visitors apply a mixture of coconut oil and lavender essential oil.

I was SUPER sceptical but you know what, after a few minutes the burning started to subside. The attendant told me that the Masai love using the oils, even the men, which says a lot on this side of the world. I was given a 5ml bottle of the lavender oil to take home.


So all I know is what works for me – and that bottle is still being used.

The lavender is great because you can put it directly on your skin, which you can’t do for all oils. So mossie bites and eczema is now under control.

Frankincense is pretty expensive but man, it’s a great ‘natural drug’. I ended up with a frozen shoulder (not pleasant) and Pete would mix this with coconut oil and massage my shoulder blade. It has a anti inflammatory effect. It doesn’t go super hot like Deep Heat, it’s a gentle warmth.


When I got a massive blood clot in my leg, our youngest daughter, Hannah, made up for me a mixture of coconut oil, frankincense, lavender and Panaway (a combo of oils). I would rub it in a couple of times a day and while it smelt really nice, I wasn’t sure it was doing much. I was in so much pain, I was hoping for a magical quick fix. However, I kept persisting. I figured that at the least, my legs would be nicely moisturised. What I did find was that it totally cleared up a large eczema patch on my leg. Even now, months later, I still put the mixture on each day.


Because we live in a pretty warm country and I have to wear a compression stocking all day, I’ve found I get Athlete’s Foot occasionally. The same thing can happen if you don’t wear socks in your shoes, especially flats. I thought I would give Purification a go after researching for something that had antiseptic properties. Four days in and the rash has nearly gone.


I’m now slowly expanding the use of oils into things that we use daily like cleaners, moisturiser and even our toilet spray. I’ve already got face serum made with jojoba oil and some essential oils which I use once a day.


However, there’s three problems I have with essential oils:

  1. The market isn’t totally regulated. So while the label might say ‘essential’ it could be a mixture of a carrier oil (coconut, jojoba etc) and not pure. If you can buy an oil for a couple of dollars, it’s not the real deal. That’s why I stick with a well known brand like Young Living.
  2. Availability where I live. Because we’re only in New Zealand for a few months of the year, I have to plan out what I can order to get it on time. We can’t get them delivered here (yet), so I have to be super organised. I order through our daughter Hannah so I can pick them up in Auckland.
  3. I have to get into the habit of not using much. We’re used to using a lot of anything, but with essential oils, you only need a few drops. Even with the oil mixture I use instead of a moisturiser, I only use three drops from an eye dropper.

Essential oils are not the answer to the world’s problems but at my age I’ve only got just over 30 years left on this planet. I’d like to cut down on the chemicals and live a healthier lifestyle.

If you want to know more, or are keen to start using essential oils, feel free to contact Hannah, she’ll be more than happy to help you out. You can also follow her on Instagram as #oilymummanz




Hunting For Beads

So, I come up with this idea for our child sponsorship program and that is to get the kids to make a small gift for their sponsor. I was thinking of a bead bracelet of really nice handmade card. So now we have to find the materials.

Forget your local arts and crafts shop, think more like – it’s bigger than Ben Hur.

I know I will get ripped off because I’m a Mzungu (whitey) so I take my partner in crime and co-worker Joy with me.

my view from inside the matatu

my view from inside the matatu

Step one – get a matatu into town, but first you have to wait for it to fill up. We only waited for about 15 minutes so that’s pretty good.

Step two – walk for 5 hours around town visiting various touristy stores to see what they have on offer as well as several markets to see if we can bargain for a better price.

Our overall goal was to get some ideas for cards using local material to spruce them up and see where the beads come from.

This is Joy after 2 hours

This is Joy after 2 hours

At the Masai market (there’s stacks of them) no one was giving away their secrets, they just wanted us to buy something. I’m teaching some of our students on earth sciences and spotted a piece of pumice for around $1.50 which I thought was good. No way was Joy letting me spend that much, she reckons it’s only worth around 50c. No matter what I said she refused to let me buy it and said that I could get it for the same price at the local supermarket. For 2 days now I’ve looked at every shopping centre in the area and there is no pumice in sight. Hence as I am writing this Joy is going back into town to buy me a piece of pumice so I can talk to the students on volcanic rocks.

There are both locals and tourists at the market

There are both locals and tourists at the market

I’m glad I didn’t have much cash on me because there are some very cool things at these markets. You’ll see people making necklaces, carvings and trinkets. You didn’t get hassled like in other markets. It was quite relaced and orderly. Except there was one vendor who thought I was telling lies when I said I’d been here for 9 months because my skin wasn’t dark enough!

What we discovered in the end is that you can’t buy just plain white cards, you have to cut your own. Everyone at the markets buys their beads from some invisible person first thing in the morning, pulls apart the necklaces and then put them back together in a special design by the vendor.

Some of the very cool things for sale at the markets

Some of the very cool things for sale at the markets

After traipsing around for hours we headed to a bookstore in search of a book on volcanoes and what did we find – a bead shop. However we had to wait until 2pm because all the shops closed between 1 and 2 for lunch. When it did eventually opened we discovered a little Masai woman in their buying her beads to take back to the markets to sell. So this was their secret spot.

By 2.30pm we were absolutely starving and managed to find the one and only place to get something to eat in the whole of the area. I guess this is where everyone went for their lunch break while we meandered around the market. Beef stew, rice and a bottle of soda all for $5.

Bargaing necklaces down from $1.50 to $1. In the end we paid $1.30

Bargaining necklaces down from $1.50 to $1. In the end we paid $1.30

Of course as soon as we got back to the office (another matatu ride for 40c) someone announced that they knew of a place 2 hours drive from Nairobi that you can buy beads from.

Guess where my next adventure will be!

Always have a good pair of sneakers for the long walk ahead

Always have a good pair of sneakers for the long walk ahead