Essential oils for gardens AND gardeners!

Essential oils for gardens AND gardeners!

It’s no secret that nature is good for our wellbeing, but we don’t have to dash off to the countryside or visit a nature reserve to reap the benefits – we can simply spend some time in our garden.

The health benefits of gardening

Gardening has a number of miracle benefits for both physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s a good form of exercise – an hour’s worth of weeding burning between 200 and 400 calories – which can help decrease the risk of health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis and even dementia. As well as keeping us fit, our body releases endorphins during exercise that help combat stress and help us feel more happy and relaxed. Gardening may also help us enter the ‘zone’ – an almost meditative-like state where we can forget all our worries and cares. Finally, exposure to sunshine while out in the garden will top up our vitamin D levels and give our immune system a boost.

So, it’s easy to see why gardening should no longer be seen as a chore, but more of an investment in our health and wellbeing – not to mention we’ll be creating a beautiful environment that we can relax in and enjoy!

Essential oils for gardeners

Despite all of the above mentioned benefits and no matter how much we enjoy gardening though, there is no getting away from the fact that it can certainly take its toll on our bodies. We always recommend having 2 or 3 jobs “on the go” at once so you don't over-use and strain one specific set of muscles – but even then there are certain typical complaints that we can all suffer from when enjoying that special relationship with our gardens.

Most typical issues are lower back pain, hands with dry, cracked skin, (especially around the thumb and “green” finger tips), splinters from thorns/brambles, nettle rash, insect bites, Athlete's Foot (from too many hours in wellies) and general exhaustion! Despite all this we still think it's more than worth it!.

Luckily, nature is at hand as always, to help ease all that ails us. Aromatherapy offers many perfect options to ease those gardening ailments easily, quickly and safely – so get those oils out and mix up a few remedies before you get back out to work!

Soothing bath oil for tension and tiredness

Mix 50ml Bath Oil, 10 drops of Lavender oil, 5 Frankincense, 5 Sweet Marjoram and 5 Bergamot (this will do 5 baths). Shake well and add to bath after it is run - this will prevent the oils from vaporising before you can enjoy their scent and full therapeutic effects.

Gardener’s massage oil for stiff / strained muscles

Blend 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml Neem Oil, 5 drops Lavender essential oil, 5 Sweet Marjoram, 3 Clary Sage, 1 Black Pepper and 1 Eucalyptus. Massage into affected areas after a warm bath or shower.  For a ready to use option try our Muscles Massage Oil with Clary Sage, Marjoram, Lavender and Rosemary.

2-step anti-inflammatory remedy for nettle rash & skin irritations

Step one:

First of all, make up a paste with Bicarbonate of soda and water, and apply to the area to alkalise the sting and reduce swelling. Leave on for 10 minutes and then wipe off.

Step two:

Mix 45ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, 5ml Vitamin E Oil, 20 drops Lavender, 2 German Chamomile and 1 drop Peppermint. Mix well and apply liberally to reddened area.

Antiseptic cream

Blend 45ml Moisturising Cream, 5ml Neem Oil, 20 drops of Lavender essential oil, 5 Tea Tree and 5 Sandalwood and stir thoroughly. For splinter/thorns/scratches etc cleanse the area well and apply one drop of neat Tea Tree Oil. Then apply the cream to help prevent infection.

Super rich gardener’s hand cream

Take 40ml Moisturising Cream, add 5ml Vitamin E Oil, 5ml Neem Oil, and 10ml warmed Extra Virgin Coconut Butter, stir well and then add 5 drops Benzoin, 20 Lavender, 10 Sandalwood and 5 Geranium. Stir again and store in an airtight jar.

Tip – if you are suffering from dry, cracked thumbs try massaging in neat Coconut Butter before you get your hands in the soil/or put on your gloves - this will help prevent the dryness worsening. After gardening, wash your hands and apply the Super Rich Hand Cream. Also make sure you get plenty of Essential Fatty Acids in your diet as very dry skin can indicate a deficiency.

Athlete’s Foot Cream

Athlete's foot often arises when you go for long periods of time wearing trainers or wellies. The fungus takes hold in the damp, moist conditions, so let your feet out in the air whenever possible! Meanwhile apply this very effective and soothing treatment cream: 

Mix 50ml Moisturising Cream, 1 drop Peppermint,  10 drops Tea Tree and 10 Lavender. Massage into the affected areas every morning and evening. Also remember to dry the areas between your toes really well after every bath or shower.

Natural Insect Repellent

Mix 50ml Organic Moisturising Lotion with 5 drops each of Patchouli and Geranium, 2 Citronella and 1 Peppermint. Shake well before use and apply liberally. Spot test first on sensitive skin.

If you prefer to use a spray – try 50ml Lavender Hydrolat, 10 drops Geranium, 2 Citronella and 1 Eucalyptus. Spray over the top of old gardening clothes and in your hair to help keep those insects at bay.

Essential oils for gardens and plants

While many botanists used to believe that essential oils were ‘waste products’ of a plant’s metabolism, there is now evidence suggesting that they have an important biological role within the plant, such as providing defence against insects and animals, and being responsible for allopathic interactions that inhibit the growth of neighbouring plants – an important consideration for gardeners when planting out!

Terpenes and terpenoid compounds are highly aromatic substances found in plants and together they are the primary chemical constituents of essential oils.  Terpenoids can be toxic to animals and can also defend plants against herbivores and microbial pathogens. While some plants may inhibit the growth of those surrounding them, others, such as Chamomile and Hyssop, can have a favourable effect.

Essential oils in plants also play an important biological role in pollination.  Significantly, the scent from flowers is at its peak when the flowers are ready for pollination.  This generally coincides with the presence of the pollinator.  It may be argued, therefore, that using essential oils in the garden may help to attract bees and butterflies.

So, as well as using essential oils to maintain our own health and wellbeing, it’s easy to see how they can also be used within the garden to help maintain and improve plant health, resulting in stronger plants, higher yields and greater fragrance.  In fact, for those of us who prefer to have an effective alternative to commercial preparations, which some argue are harmful to both soil and ground water, essential oils are an excellent choice.

Essential oils commonly recommended for use in the garden include Lavender, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Pine, Sandalwood, Spearmint, Tea Tree and Thyme.

Some common garden problems are shown below together with recommended essential oils and methods of use:

Garden ProblemRecommended Essential Oil
Cabbage fly and bean beetle
Caterpillars, Moths
Spearmint or Peppermint
Greenflies, Blackflies, Whiteflies
Slugs and Snails
Fungus, MildewTea Tree
Ailing plantsChamomile

Methods of Use

Plant sprays

To deter insects and for anti-fungus and mildew protection mix 4-8 drops of essential oil in four litres of water for spraying onto flowers, fruit and vegetables. Use the solution sparingly.  Spray the plant making sure that you spray the leaves on top and underneath.  The solution can be applied several times over a few days for the best results.

Hanging strips to deter mosquitoes

Add three drops of Lemongrass essential oil to a dessert bowl of water and soak strips of pretty material or ribbon in the water before hanging onto the branches of trees!

Carton to deter slugs and snails

Bury an old yoghurt pot into the soil so that it's level with the top of the ground, add four drops of Pine essential oil and renew as required.

Watering can solution for ailing plants

Add six drops of Chamomile essential oil to two gallons of warm water, agitate the water and wait for it to cool.  Add half of this amount to a watering can and top up with cold water.  Use as required. Chamomile is known as the plants' physician and is thought to help strengthen sickly plants!

Joannah Metcalfe & Christine Fisk
Consultant Aromatherapists

Disclaimer & Safety Advice

Reading List

  1. Battaglia S. (2003) The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy 2nd Edition. Australia: International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

  2. Worwood V.A. (1991) The Fragrant Pharmacy, A Complete Guide to Aromatherapy and Essential Oils, 2nd Edition, Great Britain, Bantam

  3. (Accessed 08 June 2016)

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