My longtime pal of 42-years, Gaye Levy, is not only a widely-acknowledged “princess of prepping” but she’s also one of the best sources on the Internet when comes to something called “essential oils.”

Before we get into the specifics here, a few words about our “co-mingled histories.”

In 1972, or so, we both lived in a large apartment complex in south Seattle. We knew each other from work — she did a short stretch in government service and I was a young rock & roll news director at the time.

We never dated – it was more a sister-brother kind of relationship (still is). I met her husband-to-be back then and she met what would turn out to be the “one before Elaine.”

Personal stuff, but it gets to a point: We would occasionally cook large enough meals that we would share. I made high-calorie Danish food (meatloaf and gravy, anyone?) but her specialty was a burgundy beef stew that was absolute, blow-your-socks-off, great.

Since we’re both intensely curious sorts, I asked her “How the hell do you get such amazing taste out of your stew?

She revealed her secret: fresh herbs that she grew on her apartment balcony. That, along with a few tomato pots, and carefully-chosen meats and….just incredible.

There was fresh rosemary, basil, tarragon…well, she’ll have to rerun her recipe over on the Strategic Living Blog site one of these days, but I think this “grow it yourself” and then actually using FRESH plant essence left an indelible mark on her.

Nowadays, she’s totally into “essential oils” and is (rightfully) opinionated about what works.

One of her recipes (to fight aging) involves a handful of oils (lavender, frankincense, and rose hip oil in a jojoba carrier oil) and it’s so good that Elaine’s taken to using it on a daily basis. The recipe for this “serum” is on her site over here.

One more story, then to some questions. A year or two back, I asked her in passing “What can I do to keep wasps and mud daubers out of the shop?”

Get some clove oil, mix about one part oil four parts water and spray around the door frames.”

This year (and it was a buggy one) there wasn’t a SINGLE new mud dauber nest to be found anywhere in the shop. Plus, the place didn’t have that “stale shop smell” you can get, either.

Point is,, there are a lot of very cool uses for essential oils for repelling bugs and for emergency medicinal uses. See her article on how to “Find Relief from Pesky Mosquito Bites with this Anti-Itch Spray…

How does this fit into prepping? I mean besides Elaine will continue to look like a cover-girl right up to the last and I won’t be killed by a cloud of bugs?

To the questions!

  1. What are some of the top essential oils you would recommend preppers have on hand? Got a “top 5” or “top 10” list?

With so many essential oils available, it is difficult for even the most experienced users to find a use for every single one.  Case in point, I have two dozen oils in my backup stash that I have not even tried.  Why? You might ask?  The reason you do not need to own every single oil on the planet is that there is a lot of overlap in EO properties.  This means that a number of oils can do the same thing and deliver the same, very similar results.

To answer your question, though, here are the oils that I consider my top 5 must have oils:  Lavender, Rosemary, Peppermint, Melaleuca (also known as Tea Tree) and Oregano.  In addition, there are two blends that I rely on.  One is an immunity/protective blend and the other is a digestive blend.  I happen to get these blends from a company called Spark Naturals, but other companies sell these blends as well.

Tip:  You can also concoct your own immunity blend from a variety of single oils.  This is only cost-effective, however, if you already own the other oils.  Here is the recipe if you want to check it out: Make Your Own Essential Oil Protective & Immunity Blend

  1. How well do they store?

The best way to store essential oils is in a cool, dark place.  Think food storage; the same conditions apply.  During the hot summers of Arizona, I keep my unopened, backup oils in the refrigerator although, since my AC is never set higher than 85 degrees, this not be necessary.  I have never had an oil go bad.

One thing to note is that quality oils are sold in dark bottles so the “dark” part is taken care of for you.

  1. Have you put together a compendium (or do you know of one) where newbies can get a few recipes for key prepping uses like bugs, medical, and skincare?

Hahaha, George, talk about a subtle nudge.  Seriously, though, I really should do that.  Or, at the very least, post more of tried and true recipes on my website.

  1. I know when we’ve talked in the past, you get livid at some of the quality issues with essential oils… which brands are most dependable and where can people find out whether a given brand is good or not so not?

As essential oils have become a mainstream commodity, a number of marketing companies have put together their own brands.  Many of these are sold on Amazon or at stores like Wal-Mart or your local grocery store and they are fake.  Here is a rule of thumb:  if the price is too good to be true, move on.  For example, a 5ml bottle of Lavender will cost $5 to $10 dollars.  If you see a one or two-ounce bottle for this price, you are likely dealing with a fake.

Another thing:  good oils smell nice.  If you open a bottle of essential oil and it smells like paint thinner, it is a fake.  And remember, any reputable company will back their product and exchange it or offer a refund if you are not satisfied.

I happen to purchase most of my oils from a Utah company, Spark Naturals.  Over the years, I have gotten to know the owner and key members of his staff.  I trust them and get the results I want from their oils. They sell direct via their website (shipping is free) plus they have an Amazon store.

But they are just one brand.  Other brands to consider are Plant Therapy, Edens Garden, and Florihana (sold by Tropical Traditions). In addition, a budget-friendly brand to add to your cleaning products Is NOW foods.  These oils are the real thing but not quite as potent as some of the other brands.

(George Note: NOW Brand supplements are great, too – get ’em on Amazon.)

Missing from this list are the two big brands sold by independent representatives: doTerra and Young Living.  These are excellent oils but very expensive with minimum purchase requirements and everything else that comes with an MLM organization.

  1. Can you make any essential oils at home? Like grow the plants, extract the oils…and how’s what all work. Anyone making a stainless steel oil press?

Essential oils are distilled from plant material and not pressed.  It is not an easy process and to do this at home, you would need a lot of technical knowledge.  In addition, there would be a significant cash outlay.

On the other hand, something you can do at home is make an infusion by soaking dried flowers or herbs in an oil (such as olive oil) for a few weeks.  You can then use this infused oil as an ingredient in a homemade healing salve.  I have done this in the past with great success, using infused oregano oil as a substitute for EVOO in my “Miracle Healing Salve“.

  1. You’re fairly precise about whether something’s a mix, a serum, or a (whatever)…Since precision of language precedes precision in thought, help us understand what a “serum” is as opposed to a what…potion?

First of all, it is important to note that essential oils must be diluted before use.  They are highly concentrated and it is wasteful and sometimes dangerous to use them full strength.  Typical dilution rates are 2% to 5% although is some isolated circumstances I go up to 10%.

To put this into perspective, a 2% dilution would be 12 drops per ounce of carrier oil, 5% would be 30 drops, and 10% would be 60 drops.  As you can see, a little goes a long way.

Back to your question.

I imagine that there is a more precise definition then I am going to make but for all intents and purposes, a serum is quite viscous, like a thick liquid, whereas a salve is more of cream.  In addition to serums and salves, you will also see the term “roller ball” used.  A roller ball vessel is a small glass bottle typically filled with some essential oils plus a liquid carrier oil.  It is topped by a roller ball that makes the application both simple to use and portable.

  1. There’s no question about essential oils for some things – like bug bites – but what about some of the other “natural treatments” (mud, stinging nettle, and so on) that get written up on “prepper sites.” Do you even bother collecting the “natural/aboriginal” cures or are essential oils the best bang for the buck?

I have never had much luck with herbal remedies and even the widely touted Elderberry did nothing for me.  That is not to say they don’t work but rather that I have chosen to take a different path.

  1. How much should a typical urban couple have tied up in “essential oil inventory?” Is there a way to start cheap ($50 bucks, say) and then slowly acquire what you need?

The top 5 oils I listed above plus the two blends will set you back about $50 if not less.  I would start there.

Once you are comfortable with essential oils, start thinking about problems you want to solve and research the oils that will work best.  Don’t do what I did and acquire a bunch of oils up front that sit in a drawer because you do not know what to do with them.

  1. Let’s talk about mixing: Tell us about containers and how closely you have to follow the recipes calling for “so many drops of thing, so many drops of that…”

This is really a two-part question.

For containers, I have a variety at my disposal.  They include 1 ounce and 2-ounce jars, roller balls, inhalers, and even some small glass spray bottles.  I prefer glass but have been known to use plastic jars as well.  I have listed a number of my favorites on the Resource page on my website.

As far a precise mixing goes, I try to be as accurate as possible so that I am not wasteful.  Less is more when it comes to essential oils so often times, I will start with one formula and cut back on the number of drops to get the results I want.  Occasionally, I will kick things up a notch to get better results but that does not happen too often.


Some could argue that Essential Oils – like Gaye covers in great detail on the StrategicLivingBlog site – isn’t really prepping, per se.

Whether it is depends on your perspective:  Can they help fight aging?  Can they help with skin conditions?  Make soaps and ointments and such?  Then yes, it’s all part of the Big Picture.

Prepping is about a lot more than “Guns, Grub, and Gold.”  It’s about the skills and learning to live  more in concert with Nature.  It’s in this larger context that EO’s are worth study since they are useful to treat all kinds of abrasions we ramble along the road called life…

Write when you get rich,

george@ure.net

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