When I began FERN+FELL I wanted to make the most natural candles, wax melts, and diffusers possible. I wanted to reduce the amount of synthetic, unnecessary chemicals in my own home. My personal health journey led me towards holistic remedies and into the world of aromatherapy & essential oils. So, after 10 years making candles, I made the move away from perfumes and fragrance oils towards using only 100% pure essential oils.
What are essential oils?
Many plants contain highly concentrated, naturally occurring chemical compounds beneficial to our health. For centuries in many cultures and traditions across the globe, the oils from plants have been distilled and used to support health and wellbeing.
First recorded uses of essential oils dates to India, Egypt, and Persia nearly 6500 years ago, however the cave paintings at Lascaux in France suggest the use of medicinal plants, carbon dating suggests these cave paintings date to 15-17,000 years ago.
Steam distillation is the most popular method of extracting and isolating the oil form the plant, but extraction can also be achieved via water, cold press and using solvents to name a few processes. Essential Oils are used in perfumes, medicines, ointments, holistic treatments, and cleaning products.
The 3 reasons I love essential oils
1. They are natural, pure & simple
When it comes to fragrance (in my opinion), you just cannot beat the original, natural smell.
A multi-billion-dollar global industry exists, (using the latest scientific advancements), to create fragrances which mimic the aroma of natural scents. But they never quite capture the true, natural essence. This industry just can’t compete with nature, natural fragrance wins hands down, every time. I have never smelled a synthetic fragrance oil that is as good as the real deal, many do smell very pleasant of course, just never as realistic as the original – it’s a bit like always being able to taste artificial sweeteners in drinks, there is an after taste ( or aroma) which just doesn’t quite connect to the senses in the same way as a natural ingredient.
2. Support wellbeing, tailor fragrance to mood
It is not just about a great aroma with essential oils. Different oils have traditionally been used to deliver different health benefits. With so many positive benefits for our wellbeing, it’s possible to tailor a fragrance to suit your mood or desired response.
No two people smell the same smell, just in the same way no two people see the same shade of a colour. Smell is a deeply personal experience, and our previous subjective experiences and memories can impact our senses of smell too. Whist we all have our own unique sense, I have a collection of fragrances I turn to when I want to create a desired response or support my mood:
To relax - I always head for oils which contain blends of cedar, geranium, basil, or ginger lily. These scents for me instantly relax me
To clear my mind and sharpen my focus – I use blends which contain lime, lemon, rosemary lemongrass or eucalyptus – these fresh, sharp, and aromatic aromas give me an added mood boost.
To uplift my mood– I favour bright citrus scents like lime, mandarin, tangerine, and bergamot give me a feeling of added energy.
3. Connection to nature through fragrance
Feeling connected to nature is especially important in my daily life (l also run a biophilic interiors design business when I’m not making candles) - my sense of smell plays a huge part in me feeling connected to nature. It works for me as a means to support my wellbeing, by seeking our the simplest of pleasures - a nice smell, which makes me mindful of the natural world around me, in that particular moment.
Our sense of smell can be an extremely powerful tool to help us feel connected to natural systems, to notice the passage of time by embracing the seasonal shifts. One of the simplest yet most powerful ways I have found to make this nature connection in my home is through fragrance. Using essential oils around my home to give me a direct sensory connection to nature. I mark the seasonal shifts by changing the fragrances I use - come spring I use more aromatic and citrus combinations like rosemary + lemon or basil +lime, in early summer I like the fresh zesty scent of grapefruit + mint. Late summer gives way to warmer, sultry blends like rosewood +geranium and the advent of the darker nights of autumn and winter with spiced pumpkin and a festive spiced orange.
My ultimate happy place, out in nature, is walking through a woodland or forest. This is where I feel most relaxed, my shoulders drop, and I feel most connected to nature. This feeling inspired my Woodland fragrance, I wanted to recreate this sensory experience at home. After a walk in the woods, I come home and light a woodland candle - my sensory association connecting me to that place which makes me feel most calm and relaxed. Such a simple act that can evoke a deep connection.
A note on natural resources – it’s complicated
When you take any natural resource from the earth it is never straight forward action, it is always complicated. I couldn’t write about essential oils and not mention the issue of sustainability. As more people become tuned into the natural world and seek holistic approaches to support their wellbeing, the more demand there is on all natural resources.
Yes, essential oils are natural BUT there are wider issues about sustainability that also need to be considered. Is my supplier chain ethically sourced? how many resources are used in production? is the crop native and wild or a managed and controlled monocrop? and what are the issues surrounding natural supply, as some ingredients like Sandalwood have become endangered. It isn’t always easy getting any answers (I've tried), let alone the answer you actually want.
Making a natural product can be fraught with complications you didn’t even know existed when you started, but it is all about finding a balance - like invisible moral scales “if I take this, where can I put that back”. In my journey (which is far from perfect) I strive to keep making progress with every element of my business as I develop, but I don’t always get it right an. I have to try again or find an alternative solution to a problem. I often go to bed at night thinking about how I can take the next step on this journey, what can I do next? what little changes can I make? So I make tweaks to ingredients, to packaging and constantly search for new suppliers - as I learn more, I can change more. For now, all I can do to take baby steps.
This entire process is a long-term journey not a fast destination that can be reached, perfectly, in one step. The crucial point is to keep trying, keep talking and keep learning. I currently work with a UK supplier who understands the importance of cruelty free ingredients, as well as products, packaging, and processes which are as eco-friendly as possible yet strives to keep making improvements as they grow and begun questioning their own supply chain.