Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui for Small Spaces

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I am trying to use more basic Feng Shui tips to make my medium-sized bedroom into a sort of mini convertible studio. During the day I would fold my bed up into a mini couch and have much more open space to do yoga and other activities. Then during the night I would unfold my bed and use ceiling curtains to separate my office area from the bed area (with balanced elements on both sides of the bed). Oh and the bed lays on the ground, which I personally find most comforting. What do you think about this setup in terms of Feng Shui? I really need to have a sanctuary at home from all the intense things going on in my life.

Tenzin C., Easthampton, MA

Hi Tenzin,

Thank you for sending in your question! Your description is careful and thorough, so I can only imagine that your bedroom is laid out with as much attention. 

I’m guessing that you live in a roommate situation, so your bedroom is where you find your personal space. It sounds like your daily ritual of transforming your bed into a sofa is beneficial. Not only do you have more space for your daily activities, but you have also created a separate “daytime” space for more active applications that goes hand in hand with daytime. The visual separation with curtains of your bed from the office is also wonderful, so that active yang energy will transition into the yin sleepy time when it’s appropriate. Plus you don’t have a bed in the daytime - which can prove difficult in a studio apartment setting. Seeing the bed while working can affect your attention and motivation. Also, good job on the balanced bed elements, probably nightstands and lights

The only thing I may comment on is the bed on the ground. In feng shui, it’s ideal to have the bed off the ground, on a stable bed frame with headboard so that the air and qi can flow around you while you’re sleeping. This is good for your health. Also, if you’re prone to depression, the proximity to the floor may correspond to the low mood. However, you have described you find the bed on the ground “comforting”, so pay attention that that. If it feels correct for you, then it’s okay. Especially if you don’t have a tendency towards depression.

You mentioned that there are intense things going on in your life. I don’t know the details, but I can suggest a feng shui adjustment to lighten things up! It can be very simple, but I’ll offer two suggestions. First, bringing fresh cut flowers into the bedroom. You can collect them yourself, or get some from the store. But fresh flowers uplift the qi and bring joy. Second, purchasing a new lamp where the light shines up. A Torchiere like this one works wonderfully. Again, this lifts the energy and can balance the low bed.  

Overall, I think that you’ve done a wonderful job of creating a feng shui studio sanctuary in your bedroom. All the attention to the details and the ritual aspect provide a lot of positive energy in the space. 

by Anjie Cho


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design feng shui cerfication program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-do business boosters for soulpreneurs and wellness practitioners”  coming up, too! check us out at www.mindfuldesignschool.com

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our a unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


Visit the Holistic Spaces Store

Brighten Your Apartment: 6 Simple Tricks

Not everyone has the luxury of having big windows that let in ample sunlight. Most apartments have at least one room or space that is continually dark. A dark room can cause accidents, eye-strain, and even a sour disposition. If you’d like to illuminate your space – without taking a sledgehammer to your walls – try a few of these apartment-brightening tricks. A brighter space will lead to a brighter mood!

Paint your walls a light color

Dark walls actually soak up the light, making the room seem darker – even when you put the lights on. But lighter colors have a higher LRV, or “light reflectance value.” LRV tells you how much useable light is reflected by a surface. Wall colors with a higher LRV help to spread light deep into a space. 

Use eggshell or semi-gloss paint

Flat finishes absorb light, while glossier paints reflect the light back into the room. One warning, though: Because of the light reflection, a glossy finish does call attention to any flaws in the wall.

Keep your ceiling white 

It’s amazing the difference that a white ceiling makes on a room. Even if you have dark walls, a white ceiling will help keep the darkness from overwhelming the space. My go-to color is Benjamin Moore Super White in a flat finish -- it's the most reflective for ceilings.

Add more lamps

Yes, this seems obvious. But many apartment dwellers rely solely on overhead lights to illuminate the rooms. Light needs to come from various levels – low, middle, and high. Combining uplights on the floor and lamps on tables around the room with overhead lighting will create a brighter, more comfortable space. In feng shui, uplighting can also lift your mood and energy.

Hang large mirrors

Large mirrors can act like windows, reflecting the light back into the room. 

Choose reflective surfaces 

Just like walls, other large surfaces can absorb or reflect your light. Opt for glossy countertops, add glass panes to your hanging artwork, and place mirrored trays on top of dark tables.

Light is important for your physical and mental health. So make sure your home is gets as much light as possible!

by Anjie Cho


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


7 Rules of Mindful Renovation

featured this month on Hunker by Laura Lambert

  image credit: Describe the Fauna  via  Hunker

image credit: Describe the Fauna via Hunker

There's mindful eating. Mindful breathing. But mindful renovation? Well yes, of course. The mindfulness revolution absolutely belongs in the home, because home is where we retreat, recharge, and reimagine ourselves. But what is mindful renovation, exactly?

"One of the ways that my teachers describe mindfulness is paying attention to all the details in your life, whether it's making a cup of tea or your environment," says Anjie Cho, an architect and feng shui consultant who practices mindful design and writes about it on her blog, Holistic Spaces. "Mindful renovation is also like that."

Mindful renovation is informed by so many things that Cho has embraced in her own life — feng shuimeditation, Buddhism, as well as architecture and design. It's about slowing down and paying attention to how the space around us makes us feel, and using that quiet intelligence to inform design decisions. It's also about making choices — like using high quality, green materials, or paying your craftsmen well — that have a thoughtful impact on the world around you. And it's as much about the process of renovating as it is the colorstextures, placement, and finishes.

...read full article


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


Q&A Sunday: Best Feng Shui Location for an Altar or Shrine

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I read your "9 Feng Shui Things in Bedroom" and find it helpful. I'm currently remodeling my whole home. My question that I've tried to find an answer to in my books and online: Where is the best position to place an altar...what direction, and is the bedroom not a good place to have it? I am a single woman and my bedroom is in the front right section of the bagua map. 

Carolyn K., 

Hi Carolyn,

Thank you for your question, and I’m so glad you like the MindBodyGreen article, “9 Things That Should Be in Your Bedroom (According to a Feng Shui Healer)”.

Wonderful that you have an altar (or shrine) in your home. My first response would be to ask what’s most appropriate from your teachers and spiritual lineage. If there’s no specific place required, the next suggestion would be to locate it where you will use it. I’m assuming this is where you would practice meditation, so it’s a good idea to have it placed so that it works for you functionally. 

When I created my first altar, it was after I started studying and practicing BTB feng shui. My teachers taught me that, if we’d like, we could create an altar in the BTB feng shui tradition to honor the teachings and as a focal point for our attention. We were even encouraged to assemble “altar committees” in class so that we could have a special sacred place in the classroom. Here we offered an image of the teacher (a Buddha and/or Professor Lin Yun), a musical instrument, a red ribbon on a stick, saffron water, rice, and a mirror in a rice bowl.

Since I live in a small New York City apartment, I have my shrine in the living room. I’ve even included a photo of it here. If I had more space, I would like to have a separate shrine room near the rear of the home. It’s ideal if the shrine can be in a more private space. I’ve been told that the bedroom traditionally is not great, as it’s seen as disrespectful for the Buddha’s image to gaze upon our romantic activities. But remember, the mundane and functional is as important as the spiritual and transcendental. It’s up to you and your specific situation. I can only share guidelines.

I have a spiritual Buddhist shrine, but there are also secular altars that you can create. Laura Morris (together we founded the Mindful Design Feng Shui school) has a blog post about more secular altars. An image of a deity is not required... you can even have a vision board or beautiful inspiration piece of art, like from my talented friend Amy T Won. On my shrine I also have a manifestation list and my ikebana cutters. The cutters are there to remind me to "cut my thoughts" and a tool of my contemplative art practice.

Since I practice BTB feng shui, the direction is not important. However, my shrine is located in the commanding position of the living room. And when I sit to meditate, I face the shrine, so I’ve also placed a small convex mirror so that when I’m sitting, I can see behind me as well. This corrects and places me in command as I meditate. But the Buddha holds the leading seat - the seat that’s most in command.

On a final note, wherever your altar ends up, you can see what area of the feng shui bagua maps it corresponds with. Or alternatively, if you have total flexibility, you could choose the feng shui bagua map location based on your intention. For instance, the Knowledge (dark blue) area would be wonderful if you seek to deepen your self-cultivation. The center area of your home, or the Health area, would be useful to have your altar become the central focal point of your life. A shrine in the New Beginnings area might give you a sense of freshness and nowness every time you sit to practice.

As with so many aspects of BTB feng shui, the optimal placement of your altar does depend on you and your preferences. Of course it helps to observe any feng shui guidance, so I would encourage you to consider the feng shui bagua and the energy of the area when selecting your altar space. Don't forget to arrange your altar with intention as well!

by Anjie Cho


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


Visit the Holistic Spaces Store

DIY Terrariums with Margaret West

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Terrariums are increasingly popular houseplants, but arrangements can get expensive. My talented and crafty sister, Margaret, shared with us how to make beautiful miniature terrariums with succulent plants, so you can make your own arrangement!

A terrarium is generally a transparent enclosure or similar container for cultivating plants. This version is not sealed, but is enclosed in a small container. Margaret’s interest in miniature terrariums started while browsing Pinterest. She opted for succulents, as they are a bit heartier than other houseplants. Their ease of care makes them a good choice.

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Margaret browsed the web for instructions on assembling her terrariums. Everyone has a slightly different way of doing things, so Margaret recommends you adapt her instructions based on what materials you can find.

So, let's get started!!! 

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First, the supplies:

THE CONTAINER.  Margaret used glass containers she had left over from flower arrangements. You can find vases like this second-hand at thrift stores or garage sales. Have fun finding containers in interesting shapes! It’s helpful if they don’t have a lot of patterns on the surface of the glass, obscuring the view of your plants. She also used hanging glass terrarium globes that were purchased online. They are easy to find as single pieces or in larger sets in bulk. Margaret prefers the flat bottom globes, they are simpler to travel with because they do not roll around. She also recommends the globes that are meant to be votive candle holders. The additional holes make it easier to water the plants.

SOILOrganic soil is always preferable to synthetic-chemically treated potting soil. Margaret recommends an aerated mix such as a cactus blend, rather than general potting soil. The cactus blend has more sand and rocks mixed in. She likes “E.B. Stone Organics” Cactus blend. If you can’t find an aerated blend, mix some porous rocks, such as perlite, into your mix.  

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GRAVEL.  Gravel is easy to find at a pet store or aquarium. Margaret opted for the neutral earth tones, but she’s seen people use colored glass, black or white stones, and even sand instead. The size of the gravel depends on the size of the container as well as your preference. If you’re using 4” diameter globes, a 3-5mm pebble size is appropriate. For larger container, you can use the smaller pebbles, or go bigger, like 10-16mm.

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL. You can find this at your local pet store or aquarium too. It’s mixed into and used to filter the soil and minimize any odors. Any leftover activated charcoal you have can be used in a satchel in your closet or shoes, again to minimize unwanted odors. 

SUCCULENTS. Margaret suggests you purchase 2" or smaller sized plants at your local nursery. In NYC, I love Sprout in Brooklyn. You can also find varieties of small succulents on Etsy. Margaret’s favorite at the moment is the Echeveria, because they look like little roses and come in different colors. Avoid purchasing cuttings, which don’t have roots yet. Instead, look for potted plants with root systems.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS. A spoon, mixing bowl, and soft bristle brush, such as a ½” wide paint brush.

Finally, it’s time for the assembly!  If possible, this part should be done outside to minimize the clean up.

1.  CLEAN THE CONTAINER. It is a good idea to start with a clean container. It will get messy as we assemble the terrarium, but starting out clean keeps the cleaning you’ll do later to a minimum. The soft bristle brush is excellent for wiping off the dust.

2.  MIX THE SOIL AND CHARCOAL. Combine 5 parts soil with 1 part charcoal, and mix thoroughly. Add water to this mixture; the soil should be moist, but not wet. How much water to add will depend on how dry the soil is to start with. We recommend ¼ cup increments. Add a little at a time; you can always add more water. If you overwater, just add a little bit more soil and charcoal. Make sure the entire soil mixture is combined well.

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3.  PREPARE THE PLANTS. Squeeze the outside of the plant container to loosen the soil and roots. Then tip the plant upside down and lightly pinch container until the plant comes out with the roots intact. Gently massage the root system, to release the loose dirt. The goal is to have the root system exposed and loosened, because there will not be enough room in the container for all the soil.

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4.  ADD GRAVEL.  Now is a great time to rinse your hands off. With clean hands, add gravel to the bottom of the container. Margaret suggests using a spoon to ease the pebbles through the small opening of your container. Add about 1/2" layer of gravel for a 4" bulb. Then add a thin layer of charcoal on top of the gravel. This layer of gravel and charcoal will drain the soil, which is especially helpful if you overwater.

5.  ADD SOIL/CHARCOAL MIXTURE AND PLANT. Next add a couple spoons of the soil mixtures into your container. Margaret likes to make a well for the plant to go into, with more soil towards the back of the container. Loosely wrap the root system into a ball, and gently place the succulent plant roots down into the soil. Move the soil around with your fingers to gently pack in the roots. At this point, you can add more soil as required to cover the roots. 

6.  FINISH OFF WITH SOIL AND GRAVEL. Once you have the soil level as you like it and the plants where you want them, spoon a single thin layer of gravel on top. This is decorative and also helps to keep the soil layer in place. Use the soft bristle brush to clean off any dirt and gravel from the sides of the container as well as from the plant(s).

And voila! Your own beautiful miniature succulent terrarium!

If you need some inspiration on the plant arrangement, check out Margaret’s Succulents Pinterest board. You can also look at Sprout’s gallery. Margaret reminds us that odd numbers tend to look best, but two can also work. Pay attention to the size of our container.  And look around the web for inspiration!

CARING FOR YOUR NEW TERRARIUM. Keep the terrarium in indirect sunlight. Although succulents love sun, because it's a terrarium, the heat gets amplified like the greenhouse effect. Lightly water your plants every two weeks, or as needed. A good way to tell when using a glass container is to water when you start to see the soil turn light brown and dry. Be careful not to overwater! Remember that succulents need very little water. 

by Anjie Cho

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Margaret West is my fabulous and brilliant younger sister and mother to my adorable nieces, Mia and Julia. Margaret has always enjoyed doing crafts and DIY projects.  She lives with her family in Seal Beach, California.  Follow her on Pinterest

 

How to Spring Clean & Green your Beauty Cabinet with Anjie Cho

featured this month on Modern Minerals by Mo Mi

  image credit: Lotus Wei

image credit: Lotus Wei

In the late summer of 2015, I was in Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan where I found a book titled “108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces“. I was in a bit of a rush, but snapped a photo of this because I knew this was something I needed to read. At the time I was with my Mom and said “I would love to meet this designer one day”. A year later, my friend Katie Hess invited me to a super moon soirée on the roof top of building in Flatiron. I sat down next to Anjie and we started talking and I immediately knew we were going to be friends. It wasn’t until in 2017 that I had finally got around to organizing my photos when I found this photo I had taken in 2015 to remind me I wanted to read this book, and to my surprise the author was my incredible friend Anjie Cho! Since getting to know Anjie and watching her on YouTube, I often turn to Anjie when I’m feeling like something could be made better or for practical solutions to improve the flow of energy and balance in my space. Learn more from her podcasts HERE.

I wanted to find out more about Anjie for some advice on how to Spring Clean our beauty cabinets and asked her for some advice…Check it out!

...read full article


Things You Might Not Know About Coconut Oil

As a holistic designer and architect, I'm all about finding ways to incorporate natural, less-toxic substances into my daily life in place of those harmful chemicals we normally keep beneath the kitchen sink or in the medicine cabinet. One of my most recent discoveries is coconut oil. The holistic perks of this natural oil are incredible, and of course I want to share them with you. Some of my favorite uses are below!

In the Bathroom

Coconut oil is awesome as a natural hair serum. Adding just a small bit to your hair can reduce the frizz we so often deal with as ladies. Be careful here, as you don't want to overuse any sort of oil in your hair. Just rub a dab onto your palms, then distribute evenly throughout your locks!

Try mixing coconut oil with equal parts sugar to create your own simple exfoliating scrub for those long, nourishing showers. 

Coconut oil makes an easy lip balm too! Especially in colder, dryer months, our lips are susceptible to weather and have the tendency to chap and crack. Anyone who's ever experienced this knows it isn't fun! Next time your lips start acting up, try rubbing a bit of coconut oil on as a lubricating balm and soothing agent.

One of the most common beauty products containing toxic materials is deodorant. Unfortunately, this isn't a product we can really do without, unless we're all willing to deal with each others' body odor. Coconut oil can provide a natural remedy for this issue. Using the oil by itself as deodorant is very effective and eliminates the need for harsh chemicals that you may find in other store-bought products. 

Around the House

Aside from its numerous uses for the body, coconut oil also makes a super stain remover and furniture polish. You can rub the oil alone on a tough-to-conquer stain for some help, or mix the oil with baking soda for a non-toxic stain removal option. 

Back in the bathroom, coconut oil works wonders on soap scum, which is great, since bathroom cleaners can be some of the most toxic on the market. Instead of exposing yourself, and ultimately your family, to the toxic chemicals and VOCs in bathroom cleaning chemicals, try using natural coconut oil on a rag instead! 

There are literally hundreds of uses for coconut oil outside the most common uses in cooking. With an increasing number of cautious dieters and, thankfully, individuals concerned for the environment, coconut oil is becoming more and more popular, and with good reason! Next time you're near a natural market, stop in and get some coconut oil to get started on the many things you can do!

by Anjie Cho


Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui and Pregnancy

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Is there any sort of feng shui I should pay special attention to if I'm pregnant?

Stephanie C., Washington D.C.

Hi Stephanie,

First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! 

There are a few things to consider when we look at feng shui and pregnancy. For one, I would encourage you not to do any kind of house renovations during your pregnancy. Your home represents your body, so during a pregnancy, you don’t want to do any renovations or move things around or rebuild things. Not only does this disturb your body's natural chi, any chemicals or substances that become airborne during a renovation can be harmful to an unborn baby. 

Since your body, for the next nine months, is your baby's only space, do your best to keep this space healthy, both emotionally and physically. Avoid high-stress situations and instances where you might come into contact with anything physically harmful for your baby's growth. Check out my recipes for DIY non-toxic cleaners and laundry detergent, and if you feel the need to nest (which you most likely will!) aim for a green cleaning approach, natural space clearing and the like. And don't do any painting yourself, but check out how to create a relaxing atmosphere, use the color wheel and incorporate other feng shui aspects into your baby's space

Don't forget to take time out for yourself to eliminate stress too! Meditate, use essential oils or do any other activities you can to calm down without changing the overall chi of your baby's temporary space. 

In feng shui, there are also some important factors to consider before you get pregnant, when you are trying to have a baby. One of the most important is to avoid cleaning out from under your bed during this time. Though feng shui recommends keeping space beneath your bed clear, it is important to understand the concept of "ling particles" as it relates to pregnancy. 

Feng shui practitioners believe that there are what we call "ling particles" in the air that help create and support life. When a baby is conceived, a ling particle gives the embryo life, and these particles are said to collect under the bed. For this reason, if you're hoping to become pregnant, you don’t want to clean under your bed. I would also encourage you not to do any renovations when you’re trying to get pregnant.

For the most part, feng shui advocates creating a healthy, positive space for your baby. This means not making any drastic changes to the environment you've already created, and doing what you can to maintain a stress-free, healthy lifestyle. This will also help to create a holistic space in which for you to welcome your baby to the world!  

by Anjie Cho


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


The Benefits of Orange Essential Oil

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On a typical day, I start with five drops of orange and one drop of frankincense essential oils in my diffuser. This is my favorite way to clear my work space to begin to create. In feng shui, oranges and orange peels represent vibrant, life affirming yang energy. Yang energy is like the energy at high noon – bright and strong.

It is good practice to clear your space at least once a year. The most auspicious time to do this is on Chinese New Year.  The Lunar new year is symbolically a great time to clear out the old stagnant energy in your home to make space for new positive energy. Changing seasons can also be a great time to practice space clearing!

Fresh orange peels work the best to bring out the good, but you can also use 27 drops of orange essential oil. Place the orange peels (or essential oil) in a spray bottle and fill it with water. Walk around your home and spray this citrus essence all around, paying special attention to dead corners and closets. Orange peel carries with it vibrant life energy to clear space and, in turn, rejuvenates you and your home. This is excellent to do on an annual, or even monthly basis. 

Besides its feng shui applications, the benefits of orange essential oil range from internal to external, from mental to physical. Many of us are looking for a heal-all for modern struggles, and we may all be overlooking the immense benefits of orange essential oil. 

Orange essential oil is almost a miracle substance! It is an organic anti-depressant to some degree. When treating mild depression, orange essential oil works to lighten the mood and reduce anxiety by increasing circulation and cleansing the liver. While orange oil is also safe to use with severe depression requiring medication, it should not be used in place of medication. Some research also supports the use of orange essential oil as an aphrodisiac, as it works to reduce stress and promote relaxation in the body, which is often the cause of sexual issues and frustration. In this same function, orange oil can serve as a natural, non-toxic sedative following a long day.

Physically, orange essential oil goes a long way as well. On a surface level, orange oil can help to reduce inflammation, no matter what the cause. It can also be effective against inflammation for everything from excessive consumption (of food or drink) causing gas or pain to fever, infections and more. In addition, orange oil not only alleviates pain, but also acts a regulator for the body and its functions. Orange essential oil rids the body of excess gas and flushes bodily toxins through urination, which in turn promotes healthier digestion.

Other uses for orange oil are almost endless, from relaxing spasms to acting as a disinfectant to promoting healthy menstruation and alleviating acne. The list goes on, and it’s worth taking a peek. You have little to lose except negative thoughts and unwanted gas!

by Anjie Cho