Self-Care is Essential

 In Tips & How-Tos, Well-being

This February we’re introducing Heart to Heart with a Horticulturist, a new feature that gives us a little insight into the expertise of our awesome Horticulturists here at NBG. With 2021 being what it is so far, we could all use a little TLC. So what better topic to start us off than self-care? It’s more than a buzz word. It’s essential. Taking care of ourselves helps us to better take care of others and the world around us. There are many ways to practice self-care, but using essential oils as aromatherapy has always been one of my favorites.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, Essential oils are basically plant extracts. They are made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves or fruit) to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. In addition to creating scent, essential oils perform other functions in plants, too.  Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for therapeutic benefit. Aromatherapy has been used for centuries. When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. [source:]

After meeting horticulturist Marisa Cousin and her sister Karrianne Drury back in December, I was inspired to know more about essential oils and their work here at NBG. Read along for some self-care tips, historical tidbits, and a story about 15th century thieves during the bubonic plague. . .

Heart to Heart with a Horticulturist

Marisa Cousin received her BS in Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences with an emphasis on botanical conservation from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Her first horticulture position was with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. There, she worked with maintaining the native plant ecosystem on their nature trail as well as eradicating invasive plant species. At Virginia Wesleyan, she accomplishes similar tasks by caring for the native plants on campus. Marisa thoroughly enjoys what she does at NBG, and has dreams to eventually work for the National Park Service focusing on ecological restoration.

CB: Marisa, Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? 

MC: Sure! After college, I joined the Peace Corps and moved to Senegal, West Africa where I assisted local farmers to improve food security. I moved to Virginia in 2017 and worked in the Horticulture Dept. at the Virginia Aquarium before accepting a position at NBG. Besides maintaining the “Welcome to Norfolk” sign at the Norfolk International Airport and completing Fall and Spring change outs at the Slover Library, I spend most of my time at Virginia Wesleyan University. I care for their 2.5 acre Virginia native plant landscape that surrounds the new Greer Environmental Sciences building as well as the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) and Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) plantings on campus.

This is an image of a bottle of natural plant oil surrounded by pink, red, and white rose petals.

CB: Nice. Your essential oils always leave our classrooms smelling so great. Do y’all have a favorite oil or blend?

MC: My sister’s favorite Essential Oils are Young Living’s blends of Valor and Joy. Valor has Black Spruce, Blue Tansy, Camphor Wood, Geranium, and Frankincense in it and is known for being liquid courage in a bottle. It promotes self-confidence and a positive attitude. Joy is a combination of Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Jasmine, Palmarosa, Rose, Bergamot, Lemon, and Tangerine. It invites togetherness and acts as a nontoxic pleasant perfume.

My favorite Essential Oil is Young Living’s blend of Thieves. Thieves is a mix of Cinnamon Bark, Clove, Eucalyptus Radiata, Lemon, and Rosemary essential oils. It is known for being the immunity booster and can help eradicate any harmful germs. Thieves was created through research of a group of 15th-century thieves who robbed the bodies of the dead and dying during the bubonic plague. These robbers rubbed oils and spices on themselves to keep them from contracting the disease. When they were apprehended, they disclosed the formula of herbs and spices in exchange for a more lenient punishment. 

CB: Whoah. Fascinating. I can almost smell the plant magic. Has your sister always been involved in your Young Living journey?

MCI actually found out about Young Living’s Essential Oils through her. She’s been using them since March 2015. After her third kid, she just noticed how sick and tired she was of being sick and tired. A friend introduced her to Young Living Essential Oils, cleaning products, vitamins and supplements and my sister has been using them ever since. When I accepted my position at NBG, the opportunity for us to teach essential oil classes was requested. We’ve been hosting them together for about a year and a half now. 

CB: Love it! And she has visited one of the Young Living farms, right?

MC: Yes. My sister, Karianne Drury, has been to the Lavender farm in Mona, Utah. There, she was able to have the opportunity to plant lavender, test various oils, witness Juniper being harvested and then distilled into the essential oil product. Being parents of four, her and her husband enjoyed the family atmosphere.

CB: Sounds wonderful. Can you share a favorite memory here at NBG? 

MC: It’s difficult to choose a favorite memory of being at NBG because it’s been a safe and comforting space that I’ve been able to go to since I’ve moved here. Being in a new place, feeling like you’re starting over can be extremely overwhelming so I would go to the gardens for a sense of clarity and calmness. It’s amazing how just simply being surrounded by plants can improve overall human health.

CB: Do you have any advice for anyone starting out on their journey with essential oils?

MC:  I like to tell new members three things:

  1. Know Thy Farmer meaning know the company you’re purchasing essential oils from. There are so many different brands out there so make sure you’re doing the research to make sure you’re getting 100% plant oil.
  2. Low and Slow which means ease into essential oils. Start with a few basic oils, apply them in a low amount at first, then start ditching one toxic household product at a time and switching to all-natural plant oil products.
  3. Lastly, surround yourself with a community of individuals you trust that also uses essential oils. Not only will you learn about more ways to utilize your oils, but have a trusting resource to rely on.

CB: Well said. What does self-care mean to you? Or would you be willing to share your favorite self-care tip for February? 

MC: Self-care means taking the time to step back and focus on your own personal health. My favorite self-care tip is taking soothing Epsom salt baths with lavender essential oil. It can help relax and soothe your mind as well as provide various physical benefits.  For example, the lavender has naturally occurring constituents that promote calmness, fight nervous tension and supports healthy looking skin. Most humans are also Magnesium deficient, which Epsom salt has plenty of. Just make sure to get fragrance free epsom salt. You would be surprised how many chemicals fall under the ingredient “fragrance.”

This is an image of many vintage glass perfume bottles. The bottles contain a variety of brightly colored fragrances.

CB: Yikes, yes I have read that about “fragrance”. Love an epsom bath though! What does Galentine’s Day mean to you?

MC: Galentine’s Day to me is a reminder that self-care is essential for personal growth and happiness. It is a day dedicated to focusing on our own selves.

CB: Lovely. Anything else you’d like to share with us?

MC: Like I mentioned earlier it’s vital to know where your oil is coming from and how it’s being handled. The reason why my sister and I use Young Living is because of that transparency. They have a Seed to Seal guarantee that no other company has. It means that from being planted into the ground all the way to packaging, the product is handled on site with no middle man, no harmful chemicals, and no doubts as to what is in it. Young Living sources their plant oils ethically and sustainably.


Thanks for sharing with us Marisa! More information about classes can be found on our website @


Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

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