Sweet orange and Clove bud oil

Orange with cloves

I’m getting into the festive season by putting Sweet orange (citrus sinensis) combined with Clove bud oil (syzygium aromaticum) into my oil burner. Add a drop of each to a teaspoon of water, light the candle and breathe. 

You may have come across Clove bud oil if you’ve had toothache as it is high in eugenol, a chemical that numbs the nerves. It can also be found in food. If using Clove bud oil in a massage, do not combine with other oils high in eugenol such as Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) and Cinnamon (leaf and bark) as these oils should always be used in small amounts due to their chemical make up. Also, I would never recommend ingesting any essential oil, consult a qualified aromatherapist or your doctor before use.

Yet Clove bud oil is highly effective and although recommended to be used with caution, there is research about how successful it is for dealing with pain and bacteria. It is anti inflammatory and an analgesic, good for musculoskeletal pain such as arthritis. It is an immunostimulant so can be used after a period of illness, or you are feeling physically debilitated.

It is a relaxing, warm oil and can create a peaceful atmosphere with it’s rich, spicy but sweet aroma, and hints of woody, fruity notes which is why I’m recommending it in a oil burner or diffuser (2/3 drops of Clove, 4 drops of Orange). Combined with the fresh, uplifting scent of Sweet orange, let these oils fill your room with festive ambience.

Avoid in pregnancy, those who are taking immunosuppressant medication. Can cause skin irritation.

The healing ‘tears’ of Frankincense

Why is Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) significant and given as a gift to Jesus in recognition of his Divinity? The reason is that in ancient times Frankincense was just as expensive as gold in terms of weight and is mentioned 22 times in the Bible.

Yet Frankincense is also rich in terms of its healing and therapeutic qualities. The essential oil comes from the dried and distilled resin of the Boswellia tree, grown in Somalia, Ethiopia, the Red Sea and Lebanon. It is extracted by tapping the bark, where the sticky resin exudes and forms ‘tears’ that harden. These ‘tears’ naturally protect the tree from infection and repairs damage and disease and we use it in the same way, to protect and repair our bodies and minds.

Traditionally Frankincense was used as incense in churches and for meditation. It is a balancing oil, calming and sedative, slowing the pace of, and deepening, the breath making it a comforting oil when stressed and anxious. However, it can also be energising as according to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, Frankincense heightened his senses and awareness, enabling him to prophesise. Culpepper suggested it helped with depression and poor memory, helping strengthen the nervous system. It has a lemony, warm woody aroma which can sometimes be spicy and musky making Frankincense a dynamic oil – both relaxing and stimulating. When Frankincense is burned it produces phenol which is highly antiseptic, historically believed to banish evil spirits from sick rooms. Being rich in monoterpenes it helps clear mucus and catarrh making it expectorant so good for asthma, coughs, bronchitis and laryngitis – perfect for these winter months where our immune systems are low and susceptible.

Frankincense is also a lovely oil for the skin, particularly mature skin, balancing oily skin, it is anti-inflammatory, healing scars, wounds and sores – similar to how the resin ‘tears’ repair damage to wounds of the tree, we can use the oil to repair damage to human skin. It blends beautifully with Myrrh but also any citrus oil such as Bergamot, orange, lemon, and floral oils like Rose, Geranium, Lavender and Jasmine.

This is an oil gifted by kings given to a future king – if you believe in the Christmas story yet it’s healing, meditative power is far reaching both historically and cross culturally making it a magical oil producing perfect harmony, balance and calm.

Avoid in pregnancy, unsuitable for children and those who are taking immunosuppressant medication.

Clarifying Clary Sage

Now here is an oil when I smell it I think ‘THAT is aromatherapy’ because of it’s deep and profound aroma; it takes my breath away.

It is Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) which has a rich, intense, nutty, earthy scent and one whiff of it can help clear your mind of clutter.

It’s key chemical constituent is esters making it a relaxing, balancing oil. It is healing, uplifting, cheering so great on a wet, dark day like today but it is also calming so good for high blood pressure, headaches and migraines.

It is anti-inflammatory, soothing the skin and a cell regenerator but also helps relax muscles, reduces spasms and fatigue. Studies suggest it helps reduce bronchospasms and improves peak flow to an excellent choice for people who suffer from asthma.

It a gentle oil, a good choice for young and old, but can be sedative so use in small amounts. Also, care should be taken if used before drinking alcohol as it may increase the effects of drunkenness.

Use it in an evening bath, it blends beautifully with Lavender, any citrus oil, Juniper and Geranium (up to 8 drops using any combination in a warm bath) or in a rollerball, rubbing onto a pulse points to ward off tension and stress.

I cannot recommend this oil enough, for me it clarifies the mind, helps me see through a brain fog. Definitely an oil to savour.

Do not use in pregnancy, consult a doctor or qualified Aromatherapist if you have any concerns.

Juniper berry

Juniper berry (Juniperus communis)

Today I’m writing about Juniper berry essential oil (Juniperus communis) grown naturally in the north, particularly Siberia, Canada and Scandinavia. Maybe this is why I think of Juniper as a winter plant, with it’s berries used in cooking at Christmas, or decorating wreaths, maybe it’s because it is a warming oil with it’s fresh, woody resinous aroma.

There is legend that the Juniper tree protected Mary, Joseph and infant Jesus from King Herod’s soldiers. It’s lovely to put into a burner or diffuser this time of year with Lavender, Rosemary, Ginger or Frankincense, or use in massage to warm the muscles.

Juniper detoxifies, it helps clean out the body and mind of excesses, of stress, exhaustion, tension. It is what we call an adaptogenic (see glossary) oil in that can relax and stimulate. For example, it is a diuretic so will help with fluid retention and cellulite. Studies with rats demonstrated weight suppression so could be used (with Grapefruit) to support weight loss. It is an abortifacient, it stimulates the uterus so should never be used in pregnancy however, it us useful for women and girls who experience PMS bloating, missed or irregular periods. It’s detoxifying properties are good for the skin too, unblocking pores, acne, dermatitis and eczema. It is antiseptic and antispasmodic due to it’s chemical make-up of alcohols and terpenes, extended practice demonstrates wound healing actions.

Traditionally, Juniper has been used in rituals, blessings, thought to drive away evil and protect our souls. However, more often than not these days, the only spirit it may be used for is gin!

A word of caution here, Juniper should not be used on those with kidney disease or on those who have suffered nephritis as prolonged use can irritate the kidney’s. Do not use in pregnancy. Make sure your oil is extracted from the berries (cheaper version are from the needles and wood), always buy oils displaying the Latin name.

Bathe in forest Pine

I’m starting Advent with the festive healing scent of Pine (Pinus sylvestris), or Scots Pine as it is known, which has a fresh, woody, resinous – somewhat harsh – aroma. The oil is extracted from the needles of this diamond shaped tree, making it a Christmas tree favourite. It is also the national tree of Scotland.

Like most essential oils, Pine has medicinal qualities. It is rich in monoterpenes making it an excellent expectorant, both anti-viral and bactericidal, therefore good for respiratory congestion such as asthma and bronchitis. It can also have a clearing effect for the common cold. It has wound-healing properties for inflamed skin such as eczema and is an anti-inflammatory for muscular aches and pains, and arthritis. Put 1-2 drops in a burner at this time of year to clear the air and get you into festive mood.

The scent will remind you being in a pine forest because it is the evaporation of the essential oils from the pine needles that creates the scent when you are in a forest environment. For those who are spending more time indoors, when you burn this oil, it will create that space – a healing space – where you can imagine yourself taking a slow, mindful walk through a pine forest and you can experience the sensory power of a forest bath.     

Do not use in pregnancy. It is a very stimulation oil so not recommended for high blood pressure or those with sensitive skin. Consult a doctor or qualified aromatherapist if you have any concerns.

A little piece of heaven…

Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) is from the tropical Canaga tree that is native to India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, to Queensland, Australia. It’s aroma is sweet, heavy and exotic. Extracted from the flowers, it is used extensively in perfume.

Some may find the sweet scent of Ylang ylang overpowering and sickly, others may find it seductive and heavenly. Indeed, its chemical make-up can produce an aphrodisiac effect yet it is also soothing and medicating, regulating adrenaline production. It is a relaxing, sedative oil that can slow down the heart rate and high blood pressure, calming over worked minds, easing frustrations, anger, fear or panic. A natural mood enhancer, its rich, smooth tropical notes are harmonising and perfect for balancing hormones so I would recommend it for women who are pre/menopausal.

It mixes well with citrus oils such as Lemon, Bergamot, Lemongrass, Sweet or Bitter Orange. A perfect complement to Lavender and Rosemary. I recommend 1 drop of Ylang ylang and 1 drop of Lavender in a oil burner at the end of a long day to ease tired, busy minds.

Alternatively add 2 drops of Ylang ylang, 2 drops of Lavender, 2 drops of Lemongrass into a diffuser, or put the same combination into a warm bath and soak the day away.

Avoid during pregnancy and if you suffer from hypotension. Always consult a qualified Aromatherapist before use if you have any concerns.

Ginger Zinger!

Mmmmm! Smells so good!

In my last post I talked about oils to lift your mood and one oil that does that for me is Ginger whose Latin name – Zingiber officinale – reflects it’s zinging therapeutic properties! This pungent, warm spicy oil is perfect for this time of year and I can’t promote it enough, not just as an essential oil but as food too.

Firstly, it’s spicy fragrance gives us that well needed lift of motivation, boosting will power and clearing your mind. Feeling apathetic? A sniff of Ginger will help fight lethargy and warm your nostrils.

Second, it stimulates your circulation too, warming cold hands and feet. It is a detoxifying oil, great for colds and flu so works well in a foot bath. Add up to 8 drops in a bowl and sink your feet into spicy, warm bliss.  

Third, it helps joint pain such as arthritis, stiffness, muscular pain so wonderful in a warm, cleansing massage.

Finally, is good for your gut. It can settle your stomach but also stimulate an appetite. It’s wonderfully versatile. It can help with nausea, IBS, colic, motion sickness so works well in a rollerball for pulse points.

Our gut harbours trillions of microorganisms which play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system and combatting inflammation. I always have the food – ginger – in the fridge and often grate it on stir fries, or use it to marinade tofu or fish, or add it to spicy dahl. It is full of antioxidants similar to fermented foods which can have a positive impact upon gut health from olives in brine to yogurt to wine!

A good way to get ginger into your body as well as using essential oils externally (never ingest essential oils – eating the ginger root is ok, ingesting essential oils is not recommended) is to make a ginger bug. This is fermented ginger so you have the fantastic naturally occurring goodness of ginger and then your ferment it on top to make it a super-super food!

Ginger bug can be used as a base for all sorts of recipes. Here is a recipe for Ginger bug as a base for ginger beer. Or if you haven’t time to make a ginger bug recipe, here is a recipe for ginger beer (without the bug).

So, get Gingering whether it be a foot bath, a rollerball, a deep inhale from the essential oil bottle, or a recipe to warm your bones, lift your mood and prepare you for the winter months ahead.   

Remember: do not use Ginger neat on the skin, if you’re on immuno-stimulant medication, or pregnant. Never ingest essential oils.

As the weather changes, it’s time to look after your skin

As the weather changes so does our response to it emotionally and physiologically. For some, Autumn is their favourite season, the smells, the changing colour, the drop in temperature – it’s a sensory pleasure. For others, the change signifies an ending, colder days and darker nights which can often trigger feelings of anxiety or sadness. However we feel about Autumn, the change affects our bodies and minds in different ways and in this post I’m going to talk how we can hydrate our skin which may become dryer in the colder months using what are known as Carrier Oils.

Carrier oils are made in the same way as essential oils, they are extracted from plants such as sunflower, grapeseed, olives, apricots, wheat, soya to name a few. They are not the same as the cooking oils you have in your store cupboard and these oils should not be used on your body or face. Carrier oils produced in the same way as essential oils and like essential oils they have their own therapeutic qualities enriched with vitamins, minerals and proteins. They  should only be bought from reputable suppliers.

As a therapist, I use carrier oils in massage, this helps dilute the essential oils I put in when I massage the skin, making the essential oils safe as well as creating moisture and slippage for the treatment. Often, carrier oils do not have an aroma so are perfect for blending your favourite essential oils and massaging into your skin.

Here I recommend three carrier oils to have as part of a skin care routine:

Apricot Kernel (Prunus armeniaca) is extracted from the seeds of the fruit Apricot oil and is rich in Vitamins A and E, and Omegas 3 and 9, so is very nourishing for our skin. It is good for all skin types, light and non-sticky making it a lovely oil for the face. You can buy it in 30ml bottles, with a pipette to massage into your face morning and/or nightly. It can be expensive but you will only need a few drops at a time. Apricot oil is not recommended for people with a nut allergy.

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose flower. You may have come across it as a treatment for PMT. I often use it when massaging women as it contains fatty acids which can help alleviate breast pain. Fatty acids are also used to treat inflammation and eczema. If you experience eczema, dab a small amount on the affected area, or if you have dry hands, use it as hand moisturiser. Make sure you wear gloves too as this can help alleviate dry hands! Also, if you are pre-menstrual or menopausal, massage into your abdomen after a warm bath.

Sunflower oil (Halianthus annuus) is extracted from the seeds of the sunflower. It is pale, light and non sticky, good for all skin types.   It is rich in vitamins A, B, D and E, containing Omegas making it a healing oil. It is a good oil for the body, to massage into legs, arms, and the abdomen helping rehydrate your skin. Massage just after a bath or shower, when your skin is slightly damp, this will help lock in the moisture for long lasting softness and glow.

Don’t miss my next post where I write about essential oils to lift your mood. You can add these oils to any of the carrier oils suggested and apply to your body and face.

Cedarwood

Latin name Cedrus atlantica, Cedarwood is a beautiful oil with a warm, woody, resinous aroma, a lovely complement to this time of year. It is extracted from sawdust and stumps of the Cypress family of trees making it ecologically sustainable.

One of therapeutic benefits of Cedarwood essential oil is that it is anti seborrheic, preventing and relieving symptoms of seborrhea, a type of eczema that affects the scalp, causing dandruff in teens and adults, or cradle cap in babies.

Seborrhea is considered a form eczema caused by the skins reaction to too much yeast in the body particularly where there are a lot of oil-producing (sebaceous) glands such as on the upper back, nose and scalp. It can be triggered by medical conditions such as depression, eating disorders, stroke recovery as well as hormonal changes, or stress, cold or dry weather, or chemicals. With it’s anti inflammatory properties, Cedarwood can help calm and relieve these symptoms. Use in a shampoo, or an oil, blended with Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme and massage into your scalp.

It’s warm, camphoraceous note is also known to produce a relaxing, grounding effect, making Cedardwood good for anxiety, stress, and tension. Cedarwood can calm an agitated mind blending cheerfully with Bergamot, Lavender, Vetiver and Ylang ylang to uplift your mind and body. 

It has expectorant properties too making it good for respiratory conditions such as infections and coughs, perfect in a burner for this time of year. A lovely combination would be a drop each of Cedarwood, Sweet orange and Frankincense to create harmony and balance in keeping with the onset of Autumn.

Consult a qualified aromatherapist when blending oils, do not use in pregnancy.