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.

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.

Skin: wound healing and homeostasis. How can essential oils help?

One of the ways essential oils enter our body is through skin absorption. In this blog post I am going to talk about how essential oils can help with tissue damage and healing with reference to the chemicals within oils which can relieve pain and inflammation.

When skin becomes damaged, the inflammation process occurs to try to retain homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis means regulation and balance. We can help the body/skin heal by supporting homeostasis using essential oils as they can support the natural healing process which in turn can help reducing unsightly scarring.

A good way to understand how the body retains homeostasis is to think of how we control body temperature. A healthy body temperature is 37 degrees centigrade and this is regulated through our hypothalamus (located in our brain). If we get too hot, signals are sent to our sweat glands to cools us down; if we get too cold, signals are sent to our muscles to contract and shiver, retaining warmth.

These communication processes can occur to regulate other situations like skin damage. The body repairs the skin by replacing keratinocytes (skin cells found in the epidermis). Keratinocytes protect soft tissue as well as preserving us against infection. In addition to this, our skin has many sensory receptors too which respond and interact with the environment and communication to and from the brain. When the skin is healing it is trying to retain homeostasis – balance – through effective communication as well as reducing pain and inflammation. Evidence suggests that the molecules found in essentials can help homeostasis, ensuring effective healing by supporting cell regeneration, reducing inflammation and taking the skin back to its natural state.

Oils rich in Limonene, Alcohols, Pinene, Thymol, Bornel and Terpineol all have wound healing actions. Here are some symptoms and oils to help with skin damage, retain homeostasis and enable healing:

Acne: Bergamot, Lemon, Thyme, Tea tree, Lavender, Rosemary, Cedarwood, Sandalwood

Burns: Eucalyptus globulous, Tea tree, Chamomile, Geranium, Patchouli

Eczema: Bergamot, Thyme, Chamomile, Lavender, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Patchouli

Stretch marks: Lemon, Mandarin, Tea tree, Chamomile, Vetiver, Frankinscense

Check with a qualified Aromatherapist before use in terms of allergies and dilution.

Sleep and The Body Coach

I love this guest blog post about sleep found on the Body Coach:  https://www.thebodycoach.com/…/sleep-and-mental-health-1231….

Essential oils can also aid sleep as they have calming and mood enhancing effects, and can easily be introduced as part of a sleep routine whether you add your favourite oils to a diffuser in your bedroom before sleep, or a warm evening bath with oils, or simply a few drops onto your pillow at night.

Studies have shown that essential oils work because we inhale the aromatic molecules via our olfactory system (found in our nasal septum) releasing neurons into our limbic system, the part of our brain that deals with emotion, memory, motivation, and pleasure. We have no conscious control here and so the scent of essential oils can have a profound influence on us, affecting our behaviour. Indeed, prolonged use of oils can create new pathways, new memories and therefore new patterns of behaviour such as enhanced mood, relaxation, calm….sleep.

A lovely combination of oils could be Sweet orange, Lavender and Ylang ylang in your diffuser (2 drops of each).

Another combination could be Bergamot, Chamomile, Vetiver.

Or just use a favourite oil on your pillow at night, such as Lavender, Geranium, or Lemongrass.


Try just one drop of one the oils onto your pillow (reverse side) every night for a week and see if it makes a difference. I know it will.

Stay cool….

Feeling hot and bothered? A good natural cooling agent is Peppermint (Mentha piperita) with its strong, fresh, menthol aroma. When I imagine Peppermint I think green and herbaceous, which could be because it’s from the same plant family as herbs such as Basil and Marjoram to name a few. Peppermint is a good pick me up, useful for tired minds and bodies as well as any digestive complaints such as nausea or colic. Because of it’s wonderful cooling effect, it is well suited as an inhalation or a spray. Combine 2 drops of Peppermint with 2 drops of Lemon and 2 drops of Grapefruit in your diffuser to calm and freshen up your space. Alternatively, add the same amount to between 15-30ml of water in a small spray bottle for a refreshing face or body mist. Use as often as you need and enjoy the fresh minty, tangy scent which will help you cool down. Avoid during pregnancy, keep away from eyes, use in low dilutions.

Geranium oil

Geranium oil…just writing about this beautiful oil makes me want to take a long, deep inhale of it. Geranium is grown all over Europe, Russia, Egypt, North Africa and can come in different varieties and scents; the one I’m describing here is Pelargonium graveolens.

This photograph is from my garden and is a Zonal pelargonium commonly in most garden centres and in lots of gardens as it is ideal for pots and window boxes. Folklore tells us it was used to ward of evil spirits.

It has a sweet, rose like aroma and can often be a substitute for Rose oil so check the labelling before buying (always buy using the botanical name). Traditionally, Geranium is a regarded as a healing plant and was often planted around houses to ward off evil spirits – it is interesting that we plant them now in our front gardens and pots! It’s rich in alcohols and phenols making it antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and fungicidal therefore excellent for skin conditions such as athletes foot, burns, impetigo. It is a ‘skin balancer’ helping control sebum production (secretion from skin cells) so it is good for all skin types and has cell regenerating properties therefore perfect for mature skin. I always use it in face cream for this reason and because it is carminative, soothing the nervous system, relieving stress and anxiety. It regulates hormones therefore useful for women who are feeling premenstrual, working alongside our circulatory system eliminating waste and congestion. Use it if you experience Raynaud’s disease (myself), it warms cold hands and feet. It is a relatively inexpensive oil and can be found in most health food shops or online.

Put 1-2 drops in an oil burner to lift your mood; mix 2 drops with 5ml of carrier oil to massage into your abdomen if you are feeling bloated or congested; add 4 drops of Geranium and 4 drops of Lavender into a warm bath to help you relax after a long day. I am currently working on a hand cream using this oil so watch this space! Avoid during pregnancy.

How Aromatherapy can help rehabilitate survivors from Corvid-19

This interview from Science Weekly about Corvid-19 discusses how scientists and health professionals are trying to understand the virus and how best to treat it for those who have survived but are still experiencing chronic symptoms such as coughs, colds, muscle pain, lung, heart and kidney issues, and general exhaustion. What has become clear in these very uncertain times is that the virus is diverse and affects different people in different ways. Understanding how to treat the virus is understanding the variety of symptoms people are experiencing, and the effects it has, or has had, upon our bodies and minds.

Last week NHS England launched a “revolutionary on-demand recovery service” which offers rehabilitation treatments for those who have had Covid-19 but still have problems with breathing, muscular pain, coughs, as well as experiencing mental health problems or other complications. As an Aromatherapist listening to this, I believe that some of the symptoms of Corvid-19 – and the focus here is on chronic (long term) – can be treated using Complementary Therapies such as massage, aromatherapy, reflexology as well as physiotherapy and bio-medicine.

Symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, coughs, physical and mental exhaustion, low immunity are treatable using aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage. Indeed, promoting well-being, helping with stress relief and creating an environment for relaxation are very much at the heart of all Complementary Therapies, and although the focus for health professionals treating patients who’ve had Covid-19 may be specific parts of the body such as lungs, kidneys, heart, blood; working on the idea of also treating the whole person, which is a holistic approach, will also help treat specific areas. The reason I say this is because essential oils are multifaceted.

What does this mean exactly? Well, if a client approached me and said they were tired, run down and had a constant cold, one oil I would recommended using is a citrus oil such as Lemon (Citrus limon). Lemon is known to help boost the immune system so is excellent for symptoms of flu and colds such as catarrh, fever, congestion. It can also be used to treat asthma and bronchitis. This is because Lemon has chemical properties that are antiviral, bactericidal – good for fighting infections. However, Lemon is also good for stimulating the circulatory system, it can lower high blood pressure, slow external bleeding such as nosebleeds; it is detoxifying and a diuretic. Furthermore, it has a positive effect upon the nervous system; it is calming, clarifying, uplifting. I would recommend it for skin problems such as acne, oily skin, boils and warts. It’s fungicidal so can treat thrush. It is anti-inflammatory and therefore good in a massage for musculoskeletal pain. All in all, Lemon is a great tonic for both the mind and body.

Therefore, essential oils contain many different and diverse chemical components with many different indicators and when used for one particular treatment, they also help other symptoms too. Sometimes those symptoms may not be outlined by the client in consultation. But as most symptoms are interrelated, treatment for one, is treatment for all. For example, a client may not be sleeping due to stress at work and they may also have sore neck and shoulders due to working at a computer for long periods. After consultation they may opt for an aromatherapy massage after which they report feeling more relaxed which results in them sleeping better; because they sleep better they are less tired have more energy for exercise, spending time doing something they enjoy; they may be more rested so are eating better as they have more energy to home-cook, and generally, they report feeling better all-round in terms of health and well-being. Understanding which part of the treatment ‘worked’ could be impossible, but one thing this is for sure, the client reports feeling less congested, well rested and generally ‘better’.

My proposal would be for NHS England to embrace Complementary Therapies for treating the long term effects of Covid-19 and become part of the package of care for those suffering with chronic symptoms.

Here are some oils combinations and how you can use them to address particular symptoms relating to Covid-19:

Coughs: Thyme, Peppermint and Cedarwood

Sinusitis: Lemon, Tea tree and Lavender

Catarrh/mucous: Lemon, Lavender and Ginger

1 drop of each in an oil burner (or 2 drops of each in a diffuser), or 1 drop of each on your pillow at night. Make sure you turn the pillow over so the oils do not touch the skin.

2 drops of each in a warm bath before bed. Mix with some bath salts or carrier oil such as sunflower or grapeseed.  

Muscular problems and tension: Grapefruit, Black pepper, Benzoin

2 drops of each in 15 ml of carrier oil (Grapeseed, Sunflower, Coconut) and massage into tired muscles.

2 drops of each in a warm bath before bed. Mix with some bath salts or carrier oil such as sunflower or grapeseed.  

Emotional exhaustion: Bergamot, Lavender, Sandalwood

2 drops of each in a warm bath before bed. Mix with some bath salts or carrier oil such as sunflower or grapeseed.  

Fatigue: Basil, Sweet orange, Rosemary

Add 3 drops of each into a rollerball mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or sunflower oil. Use as often as you need to.

Insomnia: Bergamot, Chamomile, Sandalwood

1 drop of each on your pillow before bed

2 drops of each in a warm bath before bed. Mix with some bath salts or carrier oil such as sunflower or grapeseed.  

Safety: do not use direct onto the skin, do not ingest, keep away from children, store bought oils in a cool dark place, buy from a reputable supplier (ATA approved), check with a qualified aromatherapist or your GP before treatment if you have any health issues or have questions or concerns.

A humble herb with a big personality!

I was exploring the garden after the rain as is full of surprises; raindrops clinging to stems, snails galore and summer fruits gleaming, freshly washed and ready to pick. I noticed the Thyme nestled against Sage and Mint in a pot near my back door, it had flowered and it got me thinking of the essential oil – Thymus vulgaris. This oil is extracted from the flowers and leaves, and can have a powerful, medicated herbaceous odour or a soft, sweet, woody aroma depending upon which variety you use. There are many different types of Thyme – red, white, sweet, Moroccan, wild – and they have different chemical compositions. I’m focussing here on Red Thyme (Thymus vulagris thymoliferum) which is rich in PHENOL making it a powerful antiseptic and pain killer.  Folk tradition sees Thyme being used by ancient Egyptians during the embalming process and in ancient Greece against infectious diseases. In fact, the Greek word Thymos means ‘to perfume’ and it has traditionally been used to preserve meat. Thyme is a good painkiller, it can be used for tooth ache, gum infections as well as musco-skeletal conditions such as arthritis and sports injuries.  Thyme is also described as ‘wound healing’ and can be used for most skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, insect bites, acne and burns. Having said that, it can cause skin irritation so should be used with care and diluted properly; if you have concerns, consult a qualified Aromatherapist before use. It is a stimulating oil, it gets things moving in your body, boosting your immune system, increasing blood flow so great for poor circulation, raising your blood pressure. It is an expectorant, mucolytic, and decongestant so good to use if you have asthma, bronchitis, coughs, sore throats. Who knew such a humble herb had such a big personality! It blends beautifully with citrus oils such as Grapefruit, Lemon, Mandarin as well as Rosemary, Lavender, Tea tree, Marjoram, Juniper.  It should not be used in pregnancy, and avoided if you have sensitive skin, low blood pressure or taking immunosuppressants.