New research published last year has evaluated the effects of the aromatherapy, specifically lavender (Lavanduala Angustafolia) on stress and pain perception in children visiting the dentist.
According to the authors, the findings ‘showed that aromatherapy with lavender essential oil can significantly result in reduced pulse rate and salivary cortisol level in children during dental treatment. The results also found the effectiveness of lavender aromatherapy on the reduction of pain perception during dental injection; therefore, it could be considered as a method for stress and pain control in dental settings in children’ [sic]. (Ghaderi and Solhjou, 2020)
The study explored the effects of lavender essential oil on 24 children attending two dental appointments, one week apart. In the first appointment, lavender was added to a humidifier 30 minutes before treatment but not used in the second appointment.
The children’s anxiety levels, pulse rates, salivary cortisol levels and a face rating scale were measured at different stages of the appointments.
It was noted that the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect of the lavender essential oil could be the result of ‘masking dentistry-related odours’ which children (and adults) can find distressing.
Even so, this is an interesting study and the authors comment that further research using “a non-therapeutic odour as the placebo is needed, in order to assess the therapeutic effect of lavender. ”
It was in the nineteenth century that “menstruation began to be regarded as a pathological process”, writes Emily Martin in her wonderful book, Woman in the Body (1987).
The idea being that a woman’s reproductive organs were in control of her body and mind, and that women must conserve her energy as it needed to be redirected to the development and maintenance of her reproductive organs and processes was prevalent. This was further underpinned by the idea that a woman’s primary role in life was (is) to be a wife and mother therefore women and girls were ordered to ‘bed rest’ or worse, domestic duties, to alleviate the ‘effects’ of menstruation. In reality, during the nineteenth century – and today – many women had to work in factories, as servants, in shops so a prescription of years of inactivity was not possible for most women.
Times have changed but women still work. Around 70% of women aged between 16-64 are in paid employment (ONS). Indeed, the menstrual symptoms women were reporting in the nineteenth century are still prevalent now and is commonly described as Pre-Menstural Syndome or Tension (PMS/PMT). In my last post I touched upon the many different symptoms women experience around menstruation, some of which are physical (bloating, cramps, increased weight gain, heavy blood loss, insomnia), others which are mental/emotional, such as:
Lack of concentration
Slowness in terms of performing tasks
Lack of efficiency
Food cravings (possibly physical)
Martin goes onto ask, how do these symptoms fit into our world of work, our industrialised society? And thinking on, what about women who work a double day – paid work – and then go home and do most of the cooking, childcare, cleaning – sometimes referred to as the ‘chore wars’ or ‘second shift’. Others have referred to it as the “mental load”. Here is an fantastic graphic illustration of this.
When I used to teach Sociology, I would tell my students that the term ‘working mother’ is common, but do we ever refer to ‘working father’? Of course not. Because we all know what a working mother means – it means if you are a woman, some work is paid, whereas other work – your primary role as wife and mother (taking us back to the nineteenth century) is not. Obviously. That would be wrong, right? Discuss 😉
Martin goes onto talk about how many women see menstruation as a hassle, reporting feelings of unproductivity, intolerance, frustration (see list above). But there are also women who report and abundance of creativity, productivity, clarity at this time. She references the work of Thomas Buckley, an Anthropologist, and his ethnographic study of the Yurok, a Native American tribe who believe that when a woman is menstruating, she is at the height of her powers and should isolate herself to meditate and not be distracted by ‘mundane tasks’ and ‘the opposite sex’. Imagine that? Imagine for 2-5 days every month, you must take time to yourself, be alone if you want to, not be interrupted or distracted, to relax or meditate?
The difference here is that menstruation is viewed as positive, life affirming, creative, spiritual. There are reports that women from other cultures do not experience PMS suggesting that it is a cultural or social phenomenon. I’m not suggesting that PMS is not real in our society but maybe if we took the pressure off women, viewed menstruation not as a ‘hassle’ to fit around our busy working lives but as something to embrace, feel good about, and take time out for, we may have a different experience. Maybe that bed rest advice was good after all?
The oils and applications I am going to suggest for menstruation focus on taking time out, to relax, be kind to yourself as well as helping you boost your concentration, helping you focus and clarify. They all have properties relating to PMS as well as many others that I have outlined below. I want you to embrace your menstrual cycle, give it a hug by taking care of you, relieve the pressure if you can. Even if it’s just a positive affirmation which says: “this is my body, I am going through a process, it’s ok to feel like this.” And if possible, let someone else do the dishes.
A warm bath
I’m always raving about warm baths but how better to relax after a long day, get some well needed time out (lock the door) than have a long, luxurious bath? It’s good prep for bed too especially if you are restless at night.
These oil combinations are designed to help you relax, create a feeling of calm by slowing you down, relieving emotional and physical exhaustion, and helping with fluid retention. You can swap and change the blends to suit your own taste whether it be the sweet, heady Ylang ylang, citrus Bergamot, earthy Chamomile or woody Cypress.
Take a cupful of Epson sea salts and add between 6-8 drops essential oil, pour it into a warm evening bath. You can add more or less depending on what oils you have or you have a preference, just don’t exceed 8 drops.
2 drops of Bergamot (good for emotional and physical exhaustion, uplifting)
3 drops of Lavender (relaxing, balancing, sedative)
1 drop of Ylang ylang (calming, creates positive emotions, sedative)
3 drops of Lemongrass (for nervous exhaustion, relaxes muscles, uplifting)
3 drops of Chamomile (calming, relieving anxiety and ibs)
2 drops of Cypress (uplifting, relieves fluid retention, balancing)
2 drops of Clary sage (relieves fluid retention, balancing, calming)
2 drops of Juniper (clears the mind, detoxifies and relieves fluid retention)
2 drops of Patchouli (uplifting, sedative, relieves stress)
Rollerballs are easy to make. They are also handy to have in your handbag, pocket, in your car, by your bedside table. These combinations are designed to pick you up, improve concentration and alertness as well as help you feel more positive and uplifted by calming the nervous system.
You need a rollerball, 10mls of carrier oil such as sunflower or fractionated coconut, and the essential oils:
3 drops of Basil (clear the mind of clutter and worry)
3 drops of Rosemary (good for memory, tiredness)
2 drops of Peppermint (cool and refreshing, good for digestion)
3 drops of Lemon (good for concentration, focus and immunity)
3 drops of Lavender (relaxing, balancing, calming)
2 drops of Patchouli (relieves stress, anxiety, lethargy)
3 drops of Bergamot (good for emotional and physical exhaustion, uplifting)
3 drops of Marjoram, sweet (soothes over active minds, easing anxiety, indigestion)
Massage or body oils are lovely to rub into your skin after a shower or bath. I would advise not using these if you’ve just had an aromatherapy bath though as you may have oil overload! The oil combinations here are good for skin in general as well as skin that is tender and taut, heavy, painful or irregular periods and fluid retention. They also have uplifting qualities.
Take 100mls of carrier oil such as Grapeseed or Sunflower or Coconut oil. You can add Evening Primrose and Avocado oil too as these are good for skin and for women in particular.
You will need to add 20 drops of essential oils. You can add more of one essential oil if you have a preferred aroma. I’ve added less Base oils into these mixes as they often have a deeper, heavier scent therefore less is more. Or, in the case of Frankincense, it can be expensive.
8 drops of Basil (clear the mind of clutter and worry)
8 drops of Geranium (balances mind and body, uplifting, stimulates circulation)
4 drops of Frankincense (calming, restorative, meditative)
8 drops of Orange, sweet (uplifting, tonic for dull/dry skin, good for circulation)
Safety data: Do not use in pregnancy, consult a qualified Aromatherapist if you have any concerns, do not ingest oils, keep away from children, away from eyes. If you suffer any reaction to the skin, or you feel unwell in any way, stop using immediately. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Synergy. What does it mean? Essential oil blending is all about creating synergy – getting the oils to work together whether it is aromatically, therapeutically, or philosophically. Jennifer Peace Rhind (2016) writes that “synergistic blending is at the very heart of aromatherapy practice.” Put simply, creating an oil combination which does its job. Essential oils contain active ingredients so when we add 2 or more oils together, the outcome can be different to when the oils are applied singly. There is a growing body of evidence to support the therapeutic benefits of synergy. For example, a recent study explored the impact of antimicrobial blends – oil blends that kill bacteria and fungus. The study focused on combinations with Lavender, for example Lavender with Cypress, with May chang, with Cinnamon, and with Sweet orange. Interestingly, Sweet orange has poor antimicrobial activity but when combined with Lavender it had positive benefits for respiratory infections. Therefore, combining these oils in a diffuser could be helpful for those suffering from tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, certain types of influenza, or the common cold. Add 1 drop of Lavender, 1 drop of Sweet orange to a oil burner, or 3 of each in a diffuser. Alternatively, add up to 4 drops of each in a warm bath. Activate those healing chemicals and feel the benefit of synergism.
It is Mental Health Awareness week and there are many oils which can help lift our emotions, and alleviate anxiety and stress. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a beautiful oil with a fresh, sweet, mildly camphoraceous aroma. It is easily available online or from most pharmacies and health food shops, and can be used in a variety of ways to help relieve tension and soothe the nervous system. You can add 6-8 drops into an evening bath, or put 1-2 drops in a oil burner with with teaspoon of water (or 6 drops into a diffuser), or just add a drop to your pillow at night. Any of these methods will help you relax, and promote deep, restful sleep.