“Smell...transports us across thousands of miles and all the years that we have lived.” - Helen Keller.Essences
Everyone can identify with these words from Helen Keller. However, most of us miss the point! Being reminded of a comforting smell from another place, or time, is not just about rekindling memories of a favorite pie, or your mother’s kitchen. It is far more powerful than that. The senses are stimulated, just as they were the first time around ... you are reliving the experience, in every sense of the word.
In essence therefore, (which illustrates how this expression came about) you can leave the day behind and escape with a favorite aroma. Aromatherapy is already a part of our lives, although we may not have used the term. Everyone has emotional responses, both pleasant and unpleasant, to certain scents.
Far more than “mind games”, we are experiencing greater difficulty than ever before in maintaining a dividing line between the mind and the physical body, or the stimulus and the response.
Where did the term "Aromatherapy" come from?
The rebirth of interest in essential oils, along with the term, aromatherapy - more precisely: "Aromatherapie" - itself; is credited to a Frenchman around the time of the First World War.
Ren?-Maurice Gattefoss? was a French chemist who worked in his family’s perfumery business. He was familiar with the essential oils but only for cosmetic. One day, whilst working in his laboratory, he burned his hand severely in an explosion. Immediately he plunged his hand into the nearest liquid, which happened to be lavender essence. To his amazement the burn healed without infection or scarring in next to no time.
As a result, Gattefoss? turned his attention to the medical properties of essential oils and their beneficial effects on skin conditions. He tried out essential oils on patients in military hospitals duringthe First World War and was impressed at the results he obtained by using oils from chamomile essence, lemon essence and thyme essence.
Others followed his lead. Professor Paolo Rovesti, Director of the Instituto Derivati Vegatali in Milan, for example, was able to show that depression and anxiety could be relieved by the inhalation of the oils from certain plants. He believed that these smells helped to bring to the surface repressed emotions and memories which were contributing to the ill health of his patients.
So, as we learn more, we also learn there is the so much more to learn. At the same time, when the tomb of Tutankhamun was opened in 1922, the odors of the preservatives used were still detectable and pots were found containing myrrh and frankincense essence.
Perhaps no other culture understood the interrelationship of plants for food, medicine and the expression of our ‘spiritual’ selves than the ancient Egyptians. For them, the magic and mystery of aromatherapy permeated the whole of their daily existence. Records from 4500 BC identify the practice of medicine, ritual, embalming and astrology with fragrant spices, oils, resins and bark; even their beers wines and vinegars were scented.
The prescribed remedy for hay fever was a mixture of aloe, antimony, honey and myrrh. a A combination of acacia, coloquinte, dates and honey was placed in the vagina to ferment into lactic acid as a contraceptive measure - an effective spermicide!
The Egyptian botanical gardens contained plants brought from as far away as China and India.
Foods were infused with fragrances that also helped the digestive processes. Caraway essence, coriander essence and aniseed essence were ‘additives’ to bread. Garlic was even given to the slaves who built the pyramids to ensure that sickness did not interfere with the important job of building a tomb for their pharaoh. (Even today some desperate men choose to rub garlic oil (see under garlic essence on their bald heads!)
It can truly be said that ancient Egyptians were the first aromatherapists.
The Modern Era
The contemporary image of “aromatherapie” can be attributed to another French biochemist Marguerite Maury, who linked the use of essential oils with massage to the areas around the spine and the face. She also innovated the concept of blending particular oils to suit the needs of individual clients.
Whilst treating clients for cosmetic problems, not only did their skin disorders clear but they experienced pleasurable side effects such as improved sleep, reduced symptoms of rheumatism and increased mental alertness. Sometimes these benefits endured for weeks, or even months, after the cessation of treatment.
Is the effect measurable?
Smell is one of our primary senses. Our sense of smell, or olfactory receptors, are located at the central core of the brain, inside the cerebral cortes, actually within the limbic system, which is also responsible for our emotions and memories.
Research is now able to quantify just how important aromatic messages are to our emotional well-being and state of health.
Through the use of EEGs (electroencephalographs) to monitor brainwaves, it is possible to actually see what is happening, in real time, as a smell is perceived by the brain and the responses of the subject.
A state of mental alertness has been observed when the individual is breathing in such aromas as peppermint, rosemary and basil essence. Not only are more beta waves (i.e. mental alertness) produced but subjects were more accurate in performing tasks than controls, who did not breathe scented air. The more energy we feel, the more able are we to cope with what life throws at us. Some essential oils may even help the immune system to function more effectively and provide greater resistance to infection.
Other fragrances elicit more alpha, theta and delta waves (i.e. a more relaxed and meditative state of mind). Spiced apple, for example, has been clinically proven to lower blood pressure. Such findings are encouraging for those who find it difficult to relax, or fall asleep, or sleep fitfully. Odors are perceived during sleep and fragrances were relaxing.
Aromatherapy is definitely a way to improve the quality of life on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.
The key to aromatherapy is to find the scents, unique for each individual, that evoke positive sensory feelings and emotions.
How Much Essential oil should I use?
The proportion of essential oil to carrier oil is also variable. However, more is not necessarily better - experience has shown that smaller amounts may achieve far more, particularly if the problem is an emotional or mental one. It is best, when starting with essential oils, to make up average concentrations.
To begin with you may just want to make up enough of a massage oil for one session. It is helpful to acquire a 5 ml plastic medicine spoon for this purpose. The concentration of essential oil should be from 1/2 to 3 per cent of the carrier oil. This will depend on the individual being massaged - their skin type, their age, and the purpose for which the oil is being used - as well as on the strength of the essential oil itself.
If you are going to apply the oil to the face, or if the subject of the massage is a child or elderly, or if the skin is sensitive you should start with a 1/2 per cent concentration. If there is no irritation then you can try increasing it to 1 per cent and then 2 per cent. If an essential oil is very strong it should not be used in concentrations above 1 to 1 1/2 per cent.
To make up small concentrations:
½ per cent - 1 drop essential oil to every two 5ml teaspoons carrier oil.
1 per cent - 1 drop essential oil to every 5 ml teaspoon carrier oil.
2 per cent - 2 drops essential oil to every 5 ml teaspoon carrier oil.
3 per cent - 3 drops essential oil to every 5 ml teaspoon carrier oil.
Use the 2 and 3 per cent concentrations for body massage, subject to the cautions mentioned above.
1 ml = 20 drops
5 ml = 100 drops (or 1 teaspoon)
1 drop per 5 ml = 1%.
You may want to make up larger amounts of facial or massage oils. These can then be stored in dark glass bottles for between two to three months. Fill a 50 ml glass bottle with the carrier.
To make up regular concentrations:
1/2 per cent - 5 drops essential oil to 50 ml carrier oil.
1 per cent - 10 drops essential oil to 50 ml carrier oil.
2 per cent - 20 drops essential oil to 50 ml carrier oil.
3 per cent - 30 drops essential oil to 50 ml carrier oil.
Oils especially appropriate for acne include: aspic (a form of lavender essence, calendula essence, chamomile essence, juniper essence, lavender essence, myrrh essence, myrtle essence, neroli essence, palmarosa, peppermint essence, tea tree essence and thyme essence.
A typical treatment for ‘normal’ skin would be to mix together 50 ml soya oil, 6 drops wheatgerm oil and 10 drops of the chosen essential oil.
For extra sensitive skin mix together 25 ml soya oil, 25 ml almond oil, 6 drops wheatgerm oil and 10 drops of the essential oil and apply to the skin directly or in a compress.
Bathing the affected skin with distilled water containing 6 drops of the essential oil, with:
2 drops cajeput essence each of,
2 drops juniper essence and
2 drops lavender essence.
Tea tree essence can be applied directly to spots with a cotton bud to stop infection.
Oils which can help in the treatment of this fungal infection include: geranium essence, lavender essence and tea tree essence. The feet can be soaked in hot water containing 2 drops of the essential oil. Alternatively, a small compress using the same oils can be applied.
Eczema / dermatitis
The essential oils considered to be the most appropriate for these problems, are: chamomile essence, fennel essence, geranium essence, hyssop essence, juniper essence, lavender essence and sandalwood essence.
If the eczema is dry then calendula oil is recommended as a carrier oil, while moist eczema requires a carrier lotion. Twelve drops added to 50 ml of the oil or lotion and applied to the affected area every morning or night will relieve the eczema.
Athletic massage (Post event, cooling):
1 oz sweet almond oil
5 drops spearmint essence
4 drops peppermint essence
3 drops wintergreen essence
PREGNANCY and Related Problems:-
If you suffer from swollen ankles or legs (edema), lavender essence, geranium essence , and rosemary essence (Rosemarinus officinalis) oils can all help, as drainage of excess fluid is thereby encouraged. A blend of the three oils in a carrier can be massaged gently, using upward strokes, into the feet and ankles.
Tepid to cool foot baths can relieve the symptoms of hot, tired or swollen feet.:
3 drops of geranium essence (or lemon essence) and
3 drops of lavender essence.
Full baths of lemon essence, mandarin essence (Citrus reticulata), or other citrus oils can act as a diuretic.
A pleasant and relaxing aroma can be produced with a good mix of oils:
3 drops of lavender essence (Lavendula officinalis or Lavendula vera)
1 drop of peppermint essence (Mentha pipperita)
1 drop of eucalyptus essence (Eucalyptus globulus) if other members of the family are suffering from colds or flu.
Preconception [Fertility] Essential Oils
A man is wishing to increase his sperm count can take warm baths containing 4 to 10 drops of rose essential oil. (Hot baths can actually damage sperm.)
For the woman, rose essence can help to regulate the menstrual cycle and to tone the uterus. For best effect, have a sitz bath of tepid water with 3 to 7 drops of the oil.
Create a loving environment through massage. Try 4 to 7 drops of rose essential oil to 30 ml (6 tsp) carrier oil.
A combination of rose essence, with other essential oils, can be of particular benefit to a woman hoping to become pregnant.
To 60 ml (12 tsp or ¼ cup) of carrier add
2 drops of bergamot essence.
3 drops of clary sage essence,
4 drops of geranium essence,
3 drops of rose essence, and
2 drops of ylang-ylang essence,
You can use this mixture each night to relax you before sleeping.
Massage with vegetable oils is the acknowledged way of deterring stretch marks. Wheatgerm, avocado, comfrey, marigold, hazelnut, almond, and safflower oils can all be used separately or together, either in their own right or as a carrier for essential oils.
Lavender essence, geranium essence, or mandarin essence are good aromas to add to the carrier. One recipe for an anti-stretch mark blend is:
30 ml hazelnut oil,
30 ml wheatgerm oil,
4 drops of neroli essence,
2 drops of carrot seed oil (Daucus carota) and
2 drops geranium essence.
Massage with this mixture twice daily on the areas prone to stretch marks. You could also add the blend to a warm bath, adding seaweed extract or seawater concentrate. After patting yourself dry, smooth in some more of the essential oil blend.
If varicose veins do develop the essential oils to try are cypress essence, geranium essence, lavender essence and lemon essence.
Apply them singly or as a blend by way of alternating warm and cool compresses to the required area, keeping your legs raised.
Bathing may also help. Just add 3 drops of cypress essence and 3 drops of lemon essence to a warm bath.
Gentle massage can help. To 60 ml of carrier oil add 7 drops of cypress essence and 7 drops of lemon essence. Start your massage by using gentle strokes, moving upward from the feet.
Hemorrhoids have similar causes and are a similar condition to varicose veins. Sitz baths are particularly beneficial if hemorrhoids do develop.
Try a cool bath, to which is added:
7 drops of lemon essence.
Followed by a massage using:
60 ml of carrier oil
7 drops of cypress essence and
7 drops of lemon essence.
The problem can be treated with aromatic oils although the condition is very difficult to cure.
Treatments (apply morning and night) include:
10 ml wheatgerm oil with
2-3 drops of benzoin essence or cajeput essence.
Start treatment as soon as the symptoms appear. In 20 ml carrier oil:
2 drops geranium essence
2 drops sage essence and
2 drops thyme essence.
Onion essence and garlic essence are effective and can be taken internally in capsule form.
Essential oils can produce negative reactions, including toxicity and demand respect.
As a rule, never take an essential oil internally, unless the oil and the treatment have been specifically ordered by a clinical aromatherapist. (See accompanying table.)
The International Fragrance Association has issued some guidelines for restricted fragrances including the proportions in which they should be used. Aromatherapy oils mentioned, include: Angelica essence, Cassia essence, Cinnamon essence, Cumin, Peru Balsam, Sassafras and Verbena essence. Other oils which require close supervision are: Anise, Aspic, Coriander essence and Hyssop essence.
As for pregnancy, some aromatherapists do not recommend using essential oils, at all, in case of an adverse effect. Other aromatherapists promise benefits to pregnant women. However, there is general agreement on some oils that should be avoided entirely: Basil essence, Myrrh essence, Sweet Marjoram essence, Parsley And Juniper essence. Some of them can act as an abortifacient. Consult an aromatherapist first before applying any oils if there is any chance of being pregnant.
It is possible to have an allergic reaction to an essential oil and you will recall the skin test that was mentioned earlier. If you have very sensitive skin: Basil essence, Bergamot essence, Geranium essence, Ginger essence, Lemongrass essence, Peppermint essence, Verbena essence or Ylang-Ylang essence, may cause a reaction, especially if the dilutions are over 1½ to 2 per cent and if the area to which the oil is being applied is the face or a similar sensitive spot. The index of essential oils contains the contraindications for each of those listed.
Professional Use Only:
Angelica essence Ajowan Arnica Bitter almond Boldo leaf Buchu Calamus Brown camphor Yellow camphor Caraway essence Cassia essence Coriander essence Cumin Elecampane root Horseradish Hyssop essence Jaborandi leaf Mugwort Mustard Parsley seed Pennyroyal Peru balsam Rue Sage essence Sassafras Santolina Savin Savory Southernwood Tansy Thuja essence Tonka bean Wintergreen essence Wormseed Wormwood
Contraindicated during Pregnancy:
Ajowan Angelica essence Aniseed essence Armois Basil essence Bay Birch Bitter Almond Boldo Buchu Camphor essence Cedarwood essence Clary sage essence(?) Clove essence Coriander essence Cornmint Cypress essence Dove Fennel essence Hops Horseradish Hyssop essence Juniper essence Lavender essence* Lemongrass essence Licorice Marjoram essence Mugwort Mustard Myrrh essence Oregano Parsley Pennyroyal Peppermint essence Pimenta racemosa Plecanthrus Rose essence Rosemary essence Rue Sage essence Savory Star anise Tarragon Thuja Thyme essence Wintergreen essence Wormseed Wormwood
Basil essence Bergamot essence Cinnamon essence (Bark) Cinnamon essence (Leaf) Clove essence Geranium essence Ginger essence Lemongrass essence Peppermint essence Verbena essence Ylang-Ylang essence
Bergamot essence Grapefruit Lemon essence Lime Mandarin essence Orange essence Verbena essence
Absolute Extract from plant material, usually flowers, that is obtained by using solvents such as benzene, or hexane.
Analgesic A painkiller; some essential oils have painkilling properties.
Antispasmodic Prevents spasms, convulsions, nervous disorders.
Astringent A substance that causes contraction of tissues upon application.
Balsam Also called “balm”, may refer generally to any medicinal ointment, or specifically to the pain-relieving qualities of an extract of Melissa.
Carminitive Expels gas (“wind”) to relieve flatulence, or colic.
Carrier A carrier oil is used to apply the essential oil over a large surface area in a diluted form. Sweet almond oil is the most popular, as it is relatively inexpensive.
Colic Severe spasmodic pain in the stomach, occurring in waves of increased intensity.
Compress Wet or dry cloth or gauze pad applied to a part of the body to relieve pain, reduce a fever, drain a wound
Decoction Extract of water-soluble substances from a medicinal plant by boiling
Detoxifying The removal of toxins from the body.
Emmanogogic Promotes menstrual discharge.
Endocrine To do with the endocrine glands and their secretions (hormones).
Essence A natural aromatic substance secreted by a plant.
Essential oil A product resulting from the steam distillation of aromatic plants; the distilled essence.
Expectorant Also called “mucolytic”, refers to a substance that promotes the ejection of mucus from the respiratory system (lungs, bronchi and trachea).
Fungicidal Capable of killing a fungus.
Galactogenic (Galactagogue) Promotes the flow of breastmilk.
Infusion An extract obtained by soaking.
Neuralgic Counteracts the severe spasmodic pain along the course of one of the nerves.
Note A measure of the volatility (rate of evaporation) of an essential oil. Top notes are the most volatile and base notes the least.
Pheromone A chemical substance secreted externally by some animals which affects the behavior or physiology of other animals of the same species
Poultice A method of applying herbs to the body by adding hot water to a cloth bag, filled with plant substances.
Stomachic A stimulant, or tonic, which acts as a digestive aid.
Sudorific Promotes or causes perspiration.
Tonic A “Tonic” is a substance providing a boost to health, often a spa mineral water. A herbal tonic would contain a herbal essence, or essences. Coca Cola is the most famous formulation of this sort. During the days of the British Empire a favorite drink was a ‘Gin and Tonic”, the tonic water containing a derivative of the Peruvian cinchona bark (quinine) which had anti-malarial benefits, albeit with a slightly bitter taste, hence “Bitter Lemon”.
Vasoconstrictor A substance promoting the vasoconstriction, or narrowing, of blood vessels. Evaporation produces a cooling effect, as with alcohol-based after shave preparations.
Volatility The ease with which a substance vaporizes.
Vulnerary Useful for healing wounds.
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