Tag Archive | "essential oils"

Guide to Essential Oils

360px-CistusEssOilThe fragrant essential oils used in aromatherapy fall into five groups: floral, green, spicy, citrus and woody/balsamic. They sound good enough to eat, but you must;

Never take them internally. Keep them out of the reach of children and take special care with them if you’re pregnant. These warnings are given because it’s hard to imagine how a few drops of scented oil could cause any damage. They can if they’re applied to the skin undiluted. Also some are photo-toxic (react badly with sunlight, causing skin irritation). If they come into contact with the eyes bathe with sweet almond oil, rather than water, and seek the advice of a doctor.

The essential oils which should not be used by pregnant women are:

Angelica, Basil, Cedarwood, Citronella, Fennel, Juniper, Laurel, Marjoram, Myrrh, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme, Yarrow.

The following are known to be photo-toxic. Do not go out in the sun for at least six hours after the application of any of these:

Angelica, Bergamot, Citronella, Ginger, Lemon, Lime, Mandarin, Orange. Take care also with Basil and Laurel. They can also irritate the skin when it’s exposed to the sun.


Lavender oil is extremely useful and versatile. Choose Lavender oil made from English Lavender if possible, as plants grown in southern Britain have been found to yield the most fragrant oil.

As already noted, Lavender facilitates the healing of burns, and it has antiseptic properties. The oil can be used in the treatment of sores, bites and itches. It’s one of the safest oils and its action is very gentle.

Add Lavender oil to the bath, lie back and feel the tension leave tired muscles. Lavender combats fatigue, lifts the spirits and invigorates. A few drops of diluted oil can relieve a tired headache when rubbed into the temples; in fact Lavender will relieve any muscular aches (spasms even) and pains in the joints when massaged in.

It can also help to induce sleep when sprayed, in diluted form, on a pillow. Or you may buy small pillows which are stuffed with Lavender. They can be heated up and used to support the neck, or the back, thus relaxing the muscles, relieving any pain and aiding sleep.

Insects dislike Lavender oil, and it can be useful for killing the parasites which live on animals.

Lavender oil mixes with many essential oils. It belongs to the ‘floral’ group, and combines particularly well with other members of this group, such as Geranium, Jasmine, Mimosa, Neroli, Rose, Violet, and Ylang-Ylang.


There is a plant called Bergamot (monada didyma), which belongs to the mint family, and a tree called the Bergamot Orange (citrus bergamia). Most of the essential oil of Bergamot used in aromatherapy comes from the tree, though it is possible to get Bergamot Mint essential oil.

Bergamot oil can be used to stabilize mood, treat depression and alleviate anxiety. It’s reputed to help those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorders. It can aid sleep, and is said to chase bad dreams away.

Bergamot belongs to the citrus group. It mixes well with Jasmine,
Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Lemongrass, and Rosemary.


Eucalyptus oil is extracted from the twigs and foliage of the Blue Gum tree. It has powerful antiseptic properties which airborne germs cannot easily survive. Used in an inhalation, or in the bath, Eucalyptus oil acts as an efficient decongestant, giving relief from the symptoms of coughs, colds, sinusitis and fever. When used in massage therapy it soothes aching muscles and sprains. It also aids the healing of abrasions.

Eucalyptus belongs to the green group of oils, and mixes well with many other oils including Angelica, Bay, Chamomile, Frankincense, Peppermint, Tea Tree and Sandalwood.


Neroli has been used traditionally to dispel sadness from the hearts and minds of grieving widows. It can soothe those who are suffering from emotional upset and anxiety, even going so far as to reduce the severity of panic attacks. It helps to control fears and drives away stress and feelings of exhaustion. Neroli promotes restful sleep. This mild oil belongs to the floral group and mixes well with Lavender, Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, Melissa and Peppermint.


The name Melissa is derived from the Greek word for bee. Bees are attracted to the plant for its high yield of nectar. Melissa is also known as Lemon Balm, or simply Balm.

The balsamic oil of Melissa has been used to dress wounds because it forms a barrier against infection. If you plan to use it this way be aware that it may irritate sensitive skin. Do a spot test on the skin before you proceed.

Melissa has a calming effect. It can lessen the severity of panic attacks and may bring some comfort to those battling with addiction to nicotine or alcohol, as it’s said to quell the cravings for these substances.

Melissa belongs to the balsamic group and it combines well with Cedarwood, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Neroli and Chamomile.


Frankincense has been offered to the gods in religious ceremonies throughout history and is still used in rituals today.

In aromatherapy, a steamy inhalation of Frankincense is said to be helpful to those suffering from bronchitis or a sore throat. Frankincense can also ease the troubled mind by soothing frayed nerves and enabling one to relax. It’s said to drive away feelings of paranoia and restore confidence. Those who fear the onset of bad dreams may also be helped by Frankincense, as it is said to banish nightmares.

Frankincense belongs to the balsamic group and it mixes well with Patchouli, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Neroli, Melissa and Lavender.


Juniper is a member of the pine family and is adapted to diverse climates and soil conditions, from swampy land to dry mountain slopes. The Juniper tree does not mind the cold; in fact it seems to thrive in it, as Juniper trees have grown to a height of 36 feet in Scandinavian countries. Its aromatic berries are highly prized by cooks and distillers of gin, and the wood has been praised for its stubborn resistance to rot. Juniper berries are quite expensive because they take 2-3 years to ripen.

You may not, therefore, feel inclined to throw your Juniper berries into the flames, but you could do this if you wished to fumigate a room. The smoke from Juniper branches has also been used for fumigation; the branches were burned in public places and hospitals during epidemics of smallpox, cholera and the plague.

When Juniper berries are boiled up, especially with Eucalyptus, the vapor will clear a head cold and a foggy mind. Juniper is also said to help us to forget unpleasant experiences and bring back our joie de vivre.

No harm will come to those who inhale Juniper’s vapor or smoke, however great care should be exercised when using it internally, especially by those who have renal disease. Incidentally, if Juniper’s extract is ingested it will render the urine a rather alarming shade of violet!

Juniper belongs to the spicy group of oils, and it combines well with Tea Tree, Laurel, Ginger, Eucalyptus, Frankincense and Myrrh.

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Aromatherapy as an Aspect of Holistic Healing

Essential oils are extracted from the plant inhabitants of diverse regions of the world for use in aromatherapy. The art was invented by our talented Egyptian ancestors who used it in their religious rituals, for healing, and for the enhancement of beauty and sensuality. However the term ‘aromatherapy’ wasn’t coined until much later in the day (eighty years ago) in France, when a chemist called Gattefossé burnt his hand while at work in his perfumery and instinctively plunged it into a vat of Lavender oil. He observed that his injury healed remarkably quickly, and no doubt there was great excitement in the perfumery when the chemist realized that Lavender oil has powerful healing properties.

Plants whose fragrances hang heavy in the air on dusky Arabian nights, infuse Chinese teas with their delicate scents and lend their bouquets to sophisticated French perfumes are frequently used in aromatherapy. Take Jasmine, for example. It takes about eight million pristine white flowers, all picked before sunrise (Jasmine flowers at night) to produce one kilogram of the exquisitely scented deep red oil.

No wonder then that Jasmine oil is rather expensive.

Don’t let this fact put you off taking up aromatherapy though. The oils are potent and only a few tiny drops are used in preparations. If you store them properly they will last for a long time. They’re worth saving up for and you might well find yourself saving money in the long run because they can be used for making beauty treatments, bathing products, household cleaners, air fresheners and insect repellents.

AromatherapyThe olfactory sense (sense of smell) enables direct contact between the brain and the outside world because of the presence of nerve receptors in the nasal passages. When an aroma reaches our nostrils, the nerve receptors convey messages to the brain’s limbic area. Memories are stored in the limbic area.

Have you ever walked into a shop and breathed in a smell that instantly ignited a vivid childhood memory? This happened because you detected the same aroma as you smelt in a shop when you were a child. This phenomenon can be explained by the connections between the nerve receptors in our noses and the limbic system’s store of memories. A French novelist called Marcel Proust wrote in depth about the ability of sensory input to evoke powerful memories in a novel called ‘À la Recherche du Temps Perdu’. Proust’s observations are often referred to in the ‘memory’ section of psychology text books, and the term ‘Proustian memory’ is now often used to describe this phenomenon.

The essential oils used in aromatherapy have healing properties and they can help to alleviate the stress that we accumulate in the course of our daily lives. Stress may reduce the body’s ability to resist disease therefore it seems fair to say that while aromatherapy cannot cure diseases, it makes a valuable contribution to the prevention of disease. The oils can soothe tattered nerves, calm anxiety, invigorate, and instill a meditative frame of mind by causing us to relax. The art of choosing your oils and designing a mix to suit a particular situation is therapeutic in itself.

The oils are diluted, either with water or carrier oil. They can be heated in an oil burner, so that the fragrance diffuses in the air, used in steam inhalations, added to a warm, relaxing bath, or applied to the body by massage.

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