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Posts Tagged ‘Essential oil’

Well, it’s February, the month of LOVE. And today, February 13th, precedes the day of love, Valentine’s Day. I may try to convince myself that Valentine’s Day doesn’t matter, that it’s an over-commercialized holiday pressuring all of us to buy Hallmark cards and chocolates. But the truth is that this day does influence our lives. Like it or not, Valentine’s Day reminds us that part of the human experience is relationship, and part of relationship is love and romance.

I find that this time of year influences that amount of time I spend reflecting on love in my own life, and more often than not, it seems that romantic love is missing from the equation. Anyone else? While Valentine’s Day brings attention and gifts to all the couples out there, there are still a few of us single people who need love too!

So what to do? I can’t very well force romantic love into my life, but I can give thanks for the other types of love I experience every day–love from my family and friendships, and love from myself.

If, like me, you are dealing with singledom this Valentine’s Day, and all the emotional issues it brings up, aromatherapy can help. While there are plenty of blends for supporting romance, there are blends for soothing loneliness, too. I plan filling this year’s Valentine’s Day with self-love, using a few aromatherapy blends to enhance the process. I have sparkling wine and organic chocolates ready to go, and will probably buy myself some flowers today (doing it tomorrow might be a little depressing). And I will treat myself to an evening of DIY pampering with herbal facials and an essential oil bath, followed by relaxing with a movie–but definitely not anything romantic. It will have to be the biggest blood-bath I can find . . . maybe I’ll watch a Walking Dead marathon instead ;)

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Anyway, if you’d like to join me in a day of self-love, there are a few aromatherapy blends that may help. These recipes are taken from Gabriel Mojay’s book Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, and excellent resource for healing emotions with aromatherapy.

Recipes for Loneliness

If your feeling bitter about your single status, try a blend of bergamot, chamomile, and everlasting essential oils. Bergamot is gently uplifting, German and Roman chamomiles soothe depression, and everlasting frees the spirit.

  • 2 drops bergamot
  • 2 drops chamomile (German or Roman)
  • 2 drops everlasting

Feeling disheartened or apathetic? Try the following blend of rosemary and ginger essential oils, both warming to the body and soul:

  • 4 drops rosemary
  • 1 drop ginger

If you’re truly lonely and forlorn, a blend of marjoram, rosemary, and myrrh can help. Marjoram is a sweet, nurturing oil that can help with feelings of sadness and loss, while sacred myrrh oil can help free the mind from preoccupation with single status.

  • 3 drops marjoram
  • 2 drops rosemary
  • 1 drop myrrh

Recipes for Developing Healthy Relationships

Sometimes, reflecting on relationships and love can make us aware of our personal blocks in this area. An underlying fear of commitment is often a culprit when relationships end, and I’ve realized that my fear of being completely vulnerable has probably prevented the development of a few of my relationships. If you’d like to begin the healing process with either of these issues, aromatherapy can support you.

For fear of commitment, try cardamom, caraway, and rose. Cardamom increases desire for intimacy and caraway for consistency, a good combination in a healthy relationship. And rose has symbolized love throughout time for a good reason; it opens the heart and allows all types of love to blossom.

  • 2 drops caraway
  • 2 drops cardamom
  • 1 drop rose

Healing feelings of distrust and fear of vulnerability can help prepare us for healthy relationships, as well. Lemon is a wonderful oil for developing trust, and palmarosa helps us with feelings of security. Combined with rose, these make a loving, healing blend.

  • 2 drops rose
  • 2 drops palmarosa
  • 1 drop lemon

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Any of these blends can help heal your spirit this Valentine’s Day. Mix the blends in bath salts or a carrier oil for a revitalizing soak (don’t add the drops directly to the bath water), or diffuse the blends throughout your home. Remember, never apply the oils directly to your skin. If you’d like to try a bit of acupressure or self-massage with these blends, make sure to mix them with a carrier oil first. Jojoba and fractionated coconut oils are great carriers, but even olive oil can work in a pinch. A good ratio is about 15 drops of essential oils per 1 Tbs of carrier oil.

Happy Valentine’s Day, single folks! Enjoy your day of self-love and pampering. And when a new someone special enters your life, check back–I’m sure I’ll be posting about love potions and aphrodisiacs soon. ♥

Rose

Rose (Photo credit: Oberau-Online)

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Aromatherapy involves much more than essential oils. Below are a few other important elements in an aromatherapy practice.

More Plant Extracts

While essential oils are probably the most common ingredient in aromatherapy products, there are three other main plant extracts that may be used: CO2s, absolutes, and hydrosols. The primary difference between essential oils and these other plant extracts is the way in which their essences are extracted.

Essential oils are extracted through either a steam distillation process (the steam carries the aromatic molecules to be separated and bottled) or an expression process (a machine presses the plant to release its essential oils).

CO2s are often labeled as essential oils–the main difference here is that the extraction process involves using carbon dioxide rather than water or steam. They are usually thicker than true essential oils, and are said to maintain more of their original components because no heat is used during the distillation process.

Absolutes are made when hot water or steam distillation would either harm the quality of the oil or simply not produce enough oil. They are very concentrated extracts and are produced using a solvent, which is later removed. Because of the possibility of trace solvent remaining in the absolute, they should not be used internally.

Hydrosols are the aromatic waters that remain after distilling essential oils. They are much milder than essential oils, but still contain many healing properties.

Carrier Oils

Also important in aromatherapy are carrier oils, which are fatty oils most commonly made from vegetables and nuts. As the name suggests, help “carry” essential oils (or CO2s, absolutes, or hydrosols) into your body.

One of the wonderful things about most carrier oils is that they have relatively small molecules. This means that these oils are unlikely to clog your pores or leave stains on your clothes. Their small molecules also allow the carrier oils to penetrate your skin and bring essential oils deeper into your body. This is one reason why it’s important to dilute your essential oils with some sort of carrier oil before applying them to the skin–the carrier oil actually helps the essential oil act more efficiently.

Yet carrier oils do much more than act as a means of transport. Each carrier oil also offers unique enhancements to the healing process. Here are just a few of our favorites at Essential Life Aromatherapy (ELA):

  • Sweet Almond Oil: an excellent emollient for chapped and dry skin
  • Apricot Kernel Oil: light and great for the face
  • Evening Primrose Oil: helps with balancing hormones, eczema, arthritis, inflammation, and regulating insulin
  • Jojoba Oil: a wonderful all-purpose oil, good for all skin types, healing for the scalp and hair, with a long shelf-life
  • Olive Oil: a highly nutritious oil, great for making ointments
  • Rose Hip Oil: one of my personal favorites, this oil helps reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging (it’s in our amazing face oil)
  • Sesame Seed Oil: long revered in Ayurvedic medicine, this is a wonderful warming and moisturizing oil
  • Fractionated Coconut Oil: great for moisturizing in general, this oil also has a long shelf life

A few other healing and infused oils we use in our ELA products are arnica (for aching joints and muscles), Calendula (for healing the skin and wounds), and argan oil (which is very nourishing for hair). We’re also experimenting with a few other fun ingredients, including a Saint John’s Wort infusion.

Just for Fun . . .

I thought I’d throw in a picture of a few products I use daily, which involve a variety of aromatherapy ingredients:

bedtime face routine © 2012, Juniper Stokes

On the left is a bottle of our amazing ELA face oil. I massage this into my face each night. It contains a variety of essential and carrier oils that are especially good for the face and skin, including carrot seed, jojoba, and rose hip oil . . . along with many other secret ingredients. (I make this for myself all the time, so the bottle isn’t labeled.) In the center is a rose/sandalwood hydrosol I made to use as a soothing face spritzer. And on the right is a small bottle of concentrated rose hip oil I brought back from a recent trip to Patagonia, where it was surprisingly popular. I massage a few drops of this directly into areas that need a little extra care (spots, wrinkles, all that). I love my all-natural aromatherapy nighttime ritual.

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Essential oils are only the surface of what aromatherapy can offer. An effective, well-trained aromatherapist will be able to take from the plethora of ingredients available in order to create the most healing products possible. If you have any questions about using these ingredients, please write! And again, if you’re interested in any of our products that use these ingredients, feel free to contact us at elaromatherapy@gmail.com.

Also, I’d love to hear if any of you have more ideas about how to use all these wonderful ingredients in your own aromatherapy practices. Do you have other ways that you use these carrier oils? A favorite absolute or hydrosol? Ideas for how we will use our new Saint John’s Wort oil? Share your wisdom and let us know!

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Essential Oils Box

Essential Oils (Photo credit: luxomedia)

Why do aromatherapists care about using essential oils rather than fragrance oils?

First, let’s review: Essential oils come from nature. Fragrance or perfume oils are manufactured in laboratories. Fragrance oils are not inherently bad–I love some of my fragrance oil perfumes, and occasionally use some of the perfume oils I’ve purchased during my travels to make myself body washes and lotions. They smell good, and that’s good.

Yet when it comes to my health and beauty regimens, I prefer to use true aromatherapy products. Fragrance and perfume oils may smell good, but they do not offer the healing benefits as essential oils. Essential oils have amazing healing abilities (which I discuss in my previous post, I ♥ Aromatherapy: An Introduction), and they smell wonderful, often in deeply complex ways that fragrance oils rarely achieve.

Going Natural

I like to compare essential oils to food–more and more people are recognizing that real food (coming from nature) is better for our health than processed food (with elements created in laboratories), and essential oils are no different. In his book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan discusses the importance of consuming real, whole foods. He notes that for years, most nutritional research focused on identifying the individual vitamins, minerals, and nutritional values of the various foods we consume. While this has been helpful in many ways, we are beginning to learn that the synergistic effects of the vitamins and minerals naturally occurring in a whole food, such as an apple, are far more healing than the same elements in isolation, as in a vitamin-fortified product. The truth is, modern science still seems a bit crude compared to the genius complexity of nature.

The same principle applies to essential oils. Over time, various plant-based healing components have been identified, extracted, and reproduced in laboratories, and this has brought us many important medicines (think of aspirin, from willow bark, for a common example). Yet isolating these elements and reproducing them in factories removes the true healing potential of the whole, natural oil. The wonder of nature never ceases to amaze me–as with food, the unique chemical components of each essential oil work together in a synergy we are just beginning to understand, and when we isolate these components, we risk losing the full potential of the essential oil. Not only that, but in subtle aromatherapy, it is said that the true essence of the oil, the key element, is lost when it is reproduced outside of nature.

How can you make sure you’re buying natural products?

As I’ve mentioned before, the United States does not regulate the use of the term “aromatherapy”, or “natural” for that matter. This means that it is up to us as consumers to be vigilant in deciding which products we purchase and use. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Read ingredients carefully–you’ll probably start to notice that many aromatherapy products contain a few essential oils, but also quite a bit of fragrance oil. I often see something like, “made with essential and fragrance oils” on labels. Or worse yet, “made with all natural fragrance oil”, which I hope you now know is certainly not natural at all.
  • Avoid products with “nature-identical essential oils”, which are not essential oils from natural sources.
  • Some flavors just don’t come from nature. This is especially true for popular food fragrances–I’m pretty sure your pina colada body wash and bubble gum lotion aren’t made with essential oils . . .
  • Many essential oils are incredibly expensive, and products using real essential oils will reflect this. If the cost seems too low, the product may contain only a minimal amount of essential oil. Depending on the product and its other ingredients, this may be fine, or it may not actually contain sufficient oils to bring about healing.
  • Floral oils, absolutes, and more exotic oils are particularly expensive, so if you find a “rose” lotion for a low price, it’s probably a fragrance oil.

As always, if you have any questions about this topic, I’d love to hear from you!!!

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I love aromatherapy. It has been part of my life peripherally for as long as I can remember, and I have been practicing and studying aromatherapy in earnest for the past year. It seems there is an unending supply of information on aromatherapy, and I am constantly learning more about this amazing field.

I know I’m not the only one who loves aromatherapy, either. The proliferation of all-natural home and beauty products boasting aromtherapeutic benefits has been growing steadily for years. What I have noticed, though, is that the quality of these “aromatherapy” products varies widely, and at least in the United States, there is no government regulation on the use of the word “aromatherapy”. I have found that existing aromatherapy products range from being truly healing and powerful products, to misguided attempts by amateur aromatherapists, to products that really shouldn’t be labeled as aromatherapy at all. And despite the popularity of aromatherapy, I’ve found that relatively few people actually understand what aromatherapy is or the many ways it can heal.

I’m writing this series of posts about aromatherapy with hopes of bringing more awareness to this subject. I’m passionate about aromatherapy and am constantly researching and making new truly high-quality products (through Essential Life Aromatherapy–contact me if interested!). There is much to learn about this field, and there are many misconceptions that must be addressed. These posts will only scratch the surface of the depths of aromatherapy and its benefits, but I hope that they give you a clearer understanding of what aromatherapy is and how you can use it to enhance your own life.

What is Aromatherapy?

Of the many definitions I’ve found for aromatherapy, one of my favorites comes from certified aromatherapist Valerie Cooksley, R.N. and author of the amazing book Aromatherapy: Soothing Remedies to Restore,Rejuvenate and Heal. She defines aromatherapy as the “skilled and controlled us of essential oils for physical and emotional health and well-being”.

There are a few key words in this definition that I want to take a closer look at. First, notice the words skilled and controlled. True aromatherapy comes from knowledge, experimentation, and training. Simply putting a random collection of essential oils in a shampoo does not necessarily mean that the shampoo contains the benefits offered by true aromatherapy. The other terms to note are physical and emotional. While many people associate aromatherapy with increases in emotional health, such as stress-reduction and relaxation, fewer seem to realize that aromatherapy also has direct, physical benefits, such as pain-reduction and the ability to help fight infections.

And Essential Oils Are . . . ?

Before I get overly excited writing about all the amazing benefits of aromatherapy, I think I better step back and clarify another part of the above definition: essential oils. Essential oils are liquids that can be distilled (usually through a steam or water distillation) from plants. They are found in various plant parts, including the flowers, leaves, bark, wood, roots, and peels (for fruit).

Essential oils contain the essence of a plant. They give the plant its unique fragrance and represent its chemical composition. Think of a fragrant herb or flower that you’re familiar with, such as rosemary. Imagine yourself pinching a leaf from the rosemary plant and bringing your fingers to your nose. You are smelling the essence of rosemary, brought to you via its particular essential oil.

Essential oils are also volatile, meaning that they are unstable and will quickly evaporate from a liquid to a gas–that’s why you can smell them so easily! The term “oil” is actually a bit misleading as well, since essential oils range from watery liquids to thick resins and rarely actually feel oily.

Another key fact about essential oils is that they are very concentrated. Valerie Cooksley helps put this in perspective, noting that one drop of essential oil usually equals about 30 cups of an herbal tea made from the same plant. Essential oils are powerful! This is why it is so important that aromatherapy is done with skill, caution, and education.

Finally, essential oils must come from nature. They are not fragrance oils, and they are not created in laboratories. While fragrance oils and perfumes may smell lovely, they do not offer the same healing benefits as essential oils.

*Check out my next post for more information about why aromatherapists use natural ingredients, and my upcoming post about more ingredients used in aromatherapy.

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

This is a simple question with a very complicated answer. Contrary to popular belief, aromatherapy involves a lot more than scent, though scent is certainly part of it. For this introductory post, I’ll try to keep it to the basics, and I’ll follow-up with more detailed answers in the future.

There are two basic ways that aromatherapy heals:

  • First, odor molecules are received through the nose and go on to affect brain chemistry.
  • Second, essential oils are absorbed through the skin and go on to affect body chemistry.

Other ways aromatherapy can be used to heal are through oral doses and rectal supplements (sounds fun, huh). These methods are much less common than the first two, and should only be undertaken under the direct supervision of a certified aromatherapist or medical professional.

The ways in which both the brain and body process essential oils are fascinating, and I promise to go into more detail about this soon. For now, just remember that there is more to aromatherapy than smell!

A Holistic Approach to Healing

While essential oils are powerful and have amazing healing benefits, aromatherapy as a whole is part of a holistic approach to health and well-being. Rather than relying solely on one type of healing, aromatherapy is most effectively used to support an integrative approach to well-being, which may involve acupuncture, therapy, nutrition, yoga, physical therapy, doctors’ appointments and more.

Safety

Safety is another area of aromatherapy that really needs its own post. As I mentioned before, essential oils are powerful, and working with a certified aromatherapist can be very helpful. Still here are a few safety tips to get you started:

  • as a general rule, always dilute oils before applying them directly to your skin
  • avoid ingesting essential oils orally
  • some essential oils can be dangerous if used incorrectly, so do your research
  • certain medical conditions may have contradictions with some essential oils
  • extra care needs to be taken in certain populations, including children, pregnant woman, and our animal friends

When in doubt about a particular product or essential oil, ask! Ask an aromatherapy professional, or better yet–ask me! I’d love to hear from my readers with any questions or comments about aromatherapy, so let’s get the discussion going!

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Today, in the northern hemisphere, we are experiencing the fall equinox. Twice a year, we have a balance of day and night, once in the fall (the autumnal equinox), and once in the spring (the vernal equinox). Here in the north, March offers our vernal equinox, while September brings the autumnal  equinox.

Among the ancient Celts, all changes of seasons were sacred times to be celebrated with ritual and festivity, and the autumnal equinox was no exception. Today, this holiday is called “Mabon” on the modern Pagan wheel of the seasons:

File:Wheel of the Year.svg

Similar to our modern Thanksgivings, the autumnal equinox is a time to celebrate the harvest and give thanks for the fruits of our labors. It is also a time for generosity and sharing our bounty with our neighbors and communities.

As our gardens go through seasons of seeding, fruitfulness, harvest, and rest, so do the cycles of our lives. The autumnal equinox presents a transition from the creative, manifesting, and active  energy of summer to the reflective, grateful, and rewarding time of fall. Now is the time to look at what we have created over the past year. What seeds did we plant, and how have they grown? What have our past actions brought us? Which projects have been successful, and which must we return to again in the next cycle? As the days of our year continue to shorten and nights begin to lengthen, we may begin to spend less time in active pursuits, and more time in contemplation and reflection.

The autumnal equinox is also a time for balance, as day and night are of equal length. Astrologically, it is significant that this equinox occurs as the sun enters the sign of Libra, or the scales, once again representing a time of balance and harmony.

Libra scales

I personally love tuning into the seasons in this way. I feel the more I connect to the Earth and its natural cycles, the more balance, and ultimately creativity, I bring to my own life.

Essential Oils for the Autumnal Equinox

Aromatherapy offers a wonderful way to enhance seasonal celebrations, as certain essential oils can assist us with different elements of the season. Here are a few of my suggestions for the autumnal equinox:

Black Pepper is a warming and spicy scent perfect for the fall. It comforts us and brings about a sense of security to help us through times of change.

Cardamom is seasonal and spicy, bringing about a warm enthusiasm to help us celebrate the new season.

Cedarwood, another warming oil, assists us with grounding and strengthens our spirits in times of crisis. This is a wonderful oil to help you deal with the more difficult aspects of seasonal changes.

Cypress is traditionally connected to Pluto, Greek god of the underworld and symbol of psychological transformation. Cypress can assist with unblocking fears that may inhibit change.

Myrrh  brings balance by uniting the physical and spiritual realms. Its effect on the nervous system aids in a sense of calm and tranquility, making it a wonderful oil to use for meditation and reflection.

Patchouli is a wonderfully sensual oil that helps bring us into our bodies more fully. This oil helps us truly enjoy the earthy, celebratory aspects of the autumnal equinox.

Balance and Generosity Blend: This day is all about balance, and a wonderful way to bring balance into your life is to center yourself in your heart. The heart is our center, bringing our roots and our dreams into harmony. The heart is also the center of selfless love and generosity, and this day reminds us to share our gifts and spirit. Three oils that assist in balancing and opening the heart are lavender, rose otto, and bergamot. The following is my blend for opening the heart:

  • 4 drops lavender
  • 2 drop rose otto
  • 2 drops bergamot

With this blend and all single essential oils, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Using blend a diffuser is a wonderful and safe way to enjoy the benefits of essential oils. If you’d like to use any oils directly on your skin, make sure to dilute them first in some sort of carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba.

Enjoy the celebration today with balance, gratitude, and generosity of spirit!

fall colors in Japan

 

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