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Posts Tagged ‘holistic healing’

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 ;)

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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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I’ve been studying and practicing aromatherapy for years and have always appreciated the healing potential of plant medicine. Lately, I’ve been adding herbal remedies to my repertoire. I truly believe that the Earth provides solutions for most of what ails us, and I’m excited to be expanding my knowledge in this field.*

One of my recent and successful herbal creations has been homemade cough syrup. Making this syrup was so fun and easy! And I love having an all-natural remedy for coughing on hand (have you ever read the label on a pharmaceutical cough syrup bottle? yikes.) So, I just have to share this and spread the beauty of natural healing. Now, I think the recipes listed below are easy and fun, but I understand that not everyone wants to keep jars of medicinal herbs on hand. If this is you, be sure to scroll down to the bottom and check out my super easy version of this cough syrup.

I learned how to make this syrup during a winter wellness herbalism class at Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary in Boulder, CO. This is a wonderful, locally owned herbal shop with a focus on quality and sustainability. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. And as a side note, I also recently took an herbal aphrodisiac class at Rebecca’s, so get ready for some Valentine’s Day posts ;)

English: Promethazine-codeine cough syrup

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Supplies

  • large pot
  • large glass/ceramic pitcher or bowl
  • glass bottles (for the syrup)
  • mesh strainer
  • muslin
  • measuring utensils (for liquid, kitchen scale)

Ingredients

  • dried herbs
  • water
  • liquid sweetener, such as honey
  • brandy (optional)

Ingredients can be flexible, and I’ve listed a few recipe ideas below. Basically, you’ll want to use about 2 oz. dried herbs per 4 cups of water and 2 cups of liquid sweetener. However, there is a bit of wiggle room here. If you’re unable to weigh out ounces of herbs, a general rule of thumb is 1 Tbs herbs to 1 cup water.

Most cough syrup recipes call for equal parts reduced herbal liquid and sweetener at the end of the recipe; however, if this seems too sweet and calorie-ridden, feel free to cut back on the sweetener a bit.

Adding a bit of alcohol, such as brandy or vodka, can extend the shelf life, but this is optional.

Directions

  1. Place the herbs in a large pot with the water.
  2. Mark the water level (perhaps with a wooden spoon).
  3. Bring the mixture to a low boil.
  4. Simmer the mixture down to half its original amount, which is 2 cups if you’re using the ratios above (this is why you mark the original amount on the spoon!). It’s best to simmer the liquid covered, as this keeps in those valuable essential oils. However, this version also requires 2 or more hours of simmering. If you’re short on time, simmering uncovered still produces an effective brew, and your kitchen will smell amazing.
  5. Once the liquid is at the halfway mark, remove it from the heat and strain the herbs into a large glass pitcher or bowl. It’s best to use a mesh strainer lined with muslin in order to ensure that no plant particles sneak through the straining process. Leaving plant matter in your syrup will shorten the shelf life and may lead to molding. Also, using muslin allows you to squeeze out all the excess liquid and potent medicine from the herbs.
  6. Stir in the sweetener. Add brandy or vodka if desired.
  7. Pour the syrup into bottles, label, and refrigerate.

Congratulations! You’ve just made cough syrup. The syrup should keep refrigerated for about 6 months.

Suggested Herbs

There are several herbs that you can use for your cough syrup, depending on the type of cough you have and your flavor preferences. Here is a list of just a few. I’ve included a few notes on the properties of these herbs, but if you have additional questions, an easy internet search or book on herbs should provide more information.

  • Osha: Also known as “bear root” because bears rub it all over themselves when they awaken from hibernation. Osha is wonderful for respiratory ailments; however it is also highly over-harvested and must be treated with respect. One way to use osha in a sustainable way is to use the same root again and again. Just rinse and allow the root to fully dry after each use. You can continue to use the same root until it is no longer potent.
  • Elecampane: A wonderful expectorant–meaning it will help you cough up all that gunk in your lungs!
  • Pleurisy: Also an expectorant, but especially good for dry coughs.
  • Licorice: Helps synergize all the other herbs and adds nice flavor.
  • Thyme: A great all-purpose germ killer.
  • Elder berries: Good for the immune system and antiviral.

Other recommended herbs: rose hips, marshmallow root, cinnamon, ginger, orange peel, fennel, garlic, coltsfoot, and peppermint. And there are plenty of others!

A Sample Recipe

This is the ratio of herbs we used in our class cough syrup:

  • .75 oz elecampane
  • .75 oz elderberry
  • .25 oz licorice
  • .25 oz thyme
Cough Syrup. made in class

cough syrup, made in class

When I later made more cough syrup at home, I replaced the elderberry and licorice with osha and ginger. And I got a little creative in my use of bottles . . . .

cloudy tequila? no, homemade cough syrup!

cloudy tequila? no, it’s homemade cough syrup!

Dosage

These recipe produces a fairly safe cough syrup. Take a few spoonfuls per day as needed, perhaps slightly less for children.

The Easiest Cough Syrup Ever

So, if buying up a variety of herbs to test your skills at making cough syrup doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to try out my super easy version!

Instead of purchasing a variety of herbs, let the experts do the work for you and simply buy some cold care tea. I like Gypsy Cold Care by Traditional Medicinals. The herbs are already blended for you, and tea bags replace the mesh and muslin strainers. Use one tea bag per cup of water, and follow the directions above. How easy is that?

Gypsy Cold Care tea

Gypsy Cold Care tea

*DISCLAIMER

I am not a certified herbalist, and all information here is to be followed at your own risk. I am a passionate amateur with growing experience, and I simply report here what I’ve learned and what works for me. That said, enjoy the healing power of plants!

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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.

***

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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