5 Interesting Facts About Lavender You Might Not Know

     One of my favourite herbs is lavender which I often use for treating insomnia.  After doing some research I found a few more uses for it other than the just for the treatment of insomnia.  I particularly like that lavender has antibacterial qualities that can offer an option for people that may not be able to use hand sanitizer gels.

Acne Treatment

Lavender is one of the most valuable oils for the treatment of acne, according to aromatherapists. “It inhibits the bacteria that cause the skin infection, helps to rebalance the over-secretion of sebum, which the bacteria thrive on, and reduce scarring”. Add a few drops of lavender oil to a plain cream sold by chemists and use as a moisturizer or cleanser.

  Insomnia
In a number of small case studies, elderly psychiatric patients have been shown to sleep better and be more alert during the day when their sleep medication is replaced with lavender oil either dropped on their pillows, or placed in a diffuser on the ward.  To induce sleep, put 3 or 4 drops of lavender oil on your pillow. For babies, add 1 drop of lavender oil  & geranium oil in carrier oil and massage into a babies back or a few drops in their bedtime bath.

Fatigue
Add 5 drops of lavender oil to a hot foot bath and relax while your feet soak in it.  The soles of the feet are particularly porous, so lavender reaches your bloodstream very quickly, exerting its stimulating and soothing effects on various systems of your body

Sinusitis

For the sinus and allergy sufferers this one may be very useful in the treatment of said conditions.
Lavender is one of several essential oils that aromatherapists recommend for inhalations to relieve sinusitis, add two drops of lavender & thyme oil to a bowl of near-steaming water and inhale slowly and deeply, with a towel over your head & bowl.

  Antibacterial

French laboratory studies in the early 20th century showed that lavender is a powerful antibacterial in dilutions of 5 per cent or less it is lethal to bacteria that cause typhoid, TB & diphtheria. Combined with Lemon Balm, for its clinically tested anti-viral properties.

Whether Home or Away: Herbal First Aid Kit by Angela Holly Penn (c) July 2012

A great first aid kit should handle more than just cuts and scrapes.  I have tried to include all-natural, herbs that are potent and easy for one to purchase or make whether one is home or away.   Most, if not the majority of these remedies have been handed down to me from my family or have been tried and true in my personal experience.  You will notice several of my favourite herbal oils are repeated to include their many usages such as: Chamomile tea, (Japanese Mint, Lavender, Eucalyptus and Tea Tree oils).

The most common culprits whether at home or away:

Cuts, scrapes and Burns

Insect Bites

General skin rashes

Upset stomach & Diarrhea

Sunburn

Muscular Aches & Pains (Including arthritic)

Bleeding and Bruising

Poison Ivy rash

Sore throat, colds, upper respiratory problems

Sinus Congestion

Menstrual Cramps

Insomnia

Headaches

***I recommend talking to a herbalist or naturopath about the use of any of these herbs if you are uncertain about them or are taking any medications that might interfere with their use.  Always read the labels on any herbal products you buy before using them and while preparing your first aid kit.

 

Cuts, Scrapes & Burns:

A comfrey based salve, including herbs such as plantain, St. John’s wort, calendula and echinacea, will soothe, accelerate healing, and disinfect.  Essential oils such as lavender and rosemary strengthen these effects.  An echinacea tincture acts as an anti-infection agent and Echinacea extracts have also been used as a general immune system enhancer. ( 1)  If you have access to an aloe vera plant, break off an aloe leaf and scrape the gel and apply directly to minor burns, scalds, and sunburns.

Echinacea

Insect Bites:

Witch hazel, grindelia, comfrey and St. John’s Wort all provide relief from insect bites and general itching.  Tinctured combinations of these seem to work best; they can be applied directly to the skin.  Tea Tree Oil can also be applied topically to minor cuts, insect bites and stings.

 

General Skin Rashes:

Lavender essential oil may be applied directly to the skin, which works well.  Tea Tree Oil can be applied to skin irritations such as pimples, prepare the area by cleaning the site and keeping it dry for proper application.  Chamomile tea when applied externally soothes irritations on the skin.

Chamomile

 

Upset stomach & Diarrhea:

I strongly suggest ginger capsules.  Ginger has been known to be an effective remedy for stomach upset, motion sickness, morning sickness and excess gas.  Other alternatives: fennel and peppermint teas.

Helpful herbs include blackberry root or leaf (root is preferred for its greater astringency: simmer root for 20-40 minutes or steep leaf for tea for 10-30 minutes).  Similarly, use wild strawberry root or leaf.  Raspberry leaf provides a very mild remedy for diarrhea.  Blackberry and strawberry root and leaf will also reduce internal hemorrhaging. (1)

 

Lavender

Sunburn: 

Spray pure Lavender Mist – Hydrosol directly onto the skin or add 8 drops of lavender oil and 4 drops of peppermint oil to a teaspoon of jojoba oil.  Pour it into a cool-to-lukewarm bath and soak for 10 minutes. (3)  (Also see Cuts, Scrapes and Burns regarding Aloe Vera)

 

Muscular Aches and Pains:

Japanese mint oil and witch hazel tinctures in combination or combined with essential oils of camphor or eucalyptus, are all excellent choices.  A combination of Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil added to bath water should relieve muscular tension in the body. (3)

Japanese mint oil is useful for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis when applied directly to the area: i.e. knee, hands and elbows.

Meadowsweet tea works well in the treatment of arthritis pain and inflammation.  It is strongly advised that children should not drink the tea and people that cannot take aspirin, as meadowsweet is one of the ingredients in aspirin.  A few drops of meadowsweet oil under the tongue are yet another way to administer this herb.

 

Bleeding and Bruising:

Cayenne is a proven styptic and can be used in capsule form to apply to bleeding.  Styptic: causing contraction of the blood vessels and thereby stopping bleeding. (4)  Open and apply externally to stop bleeding. (It may burn, but it works).  It will also warm cold feet, sprinkled inside your boots. Alternative styptics: comfrey and yarrow.

I think of bruising as wounds where the skin is unbroken, often accompanied by discoloration. Useful herbs, applied topically in tincture form are prickly ash bark, cayenne, comfrey and arnica.

I remember having a rash when I was younger from Poison Ivy and Japanese mint oil was very useful in the elimination of itching.  The mint oil can also be applied directly on the skin for hives.  However, since then I have discovered something far faster acting and that is Calamine lotion which consists of zinc oxide with a small amount of ferric oxide.  If you are out camping with the kids and they get a bad bout with poison ivy I recommend the Calamine lotion as one of the essentials in your first aid kit.

 

Sore throat, Colds & Upper respiratory problems:

Two drops of thyme oil in 4 ounces of water can be used as a mouthwash, for a toothache or sore throat.  Three drops of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water, which is inhaled has been a proven remedy in the treatment of bronchial conditions.  Tea tree oil can be used as a chest rub for head and chest colds as it has heating and penetrating effects.

 

Sinus Congestion:

Both the eucalyptus oil and the Japanese mint oil are known to relieve sinus congestion.  Use a few drops of one of these in a bowl of hot water and inhale for long-term relief.

 

Menstrual cramps:

Massage a few drops of lavender oil into your lower abdomen or apply a hot compress which contains a few drops of lavender oil in it. (3)

 

 Insomnia:

Lavender oil sprinkled on the underside of one’s pillowcase has been effective in the treatment of insomnia on occasion for me.  When one is travelling lavender oil can certainly come in handy staying in strange or new places, in particular for those long road trips.

Chamomile tea has been said to send many to a quiet slumber.  Chamomile is supposed to have a magical ability to attract money!  Old time gamblers used to wash their hands in chamomile tea before they played cards or threw the dice.  Sure can’t hurt to carry some with you!

 

Headaches:

My husband has been a chronic headache sufferer for many years until he started using the herbal teas recommended in this article.  He tried OTC pain medications and prescribed medications from his physician without success.

Relaxation Herbs: Chamomile, Rosemary and Mint.  These herbs can be helpful for easing headaches as well as associated symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and stress.  They tend to have a very calming effect and chamomile in particular is widely available in herbal tea formulations.  It’s convenient and helpful to enjoy a cup of herbal tea if a headache hits and you require immediate relief.

Rub a few drops of tea tree oil on the area of your head that hurts.

 

Additional materials:  Band Aids, Bandages, 1/2 inch surgical tape, tweezers, small scissors, single edged razor blade, cold pack (cools on impact), several bandages of various sizes, gauze, a bandana. Eye cup (or shot glass), a carrying case (soft sided & waterproof) for the contents of the first aid kit.

 

Images: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Sources:

  1. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives site © 2012.
  2. Assembling An Herbal First Aid Kit, Source: Susan W. Kramer, PhD, Esq.
  3. 20 Reasons to use Lavender Essential Oil   http://www.netherfield.co.nz/reasons-use-lavender.php).
  4. Terry Willard Ph.D. Textbook of Modern Herbology 2nd Revised Edition © 1993.  Wild Rose College of Natural Healing.

Angela Holly Penn (c)   July 2012

Angela is a free-lance writer and herbalist student in Canada.   She is also working on a book that will utilize her educational background in psychology, journalism and herbology

Alternatives to Pharmaceutical Drugs for Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

I find myself cringing at the thought of another winter approaching.  The darker days, less sunlight, cold temperatures, ice,putting on the parka and boots, does not make me feel overjoyed with the idea of winter.  Many of us are affected by the lack of sunlight and with the time change approaching quickly, one will be getting up in the dark and ariving home in the dark.  For many years melatonin appeared to be the one option that seemed to alleviate the problems associated with SAD.

For those of you not familar with what SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder) it is describes as such:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is an extreme form of common seasonal mood cycles, in which depression develops during the winter months.

How seasonal changes cause depression is unknown, but most of the research into mechanisms and treatment has focused on changes in levels of the brain chemicals melatonin and serotonin in response to changing exposure to light and darkness.

SAD is characterized by typical symptoms of depression, such as sadness, hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide (in some cases), and �atypical� depressive symptoms such as excessive sleep, lethargy, carbohydrate cravings, overeating, and weight gain. The symptoms usually occur the same time of year, typically fall and winter, and disappear with the onset of spring and summer. (1)

There are several treatment options available other than pharmaceutical drugs.

Light Therapy

Light boxes used to treat SAD produce artificial  daylight. They filter out ultra-violent (UV) rays, which can be harmful to your  eyes and skin. Light intensity may vary, which affects the amount of time you  need to be exposed to it. In other words, it will take a longer time for a light  box with low intensity to produce any effects. Light boxes can help increase  your mood and regulate your sleeping, which is often disrupted during periods of  depression.  According to the Mayo Clinic, you need to be within 2 feet of the  light box with your eyes open for a minimum of 30 minutes for it to have any  impact on your depression. (2)

I have found light therapy to be advantageous on days that are overcast and cloudy limiting sun exposure.  It is easy to site in front of a lamp for 30 minutes per day while you read, write, watch television, blog or peruse the internet.

Aromatherapy

Essential oils are extracted from plants and have strong  aromas. Due to their potency, they are often not suitable for use directly on  your skin. However, their fragrant scents can be inhaled. Candles, sprays, reed  diffusers and oil warmers can all emit the aromas. Smelling jasmine, lavender,  rose and sandalwood can be therapeutic if you have mild depression, according to  Holistic Online, because these scents have soothing qualities. Bergamot,  lemongrass and rosemary also can be beneficial.(2)

Photo Credit she smells the jasmine flowers image by Alexandra Gnatush-Kostenko  from  Fotolia.com

Yoga

I seem to be writing a great deal about yoga and I can say that it has helped me a great deal all year round.  If you suffer from stiffness in your body or suffer with arthritic conditions this is the type of activity for you.  With the differentt styles of yoga available there is one for every person.  Restorative yoga is one that I find beneficial in my daily life.  It also appears that yoga slows down the aging process and I have met people in their 80’s and older that would put me to shame.

Yoga is a relaxation technique for your body and mind.  It consists of controlled breathing, posing and meditation. According to the  National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga may help with  depression by improving your mood and well-being by fighting off stress and  helping your muscles to relax. In the September 2010 issue of “The Journal of  Family Practice,” researchers state that the meditative aspect of yoga as well  as the physical component reduces self-reported symptoms of patients with  depression as effectively as anti-depressants or cognitive behavioral therapy  and more effectively than light therapy. (3)

Coffee is not often considered herbal in nature, but in fact, it is. The  caffeine contained in coffee is a stimulant and has a mild antidepressant  effect. It can cause agitation and insomnia in large doses.

Kava kava, an herb used ceremonially in the South Pacific, contains  kavalactones which provide sedative and anti-stress properties. It has been  shown to have anti-anxiety potential, but it should be used with caution due to  possible liver toxicity.

Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Your Diet

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center in the article Omega-3 Fatty Acids, people who do not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids on a regular basis are at more risk of suffering from depression than those who do eat enough. Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of nerve cell membranes and help nerve cells communicate with each other. Without proper communication between the nerve cells, mental health can suffer. You can add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet by eating cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring or mackerel. Canola oil, flaxseed oil, flaxseeds and walnuts are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Supplements are also available if you cannot get enough omega-3 fatty acids through the foods you eat. (4)

Herbal and Nutritional Supplements for SAD

Some herbal and nutritional supplements can help to alleviate the symptoms of SAD. The herbal supplement St. John’s wort can be effective in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Another supplement, SAMe, can be effective in increasing serotonin and dopamine in the brain which affects mood. Melatonin, a natural hormone, also works well to regulate mood. Talk with your doctor before taking herbal or nutritional supplements especially if you are taking any prescription medications.(4)

Never underestimate the power of exercise in the treatment of SAD.  Even a brisk walk, dancing or doing some stretching exercises can be effective by releasing endorphins in your body that create a “natural high”.

Lotus Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Even if the sun is not shining perhaps one or more of these suggested therapies will find you smiling 🙂

References:

(1).  http://www.evitamins.com/encyclopedia/assets/health-condition/seasonal-affective-disorder/vitamins-and-supplements

(2). Holistic Online: Depression – Aromatherapy

(3). National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: The  Status of Yoga Research
(4).http://herbs-that-heal.net/tag/seasonal-affective-disorder/

Dealing with Loss

At some point in our lives we will have to face the loss of a loved one, sometimes it is sudden while at other times it is expected – in either case the grief and sense of loss can be just as raw and all consuming.  Loss in one’s ability to do things that they once enjoyed due to medical conditions may be applicable to some people as well.  If you are told you have x, y, and z wrong with you and you are not offered solutions by medical professionals, this can send anyone into a feeling of loss and hopelessness.  A loss of job or relationship can be as devastating as a loss of a child or pet.

Grief not only affects us in the moment but can carry over for years affecting a person both psychologically and physically.

There are natural remedies for grief, shock, and depression (there seems to be a natural remedy for everything), and I have tried some in the hope of some “miracle cure”.  There is no miracle cure for grief.  You have to get through the stages and more forward.  Grief is a process, which cannot be magically erased or cured.

When you have suffered a loss, you are most likely to go through several phases in your grief work. If someone, be it a human being or a pet, has meant something to you on an emotional level, it will take time to process their loss.   Elizabeth Kubler-Ross spent years researching the grief cycle and believed that there were five different stages that people go through in order to process a loss.

They are:

Denial stage:  When someone hears the news of a loved one’s death, they frequently say “no, that can’t be true”.  This is denial and its function is to soften the shock of death.  After a while the truth gradually sinks in.

Anger stage:  This is a common part of grief. We can feel angry with the person for dying (however illogical that may seem); we can feel angry with ourselves or their caregivers (for not doing more).  Some people feed their anger because it gives them energy and a feeling of power, but it is not a real power and must be surrendered in order to move on.  Feeling angry at God is not uncommon during this stage or questioning why this had to happen.

Bargaining stage: Once a person has expressed their anger, they get into the stage of bargaining. Just give me a little more time.  If the person has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, then this stage is more apparent.   In fact we are bargaining with God, or whoever we believe to be in charge of the Universe.  “Just let me see my children grow up, graduate, etc. and then I’ll die.” It is another form of denial but there is more awareness to it.

Depression stage: When a person comes to realize that the loved one is not coming back, or that they really are going to die, they frequently fall into depression.   Nothing seems worth bothering with in the face of this catastrophic loss.   People become apathetic and seemingly without feeling at this stage. Some begin to question their own mortality and feel more depressed.  Many people shut down and shut off preferring to hide away from people and the world which creates more isolation.  The world appears particularly harsh and dark for some people and not wanting to become too emotionally vested in relationships with people that require a certain level of intimacy.  A lack of appetite, sleep disturbances, or using alcohol or drugs as a way of coping can also occur in this stage.

Acceptance stage: When the depression has been expressed, acceptance can come. We know that the loved one has passed and we have made our peace with it.  We are free to love and form deep bonds again.  This can take weeks, months and even years for some people to achieve.

Understanding the grief cycle holistically can help you if you are going through a loss yourself or if you are supporting a friend or a family member through a loss. The real danger is to get stuck at one stage of the process, for example in denial or anger.

It has been shown in various studies that grief can lower the immune system.   It can cause a major decrease in the body’s ability to fight infection and other major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease.   Grieving individuals are also more prone to colds and contracting minor illnesses. It is thought that this comes about as a result of stress, it’s really important for the benefit of your health to reduce your stress as much as possible.  We tend to neglect our needs and our health when we are processing loss, this may contribute to the weakening of one’s immune system.

Whatever you choose that helps you cope during this trying period of you life is an individual choice.  Once the process of grieving is over I hope you found something from this blog that you may not have experienced before.

Coping strategies that can help one deal with loss:

Consulting a herbalist or naturopath regarding the safe use of herbs is one such possibility.

Homeopathy can be used to balance emotional energy.  Using the correct homeopathic remedy to liberate the psyche of the patient and facilitate a quicker cure.  Homoeopathy is concerned with treating the person as a whole.  This includes the spiritual, mental and physical aspects of the person.  Labels such as anxiety, depression, hysteria, mania, are not so important for a homeopath to form a diagnosis.   It is only when the stresses of life begin to weigh too heavily for that person to cope that these signs of instability begin to show. This is because each person is an individual and the symptoms are the patient’s natural way of expressing their problem.

Some herbs that have been useful in treating grief and loss include:

1.Lavender is used to treat common stress symptoms, such as insomnia, depression and headaches.  It’s often used in aromatherapy, but can also be in the form of tea or liquid extract for consumption.

2.Kava relieves anxiety and induces sleep.

3.Ginseng improves concentration, increases stamina and provides a sense of well-being.

4.Catnip tea has a calming effect.

5.Valerian is an effective sleep aid that is considered safe for short term or occasional use. Valerian is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.

6.Peppermint provides relief for three common stress symptoms – heartburn, upset stomach, and headache.

7.Evening primrose is an effective treatment for eczema, a common symptom of stress.

8.Willow bark provides fast relief for a headache.

9.Chamomile tea has a calming effect, soothes stomach problems, and is an effective sleep aid. While safe for most people, some do have serious allergic reactions to chamomile.

10.Sage is effective at clearing the mind, improving both memory and concentration.

11.Ginger tea provides fast relief for an upset stomach.

12.Tea tree oil is an effective treatment for acne, eczema, and other skin conditions, commonly brought on by stress.

13.St. John’s Wort has been found to break down the excess quantities of norepinephrine, a stress hormone. St. John’s Wort also is used to treat depression. St. John’s wort has been found to interact with a variety of medications, so talk to your health care provider before using St. John’s wort if you are currently taking medication.

14.Dill is effective for soothing an upset stomach.

15.Feverfew is an effective treatment for tension and migraine headaches, which are common symptoms of stress.

16.Tarragon relieves pain and promotes calmness.

17.Licorice root is used to treat stomach ulcers, which can result from long-term stress. Licorice root is available in tablets, capsules and liquid extracts.

 

Other suggestions would include:

 

Exercise  – Before embarking on any new exercise regime ensure you consult your doctor and get an examination.

Regular exercise is essential for health.  It’s a particularly important natural cure for grief.  It can be as simple as a brisk walk for half an hour every day.

Choose something you enjoy.

If you had a dog, and recently lost your pet, you may have relied, as so many of us do, on the dog’s need for exercise to motivate you to go for a walk. You may have to make a special effort to go out in the fresh air without canine companionship. Try new walks if you can, or walk a dog for a friend.

If you have had to care for a spouse or family member during a long, terminal illness, you may find you have neglected your own health in order to look after them. Getting started with an exercise program is an essential part of self-care.   It honors the person who you have loved and lost to be as healthy and positive as you can be.

 

Meditation

Meditation can be an important part of holistic grief healing. If you are already a meditator, you will know its power. But if you are not, don’t give up.

 

Prayer

Just a quick note on prayer, for some praying can help us deal with a loss.  We may pray for strength and guidance or we might want to alleviate our feelings of sadness and sometimes feelings of guilt.  For me I felt as if I did not do enough for my pet or deceased relative and praying allowed me to put those thoughts to rest.  The benefits of prayer have been widely researched and proven very helpful when dealing with a loss.

 

Yoga

There are many forms of yoga – in fact yoga is one of the most widely practiced forms of exercise in the world.   Yoga combines two important natural cures for grief such as exercise and breathing.

Many people become sedentary, especially when they are grieving.   Alice Christensen, founder of the American Yoga Association recommends a couple yoga positions especially because they increase blood circulation, making it easier to overcome the physical effects of grief.

The Standing Sun

Stand straight, feet parallel, and breathe out to a count of three and then raise your arms to the sides in a semicircle and then overhead. Stretch and look up. Hold for a count of three, then breathe out to a count of three as you bend forward from the hips, keeping your head between your outstretched arms. Try to grasp your legs firmly with both hands. Relax.

 

The Knee Squeeze

Lying flat on your back with your arms at your sides, breathe in to a count of three as you raise your right knee to your chest. Make sure your lungs are full, wrap your arms around your knee, and hold your breath in for a count of three as you squeeze your knee to your chest. Repeat with your left leg. Then rest a moment, breathing gently. You can repeat this three times.   It’s also wonderful for an aching back.

 

Creativity

Creativity is one of the best natural cures for grief.  Not only does it help us by encouraging us to focus on something outside of ourselves, there is usually a good result as well.  Many beautiful gardens and fine houses, as well as all kinds of works of art, have been created as part of grief work.  I would highly recommend writing in a journal about your feelings and progress to a poem or short stories.

Some ideas for creative projects include:

•Drawing

•Painting a picture

•Writing – poems, short stories – anything!

•Learning or playing a musical instrument

•Restoring a piece of broken furniture

•Decorating a room

•Making a tapestry cushion

•Creating a piece of pottery

 

 

•Stencilling

•Photography

Breathing

Breathing is one of simplest ways we can relieve stress, and create a feeling of relaxation in our bodies. Research has shown that many depressed people breathe shallowly and therefore don’t get enough oxygen into their lungs to give vitality and energy.   Breathing techniques increase oxygen saturation and also link the heart (feelings) and the brain (thoughts).

There are many techniques for breathing.   Here is a simple one, which is taken from David Servan-Schreiber’s book, “Healing without Freud or Prozac.”   It’s called the Heart Breath and it brings about a coherent heartbeat pattern. If our thoughts are focused on negative emotions, e.g. worries and anxieties, our heartbeat tends to have a chaotic rhythm, going up and down, without any pattern or balance.   If we focus on positive emotions, such as love, kindness and gratitude, our hearts will tend to move towards a coherent, balanced rhythm.   Being in coherence is something that leads to improved health. Breathing correctly will create a relaxed state of being.

References:

http://www.clickremedies.com/natural-herbs-for-stress-anxiety

 

 

Clary Sage for Depression

Clary sage:  is the most euphoric of the essential oils, and it can produce an almost drug like narcotic “high”.  Combined with its pronounced anti-depressant qualities, this euphoria makes clary sage a powerful aid to easing depression, anxiety and stress.   One must use Clary Sage with caution, only a minor amount is required to create relaxation.

 

 

Allergy Treatment Bath

    Herbal tea bath is also recommended for allergy treatment and prevention. Herbal tea bath is used to calm an overactive immune system. Herbal tea from the blend of calendula flowers, lavender flowers, eyebright flowers, or German chamomile are used. This is prepared 1 day before the planned use, by mixing equal amount of herbs to produce a ¼ mixture. Let it soak to 4 cups of tap water and allow to steep overnight. On the next day boil the mixture. Remove from heat and let it steep for 15 minutes. Strain the herbs and pour the mixture to your bath, then soak.

The Magic of Aromatherapy Angela H. Penn © September 2012

I would imagine the people that first discovered what we now call aromatherapy had really no idea what they had found.  To them it was like finding a magical remedy to treat whatever ailed them.  We now know that aromatherapy is helpful in calming one’s body and mind and can be instrumental in the treatment of pain management, boosting our immune systems along with a long list of other maladies.  Some people use aromatherapy during prayer or meditation and in rituals such as the Native Indians and other cultures.   I have personally witnessed the use of sage in a healing ceremony as well as enjoyed using lavender oil in my bath water before I retire for the night.  Scents can uplift us, or calm us down.  This article examines the history and the dynamics of aromatherapy; I have included suggestions in the treatment of stress/tension, for aches and pains, for boosting one’s immune system to treating bacterial/ fungal infections.

History of Aromatherapy:

The history of aromatherapy dates back as far as 6000 years, although the term aromatherapy (“aroma” meaning fragrance, and “therapy” meaning treatment) wasn’t used until the 20th Century.

The ancient Chinese, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all used aromatherapy oils.

The ancient Chinese were using some form of aromatherapy at or around the same time as the Egyptians. They used herbs and burned aromatic woods and incense to show their respect to God. The oldest surviving medical book in China, (dated around 2,700BC and written by Shen Nung, contains cures involving over three hundred different aromatic herbs.

The Greeks continued the use of aromatic oils. They used them in medicines and cosmetics. Aromatherapy came of age when they took medicine into a new light 2000 years ago. The earliest known Greek physician was Asclepius who practiced around 1200 BC combining the use of herbs and surgery with previously unrivalled skill.  His reputation was so great that after his death he was deified as the god of healing in Greek mythology.

Hypocrites (400 BC), who were commonly known as the “Father of Medicine”, were the first to study essential oils’ effects. He believed that a daily aromatic bath and scented massage would promote good health.

Theophrastus, a physician, wrote of the healing properties of “aromatic” plants. For at least 1200 years, a book written by a Greek physician named Pedacius Dioscorides about herbal medicine was the Western world’s standard medical reference.  Many of these remedies are still being used in Aromatherapy today.

The Romans built upon this knowledge and became well known for their scented baths followed and aromatic oil massages.

The ancient Egyptians used plants for religious rituals; it was believed that certain smells could raise higher consciousness or promote a state of tranquility. They used the fragrant oils from plants (essential oils) for embalming.  Oils such as myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon, cedar wood, and juniper berry are all known to have been used in the mummification process to preserve the bodies of their loved ones in preparation for the after-life.  As time went on, the Egyptians continued to refine their use of aromatics in medicine, cosmetics, incense and perfumes.

It was during the 19th century that scientists in Europe began researching the effects of essential oils on bacteria in humans.

Rene Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, began research into the healing powers of essential oils in the early 1900’s after he accidentally burned his hand in his laboratory. On reflex, he immersed his burned hand in the closest liquid which happened to be lavender oil.  He was quite impressed by how quickly the burn healed without infection and with no visible scar. Gattefossé is credited with coining the word “aromatherapy”.   In 1937, Gattefossé wrote a book called Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones végétales which was later translated into English and renamed Gattefossé’s Aromatherapy.

There have been numerous studies and books published on aromatherapy and the healing powers of essential oils since the late 1970’s / early 1980’s when aromatherapy became a major part of alternative and holistic healing across the world.

Aromatherapy uses volatile oils (scents) of the plant for external applications (in massage oils, bath water, humidifiers, vaporizers and diffusers, etc.)  These scents have a variety of healing powers which work primarily on the emotions and mental processes and can have strong physical effects.

It should be noted that the major form of communication among mammals is scent.  Most mammals send out and excrete in urine what we refer to as pheromones, which are hormone- like scents.  Humans also communicate via scent at either a subconscious or conscious level.   We attract mates through pheromones and certain scents can bring back pleasant memories.  The smell of apples and cinnamon bring back memories of Mom’s homemade pies to the smell of lilacs or vanilla can take us back in time to when we were children.

The beauty industry utilizes our strong sense of smell to invoke various moods through scents that encourage us to buy their products.  In recent years,( in my travels to the US and locally) I have noticed the use of scents in stores I frequent to create a certain ambience that encourages the shopper to relax and thus stay longer and buy more to fruity scents that make me feel energized.

Aromatherapy has come under scrutiny as a complementary treatment, yet research continues to prove its undeniable value. Topically, many solutions composed of essential oils used in aromatherapy massage are being used today in oncology units, children’s specialty medical centers and for sporting injuries.  Better Health Channel of Canada suggests that with the right aroma therapist, there is significant evidence linking low risk with benefits to improved health conditions and prevention. Aromatherapy is not appropriate for all medical conditions.  Expert advice from a qualified practitioner or licensed health professional such as an herbalist is strongly encouraged.

Essential oils used in aromatherapy not only invigorate the senses, along with reducing stress and anxiety, but they also have antifungal and antimicrobial properties.   These oils are something only nature could inspire. Considered the life-force in every living plant, essential oils contain the soul, or essence, of the plant – the odor, taste and therapeutic properties. Extracted from the root, bark, wood, seed, flower, fruit, and leaf of freshly harvested plants, essential oils contain the plant’s powerful benefits – their uses have been well documented for centuries and throughout the world.  They can work topically and as an inhalant yet stimulate the immune system to attack harmful bacteria, virus and fungi and further promote healing.   According to “Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide” the use of aromatherapy is all natural and therefore lacks the harsh side effects associated with ingested antibiotics.”  One should note that medicinal herbs tend to take longer to work, compared to antibiotics.

Stress and Immunity:

**Be sure to use ONLY natural and pure oils.

You can use aromatherapy oils –

•As inhalers in your room or workplace: Feel the gentle aromas easing away your stress and tensions, making you feel relaxed and filling you with a sense of soothing calmness. You may like to put your favorite oil in aromatherapy diffusers and enjoy the sense of peace and tranquility in your room.

•As bath oils: Mixing natural aromatic oils to warm water provides a very relaxing experience, and is ideal after a hectic life that has left your nerves frayed and tired.

•As massage oils: Massage relaxes muscles and other parts of the body and leaves you calm and restful. Massage is often applied with the help of aromatic oils. These oils enter the blood stream and help in relaxing your body and mind.

One herbalist I know uses the oils on a handkerchief and waves it over her customers to create a relaxed atmosphere during consultations with her clients.

Some useful herbs for the reduction of stress and anxiety are:

Basil: It is useful during periods of stress, insomnia and mild stress. Promotes mental clarity, concentration and increases enthusiasm.  Caution: Basil should not be used during pregnancy.

Cardamom: Useful during mental stress, burnout and state of confusion. Cardamom oil helps in gaining clarity, concentration and enhances sense of motivation.  Some people claim that the scent of the cardamom herb aids in the process of praying or meditating.

Chamomile Roman: When you are beset by stress, anxiety, tension and worries then this is the oil that will bring you feelings of relaxation and stability.

Cinnamon: Useful aromatic oil for relief from stress and tension. It invigorates and helps in promoting a sense of well-being.

Clary sage:  is the most euphoric of the essential oils, and it can produce an almost drug like narcotic “high”.  Combined with its pronounced anti-depressant qualities, this euphoria makes clary sage a powerful aid to easing depression, anxiety and stress.   One must use Clary Sage with caution, only a minor amount is required to create relaxation.

Frankincense: Useful for curing stress, anxiety, confusion and sense of panic. Apart from making you relaxed it fills one with inspiration.

Geranium:  In vapor therapy, or in massage oil, or diluted in bath water, geranium oil can be used to help relieve stress and mild depression…

Ginger: Make use of this aromatic oil for burnout, anxiety and fatigue. It also helps in enhancing the sense of confidence.

Lavender oils: Very popular amongst oils used in aromatherapy for stress relief.  Helps in restoring a sense of balance, feelings of rejuvenation and helps bringing about clarity in thinking.  Lavender also seems to induce sleep in many people.

Rose: Useful in attaining temporary relief from stress, tension and headache.

Sandalwood: It helps in relieving mental tension and anxiety.

Yang Yang: This aromatic oil helps during periods of stress, anxiety and frustration, and helps in restoring feelings of calm and relaxation.

According to Salvatore Battaglia in The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, the relaxing nervines include: Clary Sage, Roman Chamomile, Lavender, Geranium, Sandalwood, and Ylang Ylang. These aromas work by relieving stress and anxiety, whether applied to the skin, inhaled directly, or diffused. Lavender and Ylang Ylang can even reduce blood pressure, thanks to their high percentages of Linalool.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiovascular surgeon, studied aromatherapy to find alternative methods to expedite recovery time and reduce anxiety in heart patients. Dr. Oz and his collaborator, clinical aroma therapist Jane Buckle, PhD, recommend using 15 drops of an essential oil, such as lavender, chamomile or eucalyptus, diluted with 1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) of a “carrier” or neutral oil, such as almond, avocado or jojoba, dabbed directly on the skin. This means you literally have scented relief on you when you need it, says Dr. Oz.

Essential Oil Blends for Stress

This blend will help you to relax the mind and forget about things for a while   Add the following to 100ml of carrier oil (carrier oil is needed to dilute pure essential oils – you can use vegetable oil such as almond, olive or canola):

•10 drops of bergamot oil (bergamot should not be used if you are going out into the sun, as it can cause photo-sensitivity which produced brown patches on the skin).

•20 drops geranium oil

•10 drops ylang ylang oil

•5 drops frankincense oil

•5 drops cedar wood oil

Alternatively, you can use the following mix in order to relax aches and pains that are caused by stress.

•20 drops lavender oil

•10 drops rosemary oil

•5 drops peppermint oil

•5 drops cypress oil

Again, you need to add the essential oils to 100ml of carrier oil.

It is important to consult a qualified and trained aroma therapist as some essential oils are so concentrated that they have the potential to be harmful, and can burn the skin.  They may also be harmful if swallowed.

Bacteria, Virus and Fungi:

Geranium has been extensively studied for potent antimicrobial properties, and it is the organic Geranium x asperum from Egypt that is most potent for antimicrobial applications (the ‘x asperum’ meaning it’s a particular strain of Pelargonium graviolens). We also now have an incredible Geranium Absolute, with a deep, rich aroma.  This is an exquisite oil to experiment with as a perfume.

Although, the Tea tree oil has a harsh, medicinal smell, it is one of the most powerful immune system boosters in the world of herbology.   Its antiseptic properties make it perfect for topical applications for cleaning wounds and treating bacterial/ fungal infections.   Tea tree oil can be used for aromatherapy in simmer pots, diffusers, or steam therapy.

In England, hospital staff administered essential oil massage to relieve pain and induce sleep. In fact, “English hospitals also use a variety of essential oils (including lemon, lavender and lemongrass) to help combat the transmission of airborne infectious disease” (Alternative Medicine, The Definitive Guide).

Injury, Inflammation and Pain

As an arthritis or muscular treatment, the topical application of essential oils in aromatherapy can have both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.  Clove, cinnamon and thyme generally carry anti-inflammatory properties.  The eucalyptus oil has analgesic qualities that may also double as an antiseptic.   In “Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide,” skin conditions benefit from the use of essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties as well, as they help reduce swelling, redness and tenderness.”

“We found that the smell of green apples reduced the severity and duration of migraine headache pain and may have a similar effect on joint pain,” says Dr. Hirsch. “The scent seems to reduce muscle contractions, which are the main cause of pain in migraines.”

Inflammation is a very common cause of pain. It generally involves swelling. To create a relaxing and inflammatory-busting effect, it is important to use more sedative oils than stimulant oils. The following essential oils can be helpful in alleviating painful, inflamed joints:  Chamomile, Rosemary, Marjoram and Turmeric.

Lavender

The key to relieving muscular pain, including back pain, is to use an essential oil that is relaxing to start with.   Lavender and Chamomile are two such herbs, as they are both calming and help to relax the entire body. The following essential oils can be combined with lavender for a more muscle-relaxing effect.  When combining these, ensure that the lavender is always the dominant oil. They include peppermint, eucalyptus and Japanese mint oil, when combined together this preparation smells quite nice.  I have used this in a diffuser and steamer to also treat sinus problems and seasonal allergies.   One can also safely use a few drops of lavender, eucalyptus and Japanese mint oils in your bath water if you prefer rather than applying these herbs topically.

A good balance of these four oils would be six drops of lavender and just one drop of the other three.

It is wise to remember to use what works for you, as we are all individuals with different rates of recovery and we may differ on what scents we like.  If you don’t like one scent, try another.  Most people enjoy the smell of mint and eucalyptus while others may prefer to use lavender alone.   Even my animals relax and are soon to fall asleep after a lavender bath.

Look at aromatherapy as an adventure or experiment.   One will never run out of herbs to use, that is the beauty of using them.

  Angela H. Penn is a herbalist student, published author and freelance writer who lives in Canada.  This is her third article for the Mystik Way magazine @ http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1ybhx/MystikWayMagazine17/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Ffree.yudu.com%2Fitem%2Fdetails%2F586032%2FMystik-Way-Magazine-17

You can read her blogs at :   https://littleburstsofinspiration.wordpress.com/ .  You can also find her on Facebook.

References:

Willard, Terry, PhD.  Textbook of Modern Herbology. 2nd Revised edition. © 1998, 1993.

Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy.  Perfect Potion; 2nd New edition edition (May 2004).

Aromatherapy for Pain Relief By Mary Margaret Chappell in Arthritis Today.

http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/article/Aromatherapy_for_Stress_and_Anxiety.  © February 20th, 2012.

Better Health Channel of Canada: Aromatherapy

“Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition”; L. Trivieri Jr. and J. Anderson (Eds.); 2002

“Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Aromatherapy”; K. Schnaubelt; 1995