Monthly Archives: June 2009

MASSAGE

Fin Elsa ansikteMassage must be one of the most contraversial topics around; everybody seems to have some kind of thought or emotion about massage, be it positive or negative. A big part of my work is massage; not only doing it, but training others and spreading the knowledge about the benefits of using massage in many places, especially institutions.

Coming from Sweden I am used to massage being a household word. Massage is being used in most institutions and hospitals, it is part of the teacher-training today and every pre- and primary school has massage on the schedule. I have worked with old, sick, handicapped, mentally disabled, children, pregnant women, teenagers with abuse-problems…etc, etc…the list is endless. I have also worked with psychologists and psychotherapists with wonderful results.

Since coming to Luxembourg I am meeting with so much resistance which is surprising and shocking. Massage is accepted when it comes to anti-stress, beauty enhancement and relaxation – the idea of the Spa. But on all other levels – nil. My work here has become the introduction of massage as a normal part of society. I talk to schools, ministries, teachers, nurses etc. I have plenty of clients who come to me privately, and I go to nursing-homes to massage the ones who have family that hire me. The demand is great, so what is the problem? Why is it so difficult for society to accept the need?  Old ingrained programming of religion and sexuality? And still, massage is one of the oldest practices existing today.

Massage opens doors in us. Every individual will experience massage differently because it is an individual experience. Massage can be a relaxing and pleasurable experience and it can also be a concentrated effort to heal, it all depends on the situation. After the war in former Yugoslavia, massage-therapists and aromatherapists from all over the world worked in organized help-centers to help with the psychological effects of war-time. I trained some of them. Even if people are not physically harmed in the war, there is tremendous psychological and emotional trauma that is never adressed. Massage adresses these problems.

SO WHAT IS MASSAGE?

“Massage is the practice of soft tissue manipulation with physical, functional, and in some cases psychological purposes and goals.[1] The word comes from the French massage “friction of kneading”, or from Arabic massa meaning “to touch, feel or handle” or from Latin massa meaning “mass, dough”.[2][3] An older etymology may even have been the Hebrew me-sakj “to anoint with oil”. In distinction the ancient Greek word for massage was anatripsis,[4] and the Latin was frictio.” (Wikipedia)

Massage is a purposeful positive touch

Massagetherapists work with different forms of massage to help individuals:

  • Deep tissue massage for athletes and/or  muscular problems.
  • Soft relaxing massage for emotional reasons or for deep relaxation.
  • Localized massage for disabled persons or aged people to help with pain, stiffnes and circulation.
  • Peer massage for children and in schools to alleviate stress and create a harmonious connection between children; positive touch.
  • Baby massage to strengthen connection between parent/child, help with minor ailments and sleep. For premature babies to help them to strengthen.
  • Harmonizing and balancing massage for mentally handicapped persons.
  • Massaging animals (for all the above reasons)

Massage transgresses all barriers; language, religion, politics, race, colour…Nothing is needed for massage except hands and a good intent. And when trauma is deeper than words, touch will heal.

“The touch research institute” in Miami is dedicated to studying and researching the effects of massage since 1992. Below is their web-address, please have a look at the amazing work they have done.

“The power of touch cannot be underestimated,” says Tiffany Field, PhD, the director of the Touch Research Institute.

http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/

massage 2x åk 6

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CREATING SPACE

clutter-main_FullIf you had to chose only a few items of all that you own – what items would that be? Chances are that you can’t answer this, or need masses of time to figure it out.

Our lives are cluttered; with things, ideas, papers, emails…anything. And this clutter grows as we daily add to it; another book in the book-shelf, another t-shirt in the closet, another paper in the pile. How much do we take away, throw away, give away? Not as much as we collect,  I am sure. We save things forever; letters and photos to boost our memories, the things that “might come in handy one day” (and never do), books that we will never read again, papers because we didn’t have the energy to get rid of them…on and on.  All this clutter takes space and energy; physically because it needs to be managed, mentally/emotionally because it means we are not letting go.

The Mongolians can carry all of their belongings with the help of their ponies. They live in large tents that are built in layers on a wooden core and they have actual furniture made out of wood. All this takes space, still they can fold and pack it onto a couple of wagons. I like the idea of owning only what you can carry.

How do we clear our spaces? How do we get rid of clutter and will it liberate us?  Remember last time you moved? How it bugged you that you owned so much? All the stuff you suddenly felt prepared to get rid of? This is the point; when you suddenly need to carry all your belongings, a lot of it becomes redundant.                                                                                                                                                                                                    I started with my books; I love books and I had plenty, too many actually, lots of them were in boxes in the attic. I can not re-read books, I have too good a memory, so I just collected them. One day I told all my friends to come and get what they wanted, I gave away almost all my books, and those that were not taken I gave to a 2nd hand bookstore. This was not easy,  suddenly every book was a treasure, but I let them go and once it was done I felt liberated and free which gave me the incentive needed to clear more space. I now don’t own anything I don’t use, and no matter how hard it is sometimes to let things go, I know how it liberates me and that makes it easier. And all that which I give away creates pleasure for somebody else.

Look at every thing you own; do you really need it? Does it give you pleasure? Is it worth carrying around if you have to? Memories are lodged in your head; much more vivid and beautiful than any picture or letter. Start in one end; your books or clothes or papers or letters or kitchen cupboard or the attic or or or…

If you want new things to come into your life, you need to make space for it, and this is true on all levels. So are you clinging to what is old and out-dated or are you opening space for new and exciting opportunities?

DOORS

imagesHelen Keller said: “When one door closes, another one opens” which is absolutely true. The problem is that we tend to watch the closed door forever and totally miss the open door (new opportunity).

This is also true physically; if there is pressure in a space and one door is closed, the pressure will cause another door, or window, to open.
On the other hand; if you have 2 doors open at the same time, the draught will cause one of the doors to close.
Meaning; if you have too many options, some will automatically shut down because you can’t pursue them all. Maybe the door that closed was one you wanted open, but if it is not for you to step through that specific doorway, it will not stay open.
We choose our paths on more than one level; our conscious mind with all its programmings and short-comings, and our super-conscious, liberated from programmings. When super-conscious steers us, we don’t know what is going on and often we even feel that we are not choosing. It could steer us in a direction that we would never, ever have chosen from consciousness. And it always turns out alright – if we allow it.

“People are walking backwards into the future, re-acting on everything that happens to them” (Ambres)

Meaning: By re-acting we are labelling every action with something that went before; our preconcieved notions. We go straight to the archive of our experiences and pull out the one that best fits the present situation, and by this we then judge it. What we need to learn is to act on every new impulse, allowing it to show us the way into the future. It might look like something we have known before, but appearances are decieving. Children act like this all the time, they are constantly in the moment, allowing themselves to be guided into the future by completely being in the experience. This is what we should be looking for.

ESSENTIAL OIL QUALITY – part 4

Modified Chemical PictureThere are  methods with which to change, increase or replace essential oils.

  • Synthesizing: Chemically recreating the aroma in a laboratory. Then you have an essence, not an essential oil. In my earlier entries I have spoken of the synergy in an essential oil and how important it is when we are using it for therapeutic/pleasurable reasons. A synthetic essence is nothing but an aroma. As far as making you feel better, it is only because the aroma is pleasurable…it stays in the nose. Synthetic aromas are often  sweet and slightly overpowering.
  • Cutting: Mixing a more expensive essential oil with other, cheaper, essential oils, or synthetic aromatics,  to create larger amounts of oil for economic purposes. Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)will sometimes be mixed with Lavandin (Lavandula fragrans). Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis) will be mixed with Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus). These oils are of course useless for aromatherapeutic use.
  • Standardizing: In industry (perfumery/toiletries/foods/pharmaceutical) the oils always need to be exactly the same, which they by nature are not, and this system was created to ensure a homogeneous aroma every year: The main 1 or 2 chemicals present in the essential oil are usually the ones that give the overall aroma.  When the proportion between them stays the same, the aroma will stay the same. Therefore certain standards are given to essential oils which decrees the percentage of the main constituents within the essential oil. If the percentage is too high, some is taken out. If the percentage is too low, some will be added.  Sometimes synthetics might be added, but mostly isolated chemical-extractions are used. Sometimes chemicals are extracted from the oil and used as they are, an example is Menthol that is extracted fromPeppermint (Mentha piperita). A much standardized oil is Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) where the main constituent is  cineol (60-85%).  The commercial standardization is 98% cineol.

All plants do not contain essential oils. A wide misunderstanding is that everything that has a scent has an essential oil, this is not so.

Apple, Lily of the Valley, Lilac, Peach, Strawberry….the list is long…DO NOT CONTAIN ESSENTIAL OILS. These are all synthetic aromas created chemically in a laboratory. They will do nothing but smell.

ESSENTIAL OIL QUALITY – part 3 – classification

campho13-l

camphor

Cinnamomum camphora


Essential oils come from many different plants. They all have a Latin or botanical name.  It is extremely important that this is clearly stated on the label. Common names can be highly deceptive and confusing. Besides, the Latin name is global, so language makes no difference. The plants also belong to different families which have a botanical or Latin name. An example: The botanical name of Eucalyptus is Eucalyptus globulus and it belongs to the family Myrtaceae.

Let’s take cedarwood; there are plenty of different species called cedarwood and they all have different botanical names, they even belong to different families:

  • Cedrus atlantica is the essential oil mostly used for aromatherapy. It is mild and  safe to use. It belongs to the family Pinaceae.
  • Cedrus deodara (Himalayan cedarwood), Cedrus libani (Lebanon cedarwood) both belong to the family Pinaceae.
  • Juniperus virginiana (red cedarwood) belongs to the family Cupressaceae which means it is an entirely different species. Not enough is known about this essential oil so it is safer to use Cedrus atlantica.
  • Thuja occidentalis (cedarleaf) also belongs to the family Cupressaceae. It is toxic and should never be used in aromatherapy.

So you see why the latin botanical specification is so important, only then will you know that you are getting what you are looking for. It is not as complicated as it may seem, all different essential oils are not readily available to the wider public, so it is not necessary to know them all. But if you want to buy an oil; make sure you know the Latin name, and here is the reason why:

I am always on the look-out for new labels/brands of essential oils and 2 days ago I found a brand I haven’t seen before. The oil I bought was wrong in every way possible:

  • The label stated the oil to be Ravintsara (or Ravensara) with the Latin name of: Cinnamomum camphora, and here are the facts:
  1. The latin name of Ravensara is Ravensara aromatica.
  2. Cinnamomum camphora is the latin name of Camphor.
  3. They both belong to the same family; Lauraceae. The properties of the 2 essential oils are very different and cinnamomum camphora should be used with care.
  • The label of the oil I bought stated that it could be used neat; 4 drops directly on the skin. I tried 1 drop and had a red itching patch on my arm. ( And I am not very sensitive)

The morale of this? Train your nose, it will be your best guide. Buy essential oils only from trusted, well-established brands. Make sure that the brand has the distinction of aromatherapy, since the demands for quality are higher in this area. Don’t be afraid to question and demand information.

ESSENTIAL OIL QUALITY – part 2 – pricing

RoseThe price of an essential oil depends on many things: How large the yield is, how easily (or not) harvested a plant is and how much essential oil it yields. Another thing to keep in mind is how the essential oil is stored in a plant: The plant contains “capsules” where the essential oil is stored, when the “capsule” is broken the oil is released into the atmosphere. Essential oils are volatile, that means they fly. This is what happens when you rub, for example, a mint-leaf between your fingers; you break the “capsules”, thereby releasing the essential oil which you can smell on your fingers. When harvesting plants for essential oil you need to be very careful not to crush the plant, since the essential oil is then gone.

Some examples:

Jasmine, jasminum officinale is always harvested at night as the amount of essential oils present are then at its peak. The flowers need to be hand-picked – there is no other way. Since the essential oils are volatile, the oil will readily leave the flowers if they are crushed.  An absolute of jasmine is always expensive, about €25 for 5ml.

Lemon-balm, melissa officinalis has its highest peak of essential oils during 2-4 hours/day and only for a couple of weeks. The scent of the plant is almost overwhelming, yet the essential oil yield is rather low and difficult to access. One grower in France that I met have a small destillator that he brings into the field where he distills the plant-matter as it is harvested. The oil is, of course, magnificent….and expensive;  about €100 for 5ml.

Rose, rosa centifolia/rosa damascena is another flower that needs to be handpicked. Only the petals contain essential oils. It takes around 2 000kg to get 1kg of essential oil. How much does  a rose-petal weigh? The price will reflect this; about €120 for 5ml.

The purer an essential oil is, the more expensive it will be.


What to look for:

  • Price: All essential oils have different prices. If all the essential oils have the same price, or they are very cheap, the oils are rubbish; don’t buy them.
  • Storage: Essential oils should be kept in a cool dark place, preferably in brown bottles – though sometimes you see blue or green as well. If, in the shop, the essential oils are sitting on a warm shelf in full light they will not be so essential anymore. Ask for an oil that has been stored properly, if you can’t get it – don’t buy!
  • Label: The label shall state the common name and the latin name of the plant from which the essential oil comes. Preferably also country of origin.
  • Age: A newly distilled essential oil has a harsh green smell to it that is a far cry from the perfumes we expect. By oxidation the aroma gets rounder and softer. The older the essential oil is, the more the aroma “softens”. To people this is often pleasing – scent-wise. But it also means that the essential oil has lost much of its energy and properties. Oxidation changes the molecular composition of an essential oil. Some oils, such as citrus oils, have a shorter life-span and they tend to become skin-irritants with age. Most oils get a bit more viscous and/or cloudy with age. Don’t buy these.

There are discussions concerning the issue of dating the oils; best before or when bottled. But it doesn’t much matter, since the “life-span” of an essential oil depends on storage, which makes such markings pointless; badly stored essential oils will age faster. Usually the bottles are marked with batch number, this way you can always find out when the oil was distilled. For quality only your nose can guide you.

Always be prepared to pay a higher price for a good quality oil. You will need smaller amounts of the oil to get better results. Remember that an essential oil is a messenger from nature and that it will interact with us on a molecular, cellular level. For this we want only the best. It is better to have only a few great essential oils than a drawerful of rubbish.  “You get what you pay for”

ESSENTIAL OIL QUALITY – part 1 -background


Quality is the most important aspect when using essential oils. All the wonderful effects the oils have will only happen when there is a high quality pure essential oil.
To understand why this is even an issue, you need to understand the world of scents; how they are used and where they come from. The largest users of essential oils are the food-industry and perfume/toiletries industry. These industries need consistency more than quality, the oils need to be the same year after year to fit the “recipe”. Such conformation is not possible since essential oils are natural; it would be like expecting a wine to be exactly the same every year. Living stuff will chemically vary depending on soil, weather conditions, fertilizer and harvesting methods/time. Like with wines, if you harvest the same plant in exactly the same way and the same time every year, you will still get a different yield; both in chemistry and bulk.

Essential oils are complex mixtures of different chemicals. The balance between these chemicals is what gives an oil its specific character. Each essential oil has one or two main chemicals that make up the biggest percentage of the oil, for example; linalol in lavender, menthol in peppermint, cineol in eucalyptus. Aside from these there are many, many other chemicals that make up one oil; In rose there are 3-400 identified chemicals and almost as many that are, to this day, unidentified. No matter how small the amounts of chemicals might be, they are part of the whole and very important for the quality and effects of the essential oils. Each essential oil has its own synergy.
In nature these different chemicals are used as messengers. Each molecule has its own signature and “message”. For a human being we need as little as 8 molecules to react to the “message” of a scent. We need about 30-40 molecules to consciously notice the scent. This is why the essential oils are so powerful; they are communicating with every cell in the body – for which a minute amount of molecules are necessary. To make a comparison:
Pheromones – there are alarm pheromones, food trail pheromones, sex pheromones, and many others that affect behavior or physiology. We have all heard about them, still the term “pheromone” was introduced by Peter Karlson and Martin Lüscher in as late as 1959. (wikipedia)
Essential oils and Pheromones work much in the same way. Actually many pheromones are made up from the same molecules as essential oils.

When you smell a full good quality essential oil it is like magic, the scent is limitless. The way to smell an oil is thus:
Keep the bottle or tissue a few cm from your nose and inhale deeply 2 or 3 times. Essential oils are volatile and will very easily enter your olfactory system. Compare an essential oil to a synthetic oil and feel the difference.