Monthly Archives: March 2010

HYDROSOLS

A hydrosol (also called hydrolate) is the condensate water produced during steam-distillation of plant material for aromatherapeutic purposes. In distillation of plant material for essential oil, water-steam is pressed through the plant material which releases all chemical molecules light enough to travel with the steam. From there it goes to a condenser where the steam is cooled down to form water and essential oil that separate upon cooling, with the EO usually floating on top of the water. The resulting water is an unique product as it contains all light-weight water-soluble substances + tiny amounts of essential oil (approximately 0.2%), but none of the heavier water-soluble substances. This is quite different from an infusion where all the water-soluble substances stay in the water, including some plant material and other heavier substances.

Hydrosol means “water solution” and comes from the Latin hydro (“water”) and sol (“solution”). Hydrolate means hydro (“water”) and late from the French lait, meaning milk.  Supposedly this name stems from the fact that often the hydrosols are slightly milky when they first come out of the stills.

Sometimes the word Floral Water is used which I find misleading; hydrosols come from all aromatic plants, not only flowers. Very often a floral water is water scented with essential oil or synthetic fragrance in which case it is something entirely different. Therefor I prefer to stick with the word hydrosol.

A Hydrosol has a life-span of 1-3 years, depending on the original plant and storage. Hydrosols need to be stored in cool and dark places – the fridge is perfect. They should be distilled from organically grown plants and bottled without preservatives. The label should clearly state the name of the plant from which it was distilled, including the latin name, when it was distilled and if it is organic. A Hydrosol is primarily acidic, with a pH of 3.6-6.0,  making it ideal for skin & personal care. It is mild enough to be used safely by most anybody –  aged, sick and weak individuals as well as babies and children. Use it as a tonic for your skin, taste-enhancer in cooking and baking, to wash wounds, sooth burns and inflammations…The possibilities are endless.

Tips:

  • Tonifying water for skin: Wipe your skin with hydrosol on cotton balls after cleansing: dry, mature skin: Hydrosol of lavender or rose. Oily  blemished skin: Hydrosol of orange water, witch hazel, Rosemary. Use Hydrosol in a spray for a guick freshen-up during the day (brilliant when traveling). Just spray a fine mist onto skin and let dry. You can even do this when wearing make-up.
  • Sun-burn: Spray the area with Hydrosol of Lavender (soothing) or Mint (cooling). Apply Aloe Vera Gel. Works also for itchy skin and hot flashes.
  • Disinfectant for air and hands while traveling; spray in the air, on your hands, on tissue.
  • Drinks; add 5 ml of hydrosol to 200 ml of water for a refreshing drink. A dash of Rose hydrosol in some champagne – very luxurious – or white wine as an aperitif.
  • Use as a scent to spray on linen, hair, clothes, curtains…
  • Add to bath. (Even for babies and small children; lavender, rose)
  • Use when baking cakes, cookies and pastries. (Do not mistake Hydrosol for the “floral waters” you can buy in asian markets. These “waters” are usually synthetically enhanced water.) Always check the label.

If you want to know more about hydrosols and their uses, this is an excellent read: “Hydrosols, the next aromatherapy” by Suzanne Catty.

Advertisements

IMORTELLE / EVERLASTING: Helichrysum Italicum

Immortelle or Everlasting is the popular name of the plant Helichrysum Italicum /H. augustifolium. One of the reasons for the name is that the flowers of the plant retain their color and shape after drying, making them a popular flower for long-lasting natural flower arrangements, also called eternelles. Helichrysum means Gold Sun in Greek, and the flowers do resemble small golden suns as they grow on bushy, grey-green stems. The stems are woody at the base and the plant can reach  a height of 60cm or more. The flowers grow in clusters during the summer months. It grows on rocky sandy ground around the Mediterranean and is now also cultivated in the Balkans. The scent has herbaceous notes, reminiscent of warm hay, floral with a hint of honey.

The plant is steam-distilled to obtain the essential oils. Some of the best EO come from Corsica where only the flower-heads are distilled after being hand-picked. Over one ton of flower-heads is needed for about 1 liter of EO. In other places the whole plant above ground is distilled, creating a nice and useful oil but without the high and fine energy of the Corsican flower-oil.

PROPERTIES:

When meditating on this oil, what came to me was this: “The healing of mortal wounds on every level.” And it is a healing oil, especially for skincare and wounds. In Grasse, France, tests were carried out in the hospital using Helichrysum Italicum for broken skin tissue. There was rapid healing with very little scarring and no redness or infection. Research shows that by  multiplying the natural collagen count in skin cells, Helichrysum diminshes wrinkles. It is used to diminish bruises, heal skin-tissue, minimise scar-tissue (even old scar-tissue). It is anti-inflammatory, regulates cholesterol levels (for more info go to visit K-G Stiles), loosens mucous in the airways (inhalation). On an emotional level it can help reduce stress, is soothing and anti-depressant. On a deeper level it can help to unravel and heal emotional wounds.

  • Wound / bruise, try this recipe: Helichrysum italicum 2dr + Lavandula augustifolia 2dr. Apply 4 times/day for 1-2 days, then 2 times/day for 2-3 days. Then blend the EO in 5ml vegetable oil or Marigold (Calendula officinalis) infused oil and use 2 times/day until healed.
  • Mature Skin: Helichrysum 2dr + Carrot (Daucus carota) 2 dr + Rose (Rosa centifolia) 2 dr in 30ml blend of following vegetable oils: Sheabutter oil  (Butyrospermum parkii), Macadamia nut oil (Macadamia ternifolia) and Rosehip oil (Rosa rubiginosa), Apricot kernel oil (Prunus armeniaca). Massage into skin morning and night.
  • Emotional trauma: Make a blend of Helichrysum 4 dr + Myrrh (Commiphora myrrah) 4 dr mixed in 30ml cold-pressed vegetable oil. Massage stomach and forehead each evening when going to bed. If this blend disturbs your sleep, you can exchange Myrrh for Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) which will be more balancing or Rose (Rosa Centifolia) which is more comforting.


WHAT IS IN YOUR SKIN-CARE?

“The European Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (COLIPA) informed the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) that the Legal Services of the EU Commission has accepted the names in CTFA’s International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary (ICID) without translation. These names, which are now designated as International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) names, will be used by EU members to identify ingredients in the EU Inventory of cosmetic ingredients and are expected to be the basis for ingredient labeling on products that will be required in the EU in 1997.”

(taken from a FDA document that you can look closer at here.)

Simplified, this means that until this time there were no regulations regarding the declaring of ingredients in skin-care. You could put anything you liked in there, and nobody would ever know. Because of, or maybe thanks to, increasing allergic reactions, the demand for clarity about ingredients in skin-care pushed the need of this law. To simplify the communication and understanding of ingredients, INCI (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient) was decided upon: This means that all ingredients by plant extracts are named by their Latin botanical names (according to Linneae) and for other ingredients the chemical names are used. These names are recognized world-wide. Regulations also stipulate that on the label the ingredients should be listed in falling order with the largest ingredient first. To give you an idea of the amounts: A cream consists of about 50-60% water, a lotion of 70-90% water. The ingredients way down on the list are in the proportions of 0,x% or even 0,0x%. So if you buy, for example, a product that is labeled with something special; lavender or Aloe Vera or something, check the list. Chances are that you find this ingredient among the last on the list, and then you know the amounts are around 0.x%. There is no law stipulating WHAT you can say, only that you list it. Following are the INCI-lists of 2 well-known, popular body-lotions. I have highlighted the pure natural ingredients.

This is the INCI-list of a popular body lotion: Aqua, Ethylhexyl Cocoate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Paraffinum liquidum, Glycerin, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Prunus Armeniaca Kernel Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Vitis Vinifera Seed Extract, Linoleic Acid, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Cera Microcristallina, Disodium Phosphate, Propylene Glycol, Parfum, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sorbic Acid, Benzoic acid, BHT, Pentaerythrityl Tetradi-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Alcohol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Coumarin, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamat, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Limonene, Linalol.

Several of these chemicals are known toxins.

This is the INCI-list of a natural body-lotion: Water/Aqua, Rose (Rosa Canina) Hip Extract, Rose (Rosa Gallica) Petal Extract, Sweet Almond (Prunus Dulcis) Oil, Alcohol, Glycerin, Quince (Pyrus Cydonia) Seed Extract, Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Carrot (Daucus Carota) Extract, Jojoba (Buxus Chinensis) Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Beeswax/Cera Flava, Rose (Rosa Gallica) Wax, Rose (Rosa Damascena) Essential Oil, Fragrance/Parfum (Essential Oil), Citronellol*, Geraniol*, Limonene*, Linalool*, Citral*, Coumarin*, Eugenol*, Benzyl Benzoate*, Propolis Wax/Propolis Cera, Lecithin, Xanthan Gum


I leave it up to you to make your decision about what kind of stuff you want to put on your skin. Remember though that if molecules are small enough, they go straight through your skin and into your bloodstream from where they can access every cell of your body.

If you want more information on different chemicals or skin-care ingredients, you can check out this website: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/

Rub Your Pains Away with Pregnancy Massage

When I was pregnant I had great help of essential oils and massage for all the little things that come: prevention of stretch-marks (4 children later and not one mark!) Nausea, lower back pain, leg-cramps, swelling and of course the Grand Finale: Birth!!! I gave birth to my last child at home in the living-room one stormy night in September. It was pure bliss. I will write more about this later. For now here is an article about massage in pregnancy for you:

The article is from “JUST PARENTS” and the website is: http://www.justparents.co.uk/

Rub Your Pains Away with Pregnancy Massage

Your back aches, your feet are swollen and your neck is sore. And, to top it all off, you feel fat and lethargic. You’re a typical pregnant woman with raging hormones and an expanding waistline.

Pregnancy takes a major toll on the body—the skeletal structure is supporting an increasing amount of weight and organs shift to accommodate a growing baby. Your center of gravity has changed and your back, shoulders, and neck feel achy. All of this is normal, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer until your baby is born.

All you need is a little human touch.

Physical Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

Massage offers a range of benefits for the average person, but it is especially beneficial for pregnant women. Natural-touch therapy is known to improve circulation and digestion, ease backache, decrease pain in the pelvis and hip, reduce swelling of the feet and legs, provide relief to weight-bearing joints, help maintain proper posture and reduce fatigue. And these are just the physical benefits of pregnancy massage.

According to a study conducted by the Touch Institute at the University of Miami (U.S.), 20 minutes of massage performed two times a week for five weeks effectively improved sleep patterns and reduced stress hormones in pregnant women. Additionally, women that received regular massages had lower rates of postnatal complications and premature birth.

And you thought massage just felt good!

Pregnancy Massage as Mood Booster

Human touch is inherently nurturing. For many women, pregnancy is an emotional rollercoaster. Massage can smooth the ride by giving you the attention and emotional boost that you deserve. Natural-touch therapy lessens anxiety and promotes relaxation—all of which trickles down to your baby. A happy, relaxed mum is a happy, relaxed baby.

Not All Massage Therapists are Equal

Finding the right massage therapist is key to maximum comfort and safety. Look for a massage therapist specifically certified in pregnancy massage.
Certified massage therapists have undergone specialized training and know what is—and isn’t—safe for pregnant women. Just because a clinic or spa offers pregnancy massage doesn’t mean the staff is capable of handling the special needs of a pregnant woman.

What to Expect

Before the massage, you should be placed on your side or seated in a semi-reclining position and propped with pillows. Avoid lying flat on your back after 22 weeks because it puts pressure on deep blood vessels that can reduce circulation to you and your baby. Some massage clinics have a special table with a hole cut out, allowing you to lie on your stomach. However, massage therapists disagree on whether this device strains the lower back.

Precautions

Because doctors have differing opinions on the safety of pregnancy massage during the first trimester, it’s best to wait until the second or third trimester before booking an appointment. As with all therapies, consult with your health practitioner beforehand. Even though pregnancy massage is generally safe, there are conditions where a massage must be avoided. Women with gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, placental dysfunction, a high-risk
pregnancy, heavy discharge and morning sickness, as well as women who are at risk of early labor, should not have a massage.

Save the Pain for Childbirth

Everything you feel should be soothing, not painful. Chances are that you don’t want to stimulate labor while sitting in a massage chair. There is a pressure point between the ankle bone and heel that must be avoided. According to reflexology, these pressure points relate to the uterus and vagina, and labor may be stimulated if direct pressure is applied to the area. A certified massage therapist will know to avoid this area and to not perform deep-tissue massage.

Experience Massage in Your Pajamas

Recruit your partner as your own personal massage therapist and get relief in the comfort of your home. To begin, straddle a chair so you’re facing the back of it. Place pillows between you and the chair and lean forward. Have your partner rub some massage oil in his hands, cross his hands across your back and apply gentle pressure around—not on—your spine. He should press in a circular motion with the heels of his hands or pads of his fingers and move up and down your back. Say, “Ahhh…”

MOOD-SWINGS

We all get them; mood-swings. They usually kick in when we least of all expect it, and isn’t it strange that they only go in one direction…down? Or maybe we do have positive mood-swings, sudden bursts of inexplicable joy and happiness – of course we do, but they aren’t a problem, they are pure bliss. But the other ones; irritation, sadness, anger, impatience….the nasty lot, when they kick in it can get really bad, not only for ourselves but also for those around us.  This way of using oils is a for temporary measures – mood-swings – if the situation doesn’t change and the mood doesn’t “swing back”, you should see a certified aromatherapist for more profound help.

Here is a short list of oils to help you through those bad times:

  • PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) and other hormonal issues (women): Geranium (pelargonium graveolens), Clary Sage (salvia sclarea).
  • Anger and frustration: Ylang-Ylang (cananga odorata complet), Petit grain (citrus aurantium), Patchouli (pogostemon cablin)
  • Sad and gloomy: Bergamott (citrus bergamia), Orange (citrus sinensis), Mandarine (citrus reticulata).
  • Sluggish and slow: Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis), Lemongrass (cymbopogon citratus), Peppermint (mentha piperita), May Chang (litsea cubeba).
  • Cold and lonely: Cinnamon (cinnamomum zeylanicum), Marjoram (origanum majorana).
  • Insecurity: Rosewood (aniba rosaeodora), Lavender (lavandula augustifolia/officinalis), Roman Chamomile (chamaemelum nobile)
  • Anxiety, nervousness: Frankincense (boswellia carterii), Neroli (citrus aurantium var amara), Vetiver (vetiveria zizanoides)

There are so many useful oils for each description, the list goes on and on. These are a few of the most common oils that are also quite versatile, therefor making them a good buy for your home aromatherapy kit. Try the oils to find the one that fits you the best.

The best way to use essential oils for mood is by inhalation: Place 1-2 drops on a handkerchief and inhale deeply as needed. You can carry it with you during the day. When home, bathing is a wonderful way of relieving emotional imbalances. Make sure you rest after the bath.

Note: Cinnamon has a high content of phenols which makes it irritating to the skin. It should always be used in dilution (except in inhalation)

VALUABLE ESSENTIAL OILS FROM WOOD

There are a few, very popular oils that come from the heart-wood of trees; Oud (Aquilaria agollocha, A. malaccensis, A. crassna) that I have written about earlier, Rosewood (aniba rosaeodora) and Sandalwood (santalum album). I will not write again about Oud, but concentrate on Rosewood and Sandalwood. These oils come from the heartwood of trees – trees take a long time to grow and for each tree that is cut down we need to plant many, many more or the tree will become extinct.

Rosewood (aniba rosaeodora) is a tree that grows in the Amazonian rain-forest, Brazil being the main producer of essential oil. It is a large, evergreen tree reaching up to 30 m in height and 2 meters in diameter. All parts of the tree are fragrant although only the heartwood is traditionally harvested and distilled. To give an acceptable amount of essential oil the tree needs to be 40 years old and have a diameter of about 30-40cm, but because of indiscriminate felling even trees with a diameter of 15cm will be cut as it is getting progressively harder to find fully grown trees. Because of its high content of linalool, the essential oil has been widely used in perfumes and soaps. Now linalool is produced synthetically for perfumes and the use of rosewood has diminished; In the 1960s, exports of rosewood oil from Brazil alone were around 500 tonnes per year. Today, the world market for rosewood oil is about 100 tonnes per year. Rosewood essential oil is often substituted by the cheaper Chinese Ho oil (cinnamomum camphora l. linaloolifera leaf oil)

Over the years the heavy harvesting of rosewood have diminished the number of wild-growing trees to a point where they are rapidly becoming a threatened species. Development of sustainable planting is underway, but a lot of wild trees are still felled for the sake of essential oil. Recent research aims to develop new essential oil production derived from rosewood leaves and stems.

Pricing of Rosewood essential oil: 10 ml  €6,40 or 8,65 US dollars.

Sandalwood (santalum album) grows in forests of southern India, the best known being Mysore. The tree reaches a height of 20 meters. It is a hemiparasitic plant as the roots attach themselves to nearby plant roots, obtaining nourishment and causing the host plant to die. Essential oil is produced in the heart-wood and the roots. The tree is mature at 60-80 years when it is harvested and the heartwood is distilled. The trees start producing heartwood at 30-50 yrs. As with rosewood, the trees are being over-harvested and today they are felled already when they are 30 years. Sandalwood has been used as an incense ingredient for the last 4000 years and is an important plant in Asia, used in all manners for its spiritual powers. Today the forests are too young to produce any essential oil, and since the late 1990’s there is only a mere 5% of forest left.

In late 1980 – early 1990 India exported 100 tonnes of sandalwood-oil/year. In 1996 the Indian government regulated export of sandalwood-oil, bringing the yearly amount down to 5 tonnes. This created a huge raise in the price of sandalwood essential oil; on the Indian market the price went from Rs20 000/ton in 1980 to Rs200 000/ton in 1990. Much work is being done in India to create a sustainable replanting of sandalwood-trees, but since it takes such a long time before the trees produce essential oil, this is less popular. Due to the extremely high prices, large amounts of trees are still illegally cut down and smuggled out of the country. In 1993 sandalwood-oil cost 185-200 US dollars/kg, during the last 5 years, the price has increased to 1000-1500 US dollars/kg.

A new player on the scene is Western Australia where sustainable plantations of sandalwood has been going on for some time. They have become the biggest exporters of sandalwood and are now even exporting to India, who is a huge user both of oil and wood. The sandalwood-oil from Australia is half the price of the Indian.

Price of Sandalwood essential oil: 5 ml: €27 (37 US dollars) or 10 ml: €42 (58 US dollars)

So you see, the value is not in the pricing or the oil, the value is in nature; in taking care and always returning something for that what we take and protecting our environment.