Monthly Archives: August 2010

ANGELICA ARCHANGELICA

Time for an essential oil profile:

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) The name means “angelic archangel” and this is a good representation of this oil. It has a glorious scent that unites high and low. Angelica has a long tradition as a medicinal and flavor enhancer in indigenous cultures such as the Same-culture in northern Scandinavia.

The plant is large and tall with clusters of small white flowers and large roots. Angelica is biennial but always returns thanks to its strong self-sowing ability. The first year only the large, fern-like, serrated leaves grow. In the second year it grows to a height of 2 meters and flowers are produced. The stem is thick and hollow and can be made into a flute. It is native to Europe and Siberia but is now grown worldwide. The whole plant is aromatic but only the roots and seeds are steam-distilled for essential oil. Personally, I prefer the oil from the roots.

The stems and seeds are used in confectionery,  flavoring and the preparation of liqueurs such as Benedictine and Chartreuse. The whole herb is used medicinally.

The scent is green, herbaceous and slightly earthy with a peppery note. With time the scent deepens and take on a slightly musky character. Interestingly enough, the scent of Angelica is dual: light and heavy, spicy and musky. It is full-bodied and I believe the way we perceive the scent is depending on what we need from the oil at the moment. The duality of Angelica can also be seen in its properties; it is a stimulant  in low doses and sedative in higher doses.

Uses:

  • Carminative for the digestive system.
  • Dull and congested skin.
  • Detoxifying; accumulation of toxins, arthritis, rheumatism and water retention.
  • Strengthens the immune-system.
  • Emotional: Anxiety, tension, stress, fatigue.
  • Spiritually: Focus, creativity and inner vision. It connects the divine with the earth; spiritual with physical. In healing it can be used as a “door-opener” before actual treatment.

Safety precautions: Angelica is photosensitizing, meaning that it makes the skin more responsive to light. When using Angelica stay out of the sun and sunbeds for at least 8 hours after application to skin. If exposed to sunlight, photosensitizing oils can increase the risk for sunburn and discoloration. Do not use during pregnancy.

An experience: One day I had just gotten a new bottle of Angelica essential oil and I put a couple of drops on my necklace (see aromatic jewelery). Later in the day I had a long drive and after an hour I was getting increasingly light-headed and “visionary” which is not the ideal condition for driving. It became so strong that I had to stop and get out of the car. Once in the fresh air, my head cleared and I realized my state was because of inhaling the Angelica-oil.

I use the oil for visionary meditations where it is very useful for the clarity it brings, but I never again use it while driving or “handling heavy machinery”. Focus does not always mean sharp.

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SELF DEFINITION

I have listened to so many kids who say they don’t like who they are. They come from all walks of life; some have wonderful home-lives, others come from a hellish existence, still they all feel the same – it’s part of becoming who you are, part of growing up. As I said before, you can’t tell somebody what they have to do or be, they have to figure it out for themselves. How is this done? How do we know what we want to do or be in life? An adolescent lives more or less day to day, making life seem eternal and confusing. If they are in a “bad place”, how are they going to get out of it if they have no sense of future?

I listen to them; to their complaints, their tears, heart-ache, confusion and disappointment until I have a feeling of where their problems come from. Then I tune them into themselves:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why do you want it?
  • How will you get it?

At this point they are usually angry or crying from confusion. Then I speak to them about Self-Definition, that we all make choices. Each individual is responsible for who they are. This will always form the base of what you receive in life, no matter where you come from. You can be nice and have nice things happen to you, or you can be nasty and have bad things happen. It is always about choices.

I hold up a mirror for the kid; showing him exactly who he is, right now, and he usually doesn’t like it. Then I ask him to think about who he wants to be. I make him aware of all the choices he has. I ask him to tell me what kind of person he wants to be and then we work with this picture, making it so real that the kid can feel it. This is the new mirror – the motivation to change – and the kid always likes this. We are emotional beings and emotion rules our choices much more than we believe.

Once this process is started it can’t be stopped, the kid will now think consciously about his actions. It doesn’t happen overnight, changes take time. Little by little the kid becomes comfortable with his new self-definition and works actively to become what he wants to be. This needs work and their are plenty of ways to do the work, it all depends on the individual. There is no need for recriminations, punishment or anger. Kids judge themselves harshly, in secret. If you add to that burden, they spiral into negativity. If you help them to define themselves and realize that they do have the power to choose and make changes, they usually will.

This, by the way, also goes for adults. Every now and then it is good to take stock of who you are and check if it fits with who you want to be.

SENSUAL FRAGRANCES

Fragrances have through time been associated with sensuality, love and passion. Humanity has forever looked for the scents which are aphrodisiac in nature, turning people’s heads, making them breathless with desire. Essential oils are amongst these scents; since ancient times have they been used to induce passion and love. Scents as widely removed as clover and rose are on this list.

When researching aphrodisiac scents I noticed that the idea of aphrodisiacs has changed through the times, depending on society and whims. At one time the strongest aphrodisiacs were thought to be musk and civet – taken from the sex-glands of the muskrat and civet-cat. These are strong pheromones that supposedly stimulate the vomeronasal organ, or VNO. Today it is known that this part of the olfactory system is used to “pick up” pheromones between individuals of the same species.

Over time the idea of aphrodisiacs has gone through most scents we know today, from grasses and spices, through woods and roots to flowers. (Though some flowers were always thought to be aphrodisiacs.) I think it also had something to do with the abundance of human smells in the earlier days. In a letter from Napoleon to Josephine he writes: ” I will be home in 3 months, don’t wash”. This gives an idea of the pheromone power!

I personally believe that sensuality is a combination of many things; pheromones – we enjoy the other person’s smell, food, relaxation, scent and, of course for women, monthly cycle. Body smell is made up of pheromones; as much as we enjoy the scent of our loved ones, as badly do we experience the smell of someone we don’t like. One of the first signs of “falling out of love” is when we no longer enjoy the other person’s smell.

(“Researchers have already shown that ‘man sweat’ can elicit some unusual physiological responses in some women: an increased heart rate, a better mood, and sexual arousal.” Read the article here)

Perfumes are designed to make people attractive to each-other. Male perfumes are usually the scents that mostly attract women and vice verse. Today there is a whole industry creating perfumes with pheromones (synthetic) to enhance the attraction of the other sex.

Here is a list over the most commonly used aphrodisiac essential oils, there are of course many more. Sniff around and go with your feelings. The best-known aphrodisiacs are often warming and bring you into contact with emotion and body. To access the emotional areas of the brain, true essential oils are needed, not synthetic scents.

  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale / J.grandiflora): Helps when there is tension or fear.
  • Rose (Rosa centifolia, R. damascena): Heady scent that helps open up the heart.
  • Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata var. genuina): Euphoric, releases tension and anger.
  • Sandalwood (Santalum album): Deeply relaxing and balsamic.
  • Cinnamon (cinnamomum zeylanicum): Warming and opening.
  • Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum): Exciting, releases tension
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale): Hot, fiery, stimulating.
  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea): Very close to female hormone, deeply seductive.
  • Clove (Syzygium aromatica): Liberating, seductive. (might work best in a blend, since many associate it with the dentist!)
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum): Warming, fiery, movement.
  • Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia): Sensual, relaxing.
  • Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin): Playful, straightforward, fun. Used as a perfume by the hippie-generation.
  • Oud (Aquileria malaccensis): Use it straight up as a perfume, deeply sensual and sexy. Enhances floral notes.

Use them in the bath, as air-spray, massage-oil, perfume and/or room-scent. Spray them on your linen and on your hair. Use your imagination and have fun. Just remember dosages and possible sensitization. For best effect, use them sparsely – too much scent dulls the mind and can give head-aches instead. Be careful with floral oils if there is asthma or allergy.

GIVING BIRTH WITH ESSENTIAL OILS

This is the (shortened) story of how I gave birth to my last child at home. It was a beautiful September day and I had worked during the day, giving aromatherapy treatments. In the afternoon my body told me “stop and go home”, so I did. I pottered around the house, cooked dinner for my family and did homework with the children. At 8pm the water broke and I put the 3 children to bed while a storm starting brewing outside. At 10pm my contractions were accelerating quickly, as was the storm – by now trying to take the roof of the house and flatten the forest around us. The electricity was gone so we lit a fire in the living-room and got water from the well (no water without electricity). We called the midwife who said she’d come at once. Considering that she had about 60 km to go in the very bad storm, I prepared myself for giving birth alone with my hubby. The children were sleeping soundly, so I did not have to concentrate on them.

I had a blend to use for massage during the contractions to help relax me; Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata) and Mandarine (Citrus reticulata). Hubby massaged my lower back during the contractions, and in between we danced. Dancing is a brilliant way of helping baby down the passage and it keeps mum moving and happy. The more you move your hips, the easier the baby comes.

At 11.30pm the midwife and her assistant came, dodging falling trees all along the way – midwives must be amongst the bravest people on earth! By now we had moved into birth-state in the living-room; candles, a fire and Neroli (Citrus aurantium ssp amara var. pumilla) in the diffuser. The ladies hugged me and moved into the kitchen to leave us alone until it was time for Baby to come. Right before midnight they came back into the room, just in time to sit by while Baby exited. (Apparently they could hear that it was time by the sounds I made) That’s all they did, they sat in the other end of the room while we had our baby. Not once did they touch Baby, they guided hubby through the clearing of passages and cutting of cord. Then they made us tea, changed the linen in our bed and sang a welcome song for Baby. Since the baby came at precisely midnight, we decided on the next day for her birthday. Finally, with Baby in my arms, I slept until it was time to get the other kids up for school.

Magic, pure magic.

CHILDREN

Children live and act from their hearts until they are told differently. A child is forever telling their world around them of their love; little physical gestures, a picture, doing a chore unasked… The list is long. If you pay attention to this, and see the child and her efforts, she will stay loving and generous. All children need to be seen, not because they are children, but because they are people who will become adults. Biologically a child needs to be seen to survive, not only on an emotional level, but also physical; a child who is seen will be fed and cared for. The worst thing that can happen to a child is indifference.

If you are indifferent to a child and forget to pay attention to their communication they will try another way, usually the opposite, by becoming obnoxious, loud and aggressive. This kind of behaviour always attracts attention, and the child got what it wanted – even though it is not positive: A seen child is fed and cared for. This stretches all the way back to our origins. We might have evolved but our basic needs are still the same.

Children are constantly hungry for knowledge; they are forever asking why, what is that, how does it function. They learn and remember easily and effortlessly, because usually what they want to know is connected to understanding their world. A child will always learn from her level of need. I have seen children teach themselves to read, swim, ride, count and much more, only from curiosity and need. Still society seems to believe that if children are not trained according to the “rules” of schooling, they will grow up to be uneducated imbeciles!

Often children are forced into a pattern of learning that does not fit with their development or skills and they feel stupid. A child who feels stupid either gives up or fights. A child learns while in movement, still we force them to sit still. A child can hold concentration for a maximum of 20 minutes, how many minutes does a class last? Children need to move constantly through the day, yet the sit and sit for hours.

We are guides for our children, our job is to back them up on their journey to becoming adults, not to tell them what to do. Children, more often than not, have a much stronger sense for right and wrong than do adults and their world is non-judgemental and caring.

I heard about this school: Sudbury Valley School where the whole learning process is built on children’s ability to “get what they need”. Take a look and prepare yourself to be most impressed by their work.

NETWORKING

Networking is all over the place. It is even turning into a science with classes and tips abounding. Networking is nothing new, it has been around since the beginning of humanity. Actually there was a time when everything was about connections and who you knew. At that time it was called introductions, when you wanted to get in touch with somebody you asked a mutual acquaintance for an introduction. In this way, said person should receive you – depending, of course, on your reputation.

This still goes today, and with the help of technology we can build the most impressive address-book, connecting us in seconds all over the world. The idea of every person being only 6 connections apart has taken hold and a grid is built all over the globe. Over time networking has passed to a more personal level where we speak freely about our interests, thoughts, likes and dislikes – It has become more emotional and is no longer about keeping a cool front or a good face. Technology reveals us; I study the use of Facebook and what people actually put there – it is often intensely personal. The same, in a lesser degree, goes for sites such as LinkedIn or Xing, over time they have slowly become more personal. People all over the world are blogging, pouring their souls into cyberspace for all to see.

Having 4 more or less grown children, I see a change in the manner of young people today. They are less secretive, letting “it all hang out”, as it were. I think we connect faster with others in this way, since we connect on different levels; personal, business and acquaintances. I have a desperately shy friend who hardly ever leaves her house unless she has to. Over the last years I have seen her build an impressive network that spans the globe, and she is doing amazing charity work in this way, spreading information and connecting people, still she can’t handle people face to face. BUT, and this is a big but (no pun intended), how much does all this personal and emotional information screw things up for us? How does it interfere with our reputations? And how is private and professional life kept apart when the borders get so blurry?

What are your thoughts on this?

INTENTION BUILDS BRIDGES

Intention is the moving force of everything we do. It is the force that builds the bridge between where we are and where we are going. We might have a mental idea of what we want to create, but if it doesn’t fit with the intention, things will go wrong or they will not happen. We need to stop and scrutinize our intention in what we do, because it’s not always obvious. This is most important in goal-setting; not just what we want, but also why we want it.

I talked with a friend and she spoke of something she wanted to create. The idea was clear, but the format unclear. We realized that there could be no clear format, since what she wants to do has never been done. She has to allow the format to create itself from her intention. Sometimes the goal is not clear, and that is when intention will kick in to make it happen. Nobody wakes up one morning with amazing new ideas fully formed.

As you all know, I work also as a therapist and clients come to me for all kinds of reasons. The first thing I do is to listen to them and help them clarify their needs. Then I work with them. At this point I sort of “tune-out” my personal self. My intention is clear; do for this person the best I can. It has nothing to do with me, and by tuning out myself I become a much clearer channel for whatever is needed. If I get personally involved (with thoughts, ideas and emotions based on my experiences) I will influence the treatment to fit my wants, not what is best for the client. This, I might add, took quite some years to learn and accomplish.

We are almost constantly ruled by our emotions; think about it: If we feel good, we think positively and our intentions will be colored by this, the same goes for the opposite. My children used to sometimes pick fights with me, for no reason at all, just for the fun of it. I always fell into the trap and ended up feeling terrible, until one day when I realized that this was not necessary, so I just started to say no to these fights. The only thing that kept me from falling into their devious little traps was the intention that it was not going to happen. To this day (20 somewhat years later) my children still say that I can never be brought into a fight, no use even trying. My intention was stronger than theirs. Ha!

Try it out, my friends, and please tell me what you discover. I love hearing comments.