Category Archives: Essential oil profiles

VETIVER the oil of tranquility

vetiver roots

vetiver roots

Vetiver (Vetiveria zizaniodes) also called khus khus, is a perennial scented grass. It has a straight stem, long narrow leaves and grows in tufts, reaching a height of 2 meters. It has abundant white scented rootlets.Vetiver is native to South India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, but is cultivated in the Comoros Islands, Reunion, Java and Haiti. In India and Sri Lanka the essence is known as The oil of tranquility.

Vetiver handbag

Vetiver handbag

The fibrous grass is used for many different purposes; as protection against soil-erosion during the tropical rainy season, as pest and weed control in fields and to protect domestic animals from vermin. In 19th century Calcutta the rhizomes of Vetiver was manufactured into awnings, blinds and sunshades. During the hot season water was sprinkled over them which cooled the room while perfuming it. This made vetiver a very popular scent in Britain as it reminded the former British dwellers in India of the colonial times. At the time it was also used for perfuming linens and preventing moth. Ground rhizomes were used to manufacture sachet powders.

VetiverEssentialOilVetiver is widely used in perfumery. It has excellent fixative qualities (binding and stabilizing more volatile essences in a perfume blend). It imparts a woody, slightly earthy, green scent to the finished blend. The essential oil of vetiver is obtained by steam distillation of the washed, chopped and dried roots and rootlets. It is a viscous oil with an amber to brown, olive colour that deepens and turns reddish-brown with age, the scent is deep, smoky, woody and earthy with a touch of green freshness. The best quality oil comes from Reunion and is called Bourbon Vetiver.

USES.

  • Skin: Acne, oily skin, cuts and wounds
  • Muscle: Anti-inflammatory, arthritis, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism, sprains and stiffness.
  • Nervous system: Depression, nervous tension, sleeping problems, stress, PMT.

Personal: I love this beautiful oil. It is safe to use with children, elderly or the very ill. It is deeply relaxing without being sopoforic rather, it brings you back into yourself and gives a feeling of calm assurance. I used it together with Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) for a nap when I was pregnant and to this day it was the most glorious sleep-time I ever had 🙂 I use it for clients mainly when they seem to be “outside of themselves” and can’t find peace and balance. Vetiver is deeply grounding and nurturing in nature. It is often well-liked by children and helps them to calm down when upset. I think the deep earthy scent reminds them of playing outside in the park or forest and it brings them to a happy place.

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MAGNOLIA heart

Magnolia_on_parchment_t

Magnolia

Magnolia is a huge and rather confusing arena; researching it for the essential oil is like moving through a labyrinth, looking for clues to connect the dots. There are more than 200 different species and it is not easy to discern exactly which is which.  Over the years, hybrids, new species and sub-species have been found and created, making it even more confusing. The plant is considered to originate in Central Asia, the Americas and West Indies. In the Himalayas, China and Japan  it has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Later it was brought to many other countries and continents to finally be introduced to Europe in the 17th century. Magnolia is believed to be one of the most ancient flowering plants, fossilized specimens have been dated as far back as 95 million years! The tree existed well before the bee and pollination was, and still is to a degree, done by beetles.

The Magnolia was named after the French botanist Pierre Magnol in 1703. The sub genus Michelia was named after the Italian priest and botanist Pietro Antonio Micheli. The names Magnolia & Michelia are important to know as they define different oils.

Magnolia_liliiflora

Magnolia liliiflora

The most common Magnolia is a tree that grows to about 27 meters high with a greyish bark and dark green leathery leaves. In spring it blooms with large white or purple flowers. The flowers are single and situated at the end of branches. Michelia is smaller and bushier, the flowers, white (Michelia x alba) or orange (Michelia champaca) are clustered among the leaves. The flowers are highly scented and grow in profusion on all Magnolias.

The essential oil of Magnolia comes mainly from China. Michelia x alba (also called “White champaca”, “White Jade Orchid Tree”, “Bai Yu Lau”) and Magnolia fargesii are the main species, from which the flowers are distilled. The flowers are picked at night, when the scent is at its peak and the scent is absolutely divine; light, fruity-floral with sweet buttery undertones and a little sharp edge. There is also an absolute which is deeper and heavier in its scent.

Image from Wikipedia

Michelia Champaca. Image from Wikipedia

Champaca (Michelia champaca), which is fondly called “Joy Perfume Tree”, is sometimes called magnolia, but it is actually an absolute that is quite different from magnolia both in scent and action, so pay attention to the Latin name.

USES: Magnolia oil has an affinity for the heart on a vibrational level, instilling a sense of beauty and self esteem. It is of great help against anxiety, insecurity and fear. As an aphrodisiac it helps us to release inhibitions and increase sensuality. It brings joy and exultation.

Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnolia_%C3%97_alba

Magnolia x alba/Michelia x alba. Image from Wikipedia

PERSONAL: I use this oil mainly for its vibrational and emotional properties to enhance the feeling of Self. Useful for people who have postural problems creating aches and stiffness due to inner emotional pressure; then I use the oil together with posture correction. It is also helpful for shy, quiet and insecure individuals who make themselves invisible.

As with other expensive floral oils, this oil is enhanced in lower doses, both as a perfume as well as therapeutically. I use only one drop to a full body massage. Too high doses can be cloying and overpowering, creating nausea, almost as if the scent “kills itself”. It is so gorgeous that it can be used on its own as a perfume, you will walk around with a smile, feeling fabulous.

TUBEROSE – queen of forbidden pleasures

Polianthes tuberosa

Polianthes tuberosa

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) is native to Central America. Its native name Omixochitl means bone flower and was widely used by the Aztecs 600 years ago for its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. Maybe they also used it in their chocolate for its heady and sensual effects? Mmmm, chocolate for lovers…

When first brought to Europe it was cultivated in Grasse for use in perfumery, now it is mainly cultivated in Morocco, China, South Africa, France, Comoros Islands and India. The clusters of flowers grow on a 50 cm high stalk. This is a night-blooming flower which is harvested early in the morning when the buds are closed. The flower gives off its scent over a long time, when cut and put in a room they will scent the entire room. The best way to extract the scent is by enfleurage which is the most time-consuming way of extraction but gives the truest scent. Another, more commonly used method is solvent extraction which gives an absolute. It takes 1 200 kg of flower buds to get 200 grams of absolute, making tuberose one of the most expensive scents.350px-Polianthes_tuberosa

The scent of Tuberose is extremely complex and changes over time; a cut flower will change its scent from sweetly floral with slight campherous notes to earthy and musky notes as the flower matures and finally the scent turns to rot and bloody meat as the flower turns brown and dies.  This dramatic change, thankfully, does not happen with the absolute 🙂 The absolute has a strong heady, sweet floral scent with a musky undertone. It is deeply sensual, relaxing, narcotic and exciting. The scent is considered to enhance emotional strength and depth by centering the mind, bringing peace and serenity. Its exciting and sensual properties makes it an aphrodisiac.

"Innocence" by Arthur hacker (1858-1919)

“Innocence” by Arthur hacker (1858-1919)

During the renaissance, young unmarried women were forbidden to walk in the gardens of tuberose as it was believed that the scent of the flowers would arouse their passions and give them instant orgasms. Women put tuberose flowers under their skirts to attract and seduce men.

Citrus aurantium var. amara – Abundance

Citrus aurantium var. amaraThis is a tree; the bitter orange tree. It yields no less than three different essential oils; from the fruit (bitter orange), the flowers (neroli) and the leaves (petit grain bigaradier). How’s that for abundance?

The tree originated in southern China and northeast India and was later introduced to Italy. It is widely cultivated for its oil in France, Paraguay, Africa, Italy and Tahiti.  The name amara comes from the Latin “acrumen”,  in French amère, which means bitter. This evergreen tree grows to a height of 10  meters, the leaves are dark green and glossy. Old leaves fall after new ones have grown. The trunk is smooth and greyish as are the branches. It carries fragrant white flowers and fruits that are smaller than sweet orange. It is the hardiest of all citrus trees.

Bitter orange (pomerans and bigerade are other names for it) is the essential oil pressed from the rinds of the fruits. In perfumery it is sometimes called “Seville orange”. The scent is reminiscent of sweet orange but sharper and deeper. It is fresh, dry with a slight floral undertone.

USES:

  • Skin: It helps balance the sebum-production, making it useful for oily skin. Its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities can be used for acne. Use in massage against stretchmarks.
  • Circulation: Can help with water-retention.
  • Digestion: tonic and aiding cramps, indigestion, flatulence.
  • Emotional: Studies have showed that bitter orange oil can “quiet” the brain which makes it useful against insomnia when there is too much “chatter” in the head. It is helpful against anxiety or feeling low.
  • All citrus oils have a shelf life of about 6 months. They oxidize very easily and then turn cloudy. Do not use on skin since they become skin irritants as they age.

Bitter-orange-Citrus-aurantium-L.-RutaceaePetit grain bigaradier: The name comes from the French “petit grain”, meaning small grains as the oil originally was distilled from the small, green unripe fruits of the tree. Now the oils come mainly from distilling the leaves (and sometimes green, fresh twigs). It is an ingredient in the classic “Eau de Cologne” and sometimes called “poor man’s neroli”. The scent is floral and fresh with a citrusy woody undertone, slightly herbaceous.

USES:

  • Skin: Balancing and calming, it is helpful with both oily and dry skin. Helps with acne.
  • Digestion: Works as a tonic when liver is sluggish and can help with nausea. It is useful for digestive cramps and spasms that have an emotional origin.
  • Emotional: Calming, balancing and uplifting. Use for anxiety, depression, shock. It is a good oil to have around when you feel stressed.

ApelsinblommaNEROLI comes from the flowers which are handpicked. The yield of essential oil is 30 times less from the flowers than the fruits or leaves. The oil is very costly, but as always with the more costly oils, little goes a long way. I have found that with these oils, less is more, the scent as well as the effects are actually magnified in lower dosages. The name is believed to come from an Italian princess, Anna Maria de la Tremoille, Countess of Neroli who used the scent as her personal signature perfume. The scent is rich, deeply floral and sweet with fresh overtones.

USES:

  • Skin: Improves skin elasticity by helping cell regeneration, use for dry, sensitive skin.
  • Emotional: Depression, grief, hysteria, anxiety and shock. It is believed to have an aphrodisiac effect by releasing nervous tension.
  • Physical: Neroli can help with a wide variety of physical problems that originate from emotional disturbances. I recently used this oil for a grieving widow. It kept her balanced and calm all through the funeral arrangements and later eased her grieving process.

PERSONAL: I use the Bitter orange oil for people who chatter uncontrollably, often from stress. It helps calm and freshen the mind, allowing a free flow of positive thought-patterns and diminishes the tight feeling around the head, creating a feeling of space. Petit grain is a terrific balancing oil and easily incorporated into blends. It can highlight any aspect of a blend, be it woody, fresh or floral. It calms physical tension and relaxes the spirit. The uplifting, fresh aroma brings a sense of lightness and ease. Neroli is one of the best oils for grief as it is uplifting and gives a feeling of hope, like a ray of light in the darkness. When desperation threatens, Neroli will take you through it by inspiring calm serenity.

GERANIUM for balance

Pelargonium graveolens

Pelargonium graveolens

Geranium, Rose geranium Pelargonium graveolens (P. x asperum, P. odoratissimum,P. roseum). There are many hundreds of different geraniums, but I shall concentrate on P. graveolens since this is the one most known and used in aromatherapy. It originates in South Africa, but is now cultivated in Russia, China, Egypt, Morocco and Europe. Geranium Bourbon is cultivated in the Reunion and mostly preferred by the perfume industry due to its scent. Geranium was introduced to Europe as late as the 17th century. Most people know Geranium as a potted plant with highly aromatic leaves and small flowers that can be pink, red or white. These plants are usually of other species.

Geranium is a hairy shrub that can grow up to one meter high, the leaves are pointed and serrated, the flowers small and pink. The whole plant is aromatic and distilled for its essential oil. The scent is sweet and rosy with a herbaceous and refreshing touch.

Pelargonium graveolens

Pelargonium graveolens

USES:

  • Skin: A wonderful oil for all skin types. It is a very balancing and healing oil with anti-inflammatory properties; acne, eczema, burns, wounds. Incorporate in oil-blends for stretch marks. Geranium is considered anti-fungal and might be of help with verrucae.
  • Circulation: Its decongestant properties make it excellent for cellulite and oedema (water retention) as it stimulates circulation.
  • Digestion: Nausea, sluggish liver.
  • Muscles & joints: Painkilling: rheumatism, fibromyalgia, arthrose.
  • Respiratory: Sore throat, tonsillitis
  • Hormonal: Geranium is useful for heavy menstruation, menopause, PMT, milk congestion when breastfeeding (use as a compress, make sure to wash breast before feeding).
  • Emotional: Brilliant balancer; Premenstrual tension, irritation, anxiety, stress, nervous tension, insomnia.

WARNING: Don’t use in case of oestrogen related tumours.

PERSONAL: This is THE oil for all PMT-related imbalances (including sore breasts). It’s wonderful in sweet blends as it brings a certain sharpness. Geranium is “the balancer” and I have used it with great success for clients who are changing lifestyles; foods, alcohol, tobacco. It evens out the peaks of high and low and make them better able to deal with cold turkey. Incorporate in any blend for emotional stress.

ARTEMISIA HERBA ALBA, white wormwood

There are many different species of Artemisia (200-400), the most commonly known are Mugwort, Sagebrush, Wormwood, Tarragon. Most artemisia-species are high in ketones, which are neurotoxic and should not be used in aromatherapy at all, so make sure that you have the right one; Always check the latin name.
Artemisias belong to the family Asteraceae, as does chamomile, tansy and other plants. The most renown artemisia is Mugwort (A. absinthium) which was used to make the alcoholic beverage “Absinthe”. Due to absinthe’s content of  thujone (a neurotoxic) it was prohibited in the early 1900’s.

White wormwood (Artemisia herba alba).  Shih in Arab,  Armoise blanche in French, la’anah in Old Testament Hebrew. It is also known as desert wormwood. The name Artemisia comes fron the Greek Artemis, the goddess of hunting and the moon.

W. Wormwood is a low-growing shrub (20-40 cm) as opposed to its northern cousins that can grow to a height of 1-2 m. They are dry-land plants found in the desert-like vegetation in Central Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Asia. The leaves are strongly aromatic, hairy and have a greyish tinge, the flowers are small and yellow. It’s taste is extremely bitter. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation. The scent is gorgeous; sweet, herbaceous with a bitter tinge on the end-note. It is strong and predominant in blends.

As the name Wormwood indicates, it has traditionally been used as a remedy for intestinal parasites. The plant is a digestive stimulant and used for its antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. The essential oil has slightly antibacterial properties. One of the chemical constituents of the EO is 1.8-cineole which would make it useful for respiratory problems. It is also believed to help regulate menstrual cycles.

Personal experience: I don’t use White Wormwood for specific physical conditions but have found it very useful on a vibrational and emotional level. I use it when there is inner nervousness; in low doses it is emotionally calming yet clarifying, bringing balance to the whole being. I use it mostly on women and call it the “witch-oil”. It empowers women and help with calming inner turbulence. I believe this is how it can regulate menstrual cycles. It is deeply warming and strengthening, enhancing dreams and visualizations. I find it a truly magical oil when used in small doses. For physical conditions I would rather use the plant.

Safety: White wormwood is high in ketones (thujone) so it should be used with care. In high doses it can give head-ache, dizziness and nausea. I use max. 1-2 drops for a whole-body massage. For a room-scent 1 drop can be enough, depending on the size of the room. Do not use for children or during pregnancy.


THE SIMPLER IT GETS – THE HARDER IT GETS

Years ago, when I first started making natural skin-care and health products, I would get all caught up in every newbie ingredient that came on the market. Over time my products got so complicated and the INCI-list so long; herbs, tinctures, essential oils, maceration, vitamins and what-have you. One day I realized that I had no idea what kind of reaction all those substances had with each-other, even less when mixed with many others. All natural substances are alive, they react with each-other; sometimes they create synergy and will do great things. Other times they enhance more negative aspects, doing harm.

So, 10 years later, I down-scaled – big time! I went back to my origins with very simple formulas; as stable as possible and needing the bare minimum. I started working on a deeper level with the natural compounds and found beautiful synergies; less is truly more. There came a time for another kind of studying, understanding the magic within nature, and how it can be used. Feeling the product instead of thinking it, making it do whatever it is you want it to do.

Making formulations and products is a very precise matter, never mind how much you “feel” the proportions are right, if they’re not you will end up with some worthless goo fit only for the bin, and the margins aren’t that large. I’ve binned plenty in my day. 🙂 So you have to be precise and use your head, scales and measures to make it happen. But the magic that truly makes it come alive is in the combination of compounds. This is the real science. And here you have to “feel”. Natural compounds change from year to year, depending on weather etc. Every time you get a new oil or plant it will be different from the last and in a way you have to “start over” every time.

It has taken me 20 years to simplify, to learn to understand these beautiful compounds I work with and how to use them. The stuff I do now looks so simple and easy – it’s not.

It’s like mixing colors; too many in the blend and it ends up brown-greyish. Same, same.