Tag Archives: Aromatherapy

THE NOSE – such a powerful tool

Last night I was sitting with a lady who asked me what I did…What is aromatherapy? I explained the oils and how scents are extremely evocative. She was silent for a while and then she started talking about scents: The scent of the eucalyptus that you find in American shops around christmas time. The scent of horses (she works with horses); how it is different in summer than in winter. How the best scent ever is when the horses have eaten a specific herb in summer and then get warmed up by the sun. (She still hasn’t been able to figure out exactly which herb creates this amazing scent)

Listening to this wonderful lady, I realized that she runs her whole horse-business somewhat by scent. She smells her horses and knows if something is not right. Her sense of smell is so attuned to what she does that she doesn’t even realize it, it naturally guides her in her communication with her horses.

Finally I looked at her and said; “This is what I do, scent”. And she nodded her head, completely understanding my work. This led me to think about people and how they perceive scents, since scents influence us on such a subtle level; it is all about emotion. Scents will evoke memories long forgotten, bringing back the memory as clear as day, every detail burned into our emotional center. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are smelling something, memory just kicks in with such force that it, literally, takes our breath away. Only thing is, most people are not aware of smelling, it passes by the rational mind and lodges where we feel. This sense of ours, the sense of smell, is the least studied, the least known or understood and the most powerful of all our senses. We should train ourselves to recognize and understand what we smell and how it influences us since this is a very powerful tool for awareness of our surroundings.

Advertisements

TRUE AROMATHERAPY

Aromatherapy is hot, interesting and modern. Everything is aromatherapy; from the scent in your car to the dish-washing liquid. Even the scented diapers! Essential oils are being sold left right and center and everybody has oils in a cupboard at home. Drop, drop in the bath, on your linen, in your soap, in your tea and on your baby… Essential oils are safe to use, says the publicity. And they are – if you know what you are doing, otherwise you might end up with a problem. What is astounding is the lack of information and realistic knowledge around essential oils. These oils are forever hovering in a no-mans land between medicine, perfume and taste-enhancer. (See earlier posts on knowledge and quality.)

In many Spas and other places aromatherapy is advertised; what it actually means is that essential oils are used. This is not aromatherapy. True aromatherapy is the knowledge of how to use and apply essential oils specifically. To do this, in-depth knowledge of essential oils is necessary. To become a true aromatherapist education is needed in several areas: medicine, chemistry, physics, biology, botany.  I have studied, researched and used essential oils for more than 20 years and every day I learn something new. I have seen what harm EO can do when used indiscriminately and I have seen the results when “old” oils have been used. I have had clients with such sensitive skin that even one (!) drop of a “safe” EO cause rashes. I have trained therapists who have developed sensitivities against EO, effectively stopping them from ever using EO again.

Aromatherapy is not only about EO’s. It is also about vegetable oils, macerations (herbal oils) and hydrolates. It is about understanding people, the mechanics of healing and knowledge of how the body and mind works in unison. Being an aromatherapist is a life-long study.

Yes, aromatherapy is wonderful and you can benefit greatly from using it in your daily life. But please DO get informed first. Buy some books, look on the internet and pay attention. Refrain from giving other people advice, just because it worked for you does not mean it will necessary work (or even be good for) somebody else. There is a world of difference between one drop or two drops! Get your oils from a reputed company, pay a bit more, ask questions and stay safe. And remember; all plants do not contain essential oils and not all oils on the market are true essential oils.

CRYING SOLDIER

“US Sergeant Ken Kozakiewicz mourns the death of fellow soldier Andy Alaniz, killed by friendly fire.”

Pentagon tries aroma therapy to ease combat stress

Sat May 8, 2010 8:27pm EDT

FORT RILEY Kansas, May 8 (Reuters) – The U.S. military is experimenting with aroma therapy, acupuncture and other unorthodox methods to treat soldiers traumatized by combat experiences, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday.

He said the experiments showed promise.

Gates touted possible treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during a meeting with the wives of servicemen at Fort Riley, Kansas, when one woman asked him to explain why chiropractic and acupuncture therapies were not covered under her military health care plan.

“We have an experimental unit … treating soldiers with PTS (post-traumatic stress) and using a number of unorthodox approaches, including aroma therapy, acupuncture, things like that, that really are getting some serious results, and so maybe we can throw that into the hopper as well,” Gates said.

The Pentagon has seen a sharp increase in the number of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder during and after long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The disorder can cause flashbacks, edginess and emotional numbness. The risk depends on the type of traumatic events a person is exposed to.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine in January found that U.S. combat soldiers in Iraq who received a shot of the painkiller morphine within an hour of being wounded were less likely to develop the post-traumatic stress disorder. (Reporting by Adam Entous; editing by Todd Eastham)

Article can be seen here.

During the end of the war in Yugoslavia, groups of aromatherapists flew into the area to assist with shock and trauma relief with the help of essential oils and aromatherapy. If any of you readers have any first-hand experience of trauma-work with aromatherapy, please write me.

DERMATITIS

(picture from: www.medical-look.com/Skin_diseases/)

Many people suffer from dermatitis (eczema) on small or large areas of their bodies,very often on the hands and arms.  (You can read more about dermatitis here.) One type of dermatitis, contact dermatitis, is a reaction to a substance which the body part is in contact with for a prolonged time. This can be brought on by most any substance that can be an irritant to the skin, even essential oils – especially in high doses. Over the years, two of my aromatherapy pupils have developed contact dermatitis to essential oils after 2-4 years of exposure and this condition seems to be irreversible. I am not saying stop using the oils, just be aware of the fact that they are strong substances and need to be used with care.

The skin-cells have a life-span of about 28 days. They are “born” in the lowest level of the skin, epidermis, at which point they are round and plump, filled with fluid. On their journey up towards the surface they get flatter and drier, depositing the protein keratin which  cements the cells together and creates the upper, protective layer of skin, epidermis. When this “journey” is out of balance, it will show as skin-problems – dermatitis.

The most used substance to deal with dermatitis is cortisone which is a steroid hormone. By suppressing the immune system, cortisone reduces inflammation, pain and swelling. It is extremely effective but it only suppresses, it doesn’t heal. Once you stop using cortisone the problem re-occurs. Over time cortisone causes the skin to become very dry.

ALTERNATIVES: (always see a therapist if your problems are serious or get worse. Don’t use essential oils if you are not sure that they won’t irritate your skin.)

  • Castor oil (ricinus officinalis) A client of mine, a builder, told me that he always had problems with hardened skin and deep cracks on his hands. Then they started keeping the bolts for the scaffolding in jars of castor oil so they would not rust. Since then his hands were much better. I started using castor oil on cracked, dry skin with great results. Very heavy texture, needs to be blended.
  • Shea butter (butyrospermum parkii), Shea butter oil. Anti-inflammatory & protective
  • Coconut oil (cocos nucifera) more a butter, solid in room-temp, melts on skin.  Protective film on skin, softening
  • Macerations (herbal infused oils) such as Marigold (calendula officinalis), St Johns Wort (hypericum perforatum)
  • Jojoba-oil (simmondsia chinensis) resembles the skins sebum and helps protect the skin.
  • Bees wax (cera alba) Protection, creates a protective film.
  • Cocoa butter (theobroma cacao) Solid in room-temp. melts on skin. Softening & calming.
  • Vegetable oils with anti-inflammatory properties; Andiroba oil (carapa guianensis), Argan oil (argana spinosa), Borage oil (borago officinalis), Cashew nut oil (anacardium occidentale), Evening primrose oil (oenothera biennis), Kukui nut oil (aleurites moluccana), Olive oil (olea europaea).
  • Vegetable oils with calming properties that can be used as bases for blending: Apricot kernel oil (prunus armeniaca), Peach kernel oil (prunus persica), Sunflower oil (helianthus annuus), Walnut oil (juglans regia)
  • Essential oils; Lavender (lavandula augustifolia), Chamomile (matricaria chamomilla), Yarrow (achillea millefolium).

When working with beeswax, you need to melt it in a bain-marie together with butters or fats such as shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter and vegetable oils. Add special vegetable oils last, together with essential oils (if you use them), when the liquid starts to cool. You can see a basic recipe for a balm here.

LITTLE STORIES ABOUT SCENT

Ever since I can remember I have perceived my world largely through the sense of smell. I smell everything! As a little child I could find my way home, eyes closed, just by smelling. My siblings teased me and said I was a dog.  Sometimes I thought that if I would go blind, I could probably make it in the world anyway, just by smelling. I lived my first 7 years in Japan, then moved to Sweden. These countries smell very different, and the first months in Sweden I was busy sorting the scents… Over time and travels I have found that every country has its own scent, even cities. The metro in Paris has a smell like no other metro in the world, though the London underground has a touch of it. (This memory is from a trip to Paris when I was 11).

When I was 9 yrs old I was sent on holidays to friends of the family who lived in a huge mansion by the sea. Behind the mansion there was this beautiful rose-garden where I spent most of my time reading. One day I collected as much roses as I could carry and brought them to my room where there was a wash-stand. There I immersed the rose-petals in warm water to make rose-water, nobody had ever told me how to do this, I just wanted to keep the scent. I knew then, that I would one day work with scents and plants. (I forgot all about that “wish” for almost 20 yrs and when it resurfaced – while smelling an essential oil – I found my present career.)

At 18, I visited with friends in New York. They took me to China Town where I was hit by such an enormous wave of memories and emotions from my (by now half-forgotten) early childhood in Japan. I was in pieces, seldom have I experienced anything so strong.

One day when I went shopping with my little son, aged 8, we went to the cash-machine to get money. While I am putting away the money, my son  asks me: “Mami, first you smelled your card before you put it in the machine, and then you smelled it when it came out. What do you think the machine did to your card?” I don’t notice that I smell things, I just do it. There is no such thing as a bad smell, it’s all information. A “bad smell” usually means something is rotten, ill or poisonous – very important information. The oil of hops (humulus lupulus) is the oddest-smelling essential oil I have ever come across, its scent is on one hand beautifully  floral and sweet and behind that scent it smells like natural gas. Black pepper (piper nigrum) smells like peppercorns, but behind that there is this ethereal floral scent. Our senses give us the emotional experience of living, but I think that scent is the most subtle of them all. So start paying attention to what you smell and feel – it will take you on a most astonishing journey…Enjoy!

GOAL-SETTING

Lately I have been wrapping my head around the whole idea of goal-setting, really trying to break it down into the smallest possible components. Goals are like onions; layer upon layer, each layer hiding the one beneath…no wonder it can be so difficult to set goals.

I think most of us are the same; when asked what is the biggest wish/dream/goal our brains go into a chaos of random pictures, ideas, needs and wants. From this random chaos it is really very difficult to figure out what is the main goal; money? health? a baby? a job? a house? freedom? travel?

Simplify:

  • Goals don’t need to be realistic – go limitless – who said it wasn’t possible? Don’t ever limit yourself!
  • Goals need to be clear, no matter how limitless they are.
  • You need to be passionate about your goal. You need to want it.

Most often we set our goals after needs; they are usually passion-less and will take us to the absolutely most basic point of filling the need, but there is no abundance. Instead of setting goals after our needs, we should set goals after our wants, and the result will automatically take care of the need. Let me give you an example: Say you need more money to meet rising costs of living; Instead of setting the goal of “money enough to cover costs”, set the goal where you are affluent enough to live in abundance, and  your needs are automatically met. Allow yourself to dream.


The next step to realizing goals are to take them out of your brain and into the world: write them down, paint them; make a wish-list, story-board, dream-movie. Think about your goal(s) constantly. Make them so real in your mind that you can actually touch and taste them. Think of them in present tense and exclude all negations. Read your goals every day as often as possible. Do one thing each day to make your goal reality. Each goal can be broken down into little parts – like a journey starts with one step and continues with each following step – so does your goal. Take a step on your goal-journey every day.

VISUALISATION + VERBALISATION = MANIFESTATION

Essential oils that might help to open and ground your visionary self:

  • Frankincense (boswellia carterii) spriritual
  • Cedarwood (cedrus atlantica) spiritual / earthbound
  • Sandalwood (santalum album) spiritual
  • Myrrh (commiphora myrrah/c. molmol) spiritual / healing
  • Hyssop (hyssopus officinalis) vision /creation
  • Rose (rosa centifolia) heart
  • Angelica (angelica archangelica)  vision
  • Pine (pinus sylvestris) vision
  • Cypress (cupressus sempervirens) transformation
  • Palmarosa (cymbopogon martinii) subliminal

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.