Tag Archives: calming

MAY CHANG

Time for a profile again; this is a wonderful, versatile oil with a lovely scent. It’s attractive to most people and one of those scents that is always appreciated when it comes to scenting spaces.

May Chang, Litsea (Litsea cubeba). Synonyms: tropical verbena, yunnan verveine. These names are a bit misleading, since it is not at all related to Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla). It belongs to the same family as the rosewood and cinnamon tree. Litsea is a small tropical tree with lemony-scented leaves and flowers. It produces little fruits shaped like peppers which gives the name cubeba. The tree is native to Asia, especially China where it is often planted as a wind breaker. China is the main producer, but it is also cultivated  in Taiwan and Japan. The oil was introduced to the West as late as in the mid-fifties.

The oil is steam-distilled from the fruits, the yield is high – the fruits contain 3-5% essential oil. On Java, Indonesia, small quantities of oil is distilled from the leaves, though it is considered inferior since there is less citral in it. (I would love to get my hands on some of that oil, since, in aromatherapy, we are not looking at isolation but rather wholeness, it would have different therapeutic properties ) The main component of the fruit-oil is citral, up to 85%. The scent of Litsea is sweet-lemony, fresh and fruity. It is reminiscent of lemongrass but lighter and sweeter without the sharpness and tenacity of lemongrass.

The major use of the oil is for the isolation of citral which is used for flavor and fragrance. The chemical industry uses it as a raw material for the synthesis of vitamin A and also converts it into a violet-like scent. International standards set the minimum citral-content at 74% for Litsea, the same as for Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and both these oils are described in trade terms as “75 percent”.

Traditional uses in China are: indigestion, lower back pain, chills, headaches and travel sickness.

Essential oil of Litsea cubeba is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, carminative, sedative and calming. It is also used as an insect-repellent, though I find Citronella (Cymbogogon nardus) to be more efficient.

USES:

  • SKIN: Its antimicrobial properties make it excellent for oily skin and acne. It is astringent and gently cooling on the skin and makes a good tonic.
  • RESPIRATORY: Tonic. Has been used as a broncho-dilator and may be helpful with bronchitis and asthma. (In the case of asthma, I believe part of its usefulness is the calming and relaxing effect of the oil.)
  • HEART: Tonic to the heart; much research is being done in China on disease-prevention and cure of heart-problems. Recent research has shown Litsea’s ability to reduce arrhythmias in comparison with propranolol, a beta-blocker, antihypertensive and anti-angina drug. (Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1991 Aug;11(8):509-12.) Personal note: This ability might be of great help in stress-relief, especially when stress causes irregular heart-beat.
  • DIGESTIVE: Flatulence, indigestion and poor appetite.
  • NERVOUS SYSTEM: Calming and antidepressant. Useful for nervousness and depression as the oil is softly uplifting and strengthening (tonic). Use it together with Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) and/or Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) for sleeping disorders. This blend is deeply relaxing.

More: As a sanitary air-freshener when there is disease. Brilliant to use during those months of the year when colds and flu’s set in.

Personal experience: I have found Litsea to be one of the few oils that most everybody likes. I have used it successfully on clients with racing heart-problems from stress and for people suffering from anorexia.

Litsea can cause sensitisation in some individuals. Do not use neat on skin.

 

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CHAMOMILE

There are mainly 2 different chamomiles used in aromatherapy: German or “blue” chamomile and Roman chamomile.

German chamomile (Matricaria recutita): An annual aromatic plant, up to 60 cm high. It has a branching stem, feathery leaves and simple white flowers with a yellow center. It is native to Europe, but is now naturalized in North America and Australia. It is mainly cultivated in Hungary and eastern Europe where most of the oil is produced. All over Europe it can be found growing along fields and road-sides. The name “German” comes from earlier days when Germany was its main producer. It is often called Blue chamomile thanks to its deep blue-green color due to the chemical chamazulen. Chamazulen is not present in the fresh flower, it is only produced during the distillation process. The oil comes from steam-distillation of the flower heads.

It has a long tradition as a medicinal herb for all kinds of tension and for its anti-inflammatory properties. Usually it has been used in the form of tea or infusion. The scent is herbaceous with a fruity tinge.

USES:

  • SKIN: All kinds of inflammation; Acne, boils, dermatitis, eczema, inflammations, insect bites.
  • MUSCLE: Anti-inflammatory; rheumatism, inflamed joints, aches and pains, neuralgia, fibromyalgia.
  • EMOTION: Calming and relaxing to the nervous system; Headaches, insomnia, nervous tension, stress.
  • STOMACH: Anti-inflammatory and calming; Colic, indigestion and nausea. (Massage, tea & infusion)

This is a safe oil to use for children, elderly and weak individuals. Remember to keep the dosage down. The oil will stain both skin and materials.

Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile): A small perennial plant, up to 25 cm high with a branched hairy stem, feathery leaves and white flowers with yellow centers, the flowers are larger than those of German chamomile. The whole plant spreads in a creeping manner and has an apple-like scent. It is native to southern and western Europe, now naturalized in North America. It is cultivated in England, Belgium, Hungary, USA, Italy and France. The oil comes from steam-distillation of the flower heads, the scent is warm, sweet and herbaceous.

It has been used as a medicinal plant for at least 2000 years, especially in the Mediterranean area. The ancient Egyptians made note of it, as did the Romans. The ancient Greeks called it earth-apple (kamai – earth +melon – apple) which later turned into chamameleum.

USES:

It is used much in the same way as German chamomile, being calming, anti-inflammatory, hypnotic and a nerve sedative. The roman chamomile has a different, more profound calming action than the German C. According to Dr’s Franchomme & Penoel, Roman chamomile is useful as a calming agent before operations.

This oil is safe to use for children, elderly and weak individuals. Remember; lower dosage. Excellent oil for babies suffering from colic.

Experience: I have had great use of Roman chamomile for my children when they have suffered from stomach-ache or anxiety. Colic: Blend 1 drop in 5ml vegetable oil, rub on tummy (clockwise) cover with a warming pad, lay against shoulder and rock baby gently. The oil, soothing motion and the massage that is given by the rubbing against the shoulder usually helps baby to calm down.

German chamomile is brilliant as an anti-inflammatory for most skin-problems, even eczema. Just pay attention to dosage. I find the scent reviving though calming. I have used it with great success for horses; both emotionally and as a healing agent for wounds.