Cleansing – Part 5 – Salt bath

Another traditional and very powerful way to cleanse is a salt bath. This is cleansing by earth and water. Salt is the sacred cleansing agent of the Earth who scrubs our wounds clean and when mingled with the waters of the bath pours itself into all the spaces that will welcome it. Sacred baths are ancient and powerful. When we literally wash off the residue of the day with a salt bath we are exfoliating the dead skin of the day to make ourselves fresh and new. Adding fragrant oils, flower petals, candles, and soft music makes the bath more evocative and purifying. Particular oils and herbs are chosen based on the needs of the moment. Lavender carries his precision of healing and balancing. Rose offers her noble purity and Rosemary her brilliant strength and intelligence. Cedar and the trees give their steadfast, unwavering protection. Sage steps in with his gift for stripping away and cleansing. Jasmine holds court with her sensual wisdom while Neroli brings her joy and laughter. The possibilities are endless and present themselves based on need. When we ask for help from an honest space of heartfelt desire Nature conspires to offer it.

A recipe for a salt bath

1 cup sea salt
1/2 cup epsom salt
1/2 cup baking powder
3 drops rose oil
2 drops lavender oil
1 drop sweet orange oil
a handful of rose petals and dried lavender

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Cleansing (Part 4) – Floral Waters

Floral waters are cleansing agents directly gifted to us from the flowers of the Earth herself. The official term for these aromatic waters is hydrosols and they are byproducts of the distillation process that gives us the powerful essential oils used in herbalism and aromatherapy. Floral waters are one of my favorite ways to cleanse as they offer a cleansing by water and air. The flowers imprint their fragrant light onto the waters, gently blessing them with soft petal kisses. The main trinity of floral waters are rose, jasmine, and neroli (orange blossom).

Rose (Rosaceae) is the royalty of flowers. With her subtle, deep notes she evokes the magic of movement and the light of the sacred in all she touches. Rose offers transcendent peace and comfort and has been used throughout the centuries for everything from calming to offering to cosmetics. Rose evokes beauty and sacred purity. Many who experience apparitions of the Holy Mother smell roses in Her wake.

Jasmine (Jasminium) is the night blooming flower of mystery, moon- light, and wisdom. She is the full moon in the darkest night who reaches her vining fingers to those who adore her. Jasmine has been engaged for her aphrodisiac qualities and as an element in love tinctures of all kinds. She ever so subtly stimulates those who wish to stay up through the magi- cal night with her to learn her many secrets.

Neroli (Citrus aurantium subsp. amara or Bigaradia) or orange blossom has a musky sweetness evocative of earth and air. The optimism of citrus blends with the magic of florals in Neroli’s soft, sweet breath. Neroli is uplifting; she heals moodiness, and challenges us to brighten our lives. Neroli is kindness in a flower.

You can work with each flower individually or combine these floral waters into a spritzer to spray your space and clear yourself. I’ve found these flowers shift space quickly and with very little fanfare. Gently powerful, these evocative florals purify and bless our inner waters while clearing the clouds from darkened skies.

Cleansing (Part 3)

Each herb has its own character and brings with it a personality rich with flavor and nuance. Just as each human has personal light so does every plant. Sage brings strength, fortitude, and an ability to cut through the nonsense and get to the root. Its adaptability is obvious as it lives in many different climates including the most arid deserts. Sacred sage of- fers this power to clear and survive to those who are willing to share light with it.

Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) is also known as holy grass. It is a plant of offering whose smoke carries our prayers and blessings forward. Some say sweetgrass is the blessing breath of the Mother herself and so when she is woven into braids and baskets we weave our blessings with Hers. When paired with sage sweetgrass fills the cleared space with the blessings of the cosmos.

Cedar evokes the protection and power of the ancient trees whose root structures support the great forests. The great trees offer the security of boundaries, protection against the unpredictable winds, and the shelter of their green arms over our fragile heads. The great cedars: sequoia, juniper, cypress, and redwood are among the most ancient living inhabitants of the earth and many have guarded the forests for centuries.

Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) is a beautiful purple plant with incredible cleansing properties. It is antiseptic, antimicrobial, and evoc- ative of a summer day. The word lavender comes from the Latin lavar, which means to wash, and is used effectively in soaps to wash the outer body and teas to wash the inner body. Lavender is a medicinal adaptogen. This means it will adapt to our physiology. If we are in a high stress state it will calm and relax. If we are lethargic and depressed it will uplift us. Lavender works to lovingly balance our physical and energetic systems.

Rosemary (rosmarius officianalis) is a fragrant green shrub that has mythological associations with the goddess Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary, both of whom are evocative images of the sacred feminine in patriarchal traditions. Because of its hardy and resilient nature rosemary offers protection and blessing. My household keeps rosemary plants in front of each door that we may be always protected with the understand- ing that we will extend that protection to others in need and that we may always be blessed that we may share that blessing with others. Rosemary is used clinically to sharpen memory, invigorate, and strengthen weak- ened systems.

Any of the herbs can be engaged individually or combined for smudging. Pre-made smudge sticks can be purchased or you can weave your own. If you do not have an actual stick it is fine to burn the leaves of the dried herbs individually or as loose incense. In smudging you are bathing in the smoke of the herbs who share their blessings. This is a way of communion with the people of the Green places through the elements of fire and air.

Cleansing (Part 2)

The use of aroma to purify and cleanse a space is ancient. The Bible tells of frankincense and myrrh, both aromatic resins, as gifts to Jesus. The tomb of King Tut in Egypt had essential oils and resins buried with- in. The burning of sacred herbs has been used multi-culturally for cleans- ing and medicinal purposes. The Catholic Church uses thuribles filled with aromatic resins such as copal to represent prayers lifting toward God. Moxibustion in Chinese medicine involves the burning of the sacred herb mugwort to clear Chi. The olfactory effect, scent, is the most primal of our senses. It bypasses the conscious mind completely and automati- cally lifts us into another space. In the rituals of purification by fire and air (the burning and breathing of herbs) we honor the Earth from which

the herbs were born, bathe in their fragrant power, and share our light with theirs.

Burning resinous incense is one of the most ancient traditional ways to cleanse. Frankincense (Boswellia thurifera) is a resin that looks like golden tears fallen from the trees. It has a warming quality and is used medicinally as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Frankincense evokes the Sun in splendor and is considered a masculine botanical and as such is

a fitting gift for a newborn king. In the Catholic Church frankincense
is used to purify in much the same way as sage (see below) is in Native American traditions. Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) is a tonic for the female reproductive system and considered a feminine botanical. It is also used for tooth and gum care, in cosmetics, and to calm the energetic and physical systems. It was used in funerary preparations and embalming. When Mary Magdalene went to wash the body of Jesus she was surely carrying myrrh. So while frankincense celebrates the birth of the Sun
so myrrh solemnizes the death. These resins, along with benzoin, copal, and amber, were used by the Hebrew people, the Egyptians, and are still used in the Catholic Church as ceremonial incense. The simplest way
to burn these resins is by lighting a charcoal tablet and letting the resins smoke. Inhale deep breaths of the smoky resin and wash yourself in the fragrance. Send your light and intention into the soft smoke and feel yourself lifted, cleansed, and loved.

The Native American smudge stick is a fabulously elegant way to cleanse. While many different cultures over the centuries have used dried herbs to cleanse and purify when we use the word “smudging” it is a nod to the Native Americans tribes and their sacred herbs. It is of utmost importance that when we learn from other cultures we work from a place of respect and not greedy appropriation. There is much to learn from the practices of others but there is oftentimes a seemingly utilitarian disrespect that sadly goes along with it.

A smudge stick is a bundle of herbs burned to purify and cleanse a person or space. White sage (Salvia apiana) is the most common herb employed in smudging but it is often blended with cedar and sweetgrass for a balanced synergy. Sage (salvia) has a chemical constituent called thujone, the active ingredient in absinthe’s wormwood, which causes heightened clarity and vivid dreams in small doses, and hallucination and even death in higher dosages. The potency of white sage gives the recipient a sense of being stripped and scrubbed clean. Nature abhors a vacuum and so once the sage has cleansed us we must put something in its place or that vacuum will be filled with something else, perhaps not to our liking. Therefore another herb is used to fill the cleansed space with something positive. We cleanse with the sage and then we bless with the cedar, sweetgrass, lavender, or rosemary.

 

Cayenne Pepper flu remedy

Cayenne pepper (Capsicum minimum) is one of my favorite culinary and medicinal herbs. The word Capsicum is derived from the Greek “to bite,” which is a well-earned name. Cayenne is extremely spicy and a little bit goes a fair way towards warming even the coolest constitutions.

Although cayenne is sharp to the tongue it is very gentle and nutritive to the body. It is a wonderful flu preventative. My favorite cayenne remedy is from Dian Dincin Buchman’s Herbal Medicine (p 22).

2tsp cayenne pepper
1.5tsp sea salt
1 c boiling water
1 c apple cider vinegar

Add cayenne pepper and sea salt to boiling water. Steep and cool. Then add vinegar. Take 1 tbsp every half hour to assist the symptoms of a sore throat or general flu-like malaise.

This particular recipe is highly effective. When a sore throat and pressure headache looms I eat bowls of garlic/onion soup with basil, parsley, and cayenne. And take shot glasses of anti-flu preventative every 30 minutes. 

Enjoy!

Source: Buchman, Dian Dincin. Herbal Medicine. Wings Books. New York. 1979

Herbal First Aid Kit

Herbal/Essential Oil First Aid

 

First Aid Kit

Aspirin or white willow bark (High fevers, pain)

Bandages & Compresses

Colloidal silver (cleansing, prevent infection)

Rubbing alcohol to sterilize tweezers

charcoal tablets

 

Carrier oil of choice (grapeseed, sweet almond, jojoba blend)

Aloe vera gel for burns (add lavender, chamomile, and witch hazel for spritz)

Arnica infusion oil for bruising and pain (use only externally and on unbroken skin)

Castor oil – Compresses for localized healing

 

Essential oils

Lavender – Burns, prevent infection, bug bites, heal skin and nervous system (OK to use neat)

Eucalyptus – Sinus congestion, colds, flu

Clove – Antibacterial, analgesic for tooth pain

Peppermint – nausea, cramping, analgesic

Tea tree – anti-fungal, antiviral, antibacterial preventative for colds/flu (OK to use neat)

Wintergreen – analgesic for severe pain (use with discernment)

 

Herbs

Chamomile – Insomnia and anxiety, good for upset tummies

Peppermint – Drink for nausea & upset tummy; Cold compress for headache/sinus)

Garlic – Antimicrobial! Start eating (make a soup) at first indications of a cold; helps with yeast infections

Ginger – Chew on ginger root or take as tea for upset tummy; soothes menstrual cramps; Ginger bath to reduce body/muscle aches (Add the tea to your bath)

Cayenne pepper – Stops bleeding, flu preventative, systemic tonic

aromatherapy for mood and emotion (part 5) by Heather Eggleston

Concentration is the ability to focus through any number of distractions, external such as phones, dog’s barking, and children crying, as well as internal brain chatter, web surfing, and procrastination. It’s an immensely useful skill (or gift!) and fortunately there are traditional ways it can be enhanced with essential oils. Worwood suggests the following oils as useful for concentration: Lemon, Lemongrass, Cardamom, Orange, Rosemary, Peppermint, Basil, Bergamot, Cedarwood, and Eucalyptus (1996, p. 99).

With the exception of the citruses (lemon, orange, and bergamot) the oils are distinctly different than those recommended to treat depression. The tonic effects of terpene hydrocarbons in the citrus oils make them naturals for the stimulating warmth required for concentration. So we’ll review the constituents of the most common oils recommended for focused alertness and concentration: rosemary, peppermint, and eucalyptus.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has three main chemotypes. The most common in aromatherapy is the cineole type. Its main component is cineole, an oxide. Oxides are known for their expectorant properties and 1.8 cineole found in rosemary is cited as the constituent “responsible for rosemary’s CNS-excitatory properties” (Battaglia, 2007, p. 83) and terpene hydrocarbons, which are known for their tonic effect. Traditionally rosemary is said to stimulate the mind and help with memory. A UK study recently validated this in the lab: “Rosemary produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors, but also produced an impairment of speed of memory compared to controls” (Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P., 2003). And in regards to mood: “both the control and lavender groups were significantly less alert than the rosemary condition; however, the control group was significantly less content than both rosemary and lavender conditions. These findings indicate that the olfactory properties of these essential oils can produce objective effects on cognitive performance, as well as subjective effects on mood” (Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P., 2003). So, indeed, rosemary does aid memory and enhances mental clarity.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is composed principally of menthol (up to 46%) with the associated alcohol tonic effect. The above referenced study (page 3) by Moss, et al indicated peppermint stimulated cognitive functioning as opposed to ylang-ylang, which slowed processing time (Moss, Hewitt, Moss, & Wesnes,2008). Not entirely unrelated to concentration peppermint is also shown to relieve headaches and: “prevent congestion of blood supply to the brain” and cold compresses of peppermint oil are recommended to reduce headache and migraine (Battaglia, 2007 p. 247). While headaches are not directly related to concentration they can certainly distract! By including peppermint oil in a concentration blend the unfortunate occasional by-product of focused work, the headache, can be avoided.

Eucalyptus has at least 600 different species and at least 13 different essential oil types. For our purposes we’ll review Eucalyptus radiata, which is 65-75% cineole content (Battaglia, 2007, p. 192) with the remaining principle components terpene alcohols. Like rosemary cineole oxide stimulates and terpene alcohols tonify. Aside from Worwood’s list eucalyptus is rarely indicated for mood but more often for its expectorant and antibacterial qualities. However its distinctive, clearing odor may well serve to bring the mind to rapid attention regardless of chemistry.

So while the essential oils traditionally associated with depression have euphoric, sedative, and calming effects via their ester, ether, and alcohol contents the essential oils associated with concentration are heavier in oxides and terpene alcohols. The aromas of florals are rich, warm, and gently supportive whereas cineole-rich rosemary and eucalyptus are crisp and clearing. Citrus oils are useful for both depression and concentration with their stimulating uplift.

Much of aromatherapy’s elegance is the synergy between different oils. Blending lemon with clary sage and jasmine creates a different effect (uplifted euphoria) than blending lemon with rosemary and eucalyptus (crisp awareness) and yet the component ‘lemon’ is an integral part of each blend.

This synergy offers more freedom than the pharmaceutical approach to treating ‘disease’. Pharmaceuticals for mood are suddenly common as candy and many client intake forms are filled with lists of anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and pain relievers. While pharmaceuticals have their place often they’re unnecessary and evidence of a cultural reliance on chemicals to “fix” us. With laboratory studies suggesting the efficacy of traditional remedies, including aromatherapy, we can explore viable alternatives to pills. This encourages active engagement of the client/patient in his/her own health and well-being. And aesthetically the application or inhalation of a blend of essential oils pleases the senses and engages the imagination while the chemical constituents work their “magic” to alter mood and promote well-being. That’s good medicine. 

Works cited:

Battaglia, Salvatore. (2007). The complete guide to aromatherapy. Brisbane, Australia: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P. (2003). Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. Int J Neurosci. 2003 Jan: 11.3(1):15-38. Abstract obtained from http://www.pubmed.gov.

Moss, M Hewitt, S Moss, L, Wesnis, K. (2008). Modulation of cognitive performance and moods by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. Int J Neuroscience. 118:(1):59-77. Abstract obtained from http://www.pubmed.gov.

Schnaubelt, Kurt. (1995). Advanced aromatherapy: the science of essential oil therapy. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Worwood, Valerie. (1996). The fragrant mind: aromatherapy for personality, mind, mood, and emotion. Novato, CA: New World Library.