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.

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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

aromatherapy for mood and emotion (part 4) by Heather Eggleston

So while the floral oils are useful for soothing the nerves, inducing euphoria, and reducing stress the citrus oils have very different constituents and effects. We’ll review Mandarin, Bergamot, and Lemon.

Mandarin (Citrus reticulate) contains mainly terpene hydrocarbons and esters. The terpene hydrocarbons, principally limonene, promote antiviral and antiseptic effects that in a subliminal way offer a sense of fresh liveliness. These components are said to be stimulants and “general tonics” (Battaglia, 2007. p. 76). Mandarin’s ester content is unique as it comes from a particular source, anthranilic acid ester, which has a strongly sedative effect that is safe for use even with children (Schnaubelt, 1998, p.77). Mandarin, along with lavender, is considered by many aromatherapists the “children’s remedy” for restlessness, anxiety, nightmares, and worry.

Bergamot (Citrus aurantium ssp. Bergamia) is composed principally of terpene hydrocarbons, alcohols, and esters. The balance of stimulating hydrocarbons with sedating alcohols and euphoric esters makes this an ideal adaptogen or balancer. Bergamot has been used traditionally to refresh and relax thereby inducing a state of focused calm. In a Korean study the combination of Bergamot, Lavender, and Frankincense (1:1:1) in sweet almond oil massaged on terminal hospice cancer patients showed statistically significant improvement in both pain and depression scores (Chang, 2008).

Lemon (Citrus limon), like mandarin and bergamot, is composed primarily of terpene hydrocarbons with their antiseptic, stimulating effects. A study at Ohio State University “provided robust evidence that lemon oil reliably enhances positive mood compared to water and lavender regardless of expectancies or previous use of aromatherapy” (Kielcot-Glaser, Graham, Malarkey, Porter, Lemeshow, & Glaser, 2008).

So the citrus oils’ gift to a depressed individual is gentle, calm stimulation without the jittery effects common with over-the-counter drugs and caffeine. Each citrus has its own character so someone who indicates a need to balance will prefer bergamot whereas someone who is prone to hysterics may do better with mandarin’s sedative calm. And yet another person who simply needs to feel emotionally lifted may be drawn to lemon’s specific positivity.

There are still a few more essential oils left on Worwood’s comprehensive list. Geranium (Pelargonium odorantissimum), an herb, is composed mostly of terpene alcohols with a significant (approximately 25%) number of esters. Like neroli, geranium has a significant citronellol content, which allows for its alert yet calming effect. According to Schnaubelt the mix of tonic alcohols and sedating esters give geranium a unique character that makes its effects very individualized (1998, p. 70). Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), another herb, is composed primarily (up to 75%) of esters, which are known as euphoric sedatives, making this oil beneficial in the treatment of any condition related to lifting mood (Battaglia, 2007, p. 188). Frankincense (Boswellia), a resin, is mostly terpene hydrocarbons, which stimulate and tonify the entire system (Battaglia, 2007, p. 204). And finally Sandalwood (santalum album) is composed of 75% santalols, an alcohol that is said to have a calming, sedative effect (Battaglia, 2007, p. 264).

Our survey of the primary chemical constituents of Worwood’s traditional oils to treat depression indicates flexibility within a standard list. Each of the suggested essential oils has clear benefit for some type or symptom of depression. A possible remedy for someone with jittery nervous exhaustion would be: ylang-ylang, mandarin, and sandalwood. Someone who has lost her will may prefer a more euphoric jasmine, clary sage, lemon, and frankincense blend. And yet another who wishes to balance out mood swings would lean towards neroli, bergamot, geranium, and sandalwood. The options are diverse but therapist understanding of why particular oils are indicated for depression streamlines the art of blending and places sound science in line with a beautifully pleasing art.

Works cited:

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

Chang, SY. (2008). Effects of aroma hand massage on pain, state anxiety and depression in hospice patients with terminal cancer. Department of Nursing, Keimyung University, Jung-gu, Daegu, Korea. Abstract obtained from http://www.pubmed.gov.

Kiecolt-Glaser Jk, Graham JE, Malarkey WB, Porter K, Lemeshow S, Glaser R. (2008). Olfactory influences on mood and autonomic, endocrine, and immune function. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2008 Apr:33(3):328-39. 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.

aromatherapy for mood and emotion (part 3) by Heather Eggleston

Many popular aromatherapy books offer lists of oils for specific conditions. One book may offer 4-5 oils for, say, depression, while another expert offers 3 additional or even seemingly contradictory oils for the same condition. It’s important to take into consideration the causes of depression when selecting the appropriate oils for treatment. A person who is depressed because of a sudden loss will have very different needs than a person who is chronically depressed whether life circumstances are good or bad. So it becomes important to know why particular oils are allies against depression.

Valerie Ann Worwood offers a number of formulas from the annals of traditional aromatherapy to affect mood. She chose her oils based on common usage to create or relieve specific mood states. We’ll explore her recommendations based on chemical composition and recent laboratory studies to tease out the rudimentary beginnings of why these oils have been used for centuries. We must keep in mind the intricacy of nature is far more vast and complex than anything we can isolate in the lab or replicate in double-blind studies. So with all honor and respect to Mother Nature, let’s explore. We’ll look first at relieving depression and then at promoting concentration.

Depression is popularly defined as a “lowered” mood including sadness, hopelessness, and despair. Energy levels are reduced, sleep patterns are disturbed (ranging from insomnia to sleeping too much), focus is difficult, and eating patterns are erratic (binging and/or starvation cycles). The following essential oils have been traditionally used: Mandarin, Bergamot, Orange, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Helichrysum, Clary Sage, Lavender, Roman chamomile, Lemon, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Rose Otto, Neroli, Petitgrain, Sandalwood, Marjoram, and Frankincense (Worwood, 1996, p. 145). Reviewing the list the first thing that jumps out is the list is primarily made up of florals: “oils made from the flowers or petals of plants or trees” (Worwood, 1996, p. 253) (Ylang ylang, Jasmine, Lavender, Roman chamomile, Rose Otto, Helichrysum, and Neroli) and fruits: “essential oils that are extracted from the fruit of a plant or tree” (Worwood, 1996, p. 254) (Mandarin, Bergamot, Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit, Petitgrain). This leaves some herbs (Geranium, Clary sage, and Marjoram), a resin (Frankincense), and a wood (Sandalwood). So what constituents make these oils effective in treating depression?

Let’s look at a few of the most popular florals first, Ylang ylang, Jasmine, Rose, and Neroli. Ylang Ylang’s (Cananga odorata) major components are esters. Esters are calming to the nervous system with sedative properties. An overwrought depressive may appreciate the calming effect but someone who barely has enough energy to get up in the morning may need to avoid the sedative aspect by blending with more stimulating oils. Another major constituent of ylang-ylang are ethers, which are antispasmodic and analgesic. Ethers are known for their euphoric effect and may trigger serotonin release (Battaglia, 2007. p.278), which can give the depressed person a needed boost. Ylang-ylang is shown to reduce the stress-response in humans. “At the behavioral level, subjects in the ylang ylang oil group rated themselves more calm and more relaxed than subjects in the control group. These findings are likely to represent a relaxing effect of the ylang ylang oil and provide some evidence for the usage of the ylang ylang oil in aromatherapy such as causing a relief of depression and stress in humans” (Hongratanaworakit, Buchbauer, 2006).

Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) is considered a euphoric with an intoxicating aroma. Jasmine’s major constituents are alcohols, which contribute to its stimulating, tonic effect. Someone who has lost joy for living and is fighting depressive exhaustion can utilize the warming, stimulating effect of Jasmine.

Rose (Rosa damascene) is also traditionally indicated for a number of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. Its primary constituents are terpene alcohols and according to Schnaubelt: “The unfortunately very expensive rose oil is best used for its fragrance. The scent alone has uplifting and tonifying effects and stabilizes the nervous system.” (1998, p. 87). But that hardly tells the whole story. Rose is one of the most chemically complex essential oils with more than 300 compounds, many of which have not yet been isolated (Battaglia, 2007, p. 255). So while the diverse efficacy of rose is mostly empirical at this time it remains one of the most beloved essential oils for treating mood.

Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara) is steam distilled from orange blossoms and is 40% terpene alcohols, specifically cintronellol, which has been shown to have significant sedative effects (Schnaubelt, 1998, p. 41) and 10-20% esters (Schnaubelt, 1998, p. 61). Its main effect is to reduce anxiety and calm the central nervous system.  

Works cited:

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

Hongratanaworakit, T, Buchbauer, G. (2006). Relaxing effect of ylang yang oil on humans after transdermal absorption. Phytother Res. 2006 Sep: 20(9): 758-63. 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. 

 

 

 

aromatherapy for mood and emotion (part 2) by Heather Eggleston

So why do certain aroma molecules produce specific effects? Aromatherapist Kurt Schnaubelt, PhD suggests it is chemistry first and scent second. In aromatherapy, he suggests, the reactivity of particular essential oils is based on the structural elements of specific molecules as distinguished by the unique bonding of oxygen and carbon.

There are six functional groups of essential oil components of main import in clinical aromatherapy: alcohols, phenols, aldehydes, ketones, esters, and oxides. Essential oil properties are determined largely by the functional group to which it belongs (Shnaubelt, 1995, pp. 20-21). Alcohols, aldehydes, esters, and oxides are most useful for altering mood.

Alcohols are considered fundamental in clinical aromatherapy because of their versatility. They have virtually no toxicity when used properly, pleasant fragrance, and strong antiseptic qualities. They’re considered tonics.

Aldehydes have a sedative quality that can be used to good effect in aromatherapy blending.

Esters are the most common functional group in aromatherapy with their pleasing and somewhat sweet fragrance. They are sedative, antispasmodic, and calming to the central nervous system (Lavabre, 1990. pp 31-33).

Oxides are strongly expectorant, antiviral, and stimulate the central nervous system (Battaglia, 2007, p. 83).

Knowing the primary constituents of particular essential oils offers a science-based framework for why certain oils work but there are trace elements in many oils that defy classification and may be integral in the condition specific efficacy of particular oils (Battaglia, 2007, p. 84). So scientific language will only take us so far. Tradition and anecdotal evidence offer another language to capture the subtlety of the plant world’s sometimes magical effects on the human body, specifically mood.

So what is mood and why is it important? In this holistic age it’s not productive to speak about a segmented human being. Mind, body, and emotion are intricately linked as a dynamic whole. Our thoughts (mind) evoke emotion/mood, which then literally create our hormonal balance. Dr. Candace Pert’s work in the field of psychoneuroimmunology offers a working hypothesis that proves this rather common-sense link. When we think our bodies allow specific peptides (neurotransmitters and/or hormones) that reflect those thoughts to bond the body’s receptor sites. For example when we think (and feel) calming thoughts euphoria inducing endorphins can lock onto body-wide receptor sites, creating the sensation of health and well-being. Whereas when we experience stressed, angry thoughts and emotions our open receptor sites may be filled with adrenaline thereby creating more tension and fear. Our physical state is a direct manifestation of our emotional state. As Pert says “…your mind is in every cell of your body” (Moyers, 1993, p.182). So emotion, or mood, should clearly be important to everyone, not just those with chronic mood disorders or mental illness. Our culture is stressed and our bodies reflect this state with increased numbers of autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and cancer. Our drug dependence on anti-depressants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills and the like are also reflective of the stressed state too many people live with each moment.

Works cited:

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

Lavabre, Marcel. (1990). Aromatherapy workbook. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Moyers, Bill. (1993). Healing and the mind. London: Thorsons/HarperCollins.

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