-By Dr. Heather Stein-
Plants have always played an essential component in healing and medicine across cultures and eras. Aromatherapy is just one of the many branches of such ancient and established methods of curing both mind and body of ailments, and essential oils are they basic building block of an aromatherapist’s toolbelt. Because the olfactory receptors in our noses transmit information to our hypothalamus – the part of the brain that controls, among other functions, feelings of hunger, anger, and sexual desire -- aroma allows us to affect our mind through subtle changes in our environment.
Five of the most commonly used aromas are frankincense, lavender, lemon, peppermint, and rosemary. They allow even a beginning practitioner of some psychotherapeutic and beauty applications.
How to Use Essential Oils
There are many, many essential oil diffusers available on the market. Some are large. Some small. Some are beautiful focal points in a living space. Nevertheless, a simple, DIY diffuser option is always on hand -- pour some just-boiled water into a large bowl or mug, add a few drops of oil, and enjoy!
Carrier oils in topical applications
Essential oils have been distilled to the point of being astringent to skin if applied directly. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, like almond or jojoba, before applying topically. NEVER bring an essential oil into direct contact with the eyes or mucous membranes.
Frankincense is an aromatic resin derived from an African tree, Boswellia. Its name in English is derived from the old French terms “franc incens,” translated literally as “French incense.” Ancient Egyptians used it as an ingredient in kohl. Its scent is piney and sweet, with lemon and earthy undertones.
Frankincense oil is a traditional component of many meditative practices. Rubbing of the oil between your hands can be an effective method of quickly bringing about a feeling of calm or treating many of the symptoms associated with PMS. It pairs well with many citrus and spice oils, especially geranium and sandalwood.
When added to a carrier oil, it makes for an effective massaging oil to help with joint and rheumatism pain as well as tired and aching muscles. A cold washcloth dabbed with a few drops of frankincense and applied to the forehead is a favorite cure for headaches.
Lavender is a versatile plant native to the Mediterranean that flourishes today in sunny, rocky locations as well as in many container gardens.
The lavender fragrance has relaxing and calming properties. Applied to the inside of a pillowcase, it can help with insomnia and nightmares. A few drops in a hot bath can quiet the mind and pairs well with other floral scents like jasmine and vanilla.
Mixed into shampoos and conditioners, lavender is often used not only as a treatment for dandruff but also to promote blood circulation and stimulate hair growth. Because stress is strongly correlated with hair loss, this essential oil packs a powerful punch.
Lemon oil is likely the most powerful anti-microbial agent of the essential oils. No small wonder that so many common household cleaners and disinfectants are lemon-scented! You can add this essential oil yourself to DIY laundry detergents, disinfectants, and soaps.
Lemon oil is an excellent choice for purifying the air after an illness and effective at eliminating the lingering odors of cigarettes and other unpleasant smokes.
Forty drops of lemon oil and twenty drops of tea tree oil combined in a 16oz. spray bottle filled with distilled water will tidy a bathroom without the corrosive chemicals.
Mentha Piperita is a leafy plant found across Eurasia. Although other forms of mint are commonly used in herbal teas and even cooking, they should be avoided as essential oils in homeopathy because of their sometimes-toxic intensities.
Peppermint oil is a revitalizer. Indeed, it is sometimes used instead of smelling salts after a fainting spell, and its effects on congestion have made in a common ingredient in many over-the-counter cold and flu medicines. Peppermint pairs well with other herbal oils, like basil and rosemary.
Used either in a massage oil or a foot bath, peppermint oil can reduce aches, pains, and muscle fatigue.
Rosemary’s silvery-green needles and flowers have a citrusy and evergreen scent that is both refreshing and clean. Rosemary is a staple of many Mediterranean dishes.
Rosemary has been shown to raise confidence as well as to decrease the amount of cortisol produced by the body – a hormone related to stress.
Added to shampoos and conditioners, rosemary oil can make both hair and fur glossy and healthy.
images by: amylv & shikibu