Saturday, April 27, 2013

Peppermnt: The Details

I just have to say, if you couldn't tell from my last post,
I love peppermint oil!

I use peppermint all the time, for just about everything.

Now to the details...

Latin Name: Mentha piperita
Family: Lamiaceae

When buying peppermint oil you want to be careful of your source. If it has not been carefully harvested weeds may have been gathered along with the peppermint and distilled into the oil.
Peppermint oil should be clear to pale yellow in color with a fresh, camphorous, and minty aroma.

Inhaling a good peppermint oil will give me a cool, open feeling in the throat that usually carries into the lungs as well.

France, England and the USA all produce wonderful peppermint oils. The bottle I currently have is of organic peppermint from India.

Peppermint is a popular and perennial garden herb. It grows to between two and three feet tall and likes to spread. The leaves are oval shaped, dark green with deep teeth along the sides. Peppermint flowers in the summer producing small lilac or pin flowers. If you look at a peppermint from the top the leaves look like a star.

The whole above ground part of the plant is used to produce the oil. It is harvested before flowering and is steam distilled.

The chemical components of peppermint oil are variations on a theme:

Menthol(monoterpene alcohol):Strong antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, immune system support
Menthone(ketone): Strong mucolytic, promote skin/tissue regeneration, wound healing agents, calming to the nervous system
Menthol Ester: Relaxing to the central nervous system, balancing, antispasmodic, nervous system tonic

In Greek myth there is a story of a nymph named Menthe. Pluto fell in love with her, and when his wife discovered the relationship she was so angry that she trampled Menthe into the ground. Out of love for Menthe, Pluto turned her into an herb that would be appreciated by all people.
According to Pliny this is where the name Mentha comes from.   

Besides being widely used as a flavoring agent, peppermint oil has many applications in aromatherapy.
It is used to treat headache, a variety of digestive disorders, fatigue and apathy. It has a wonderful affect on the respiratory system relieving coughs, sinus congestion and asthma. Peppermint oil is also wonderful for muscle pain and to increase circulation.
Because of its healing properties peppermint oil is fantastic as part of a muscle rub after strenuous exercise.

Peppermint is our first oil that comes with some caution:
It cam be irritating to the skin and cause burning so always dilute it in an oil, lotion or gel.
Do not apply near the face of small children because of a risk of spasm in the respiratory system.
Because it is a stimulating oil it chould not be use on children under thirty months, with some suggesting not under seven years of age.
Please do not use peppermint oil in your bath!
Not to be used during pregnancy.

That may seem like a lot of don'ts. But as you will see when we get to the recipes, there is a lot to be done with this magnificent oil.

Peppermint is another oil that is friends with lavender... at least in my practice.

 As with any oil, please use with care and ALWAYS dilute in a carrier of some sort.
 And please DO NOT use internally.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Peppermint: The Popular One

Ah... Peppermint...

Candy canes at Christmas with their red and white stripes.
 Hot chocolate laced with mint on a cold day.
Those soft, pastel butter mints my grandmother always kept in her room.
 Sitting on mom's lap reading a book in the bathroom while the soothing smell of peppermint swirled with the steam when I was sick...

For me, peppermint has always been associated with comfort, happiness and family. It is a flavor of celebration and chewing gum. Those round red and white mints you get at a restaurant after spending time with loved ones.

I almost always have a bag of the soft, old fashioned peppermint sticks stashed somewhere...

I think peppermint fits so well with Christmas because it is a bright, uplifting and refreshing fragrance.

I call peppermint oil the popular one because we come in contact with it in one form or another just about every day.

It is in our toothpaste, floss and mouthwash. It may be in our shampoo. It is in our breath mints and chewing gum.

For our purposes, we are using oil from Mentha x Piperita.

Spearmint and wintergreen are completely different oils with different applications. Be sure you are buying the right kind of mint. They are not interchangeable!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tea Tree: Recipes

I hope you, my readers, will forgive me for not writing this post sooner. I took a class this weekend that ended-up capturing my imagination and opened my mind to another vast aspect of the plant world.

I will be writing a post on it as soon as I finish processing the information in myself.

I had told you before that tea tree oil plays wonderfully with lavender, and it is so true. Very rarely do I use tea tree on its own, often I will mix it with lavender in one form or another to enhance the benefits of both.

Dental Abcess
(If you have one, by all means go see your dentist! This does not replace his care.) 
3 drops lavender
2 drops tea tree
1 tsp. jojoba oil
Massage over the entire jaw and cheek area on the affected side.

2 drops tea tree
2 drops lavender
Place in a small bowl of warm water and bathe the area twice a day. Use a fresh mix each time.

Cuts and Abrasions
(this is most often how I use these oils)
3 drops lavender
2 drops tea tree
Use these proportions to make a small bottle of the blend(5/8 dram size with a reducer cap will hold 40-60 drops). Add 3-5 drops to a bowl of water and bathe the area. Place one drop of the blend on the bandage before covering the wound.

You can also keep a 5ml bottle with 10 drops of the blend topped off with jojoba oil to rub around the area if a bandage is not needed. Both blends are perfect in a first aid kit along with a small bottle of water and gauze. I use them in place of antiseptic wash and antibacterial ointments.

Itchy Feet Remedy
10 drops lavender
10 drops tea tree
1 c. Epsom salt
1/2 c. baking soda
Mix the oils in a small bottle with a reducer cap. Combine the salt and baking soda in a bowl and add 5 drops of the oil blend. Add the mixture to a bathtub with enough warm water to cover your feet to the ankles, or you can use a lage basin like you would wash dishes in. Relax and soak you feet for at least 10 minutes or until the water cools.

As you may notice, the last two recipes ask that you combine the oils in a separate storage bottle and only use a few drops at a time. This brings up an important tool of the aromatherapist, a synergistic blend.When you blend two oils together and give them a chance to mingle  you end up with a substance that is greater then each oil working individually. I personally prefer to always mix the essential oils together first and then add my carrier substance(oil, salt, baking soda, water...). 

If you are making a single dose of oil for a rub and are intending to use the entire mix in one session, like a massage then something like a shot glass is a good option. Place your oils in the glass first then add your oil. I have a small glass cup that I purchased at a beauty supply store. It is intended for use with acrylic nail solution but it is the perfect size to blend a  few drops of oil before I add them to a bath or some other application.

The next oil we will add to our tool box is peppermint... one of my personal favorites!

As always, be safe and know your oil.
 And please, don't eat them! There is an herb for that ;)

I am not a doctor. Nor am I qualified to diagnose or treat any illness. I am simply a student of the world around me. Use the oils at your own risk and please consult your medical professional. This blog is a compilation of my own experiences and study.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tea Tree: The Details

Before we dive into the varied uses of tea tree oil we need to get some basic information out of the way.

Latin name: Melaleuca alternifolia
Botanical family: Myrtaceae

When purchasing your tea tree oil look for a very pale, watery oil. The scent should be sharp, spicy, warm and camphorous.

From Essential Aromatherapy:
Because supply outstrips demand, tea tree oil is sometimes adulterated with other species of Melaleuca, of which there are many varieties. This is allowed by the authorities but no data exists to verify the efficacy of these blended oils.
Be sure of your source, especially for therapeutic applications!

Australia is the largest producer of tea tree, though you might also come across tea tree oil from New Zealand.

The tea tree is an evergreen growing up to 20 feet tall. The leaves are blue-green in color and very narrow. The tree produces small white to purplish flowers and thrives in natural swampy conditions.

It is the leaves and twigs that are steam distilled to extract the oil.

Tea tree's chemical profile will reveal why it has had such a lofty history:
Monoterpenes - antiseptic, antiviral, stimulating/energizing, mild expectorant/decongestant,
drying/dehydrating effect on skin
Monoterpene alcohol(terpin-4-ol) - Strong antimicrobial, gentle to the skin, antibacterial, antiviral, immune system support
Oxides(1,8 cineole) - antiviral, expectorant, respiratory stimulant

As you can see, tea tree  is the perfect oil when you want to ward off many types of infections! This is why it had such a strong use during war times.

The Aborigines of Australia used it as a medicine to treat skin disorders such as bites, bruises and infections. The British explorer, Captain Hook is credited with giving tea tree it's name after he made a tea from its leaves, hoping to prevent scurvy among his crew.
The antiseptic action of tea tree is thought to be 100 times stronger than carbolic acid, yet it is nontoxic!
the oil was so highly prized by the Australian Royal army nd navy as an antiseptic that each soldier was given a bottle of tea tree for treating infections, wounds and skin ailments.

Tea tree can be used to treat candida, ringworm, sunburn, acne, athlete's foot, toothache, head lice, and a wide variety of infections. It is useful as a respiratory support, decongestant and to counteract fatigue.

Tea tree is a great frind of lavender as we will see later.

There are no known contraindications for tea tree.

As with any oil, please use with care and ALWAYS dilute in a carrier of some sort.
 And please DO NOT use internally.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tea Tree: The "Miracle OIl"

This is a humble oil, with an impressive history.

Tea tree... the first thing that comes to mind is a dusty eucalyptus wreath hanging on a wall.
You get that refreshing eucalyptus scent, but it is veiled, dusty, earthy.
In the title I called tea tree the "miracle oil". When we explore its many uses over the next few days you will see why. This is a remarkably gentle oil yet powerful enough that the people who harvested it during WWII to be exempt from war service!
It is so versatile that entire companies have been built on it.
This is will be an exciting week as I share some of what the humble tea tree has to offer.
When purchasing your oil look for Melaleuca alternifolia, the best sources are form either Australia or New Zealand. As always, please be sure of the source of your oils. The companies I trust are listed on the side of my page.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lavender: Recipes

So far I have shared some basic information about lavender. Now you know what I know!
It is time for the fun part... How to use it. As we learn more oils you will see lavender again as it plays very well with other oils. But for now...

I will start with the youngest members of the family, our babies and children.

Lavender is wonderful for children! It is one of only three that are recommended for newborns. Dilution of essential oil is very important for young children, even one as gentle as lavender. I do not recommend using the oils without a carrier of some kind. That falls under an advanced use of oils that is outside the scope of this blog.
That being said, lavender is wonderful in a massage oil after you give baby a bath to help soothe them to sleep.

Massage Oil
2oz.carrier oil (almond or jojoba)
2 drops lavender
2-12 months: 4 drops
1-5 years: 6 drops
5-7 years: 8 drops
7-12 years: 10 drops
After 12: no more than 15 drops
All the above quantities are for 2 oz of carrier oil.

Soothing Bath
(for mom or dad)
1c. Epsom salt
1/2c. baking soda
6 drops lavender
Mix the above ingredients together(I like to use a mason jar) Run your bath water at a comfortably warm temperature. Just before you get in, add the contents of your jar and swish to dissolve. Settle in and relax for at least 20 min. 

Room Spray 
(for all ages)
8oz. filtered water
10 drops lavender
Place in a misting bottle and shake well before each use. Lightly spray the room before bed time.

(all ages)
Bowl of warm water
5 drops lavender
Drop the lavender into the water and use a soft cloth to clean the area. 

(Do not pop a blister!)
Apply 1 drop lavender to the blister then hold an ice cube on the area to cool it down. Keep the blister covered with a piece of gauze to which you have applied a drop of lavender. change the dressing several times a day.

To help you relax you may also inhale the lavender straight from the bottle. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and take a slow, even breath with the bottle of lavender held about 10 inches from your nose. Be careful though... you might fall asleep!

I hope you have enjoyed this first step into the wonderful world of aromatherapy. Maybe it has inspired you to start some research of your own! If you learn something new please feel free to share in the comments.

As always, be safe and know your oil.
 And please, don't eat them! There is an herb for that ;)

I am not a doctor. Nor am I qualified to diagnose or treat any illness. I am simply a student of the world around me. Use the oils at your own risk and please consult your medical professional. This blog is a compilation of my own experiences and study.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Lavender: A Personality

I have been exploring a new book...

In this book Valarie Ann Worwood shares the effects that essential oils have emotionally and psychologically. I haven't read it cover to cover yet and have already found valuable information that is influencing how I select my oils for different needs.

So, lavender.

 It falls under the categories of both a floral and a herbie sent. 

The character of lavender can be described as harmonious, calming, healing, caring, compassionate, embracing... like your favorite grandmother.
You can use lavender to promote feelings of security, gentleness, and compassion. Its is a good oil to balance the emotions, be reconciled to an event or person, and add vitality, clarity, and acceptance to your life. Lavender can also leave you with a rested and rejuvenated feeling.

Lavender is a wonderful choice to counteract feelings of anxiety, irritability, panic and shock. It can help alleviate the effects of stress, trauma and emotional violence. I love to use lavender at night on myself and my family for the unfounded feelings of fear that can come at the end of a long day.

Mrs. Worwood describes lavender as the mother or grandmother of essential oils. It has the ability to perform so many physical and psychological issues. It tackles many problems at once just like a mother does, this is the reason I chose to highlight it first.

Lavender is the balance of feminine and masculine. Like your favorite heroine it is electric and formidable, but also loving, kind and compassionate. Lavender is direct, pure, brave and humble...The perfect prince charming.

Lavender people bravely face whatever life brings, while still giving of themselves to those in need. They are calm in the face of hardship and have a seemingly unending store of energy.
They are the first to offer help, no matter how small the job may be.

Lavenders love the earth and being surrounded by nature. They have an innate sense of right and strong spirituality. They will often chose caregiver roles such as a nurse or foster parent. 

Lavenders will work hard to solve issues that directly affect their communities and have a strong sense of home.

When in their negative, a lavender can be high strung and will not share their problems with others. They can feel that their problems are less important than the needs of other and will neglect themselves to provide. Unexplained headaches and body aches are common with lavender people.

Whatever a lavender personality does, it will be with their whole heart, a worthy cause, and valuable to those they come in contact with.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Lavander: The Details

Time for some deeper info on the lovely lavender plant.
It is not enough just to know the Latin name of lavender. In order to really use lavender in all of its glory, you need more information. You wouldn't hire someone for a job without first seeing their resume... So here it is, Lavender's resume:

Latin names: Lavendula angustifolia, Lavendula officianalis
Botanical family: Labiate (Laminiaceae)
When purchasing lavender oil look for a clear, watery oil, with a fresh, herbaceous, floral scent. It should smell full and sweet, not overly soapy or musty.

 France, England, and Bulgaria are the most common origins. May also come from China, Tasmania, Russia and Croatia. There will be a fragrance difference depending on country of origin. French and English lavender have the best fragrance in my opinion.

The plant itself is bushy and herbaceous growing to about four feet tall. It has spike shaped leaves that are a soft, silvery, grayish green and slightly fuzzy. The flowers are tightly packed on a single stem. They can range in color from mauve to the common lavender color most think of.

The flowering tops are the part that is used for essential oil, which is extracted using steam distillation.

The chemical profile of lavender oil gives an insight into its use:
Sesquiterpenes-antiseptic, antibacterial, powerful anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, calming and soothing to the nervous system
Monoterpene alcohol(linalol)- strong antimicrobial, gentle to the skin, antibacterial, antiviral, immune system support
Esters(linalyl acetate)-Relaxing to the central nervous system, balancing, antispasmodic, nervous system tonic, soothing to inflammatory skin conditions

When most people think lavender for aromatherapy, they think sleep, and this is where lavender shines. It is a very powerful sedative oil. It is wonderful for anxiety disorders and the resultant insomnia that comes from them. It is also considered an adaptogen, meaning it will balance your nervous system. 

A lesser known use of lavender oil is its ability to fight infections. It is a great oil to keep blended in your first aid kit. I put a drop of lavender in a carrier on bandages The scent calms the injured person(usually one of my children)and I know it will keep them from getting infected without having to use an antibiotic ointment. Lavender oil also has cell regenerative and wound healing properties.

The anti-inflammatory property of lavender oil makes it wonderful for use with arthritis and skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and sun burns,. It can relieve itching from bug bites and hives.

There are no known contraindications for lavender.
As with any oil though, please use with care and ALWAYS dilute in a carrier of some sort. And please DO NOT use internally. 

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Lavender: A Starting Point

I have spent some time thinking about how I would like to share the vast amount of information there is to be found about essential oils and their uses. I have chosen to follow the advice of one of my instructors and focus on one oil each week. Seven days to research, explore and experiment. Seven days to make a new friend.

For the first oil I have chosen to explore is lavender...

When I think lavender... I think of France, grandmothers, and sachets tucked among the sheets. 
Lavender is is a gentle oil... very user friendly. Which is why I have chosen it as a starting point of this journey.

The lavender oil you want to purchase comes from the Lavendula angustifolia or Lavendula officinalis plant. As with all essential oils you want to be sure of your source.

The companies that I will share are those that I have been referred to in my classes. These companies provide the exceptional oils that are used by the aromatherapists that I know.

Floracopeia offers a lavender oil from Bulgaria here.

 Mountain Rose Herbs also has a lavender oil from Bulgaria here

Ananda Apothecary has lavender oil from Bulgaria here
A wild French lavender here
And a high-elevation lavender here

You can receive 25% off your first purchase at Floracopeia by clicking here just type in theashlandmanor in the box.

We will spend the next ten weeks exploring the ten oils that are recommended for a basic kit in this book.

Valarie Ann Worwood is an amazing author and one of the top aromatherapists in the world. I love this book and use it as my first reference when working with my oils. I will be referring to couple of her other books as well during this journey.

Until next time... <3 

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