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Eleven Favorite Essential Oils Again… Peppermint

In the last month I have used all eleven favorite essential oils in some blend or another. All of these oils have a hydrosol, the distinct essence of the plant in water that remains after the distillation process. I love hydrosols almost as much as I love essential oils! Their aromas are splendid and their uses are enormous! I expect that hydrosols will gain in popularity significantly in the coming years– it won’t be long. Research is being conducted on many hydrosols that will provide positive proof of their healthful benefits.

It’s April 1st and in this venue last month, I asked for readers to share their favorite 11th essential oil. Getting to ten (10) is not so hard; its selecting the 11th oil that I find interesting. Two oils were shared: one was grapefruit for its refreshing, uplifting aroma; the other was peppermint for its ability to rid one of a headache i.e., “best headache relief ever!”

These are both great 11th essential oil choices! One of the contributors will receive a sample pack of my favorite 11 hydrosols that I will identify in another post really soon.

The recipient of the hydrosols stated that “peppermint” was her favorite 11th oil. I will be reaching out to you via email. I hope you enjoy the hydrosols as much as I do! And, thanks for sharing!

Aromatically yours,

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Eleven Favorite Essential Oils

I know. It’s usually a number, like ten and not eleven when its about a list of favorites. Not this time. This is not my Top Eleven list; that would be different though some of these essential oils would make another appearance. These are my eleven favorite essential oils– the ones I reach for and think of most when blending for clients, family and for myself. If you include one or more of these essential oils in your blends, its like– you can’t miss! There will be reported measurable benefits!

I happen to like the number ‘eleven’ (11) because it is considered a Master Number (one of two such numbers; the other Master Number being 22) in the study of Numerology, a science based on numbers and their incredible affect on our lives. Some descriptive words associated with the number 11 include: illumination, enlightenment, inspirational, idealism, intuitive, psychic, channelling, poetry, expression, dreamer, revolution, mysticism, catalyst, prophet, celebrity, highly energized, radical, sensitive, visionary, enthusiastic and creative/creativity. I think all of the essential oils to be described possess master attributes in their own right and noted properties. They each offer potential to support us physically, mentally, emotionally and metaphysically in ways similar to these defining words and in other profound ways that are sometimes indescribable by the user. I should also add that the vibrational energy around the number 11 is loving and caring, as are all essential oils, used appropriately.

Here is my current list, deemed my Eleven (11) Favorite Essential Oils with one, or two of my own descriptive words about each and, in parenthesis, I’ve associated each oil with one of the words related to the Master Number 11:

1. Lavender – Lavandula augustifolia – heaven’s scent (idealism)
2. Sweet Orange – Citrus sinensis – happiness (expression)
3. Frankincense – Boswellia carterii – frankly amazing (intuitive)
4. Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile – subtle soother (sensitive)
5. Lemon – Citrus limon – brightening (illumination)
6. Bergamot – Citrus bergamia – blissful delight (creativity)
7. Helichrysum – Helichrysum italicum – resurrecting (revolution)
8. Myrrh – Commiphora myrrha – ageless curative (mysticism)
9. Tea Tree – Melaleuca alternifolia – first aid kit (okay, three words; I think it should be in every first aid kit, really) – (celebrity)
10. Basil – Ocimum basilicum – awakening (enlightenment)

This is my own list given my experience with these oils as an Aromatherapist and as a beneficiary of their varied uses.

Admittedly, it got really tough after listing number ten (10). People, in general, have some exposure to, knowledge of and may have used any of these ten essential oils in some manner; Helichrysum aside. Plant essential oils are used or experienced in some form or another in room misters, deodorant, antiseptic sprays, in cooking indirectly, in drink mixing or when burning incense. Many oils in my list of the ten are therefore, granted; no surprise. I use quality, GCMS tested essential oils regularly in my practice, so there were so many to think about as favorites, particularly with one left to choose. I started by thinking about how nourishing and beneficial Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) and Carrot Seed (Daucus carota) are for skin; how wonderful Sweet Marjoram (Origanum marjorana) is for stress and sleep and inflammation and Eucalyptus (globulus) for respiratory concerns; ahh, stimulating Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Peppermint (Mentha piperita) for headaches… and how many times I have reached for and adored them in one blend after another! It was indeed challenging! I love Sandalwood (Santalum album) that is so balancing, but I use it sparingly as precious as it is! Then again, I swoon at the seductive aromas of Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara) and enjoy the evocative presence of Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata). So, being the me I am, I finally decided.

Here is my choice for favorite essential oil Number 11:

Cypress Tree

Cypress Tree

11. Cypress – Cupressus sempervirens – high vibe (catalyst).

If you are wondering why Cypress, like it came out of left field or something, I find it to be a powerfully significant oil that is certainly not an underdog in the least! I’ve read that Cypress is linked with the dead and grows in and around cemetarys. I had to nod my head at part of this commentary because I think I have seen Cypress trees in every cemetary I have ever visited. I don’t have a problem with cemetarys; someday I’ll lie there, too. Perhaps, Cypress trees are there to bring comfort to the visiting souls that will leave them, some filled with sorrow, and for the departed ones in the ground because life, as they knew it has ended? It is printed that there are some disquieted spirits in some cemetarys. I hope that the aroma of Cypress keeps them there! The Greek word ‘sempervirens’ from which the botanical name is derived, means ‘lives forever’. It may be that the spirit of the lives we have known and those we’ve loved live forever with us.

Cypress has an illustrious history that informs us of its capabilities and irrefutable reputation. It was considered a symbol for life after death and was burnt along with Pine and Juniper in the ancient temples of Egypt to cleanse the atmosphere (I assume of potential bacteria and evil spirits). It’s medicinal uses were inscribed on papyri and its wood was often used to fashion the decorated coffins inserted in the stone sarcophagi of the Egyptian aristocracy. These uses were likely those we know Cypress to benefit today. There is also an island named Cypress, in the Meditteranean, where the tree used to be worshipped.

Cypress, the essential oil, is derived from the distillation of tree needles and twigs. The essential oil is opening, moving and wondrous. It calms and soothes the senses when feeling overwhelmed, purifies and cleanses both psychically and physically, eases major life transitions, assists grief, trauma or transition. It supports circulatory concerns, respiratory issues, reduces excess fluid, is anti-spasmodic for muscles and stomach, is astringent, antiseptic; hepatic to help blood flow and can constrict it as well; it helps to support liver functions, soothes rheumatic and arthritic conditions. In short, it can be a life saver in the real world.

In my list of favorites, Cypress is definitely a number 11 oil! No diminshing my favorite ten oils before it. They each possess enormous strengths and are amazing gifts to the universe. Aromatherapy, as we know it, would be minus many exclamation marks without them!

I’ve got a question for you. What are your ten favorite essential oils? Then, really tell me about your number 11 favorite essential oil! For those that reply, I am going to randomly select someone (notwithstanding your oil choice) and send that person sample 4 ml. spray vials of my eleven favorite organic hydrosols on April 1st; no fooling! The identity, by first name of that special individual and his/her 11th favorite essential oil, will be announced on April 2nd. I will also share a list of other number 11 oils.

I already know! It’s hard to choose…

Aromatically yours!

Please also visit our websites:
http://jamilaharomatherapy.etsy.com
http://jamilaharomatherapy.com

Frank Talk About Boswellia carterii (Frankincense)

Frankincense Tree

Frankincense Tree

I have a lot of experience with essential oils, aromatic oils, botanical essences or however you may refer or think of them. If I could describe them all in two words, I would say they are “God’s gift.” They are so dear to me! It’s not just the beautiful aromas they possess that I value highly; it is truly the tremendous benefit to my body, mind and spirit that I have never found disappointment in when I have helped myself by using essential oils. I think of them as friends.

Prior to working with essential oils, I knew them as plants in my youth and later as herbs, spices and oils. Getting to know them intimately as essential oils derived from plant leaves, seeds, flowers, resins, wood and more is such an awesome journey! So, I had this recent experience with one of my already favorite essential oils, Boswellia carterii, known more widely as Frankincense, that astounded me! The oil of Frankincense is distilled from a resin. I’ll tell you what happened…

I was in the process of hurriedly gathering items for a presentation to introduce my colleagues (on another path in which I am involved) to Aromatherapy as a means of stress reduction. I was to talk about essential oils and we would make inhalers to counter stress, afterwards as an exercise and a takeaway from the presentation. As I was pouring some Frankincense from a four ounce bottle into a fifteen ml bottle, it spilled out the larger bottle all over the hand in which I was holding the smaller bottle. I panicked for a moment, reminded that using essential oils “neat” i.e., without a carrier is not recommended. Okay, there are two exceptions: Lavender and Tea Tree oils that have no consequences to be cautious about when used directly on the skin. I am a trained holistic Aromatherapist so I am fully conscious of safety measures that are to be applied when handling and using essential oils. They are profound substances that must be treated with respect. I put both bottles down immediately, thinking about what carrier oil I would use to dilute the Frankincense without that base oil being a known skin penetrator as one of its noted properties. I chose Sesame Seed Oil; it was right there and Frankincense was, quite frankly, all over my outer hand, dripping on the rug and was also in my palm. A sizable blob had left the large mouth of the larger bottle and I was wearing it. I made a fast grab for the Sesame oil, opened and poured it all over my frankincensed hand and used a clean cloth to remove both as fast as I could. It all happened really fast! I had become drenched in Frankincense, in neat form, for less than 2 minutes. I didn’t exactly know what would happen since I had never had the experience before. It was a little after 3 PM. I wasn’t worried about the skin on my hand, and I smelled of Frankincense which was a good thing. I love its deep, resinous aroma. I had to get to my presentation that was set for 4 PM.

Within less than an hour, just before my presentation, I started feeling very relaxed. And, it increased. I was more relaxed than I have ever been during the delivery of a presentation! I realized I had to be careful about my choice of words with my supervisor in the room. I might say something that would give away my level of comfort. As the aromas of the essential oils filled the space; these included stress reducers Roman Chamomile, Vetiver, Lavender, Bergamot Mint, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang and Basil, others became more relaxed as well. We laughed, passed around the essential oils on popsicle sticks (I could not find my aromasticks) and made interesting inhalers. The more stressed among us stood out with curiosity about the oils and asked which was better than another? We had fun! I was relieved when it was over! I was even more relaxed. All that focusing on the material in my presentation and helping guests count drops while blending for inhalers had been work!

Frankincense resin rocks

Frankincense resin rocks

As I left work around 7 PM, I did not have much of a care in the world! I felt light, but very grounded. I walked to my car in pouring rain appreciative of the fact that I was going home. The rain was nice. When I arrived home, I ate something light and was really thirsty! By 8:30 PM I was in my pajamas and nodding uncontrollably on the couch while I attempted to listen to the news of the day. It had been a long day, but I am convinced that Frankincense had something to do with my entire being– being so grounded! I went to bed shortly afterwards. I was awakened by the sound of the doorbell ringing a little after 11PM. I got up to answer the door thinking my son must be without his key and I needed to let him in. Ordinarily, since my son is a repeat offender about leaving his key home and waking me up to let him in, I honestly sometimes don’t respond well to having my sleep broken due to his irresponsibility, but I didn’t have any reaction. I just got up to answer the door. Walking to the front of the house, I saw flashing lights through the bay windows. A little peek revealed that some NYPD police cars were outside. In any other instance, my heart and mind would have immediately started racing nervously; I would have begun worrying about something having happened to my son who was not at home. It didn’t happen. I was so calm.  I opened the door and a police officer asked me about a car parked next door, about which I knew nothing and told him so. He thanked me and I closed the door. I went back to my bedroom and thought that maybe I should go and take another look at what exactly was going on outside not too far from my front door. It really hadn’t phased me that the police were in front of my residence and I hadn’t asked any questions. Maybe someone had been whacked in the car or something; that kind of stuff can happen in the best of neighborhoods.  I hadn’t paid attention enough to satisfy my normal curiosity. I didn’t gather much watching them for a minute shine flashlights into what appeared to be a vacant car. They soon departed. Things were cool. I went back to bed and had a very good nights sleep.

The next morning I presented a once monthly held community workshop where I am the lead all day long from 10am to 6pm helping people understand and learn how to take a very important exam. I typically display plenty of energy and am upbeat in these sessions because I am talking about test-taking, something that makes most people nervous. I also despise boring presenters, and I don’t want to be one. I thought I had enough essential oil in my body from the prior day so I decided not to use my energizing inhaler. I was still plenty grounded and decided to stay with it. I did drink a couple of cups of coffee throughout the day and plenty of water. I was still sooo relaxed. The crowd at the session was great! There was nothing anyone could do to disturb my balance. Some tried, but I was cool as a cucumber. It wasn’t until very late the same night that I felt like I was back to my own rhythm, quite a few notches above the calm, relaxed individual I had been for more than 24 hours.

To say that I have a respect for Frankincense that I did not have before would be an understatement. It has always been a favorite essential oil for me. I use it on my skin in many blends and simply love the hydrosol! However, I now know why it was as good as gold, without a doubt, during the Middle Ages and before that i.e., B.C. Frankincense will settle and tame you! This was totally accidental, but I will not hesitate to use Frankincense as a single essential oil in the future to bring my energy down to a much needed quiet calm or just to be more relaxed, in general. We all need to do that sometimes, you know? I am always on the go and age-wise, I am no spring chicken as the saying goes! I went to my aromatherapy office on Monday, two days later, and I could still smell the marvelous aroma of Frankincense. I think it enbraced me! Metaphysically, I think Frankincense has been designated as yang. Well, if that is true– he is really something else, quite frankly!

Note: I obtained this Boswellia carterii from Aromatherachi.com and highly recommend it!

Green Gold For Shingles!

Leaves and green fruit (ballnut) of the Calophyllum inophyllum Tree

A friend, who later became my client, was in so much pain he went to the hospital, staying a few days. He had thought he had a bad cold. Then he started experiencing pain that became excruciating. He couldn’t take it!  He was the third person in as many months to be diagnosed with shingles and to reach out to me.

Shingles, medically known as Herpes Zoster, is a virus that affects the roots of nerves and appears as blisters, generally in a band on one side of the body. It is also a disease that affects individuals who have already had the chickenpox. Once one has had the chickenpox, the chickenpox virus can remain dormant within cell membranes for years, or forever. If the virus flares up again, it will appear as the Herpes Zoster virus, more commonly known as Shingles.

Shingles occurs most in individuals over the age of 50, although it can strike at an earlier age. The first person I can recall having a case of shingles was Magic Johnson of NBA fame, now a successful entrepreneur. At the time I thought it was a complication of his positive HIV status announced many years ago, both occurring that long ago. Magic Johnson was not 50 years old at the time. Shingles typically also occurs when one has an auto-immune illness, is experiencing high levels of stress, both of which are somewhat more likely as one ages or has sustained an injury.

The three persons that contacted me did so seeking some relief from the pain the illness brings with it. They could not sleep; one complained that he couldn’t eat and could barely think–which is why he went to the hospital not realizing initially that the sudden onset of blisters could result in so much pain. The other two clients were being treated as out-patients by a physician.

In my research as to how I was going to assist my first client, I came upon a common blending component, a carrier oil named Tamanu Oil (Foraha to some) or known by its botanical name Calophyllum inophyllum. Calophyllum means “beauty leaf.” It is native to east Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific. A member of the Mangosteen botanical family, it has been widely planted throughout the tropics and is naturalized in the main Hawaiian islands. To obtain the oil, the seeds of the plant are dried for several months and cold pressed.  It takes 100 kilograms of Tamanu fruit, the amount produced by one tree annually, to yield just 5 kilograms of cold pressed oil!  

In the Polynesian and Melanesian Isles Calophyllum inophyllum (Tamanu Oil) is also known as Green Gold! It is cicatrisant, anti-inflammatory, anti-neuralgic, antimicrobial, antibiotic and also possesses antioxidant properties. Tamanu oil is well researched as a skin healer. One item I came upon highlighted its use to treat leprosy in the 1930s. It is a thick oil possessing a nutty aroma, a somewhat translucent green color and is exceptional enough to generally be among the more costly of carrier oils. For the relief I have witnessed it achieve, it is worth it!

Calophyllum (Beauty Leaf)

I have learned that the choice of a carrier is very important to effective aromatherapeutic blending. When I research chemical components of the essential oils I will select from, I make sure to provide just as much concern to the carrier I select. It is important that the manner of delivery be spot on whether an oil, gel, salt, diffusion blend, etc., and all of the primary ingredients should all serve to make the blend as effective as possible.

As my clients were all is so much pain and could not bear to touch the area or have anything against their skin in the affected area, there was no choice to consider anything other than a spray application. In each case, I selected the same three essential oils:  Niaouli (Melaleuca  quinquenervia ct 1,8 cineole), Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) and Melissa (Melissa officinalis), each receiving a dilution of no less than 5% with a determined amount of Tamanu oil in an aromatic organic Lavender hydrosol to heighten the efficacy of the blend from the start. Other essential oil options considered included Bergamot, Tea Tree and Roman Chamomile.

In each case, I reached out the next day to see how each was feeling and to ascertain that they were all, in fact, using their blends. The satisfaction and relief expressed by each was rewarding to hear. In two out of three instances, the pain medication that had been prescribed was not necessary as the blend provided adequate relief from the pain. In the other instance it took three days before my client conveyed likewise that she felt it was unnecessary to take the pain medication anymore. In all instances, I stressed the requirement that each complete the oral antibiotics that had been prescribed by physicians that were treating each one of them. The blistering effect of shingles can be a horrifying image. I observed numerous blisters larger than 1/2 inch in diameter on the trunk of the male client (they appeared smaller but were just as numerous for the two female clients). Needless to say, all are concerned about potential scarring. I plan to transition to a topical oil blend containing Tamanu and Jojoba as carriers and a few carefully selected cicatrisant organic essential oils for my most recent client as was successful with the prior two. When they see me, they can’t thank me enough for “getting them through it.”

Maintaining my own health and helping others as a result of knowledge gained, as in other circumstances in my life, serve as primary motivating factors regarding my interest and effort to study and use aromatherapy. I love hearing positive results. I am always grateful about the bounty and blessings in plant life that serve our needs in  miraculous ways. While I would insist that anyone diagnosed with shingles be treated by a physician, I would not hesitate to promote the use of aromatherapy to support the need to alleviate pain, and once the external healing has begun, calm the itch and anxiety that accompanies a shingles diagnosis.

With a rise in compromised immune systems and stress as factors for the onset of shingles, in addition to the benefit of living longer among growing segments of the general population, I expect to see more clients presenting shingles as their introduction to aromatherapy. I full expect to utilize more Green Gold (Calophyllum inophyllum) to assist and relieve their physical and emotional discomfort.

Aromatically Yours.

Dried Calophyllum inophyllum fruit (seed)

To read more about Tamanu (Foraha) Oil, please use these links: Aromatics International http://www.aromaticsinternational.com/aromatherapy-other-products/tamanu-oil-foraha

Agroforestry: http://www.agroforestry.net/tti/Calophyllum-kamani.pdf (amazing pictures of this wondrous plant)
 
Fascinating chemistry of Calophyllum inophyllum and study of its use on scars in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science article (2002): http://www.dweckdata.com/Published_papers/Tamanu.pdf

Can a Whiff Improve Performance?

Leafy Peppermint

You don’t see them around much anymore. But they still exist. If you are wondering what I am referring to– I’m writing about those small smelling salt ampoules containing ammonia. To use, you just easily break one by hand and place it underneath some unfortunately unconscious person’s nose. Whew! They are effective! Were you out of it for whatever reason, with the exception of a coma or medically induced condition, the strong scent of ammonia in your nostrils has a very high probability to snap your brain into gear!

Smelling salts work as a stimulant. How? The ammonia fumes that rise from the salt irritate the membranes of the nose and lungs triggering a reflex that causes the muscles that control breathing to work faster. If you’ve ever had the occasion to be rudely brought back to an awakened state in this manner– it was an unpleasant experience I am sure. The scent is joltingly harsh.

I use the example just mentioned to bring back up the matter presented in my last post, sleep. Sleep, or the lack of it can have a significant impact on performance. Sleep,  is a different kind of  unconsciousness, for sure. Just this week, a NY Times article presented the outcome of a study where the performance of study participants sleeping 4-6, and 8 hours a night were measured. Need I tell you which group performed better? Of course it was those with 8 hours of sleep. Those sleeping 7 hours (in between the two groups), were just a little better in their performance than those sleeping 4-6 hours. Even those who stated that they have generally, successfully navigated the day with just 4 or 5 hours of sleep found out that their performance wasn’t as good as they believed it was. The lesson here, is that we aren’t good judges of how well we perform without enough sleep. How about those that slept more than 8 hours, say 9 hours each night of the study? They performed at the same level as those with 8 hours. We can conclude from this that more sleep is better than less sleep. You might not think it would take a study to emphasize what just seems practical.

With many people sleeping fewer hours each night than 8, in contrast to those who topped all in the study by having a higher level of performance after 8 hours of sleep, it’s no wonder that the performance of sleepy people is faltering. We’ve heard of some instances lately. Airport staff falling asleep at radar screens. Bus drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Sound pretty scary?

There is nothing that replaces sound sleep. It’s a naturally regulated function that comes with the fascinating creation that we each are. Yet, lifestyle does impact our quality of sleep. Aromatherapy can have a positive effect by temporarily augmenting one’s mood, level of energy, attention, and as a result improve performance. Aromatherapy can be your mid-morning or mid-day pick-up, your study buddy inhaler, your in-your-pocket therapy treat that can allow you to be better focused when lack of sleep might otherwise have you in a fog. Aromatherapy can improve mental clarity, concentration and memory. And, as we’ve covered before, aromatherapy can improve sleep by helping you get there sooner rather than later!

To look at sleep and performance more closely, I will refer to essential oils that are stimulating to the central nervous system (CNS). That’s what a stinky smelling salt ampoule is able to successfully and consistently accomplish when used as a first aid remedy! It doesn’t just irritate some membranes in the nose and lungs, some specifically targeted chemical molecules hit some sensory nerves and the body reacts.

I am fortunate to have access to a Component Database developed by the scentsational Aromahead Institute that introduced me, seriously, to aromatherapy. There are so many essential oils. I know many well from my studies and repeated use, however I love being able to go a website and perform a super easy and comprehensive search for information that otherwise isn’t at my fingertips. Via the Internet, it now is. I’ve looked up CNS stimulating essential oils and chemical families to bring you this very short list of aromatherapy winners that you can research a bit more for a stimulating essential oil that will work for you. I know a lot of people and very few have shared with me that they sleep 8 or more hours a night. I admittedly rarely sleep 8 hours a night. My performance, then beyond what I believe about myself, can likely be improved. I carry an aromatherapeutic inhaler with oils that help me focus throughout the day, everyday. I wouldn’t leave home without it!

Camphor, belonging to the Ketone chemical family, is an essential oil that stimulates the central nervous system. If you’ve ever opened a jar of Vicks Vapor Rub you immediately were met by the aroma of camphor, eucalyptus and menthol. I was not a fan of this product as a child, yet my Mom would slather it all over my chest whenever I had a cold. It might as well have been smelling salts under my nose. It was my first experience with something that was icy hot on my skin– and an affront to my nose.

Peppermint contains significant amount of menthol and methone, both central nervous stimulants. It is a familiar scent, fragrance, aroma to everyone. I can’t think of anyone I know that if I were to mention the word “peppermint,” would not know what I was talking about.  They would probably think about a candy, some toothpaste or a mint rather than an essential oil or the plant. Peppermint has a strong personality. It can get a yes or a no on the like scale. Many people like it and there are some that really dislike the aroma. Peppermint is plentiful! The US is the major producer of this wonderful plant also known as Mentha x piperita. It also grows abundantly in numerous other places around the globe. The essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves of the plant.

This essential oil is packed with therapeutic benefits, among them being its analgesic, antispasmodic, decongestant, cephalic and stimulating actions. It can help one become clear-headed and thus improve concentration and reduce mental fatigue. As stimulating as peppermint is, interestingly for some people it is cooling and for others it is warming (its both for me). But, it’s very present aroma is not easily mistaken. I recommend it to students, who are obviously tired or sleepy, when administering tests. I offer them a piece of peppermint candy (I love those soft mints) or an Altoid (for eye-opening awakening). That peppermint oil is widely used as a flavoring agent in candy, mints, gum, etc., should not surprise anyone. I think you could be drop-head tired and put an Altoid in your mouth and you’d sit up straight in a few minutes. I’ve seen it happen! Did you know that Altoids have been around since the 19th century? I am, however, not recommending the essential oil of peppermint be taken internally.

Peppermint is fascinating! Peppermint has been repeatedly studied and found to improve alertness and performance on various tasks. Remember, I said that for some people the effect is warming and for others it is cooling. What’s really cool about peppermint is that for some people it is stimulating and invigorating while for others it is not– it can, instead, promote sleep.

In a 2005 study, printed in Biological Psychology, involving 21 young people between the ages of 18 and 26, effects of peppermint differed dependent upon their perception of the scent (odor) as more or less intense. In the study, peppermint was presented against another familiar item with no distinctive odor: water. If you didn’t pass the water versus peppermint qualifier, you were excluded from the study. Some participants rated peppermint as stimulating and others viewed it as sedating. What I found most interesting about the study, among other factors, was that each participant was registering 8 hours of sleep nightly as a requirement for participating. There were also pronounced differences between the experiences of men and women in the study. When rating peppermint as more stimulating than sedating, women responded similarly taking longer to reach rapid-eye movement (REM) i.e., deeper recuperative sleep.  It didn’t matter with men who reached REM sleep independent of how they perceived peppermint.  Results of the study also highlighted that peppermint improved mood and lessened sleepiness and fatigue. I’ve provided the link below for further reading.

There are some concerns about using peppermint that are particular to its direct contact with skin (it can be irritating); using it with children under age five, and having it close to the nose of infants.

If even remotely conscious and given the choice, I’d select peppermint, any day, as my preferred whiff if something is going under my nose in a hurry. I get curious stares when I use my green inhaler when riding the subway. Don’t think I want to be the picture I see of others dozing on the train. If you want some samples of what I mean, select the NY Times link. Don’t laugh too hard unless you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Being picture imperfect could happen to you.

Aromatically Yours.

Sleeping Pose

How Little Sleep Can We Get Away With? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sleep-t.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=sleep%20performance&st=cse&gwh=321A6A8E0275C3BF7D740ADF0772EA04

Sleep Changes Vary by Odor Perception in Young  Adults http://www.aromatherapy.ir/article/Aroma%2025.pdf

Visit the Aromahead Institute’s Component Database: http://components.aromahead.com

Sleepless in Jamaica

Rosewood Tree

Rosewood essential oil derived from the Magnoliid Tree

I had a tough week last week. It’s Sunday, the start of another week and time to start all over again. It wasn’t work, or people who made my week so hard. It was that all important factor of TIME and how it’s used!

In today’s busy world, it seems that there are not enough hours in a day. In a week, there are 168 hours. If you don’t make the most of them, you will fall behind somewhere in your busy schedule.

How many of these 168 hours are dedicated to sleep? Many discount sleep since these non-working, non-playing and non-running about hours don’t factor into the business that keeps us buzzing. But, they do count! Immensely. Your body has rights over you and if it doesn’t get its due, then you might not be as effective in those actions to be accomplished that get a higher importance rating. Lack of sleep is attributed to a higher rate of accidents on the job, increased rates of illness, absenteeism, deadly automobile accidents, and I am totally convinced that fuzzy math is in there too. Ask any investment banker how many hours of sleep he or she is getting. It’s entirely possible that derivative formulas and credit swaps that even the most erudite mathematicians can’t thoroughly explain are the result of someone’s thinking without enough sleep! If this were the case, it might be considered an instance where lack of sleep seems to pay– for now, that is. 

Sleeping 8 hours a night, or no less than 7 is the standard recommendation. That adds up to 49-56 hours a week. In quick math, almost a third of the time of a day, a week, a month– your life.  There will never be another April 10th whatever minute it is that you find yourself reading this (whatever day that is), forever. Time is going to pass. You and no one else will stop it. For your body, it’s kind of like that with sleep. The sleep you did not get last night or last week is over. But, it’s not forever. Catching up on sleep is better than continually thinking that sleeping 5 hours a night is enough to get you by. It’s not. Studies have shown that sleeping less than the recommended hours will catch up with you and it won’t be in beneficial ways. One study that really awakened me to understand how I needed to get more sleep indicated that lack of sleep may even shorten your life.

I had so many things still on my mind when I got into bed each night last week that it was not easy to drift off as I usually do. It’s amazing how some people can lay their heads on a pillow, or just back wherever they are and the next thing you know, they are asleep. I am not that person. I recognize the signs of sleepiness and put the book down, lose those thoughts in the darkness of my bedroom after turning off the light or just keep my eyes closed. I know that I can create a sleep environment. I have. There is no media in my bedroom other than a radio that includes a noise reducer (sometimes called a sound machine). I love to listen to that synthetic sound of rain and the ocean lapping against the shore every now and then. I do have books around me. I love to read. When my routine doesn’t go as planned, I reach for the aromatherapy next to my bed. It’s a simple blend of Lavender, Rosewood and Melissa. Some nights, it’s just Lavender, a very soothing essential oil with a wonderful aroma. It’s origin is those tiny lavender colored flowers from the lavender plant. To think about it, the color lavender has a soothing effect on the eyes and registers similarly in one’s mind. I love Lavender for many reasons.

When I add Rosewood I create a blend. It is an essential oil that is derived from the wood of a species of the Magnoliid tree known as Aniba rosaeodora. The use of two oils blend to enhance the desired effect by virtue of the combination of chemical components that begin a therapeutically marvelous duet. Mixing essential oils creates a conversion that is more powerful than using a single oil, kind of like two heads (thinking minds) being better than one. Both Lavender and Rosewood possess a chemical constituent called linalool, Rosewood having the higher of the two. It’s linalool that provides the calming sedative effect of these oils. I like to blend these two essential oils that work very well together to promote sleep.

But, last week was a different kind of week. I needed to invite an exceptional and precious essential oil named Melissa to complete the concerto. Also known as Lemon Balm, it has a top/middle note to it. A note can be defined as an aroma signature that is also related to the evaporation rate of an essential oil. Melissa’s fragrance is radiantly warm, sweet and lemony.  The aroma lifts out the bottle easily compared to the scent of Rosewood, a middle/base oil with a deeper, reflective and lingering aroma. Distilled from the flowers and leaves of the plant, it’s known to reduce anxiety, calm emotions and thereby is effective against insomnia. It is the more potent of the three oils and provides the “kick” that I know makes this blend work, for me. It’s nights when I can’t wind down from the spin of the day that Melissa brings the now you are going to get it shut-eye! One drop in synergy with Lavender and Rosewood makes a totally different blend. The nose knows. When using Melissa, it is important to respect that it can be a skin irritant in some instances. It should always be used in a carrier when applied to the skin.

I used these three essential oils sparingly in an ounce of organic aloe vera gel, but they could be used in an organic carrier oil like jojoba just as easily. I’ve also combined a 3-2-1 diffusion of Lavender, Rosewood and Melissa for use in the bath or deeply inhaled the combination of the three straight out of a small bottle. When I apply the blend to my skin, usually my upper arms, shoulders, behind the ears, I always clasp my hands together afterwards and deeply breathe in the beautifully soothing fragrance. Sleep, or the Sandman as I use to call it as a child, is only minutes away… 

I hope that the plant world continues to provide these precious essential oil gems. Lavender is fairly plentiful and grows in abundance in France, England or in your garden in a place where you have full sun– it’s that simple. I have some growing in mine. It won’t be like the lavender from elsewhere because conditions vary. It will be all yours to nurture and enjoy.

The tree that brings us Rosewood is found in the tropical rainforests in South America, specifically in Brazil, Columbia, Guyana, Venezuela and a few other countries in that part of the world. It is a threatened species. It’s a special oil that should be used in special instances, and like I use it, sparingly to support my need for restive sleep. Sleep is a necessity! Ho Wood, an essential oil that is similar in therapeutic properties to Rosewood, can be used in its place.

Here is to more sleep this week! It’s comforting to know that if it’s not as planned– you know, stuff happens, that I will have reliably safe and wonderful to use aromatherapy to get me through it!

Aromatically yours.

Choose from a selection of articles about the results of lack of sleep at WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/search/search_results/default.aspx?sourceType=undefined&query=lack+of+sleep&navState=6176

Source: Aniba rosaedora (Rosewood) on the Endangered Species List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.  http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/33958/0

Peace and Healing Straight From Nature….

Finally, an opportunity to give voice to the power of plants! 

There are so many to choose from… in this blog I will sample from the bountiful world of plants and share my love of them. We will look at their energy, aromas, beneficial characteristics and their beauty. I for one, take no plant for granted! They, like the human species, are so different. So vibrant! So alive! There are those that are alluring and some that are truly creepy. So much for how varied they are, as are we. Yet, even the creepiest of plants can provide some medicinal benefit.  

In “The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth,” by Stephen Harrod Buhner, the author alludes to how plants speak to us. I agree. They do. From their physical appearance they lure and beckon us to come closer. They make us curious. Think about a desert. Now think about a park lush with trees and flowers. Is there not a stark difference here?

There is something about the color green. It is powerful! It blankets the earth where there is water and sun. Plant a seed and give it some time… something will grow there.

I hope you will grow with me as I share my thoughts, knowledge and experience with plants, more specifically, their qualities, characteristics and essential healing powers!

Aromatically Yours.Flowers on a Lemon Tree