Healing Straight From Nature…

Posts tagged ‘stress’

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

Just A Little Stressed Now? Plan Ahead!

Fragrant Lavender growing in a field

Lavender growing in a field

No one is immune to stress! You can say so, but it just ain’t true!

A recently released study highlights how even mild stress can contribute to future disability. Just how much stress is bad for you we can not quantify here, however research is finding that even small amounts of psychological stress is not good for you. If you are not paying attention to how you manage stress, since it is impossible to avoid in today’s world, the study implies why you should. If you are already paying attention– it may be time to improve upon what you are currently doing to relieve stress. Even change involves stress. The implication of not changing how you cope with or manage stress may get costlier over time.

Why all this stress about stress? 

Stress is the body’s instinctive defensive response. Physiologically, your body is reacting even when your mind may not noticeably register it. Try this exercise: raise both arms high and make a fist with both hands. Squeeze them tightly. Hold them squeezed for about a minute (if you can) and then very, very slowly, keeping your arms held high, begin to loosen and unclench your fingers and gently shake them loose. Now, slowly lower your arms. Did you feel tension? What you just felt is similar to what stress feels like and the effect it has on your body. It is likely that your stress level is somewhere in the range of what you just felt. It just isn’t readily acknowledged or motivating you to do something about it. It’s become normalized. We have all been conditioned to some level of stress. Did you feel relieved when the exercise was over? That is what relaxation feels like. Not only are many of us stressed, we also don’t recall what it feels like to feel relaxed.

Essential oils, the basis of aromatherapy, provide amazing properties to decrease one’s stress level and provide a path to relaxation! They don’t take much time, are generally affordable, and are fairly simple to use appropriately.  One of my favorite essential oils to relieve stress is Lavender.

Lavender is a renown essential oil with a marvelous history. While the use of lavender plant essences dates back thousands of years, used by the Egyptians during their Dynasties for mummification purposes and by the Romans in their bath houses, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, also known as the  father of modern aromatherapy, discovered an initial and amazing benefit of lavender upon thrusting his burned arm into what he thought was a vat of water but instead was filled with lavender oil. The healing that occurred was what might be described as miraculous. Lavender is believed to have crossed Arabia into Europe, Greece and France where lavender fields are abundant. During the 17th century it was believed that to wear a bunch of lavender at your waist might spare you from the plague that swept through London. Also known by its botanical name Lavandula augustifolia, Lavender is a steam distilled essential oil derived from the flowers and buds of the lavender plant. Lavender is calming, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, analgesic, antispasmodic, cicatrisant i.e., helps the regeneration of skin cells among many other profound uses.

Lavender is known for its balancing and healing effect on the nervous system in addition to its profound effects when used on the skin as in the case of Gattefosse. Lavender has been useful in the treatment of stress-related illnesses and disorders like insomnia, anxiety and depression. It’s seemingly boundless and multi-purpose therapeutic properties assists so many healing processes that it is easily among the short list of must-have essential oils! I use it to de-stress, refresh and soothe my mind any time of the day. I include it in oil rubs for tired or tight muscles. I love its fresh, sweetly dreamy and pulsing aroma.

Some other essential oils associated with stress reduction include sandalwood, frankincense, jasmine, ylang ylang, rose, bergamot and chamomile. There are many others and many ways in which to combine essential oils for synergistic effects that are even more beneficial than using single oil applications. There are numerous ways to obtain the benefits of essential oils e.g., in room sprays, bath products, diffusers and using oils in an inhaler, particular for emotional or mental stress. In these instances, you can simply place one or two drops of an organic essential oil on a tissue and inhale. It doesn’t take anything special to accomplish a little less stress with essential oils.

Psychological and physical stress are related. If you are not aware of the mind-body connection, a discourse about stress is a good place to start.

There is a lot of science involved in explaining stress and how the body responds. It’s good to know some of that science, but for right now, doing something to effectively reduce your level of stress is most important! To emphasize why, let’s look at some points from the study conducted in Sweden over the course of five years and recently posted on the Businessweek.com website. It may get you motivated.

The study included over 17,000 employed adults in Stockholm, Sweden (ages 18-64). At the start of the study in 2002, the participants completed a questionnaire designed to assess their mental health and stress levels, and the researchers tracked their health through 2007.

During the follow-up period, 649 of the participants began receiving disability benefits — 203 for mental health issues and the remainder for physical health problems, the investigators found.

Study participants who had initially been assessed as having higher levels of stress were much more likely to start receiving long-term disability benefits during the follow-up period, the findings showed.

After taking into account other factors that might affect the results, the team found that even mild levels of stress raised the risk of receiving disability benefits by up to 70 percent, according to the report published online March 23 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The conclusion drawn by the study is that mild psychological distress may be associated with more long-term disability than previously acknowledged and its public health importance may be underestimated.

The study underscores the importance of monitoring stress levels, even mild stress, and finding ways to reduce stress on a regular basis. Many of us are so busy we can hardly find the time to relax. It does take time to unwind or turn stress levels down in order to relax. 

Stress has cumulative effects. Many illnesses are stress related. Doing a little something everyday is my strategy to reduce stress. That’s why incorporating the use of organic aromatherapy in everyday activities makes sense. Even little lifestyle changes can make a difference in how you’ll feel and how, over time, you manage your overall long-term health outcome.

When searching for that affordable bottle of Lavender essential oil be sure that it is organic or wildcrafted so there is no concern about pesticides. A little will go a long way on your less stressful days ahead!

Aromatically Yours.

Source: Even Mild Stress Can Lead to Disability, Study Says http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/651149.html

Source: Psychological distress and risk of long-term disability: population-based longitudinal study (Journal of epidemiology and Community Health)  http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2011/03/08/jech.2010.119644.abstract

Source: Stress: How to Cope Better With Life’s Challenges http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/mentalhealth/stress/167.printerview.html

Source: The History of Lavender http://www.lavenderfarm.com/history.htm

I recommend two online sources for high quality organic and wildcrafted essential oils (that I trust):                             Aromatics International, Inc. http://aromaticsinternational.com                                                                                        Stillpoint, Living In Balance, Inc. http://stillpointbalance.com