Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla essential oil benefits and uses

Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla essential oil is extracted from fermented pods of the vanilla orchid vine

There are three types of vanilla essential oil*, which are:

  • extracted from Vanilla planifolia, sometimes labelled Bourbon vanilla,
  • extracted from V. pompona, sometimes labelled West Indies vanilla, and
  • extracted from V. tahitensis (which is not often used, due to the low vanillin content), sometimes called Tahitian vanilla.

You may also come across an oil called Mexican vanilla, which is also extracted from V. planifolia like Bourbon vanilla, but unfortunately is often adulterated with oil from the tonka bean (which contains coumarin, a dangerous substance which can cause damage to the liver amongst other things), so anything with the label Mexican vanilla is best avoided.

Vanilla is a vine in the Orchid family. All three types of vanilla plant are closely related, and production of the vanilla pods from which the oil is derived requires careful attention, involving fermentation for 6 months in order to develop the actual vanilla flavour/fragrance.

How vanilla essential oil is produced

Though you may see pages which purport to tell you how to make your own vanilla essential oil, what you actually get by following the instructions is not essential oil but more like some of the cheap (fake) vanilla essential oils on the market. Technically it is an infusion or maceration, not an essential oil.

*In fact, although there is a vanilla resinoid (produced by solvent extraction from cured vanilla beans), what is sold by reputable aromatherapy suppliers as “essential oil” is either the absolute (which requires further extraction from the resinoid) or a diluted absolute. Given that vanilla itself is the second most expensive spice (after saffron), the absolute is far too expensive for most of us to consider, which is why it’s normally sold diluted. However, although not technically an essential oil, that’s what most people call it so from here on that is how I will be referring to it in this post.

Due to its high price and the length and complexity of its production, vanilla essential oil is one of those oils that are often counterfeit. This sham vanilla oil might be an oil infusion, or some vanilla extract diluted in a carrier oil, or even a completely synthetic oil – which may smell ok, but will not have any of the healing properties of the genuine article and might be actively dangerous. So if you see vanilla oil that seems inexpensive – or you find it on the shelves of a pound shop or grocery store, you can pretty much assume that it’s fake.

Properties of Vanilla Essential Oil

Vanilla oil is antibiotic, anticarcinogenic (particularly for prostate and colon cancers), antidepressant, antifungal (active against Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans), anti-nausea, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, balsamic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, mood enhancing, mosquito repellent, relaxant, a sedative and tranquiliser.

Uses of Vanilla Essential Oil

Because of its property as an emmenagogue, vanilla oil is not suitable for use during pregnancy in the first trimester, and therefore cannot be used for morning sickness.

If using the absolute for massage etc., dilute in a suitable carrier oil at a rate of 5 drops to each 10ml of carrier. You may prefer to use this dilution for oil burners as well.

For use in the bath, mix 3-4 drops of the oil with a little milk to form an emulsion and stir in to the water once the bath is ready. Please be careful when using essential oils in the bath, and bear in mind when getting in and out that it will make the area more slippery than usual.

Vanilla can be used for massage to fight depression, ease stress, calm the mind and increase libido. It’s also helpful for relieving muscle and joint pain, cramped muscles or cramps associated with menstruation, to reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. It can be used direct on acne, eczema, itching, burns, cuts and inflamed skin to soothe, promote healthy skin, to reduce cellulite and also on the scalp to encourage hair growth. It’s also beneficial for regulating menstruation.

It can be used in a burner, electric diffuser or in the bath for stress, nervous tension, insomnia, coughs and other respiratory problems. It is said to encourage sweet dreams if used in the bedroom, as well as having a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Diffused vanilla oil is a mosquito repellent, which makes it very helpful in bedrooms in countries where mosquitoes are a problem. To avoid the danger of fire while you sleep, you could use an electric diffuser or put the oils onto a cloth which is laid over a radiator instead of using a candle-based oil burner.

I offer Vanilla Essential Oil in my online shop.


Gluten and Depression – How does that work?

photo by senapa

photo by senapa

If you visit online forums about depression or celiac disease, you will probably notice quite a few people saying that depression symptoms improve when they stop eating gluten, and come back with a vengeance when they “get glutened”. Is there an explanation for this?

For a lot of years, there has been anecdotal evidence linking depression with gluten (along with more serious mental disorders, up to and including schizophrenia). The problem is, scientists in general, and doctors in particular pay little or no attention to evidence of this type. However, new discoveries have begun to throw light on what is going on.

Clinical depression appears to be linked with serotonin levels in the brain. This has led to the development of new types of anti-depressants, including SSRIs (Prozac is the most well known brand). These new drugs are not without their problems, however. Although initially hailed as dependency-free and safe, there has been a worrying rise in suicide amongst people taking these drugs, and certain patients have apparently had great difficulty in coming off them.

Serotonin is a natural substance which is produced in the body. This natural production appears to be impaired or reduced in various groups of people, including depressives.

The reasons for this impairment are not yet completely clear. However, 90% of the production of serotonin occurs in the digestive tract. So it begins to make sense that the food eaten might have an effect, either positive or negative, on serotonin production.

A report by Ron Hoggan M.A. & James Braly M.D. examines the relationship between depression and diet. They cite various studies carried out by Christine Zioudrou and later followed up by Fukudome and Yoshikawa. They point to morphine-like substances caused by incomplete digestion of proteins in cereal grains and dairy products (called “exorphins”). It is thought that these exorphins can be absorbed through the intestine, offering a possible explanation for the psychiatric effects experienced by otherwise healthy individuals.

Another report by Alessio Fasano and Carlo Catassi states that there is an “Asymptomatic Silent Form” of celiac disease. The term asymptomatic is a bit of a misnomer, as it refers only to the lack of positive test results. Symptoms of this form of gluten intolerance (which may not all be present) are: iron deficiency, a tendency to depression, irritability, or impaired school performance in children “feeling always tired,” and easy fatigue during exercise, and reduced bone mineral density.

In a lecture he gave in 2002, James V. Croxton, M.A. talked about new discoveries relating to previously ignored cells in the brain called glial cells. These appear to be closely involved in the immune system, and directly affected by gliadin, part of the gluten found in wheat and other cereals.

Gluten-free diets (sometimes combined with dairy-free) have been used for autism, depression and schizophrenia, with some success. Even though the mechanism is still not fully clear, it does appear that there is a scientific basis for a connection between gluten and depression in susceptible individuals.

Further research may bring a cure. For the time being, though the only safe approach is to exclude gluten from the diet entirely.

I offer a wide range of food for special diets in my online shop.


Natural remedies for anxiety/depression

Get on top of anxiety and depression in your life

Photo by Cat from Sevilla, Spain

There are many natural remedies for anxiety and depression. This post only covers readily available products which will help with both problems.

Anxiety and depression are closely related and often occur together. Anxiety is generally associated with stress or fear, whereas depression is often considered to be a result of suppressed anger. Both are linked to serotonin levels in the brain.

Anxiety, depression and deficiency

There are strong indications that both depression and anxiety are at least partly deficiency diseases.

Deficiencies in vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and tryptophan (an amino acid which is involved in the production of serotonin) have been linked to symptoms of anxiety.

Depression has been linked to deficiencies in Omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamin B, vitamin D, folate, chromium, iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine or selenium.

Note: Gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley and some other closely-related grains as well as foods made from these, eg. pasta, bread and pastry) is also sometimes associated with depression. If you discover this link affects you, you should ask your doctor for a test for celiac disease.

An Epsom salt bath will give you a lift

Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate) added to your bath are a simple and easy way to relieve emotional stress and depression. As a nice side effect, it will also help flush toxins, ease muscle pain and give your skin a new smooth softness.

Originally discovered as a component of healing springs in Epsom, Surrey, England, these salts have been used for centuries for their rejuvenating properties. Magnesium is involved in many of the body’s functions including energy production, the ability to utilise B vitamins and transmission of nervous impulses. It is readily absorbed using this method.

A balanced diet helps keep anxiety/depression at bay

The first step in fighting off the symptoms of anxiety and depression is to ensure that you are getting a really good balanced diet with all the relevant nutrients.

As a short term fix, a good one-a-day supplement such as Quest Super Once a Day and a high dose (1000mg or more) fish oil supplement will reinstate your nutrient levels quickly.

Foods which help keep your emotions on an even keel

Bee pollen is rich in nutrients are essential for a healthy brain and nervous system including vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C and the minerals iron and zinc. Adding bee pollen to your breakfast cereal or smoothie may help to reduce anxiety and stress.

Chia seeds contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and tryptophan.

Omega-3 is also found in oily fish, walnuts and flax seeds (also called linseed).

Tryptophan is found in dairy products, soy milk, meat, seafood, avocados, winter squash, nuts, and legumes (peas, beans and lentils).

Herbal infusions for anxiety and depression

Chamomile tea is well known to be calming and relaxing, but lemon balm, also called melissa, is helpful both for anxiety and also depression. Two other alternatives you might have in your kitchen cupboard are sage and turmeric. In each case, you can make tea using a teaspoon of the dried herb to a cup of boiling water. Brew for at least 5 minutes and strain before you drink it. You can add honey to sweeten if you like. Some of these herbs are also available in tea bags.

Turmeric is easier to drink as golden milk: stir into a cup of dairy or non-dairy milk in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and serve. You can add ginger, honey or black pepper to this mixture. It’s very good for you, not just on the emotional front but also as an anti-inflammatory and to boost your immune system.

Essential oils for anxiety and depression

There’s a wide range of essential oils which can be used to fight off blues and angst. You can either add them to a massage blend, put a few drops in the bath or use them in an oil burner or electric diffuser.

There are professional blends such as De-Stress blend, or if you prefer to use single oils or make your own blend, you can choose from sweeter oils like bergamot, rose geranium, jasmine grandiflorum or officinale, lavender, neroli and ylang ylang or more masculine ones such as Virginian cedarwood, Roman chamomile, rosewood, sandalwood and turmeric (be a little careful with turmeric oil, as it can stain quite badly if it gets in the wrong place).

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Exercise raises your spirits

I’ve left exercise till last for two reasons. The first one is, as anyone who has suffered from depression will tell you, getting the motivation together even just to crawl out of bed is a major undertaking when you are dealing with the ‘black dog’. The other is that some people are physically unable to exercise because of underlying health conditions that may themselves contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.

However, if you are more at the anxiety end of this spectrum and are able, a bike ride, a run, a workout at your local gym, or whatever your preferred form of heartbeat raising activity will increase endorphins and your confidence, both of which will help to make you feel better.

 


Essential oils from Scarborough Fair: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, benefits and uses

Clockwise from 12 o'clock: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

The essential oils I’m covering today, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, are often associated with the folk song “Scarborough Fair” popularized in the sixties by Simon and Garfunkel. Other people may think of them as kitchen herbs, but they have come down to us as common herbs because they were grown for use not just in cooking, but also medicinally.

Unfortunately, although all four of these herbs are safe enough when used as herbal remedies or in cooking, it is a different matter when we consider their essential oils. Sage essential oil and parsley herb essential oil are toxic and should not be used under any circumstances, and both common thyme* (including sweet thyme, white and red thyme) and parsley seed essential oils should only be used under the direction of a professional aromatherapist. Clary sage, Spanish sage, rosemary and lemon thyme essential oils are safe enough for home use.
*…apart from using thyme oil in a treatment for cooties/head lice. Just a few drops added to any carrier oil (almond oil, grapeseed oil or similar is fine), massaged into the hair and left on for 20 minutes or so, then wash out. I offer thyme essential oil in my online shop for just this purpose.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Clary sageClary sage essential oil
Clary sage oil is extracted by steam distillation from the flowering tops and leaves of Salvia sclarea. You may also find it called just clary essential oil.

Do not drive or take alcohol within 48 hours of using clary sage essential oil.

Mix with a carrier oil at standard dilution (1 drop essential oil to each 2ml of carrier oil) for massage or add up to 4 drops to a hot bath. Not suitable for use during pregnancy or for children under 6 years.

Clary essential oil is anticonvulsive, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, bactericidal, deodorant, sedative and tonic, useful for skin and hair conditions including acne, boils, dandruff, hair loss, inflamed skin, oily skin and hair, external ulcers and wrinkles; respiratory and other infections: asthma, eye inflammation, muscular aches, throat infections, whooping cough and digestive disorders including colic, cramp, dyspepsia and flatulence (“gas” or “wind”). It also has a reputation as an aphrodisiac for both sexes, as it works to balance the hormones, and is used to treat frigidity, impotence, labour pains, painful periods, missing periods and vaginal discharge. Finally, it’s also used for addiction, claustrophobia, depression, exhaustion, hypertension, insomnia, negativity, nervous tension, OCD, overwork, PMT, recurring dreams and stress related conditions.

I offer clary sage essential oil and organic clary sage essential oil in my online shop.

Spanish sageSpanish sage essential oil
Spanish sage oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves of Salvia lavandulifolia. The bulk of production is used commercially as a flavoring, so you may have difficulty getting hold of it.

Mix with a carrier oil at standard dilution (1 drop essential oil to each 2ml of carrier oil) for massage or add up to 4 drops to a hot bath. Not suitable for use during pregnancy or for children under 6 years.

Spanish sage is antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, deodorant, expectorant and tonic and is used for skin care: acne, dry skin, greasy skin, as a moisturizer, and to treat shaving rash; for respiratory disorders including bronchitis, catarrh, dry cough, laryngitis and sore throat; for diarrhea, cystitis and nausea. It’s also used in cases of depression, insomnia, nervous tension and stress related conditions.

RosemaryRosemary essential oil
The best quality rosemary oil is extracted by steam distillation from the fresh flowering tops of Rosmarinus officinalis. A lower quality essential oil is produced in Spain by steam distillation of the whole plant.

Mix with a carrier oil at standard dilution (1 drop essential oil to each 2ml of carrier oil) and massage into the skin – but don’t use it on inflamed areas – or add up to 4 drops to a hot bath. Not suitable for use during pregnancy, for children under 6 years, or by anyone suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) or epilepsy.

Rosemary essential oil is antiseptic, calming, energizing, penetrating and stimulating and is useful for circulatory problems including chilblains, hypotension (low blood pressure), migraine and varicose veins; menstrual problems including painful periods; respiratory disorders and other infections including asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, sneezing, vaginal discharge and whooping cough. It’s also used to treat hair conditions: baldness (as a hair growth stimulant), alopecia, dandruff, greasy hair and seborrhea and as a general scalp stimulant; as a skin conditioner and to treat acne, dermatitis and eczema and a sports rub and muscle relaxant, useful for ligament strain, muscular aches and strained tendons, also for arteriosclerosis, gout, neuralgia, osteoarthritis pain and RSI. It is a mental stimulant, improves mental clarity and is helpful in cases of bad memory, exhaustion, disorientation, hangover, headache, indecisiveness, lethargy, Monday morning feeling and stress related conditions. Finally, it is an insect repellant and can be used to treat scabies.

I offer rosemary essential oil and organic rosemary essential oil, as well as various other rosemary products, in my online shop.

Lemon thymeLemon thyme essential oil
Lemon thyme oil is extracted from the leaves and flowering tops of Thymus citriodorus. It is not readily available, but all its uses can be duplicated by other essential oils. It is safe for use on the skin and for children.

Lemon thyme oil should not be used on the skin undiluted, but mixed with a suitable carrier at a dilution of no more than 5% by volume (which is 1 drop essential oil to each millilitre of carrier oil). Alternatively, add a few drops to your bath water.

Lemon thyme essential oil is antiseptic and antibacterial, and useful for preventing insect bites becoming infected. It also works as a mosquito repellent. It is warming and relaxing, good for massage after sport and also added to bath water, used as a chest rub or in an oil diffuser during winter months, and is also recommended for asthma and other respiratory conditions.


Sandalwood essential oils, benefits and uses

Santalum album is now a protected species

Santalum album is now a protected species

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Traditionally, sandalwood essential oil, also sometimes called sandalwood Mysore, is extracted from the heartwood of East Indian sandalwood trees (Santalum album). The oil is present in trees of 10 years and older, but the trees are only regarded as mature between the ages of 40 and 80 years.

The tree is a native of India and Indonesia, but unfortunately has been harvested at unsustainable levels in its natural habitat and is a protected species. However, as sandalwood oil is so popular, not just for aromatherapy, but also for Ayurvedic medicine and sacred uses, other areas have established Santalum sp. plantations, including Australia and many parts of Southeast Asia.

As with all essential oils, sandalwood oils should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Three varieties of sandalwood are now used for extracting oil, Santalum austrocaledonicum (Sandalwood Vanuatu), Santalum ellipticum (the Hawaiian sandalwood), which are both regarded as high quality, and Santalum spicatum (the Australian sandalwood), which is not. There is also another oil which is sometimes labelled Sandalwood AmyrisAmyris balsamifera, which is unrelated.

Sandalwood oil has a nutty or woody fragrance which is popular with men, even though it has sweet overtones. It is often used commercially as an ingredient in aftershave. The color of the oil ranges from pale yellow to pale gold.

Shavings of sandalwood are sometimes used as incense for calming the mind during meditation, amongst other purposes. You can also use the oil in a burner to achieve the same effect.

Sandalwood essential oil should never be used undiluted. It is not suitable for use on children under 12 years or anyone with a kidney disorder. It may reduce the ability to concentrate.

Sandalwood oil is regarded as soothing, calming and grounding. It is used in aromatherapy for anxiety, burnout, confusion, cynicism, depression, recurring dreams, exhaustion, failure, fatigue, fear, grief, insecurity, irritability, listlessness, stress, worry and to promote happiness, intuition and perseverance; for skin care, including dry eczema, blemished, scarred and sensitive skin; to treat tinnitis, sinusitis, chest and urinary tract infections, sore throat, laryngitis and as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, emollient and insect repellent. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine for itching and gastritis.

Sandalwood Amyris, or simply Amyris, has antiseptic and sedative properties. It is not suitable for use during pregnancy.

I offer sandalwood essential oil and sandalwood amyris essential oil in my online shop.

It’s always important to ensure that any oil you purchase is 100% pure essential oil, but this is even more vital with rarer oils and those which are in danger of extinction because of over-harvesting. Disreputable suppliers are often tempted to adulterate with potentially dangerous fake chemically-derived products in the name of the quick buck. Make sure that you choose a reputable supplier to be sure that you are getting what you pay for.


Geranium essential oil, benefits and uses

Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

Rose geranium is the plant usually used for geranium essential oil extraction

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

As with all essential oils, geranium oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Geranium essential oil is offered in two types. Rose geranium oil (which you will often find called just geranium essential oil), Pelargonium graveolens, is the one most easily sourced, and also the most expensive. You may also find a product called geranium essential oil which is actually the essential oil of the apple geranium, Pelargonium odoratissimum. This is cheaper, but also does not have all the same properties.

Both types are extracted from the leaves and stalks of the appropriate plant by steam distillation, and range in color from colorless through to a light green. They are quite thin oils, so care must be taken when using them not to add too much to your carrier oil or other base by accident.

Cautions: Do not use either type of geranium essential oil during pregnancy or on sensitive skin. Not suitable for use by diabetics or anyone else who suffers from hypoglycemia. Not suitable for use on children under 1 year old. Avoid use when studying or taking exams, as it may lower concentration.

As already mentioned, the two types have different properties.

Rose geranium essential oil is often used for skin care both for dry and oily skins; it’s astringent, so it balances sebum production while simultaneously soothing and softening the skin, and is helpful for treating acne, eczema and psoriasis. Because of its antiseptic and cytophylactic (promotes healing) properties, it’s also useful for cuts, burns and external ulcers and its antifungal qualities make it an excellent topical treatment for candida (thrush) and other fungal conditions. It’s also styptic – which means it helps to stop bleeding.

Rose geranium oil’s balancing properties aren’t just restricted to the skin. It also helps to balance the mind, emotions and hormonal system. Of course, though conventional medicine tends to treat these as entirely separate, in fact they are quite closely interlinked. We all know how our emotions seem to affect everything, and PMS (a hormonal condition) is well known to cause severe dysfunction both of mental and emotional health. It’s no surprise, then, that this oil works to relax, reduce anxiety/depression and stress, stabilize the emotions and restore mental balance. As a hormonal regulator, it is useful for treating menopausal problems, menorrhagia (heavy periods) and PMS.

And that’s not all. Rose geranium oil is also an adrenal stimulant, deodorant, diuretic (useful in treating edema), a lymphatic stimulant, and a good general tonic and detoxing agent. It can be used to treat gallstones and jaundice (only after consultation with your regular physician) and cellulite. Finally, it is a lice (cootie) repellent, mosquito repellent, general insect repellent and anti-parasitic.

Phew.

I offer rose geranium essential oil and organic rose geranium essential oil in my online shop as well as a range of other products derived from them.

Apple geranium essential oil has many, but not all, of the same properties (and a few extra ones of its own): acne, adrenal stimulant, anxiety, astringent, improves circulation, cytophylactic (promotes healing), diuretic, deodorant, dry skin, eczema, edema, hemorrhoids, hormone regulator, lice repellent, lymphatic stimulant, menopause, mental balance, mosquito repellent, neuralgia, oily skin, PMS, skin care, stress, styptic (stops bleeding), tonic, ulcers, vermifuge (anti-parasitic), vulnerary (treats cuts and wounds).

For most of these conditions, use geranium oil diluted in the usual way either directly on the area to be treated or for massage, or add 4-5 drops to your bath. For emotional and mental difficulties, it can also be used in an oil diffuser.


Jasmine essential oils, benefits and uses

Jasminum officinale, the most useful type in aromatherapy, though you may have difficulty finding it

Jasminum officinale, the most useful type in aromatherapy, though you may have difficulty finding it

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

You may be surprised to learn that there is more than one type of jasmine essential oil available. In fact, there are at least four (possibly three, see comment by Geoff)! All of them are reputed to have aphrodisiac properties, which may account for their popularity, even though jasmine oil is one of the costliest essential oils.

It is said that Napoleon presented Josephine with a large bottle of jasmine oil. Though it has a scent which some find overpowering, there’s no denying, taking into account the fragrance, the price and the aphrodisiac reputation, that it makes a great aromatherapy gift, particularly for lovers.

As with all essential oils, jasmine oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Jasmine oils you may find on offer include:

Jasmine absolute
Extracted from the flowers of Jasminum officinale, this is the jasmine aromatherapy product most often referred to in the literature, though you may have difficulty finding it on sale. It is a dark orangey brown liquid, which is quite viscous. The absolute is produced by separating a concrete (produced by solvent extraction) using alcohol. Further processing by steam distillation produces an essential oil. Check the label to find out if this is, in fact, an extract from J. officinale as most of the jasmine absolute I’ve found on sale is actually extracted from J. grandiflorum.

Jasmine Grandiflorum absolute
This is often labelled simply “Jasmine Absolute”, although checking the latin name of the plant from which it has been extracted will reveal the truth if it is Jasminum grandiflorum. Other names by which it is known include Royal, Spanish or Catalonian jasmine, or jati.

Jasmine Sambac absolute
This is also called Arabian or Tuscan jasmine, zambac or mogra. It’s extracted from Jasminum sambac.

Jasmine Auriculatum absolute
Not often found, this is also sometimes called juhi and is extracted from Jasminum auriculatum flowers. It has a lighter fragrance, often appreciated by those who find other jasmines overpowering.

Note: Jasmine hair oil

There are a number of products on the market offering jasmine oil for hair treatments. Though I have tried to find some rationale for this, the only explanation I have been able to find is that, because jasmine absolute oils are used for skin care, if rubbed into the scalp this will contribute to the health of the hair.

However, I think this is very unlikely since, despite all the claims by manufacturers of various hair products, nothing put on the hair from the outside (as opposed to a change in diet on the inside) can have any lasting beneficial effect beyond the purely cosmetic. This has been proved by research and has been well known for decades. It’s true that aromatherapy products are absorbed by the skin, but as jasmine is not known to have any properties relating to hair health, it seems to me that this is just a ploy like so many others, designed to sell anything at all so long as a profit can be made.

 

Benefits of Jasmine Oil

Jasmine oil benefits vary slightly according to the type used, as you might expect. However, it’s important that you purchase pure jasmine oil (or absolute), and avoid anything that doesn’t state that the bottle contents are 100% pure jasmine essential oil/absolute. Using jasmine fragrance oil for anything other than as a perfume may be dangerous, and is very unlikely to have a positive effect of any kind (except perhaps on your mood, if you like the scent).

Jasmine absolutes, of whatever type, are extremely strong and should be used in a low dilution, starting with a single drop to each 20ml (2/3 oz) of carrier oil, and only increasing this if you find that you need to. This will give you a dilution of around a half of one percent, which may sound light – but as I said, jasmine oils are very strong. This is great news, as they’re also very expensive.

None of the jasmine oils/absolutes should be used during pregnancy except during labor.

Jasminum officinale
It’s unfortunate that this type of jasmine essential oil is so difficult to find, as it seems to have the widest range of uses, including skin care, musculo-skeletal problems, respiratory disorders and genito-urinary difficulties as well as emotional and nervous conditions.

Jasminum officinale absolute or essential oil is antiseptic, antispasmodic, emollient, relaxing and soothing. Used as an ingredient in a massage blend, or a single drop added to the bath it is useful in the care of all types of skin: dry, normal, greasy and combination skins, as well as irritated and sensitive skin. It’s also helpful in the treatment of muscle strain and muscular spasms (muscle cramps), dysmenorrhea (painful periods), labor pains and uterine disorders. It’s also believed to have aphrodisiac properties, as already mentioned.

Used in a diffuser, J. officinale oil can be used to treat catarrh, coughs, hoarseness and laryngitis.

Either method can be used to help alleviate anger, apathy, burnout, lack of confidence, depression, detachment, exhaustion, fatigue, fear of the future, indifference, insecurity, jealousy, lethargy, listlessness, nervous tension, mental rigidity, sadness, shyness and many other stress-related conditions.

I offer jasmine officinale absolute essential oil and jasmine officinale 10% essential oil in my online shop.

Jasminum grandiflorum
Jasmine grandiflorum absolute rivals the previously discussed oil in its range of properties.

J. grandiflorum is calming, relaxing, soothing and releases inhibitions. In the area of skin care it is used in a massage blend for dry, greasy and sensitive skin. It also enjoys a reputation as an aphrodisiac, stimulates both contractions and menstruation, and is helpful for controlling labor pains, as well as being a male reproductive tonic and helpful in alleviating an enlarged prostate. It can be used either in massage oil or in a diffuser to help mental and emotional conditions including anxiety, cold-heartedness, lack of confidence, depression, distrust, listlessness and stress.

I offer pure Jasmine grandiflorum absolute and dilute Jasmine grandiflorum 5% essential oil in my online shop.

Jasminum sambac
J. sambac is antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, balancing, enlightening, relaxing and sedative. It’s used in a massage blend for blemishes, to improve complexion and reduce stretch marks, and generally for dry, irritated and sensitive skin. It’s also useful for muscle pain, muscle spasms (cramps) and to stimulate contractions in labor. It can be used in the same way or in a diffuser to help alleviate lack of confidence, depression and selfishness, to release inhibitions and stimulate the senses.

Jasminum auriculatum
J. sambac is aphrodisiac, calming and soothing and is used for infertility, depression, emotional trauma, insomnia and nervous tension.


Rose health benefits: many types, many uses, but all are beautiful

The sweet briar is an old rose, but still popular. Inset: rose hip

The sweet briar is an old rose, but still popular. Inset: rose hip

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

The rose which according to Shakespeare “by any other name would smell as sweet” comes in so very many types that it’s difficult to do it justice. Most of us just call any rose we come across “a rose”, and yet there are about 150 species, and that’s not taking into account the very many varieties and named cultivars.

What I’ve decided to do is just cover a selection. These are the Californian rose, the dog rose, the cabbage rose, the damask rose, the French rose, the Cherokee rose, the chestnut rose, the sweet briar and the Ramanas rose. Of these, the dog rose, sweet briar and Cherokee rose are most useful in the herbalist’s stores; the cabbage rose and the damask rose are the ones used in aromatherapy.

For information on alternative and scientific names, see the table below:

Latin name Common name Other names
Cabbage rose Rosa x centifolia syn. R. gallica centifolia. R. provincialis cabbage rose Burgundy rose, Holland rose, moss rose, pale rose, Provence rose
Californian rose Rosa californica Californian rose
Cherokee rose Rosa laevigata syn. R. cherokeensis Cherokee rose Chinese jin ying zi
Chestnut rose Rosa roxburghii syn. R. hirtula, R. microphylla chestnut rose chinquapin rose, sweet chestnut rose; Chinese ci li
Damask rose Rosa x damascena syn. R. gallica f. trigintipetala damask rose four seasons rose, Portland rose, York and Lancaster rose
Dog rose Rosa canina syn. R. bakeri, R. lutetiana, R. montivaga dog rose common briar
French rose Rosa gallica syn. R. provincialis French rose apothecary rose, Hungarian rose, officinal rose, Provins rose, red rose of Lancaster
Ramanas rose Rosa rugosa Ramanas rose hedgehog rose, Japanese rose, rugosa rose, tomato rose, Turkestan rose; Chinese mei gui
Sweet briar Rosa rubiginosa syn. R. eglanteria sweet briar Eglantine rose

Roses are not related to rose root, rose geranium, Guelder rose or hollyhock (also called althaea rose).

All roses with single or semi-double flowers produce rose hips (see picture inset into main picture), which vary in size and color, but are otherwise pretty similar from one type to another. These have been used for many years as a food source and also to produce rosehip syrup. Rose hips are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A, C and E, bioflavonoids and essential fatty acids. Rose hips are currently being studied to see if they are effective as an anti-cancer food.

Take care if you decide to harvest your own rose hips: there are hairs inside which can cause serious irritation, not just to your mouth, but your entire digestive tract. You need to use a very fine filter to remove these when extracting the juice.

Cabbage rose (Rosa x centifolia)
This is a hybrid and is only found in cultivated form. Numerous cultivars are found throughout the world. On the alternative medicine front, it’s more often used in aromatherapy than herbalism, but can be used as a remedy.

The powdered root is astringent and can be used to stop bleeding. A standard infusion of petals is used as a gentle laxative. Follow this link for information on rose in aromatherapy.

I offer dried Rosa centifolia petals in my online shop.

Californian rose (Rosa californica)
As you might expect, this rose is native to California, but is also found in Oregon and northern Mexico (Baja Norte). Its very restricted range has made it a candidate for conservation status in the US. Do not collect from the wild.

Use a standard infusion of flowers to treat pain and fever in infants. An infusion of seeds can be used to treat stomach disorders. A decoction of hips (see note above about filtering) is used internally for colds, fevers, indigestion, kidney disorders, rheumatism and sore throats or externally as a wash on sores and old wounds.

Cherokee rose (Rosa laevigata)
The range of this plant is restricted to China, Taiwan and Vietnam, which makes the name a little strange. However, an explanation is found in Wikipedia. Apparently, it was introduced to the southern United States in the late eighteenth century, where it gained its English name. “The flower is forever linked to the Trail of Tears and its petals represent the women’s tears shed during the period of great hardship and grief throughout the historical trek from the Cherokees’ home to U.S. forts such as Gilmer among others. The flower has a gold center, symbolizing the gold taken from the Cherokee tribe.” It’s also the state flower of Georgia, USA. In China, it is called jin ying zi.

A standard infusion of leaves is used for wounds. A standard infusion of flowers is used to treat dysentery and as a hair restorative. A decoction of dried fruits (see note above about filtering) is used internally in the treatment of chronic diarrhea, infertility, seminal emissions, uncontrolled urination (urorrhea), urinary disfunction and vaginal discharge (leukorrhea). A root decoction is used to treat prolapsed uterus. A decoction of root bark can be used for diarrhea and excessively heavy periods (menorrhagia).

Chestnut rose (Rosa roxburghii)
Another attractive rose native to China and Japan.The plant is rich in tannins and is used as an astringent. In China (where it is called ci li) the hips are used to treat indigestion (see note above about filtering).

Damask rose (Rosa x damascena)
Like the cabbage rose, this is a hybrid found only in cultivated form. Again, it’s more often used in aromatherapy than herbalism, but can be used as a remedy.

Make a standard infusion of petals for use internally to treat diarrhea or externally as an astringent. A preserve of petals can be used as a tonic and for weight gain. Follow this link for information on rose essential oil.

As with all essential oils, rose essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Dog rose (Rosa canina)
Native to Europe, including Britain, north Africa and southwest Asia, but found in Australia, New Zealand and the USA by naturalization.

A decoction of hips (see note above about filtering) can be used to treat colds, diarrhea, gastritis, influenza, minor infectious diseases and scurvy (as it is rich in vitamin C). Commercial rose water made from the plant is used as a gently astringent lotion for delicate skin. The plant is also used in Bach flower remedies.

I offer various Rosa canina products in my online shop.

French rose (Rosa gallica)
Native to Europe, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey.

A standard infusion of petals can be used internally to treat bronchial infections, colds, depression, diarrhea, gastritis and lethargy or externally for eye infections, minor injuries, skin problems and sore throat.

Ramanas rose (Rosa rugosa)
Native to northern China, Japan and Korea but naturalized in Europe including Britain, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. In China it is called mei gui.

A standard infusion of leaves can be used to treat fevers. A standard infusion of flowers is used to treat poor appetite, indigestion and menstrual complaints, to improve blood circulation, and as a spleen and liver tonic. A root decoction is used to treat coughs.

Sweet briar (Rosa rubiginosa)
The wild form is native to Europe including Britain, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. It’s also found naturalized in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and South America.

Make a standard infusion of dried rose petals to treat headaches and dizziness, add honey for use as a heart and nerve tonic and a blood purifier. A decoction of petals is used to treat mouth ulcers.

If you’re a regular reader you won’t be surprised when I tell you that, like all other plants grown for medicinal purposes, roses should be grown organically to ensure that the active constituents aren’t masked or changed by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing roses visit the Gardenzone.


Orange essential oils, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

There are several different orange essential oils

There are several different orange essential oils

You might think that orange essential oil is just one oil, but in fact there are several different oils that could be called orange essential oil. These are: bitter orange oil, sweet orange oil, neroli (sometimes called orange blossom) essential oil, petitgrain essential oil and bergamot essential oil. Each of these has a different set of properties.

As with all essential oils, none of the orange oils should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Bitter Orange essential oil
This is extracted from the outer peel of Citrus aurantium var. amara, sometimes called the Seville orange or sour orange, when they are almost ripe. You might know this as the orange used for making marmalade, and you may have seen them offered in the market under the name marmalade orange.

Bitter orange oil is an astringent, a natural antiseptic, and has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It’s also useful for digestive disorders and as a tonic.

Bitter orange essential oil is not suitable for use with babies under one year old.

Phototoxic: don’t use on skin that will be exposed to the sun or tanning beds in the following 48 hours.


Sweet Orange essential oil

This is extracted from the outer peel of Citrus sinensis (syn. C. aurantium dulcis), what we might call the eating orange. The blood orange is a variety of sweet orange with red staining to the flesh and skin.

Like bitter orange, sweet orange oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is useful for digestive disorders and as a tonic. It’s also used as an antidepressant.

Phototoxic: don’t use on skin that will be exposed to the sun or tanning beds in the following 48 hours.

I offer sweet orange essential oil and organic sweet orange essential oil in my online shop.

Neroli essential oil
Also called orange blossom essential oil, this is extracted from the flowers of Citrus aurantium var. amara, the bitter orange (see above for more on the tree).

Neroli oil is extremely useful and would be a good addition to a home aromatherapy and/or beauty kit. On the skin care side, it’s used to treat mature and sensitive skin, wrinkles, stretch marks, minor scars, thread veins and as a toner. It’s also used to treat digestive disorders such as colic, flatulence (gas, wind), chronic diarrhea, and intestinal cramping; poor circulation; palpitations; pre-menstrual syndrome; anxiety/depression, nervous tension, shock and stress.

Neroli essential oil is not phototoxic, and is generally considered safe for all.

I offer 10% neroli essential oilpure neroli absolute essential oil and neroli hydrating gel in my online shop.

Petitgrain essential oil
This is extracted from the leaves and twigs of Citrus aurantium var. amara, the bitter orange (see above for more on the tree). You may also find petitgrain sur fleurs essential oil, which contains neroli. There are also similar oils extracted from leaves and twigs of lemon, mandarin, sweet orange and bergamot orange trees.

Petitgrain is a natural antiseptic and deodorant and is useful for acne, greasy hair and skin, to reduce perspiration, and as a toner for skin. It’s also used to treat indigestion and flatulence (gas, wind), insomnia, exhaustion and stress.

Petitgrain essential oil is not phototoxic, and is generally considered safe for all.

I offer petitgrain essential oil and organic petitgrain essential oil in my online shop.

Bergamot essential oil
Bergamot essential oil is extracted from the outer peel of Citrus bergamia. It is not related in any way to the herb bergamot used in herbal medicine, though the fragrance is similar.

Bergamot essential oil is a natural antiseptic and deodorant and is used for oily skin, acne, eczema, boils and similar eruptions; psoriasis; scabies; varicose veins; anxiety/depression and stress.

Always use rectified or bergapten-free oil for direct application to skin.
Bergamot essential oil is not suitable for use with children under 12 years old. Phototoxic: don’t use on skin that will be exposed to the sun or tanning beds in the following 48 hours.

I offer bergamot essential oil, rectified (FCF) bergamot essential oil and organic bergamot essential oil in my online shop.


Rose root is sometimes called rhodiola

Rose root or rhodiola health benefits: for recovery from stress and overwork

Rose root is sometimes called rhodiola

Rose root is sometimes called rhodiola

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Rose root or roseroot, Rhodiola rosea, is also known as Aaron’s rod, arctic root, golden root, king’s-crown, Leedy’s roseroot, orpin rose or just rhodiola (sometimes rhodiola root). It is not related to goldenrod (which is also sometimes called Aaron’s rod) or to the rose.

It is a plant which has many latin names; just a sampling of names you might find it listed as are: Rhodiola atropurpurea, R. integrifolia, R. neomexicana, Sedum atropurpureum, S. integrifolium, S. rhodiola, S. rosea and S. rosea var. leedyi. Other names have also been used, but I feel this sampling is quite enough!

Unlike many of the herbs I’ve covered so far, roseroot is found mainly in colder parts of the world, and often on mountains. I mention Siberia, Kamchatka, Mongolia and Iceland as examples, but the plant is not limited to these areas, being found across Eastern Asia, Europe including the UK, as well as North America. It’s sometimes grown as an ornamental, which may explain some of the areas in which it is found.

Roseroot is a hardy perennial which reaches a height and spread of about 12 inches (30cm). It is not fussy about soil type or acidity and can cope with sea winds and drought, but will not grow in the shade. Easy from seed sown on the surface of moist compost (not allowed to dry out) in early spring in a cool greenhouse or similar without any heat – germination will take place in 2-4 weeks at 10ºC, which is pretty cold. Pot them on as normal, keeping them in a cold frame or similar if possible, and plant out when large enough in late spring or early summer. You can also propagate by division from late summer to early fall.

The part used mainly in herbal medicine is the root, which should be dug up in fall before the ground freezes too hard and dried for later use.

Make a decoction using 1 ounce (30g) of the part to be used (root/flowers, see uses below) in 600ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue heating until the liquid has reduced by half, then strain off and discard the herb. The dosage is up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses.

Used for over 3,000 years as a tonic, the Vikings used it to enhance physical strength and endurance. Roseroot improves neurotransmitter activity; studies show it can increase brain serotonin by up to 30% making it helpful for depression. Use a root decoction as a general tonic, to increase resistance to and recovery from stress/overwork, enhance physical endurance and sexual potency and as an anti-depressant for mild to moderate depression. You can also use a decoction of flowers to treat indigestion and intestinal discomfort.

I offer extract of rhodiola root in my online shop.

As with all plants used for herbal remedies, it’s important to grow roseroot organically to avoid corruption of the constituents. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.