Dong Quai Health Benefits: tonic for women

Dong Quai has many names

Dong Quai, Angelica sinensis, is also known under many other names in its native areas, including can qui, dangdanggui, dang gui, dong quai, duong qui handanggui, hashyshat almalak, kara toki, langdu danggui, min-gui, tang-kuei, and tangkuei tân qui, and in the West as female ginseng or Chinese angelica. It is closely related to angelicaparsley, celery, carrots, and poison hemlock.

Description

It is a fairly hardy perennial (tolerating minimum temperatures of -5º C) which is found at higher altitudes in China, Japan and Korea. It prefers moist soil and will not grow in full shade, but otherwise is not fussy about location. The part used medicinally is the root, so although it is self-fertile, as it is propagated from seed, it is necessary to grow more plants than you need in any season, so that you can keep it going while the smaller seedlings produce a good sized root, which takes 3 years.

Aesthetically speaking, it is a fragrant plant with smooth purplish stems reaching a height of around 1m (39″), a spread of 70cm (16″) and typical Umbellifer umbrels of 5-petalled flowers in early Fall, followed by winged fruits in late Summer. The roots are yellow brown and branched, about 15-25cm (6-10″) long when mature.

Cultivation and harvest

If you plan to grow your own dong quai for use on a regular basis, you need to sow enough for one year, then the same the following year and the year after that. In the third year, you can harvest the first sowing, replacing them with new seedlings, and so on. To be honest, you may prefer to buy ready prepared dong quai in the form of capsules or tincture. You can also buy dried roots in a Chinese grocers.

Sow seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, making sure it has light for germination. Prick out into pots and grow on for the first Winter in the frame, then plant out in their permanent position in the Spring. You can also sow in its final position when the seed is ripe if you don’t have a cold frame.

Dig up whole 3-year-old plants in Fall and discard the tops. Clean and cut up the roots and dry in trays away from direct sunlight but with good air flow, checking and turning regularly until thoroughly dried, then transfer into an air tight container and label.

Edible uses

It is used as an ingredient in a tonic soup for women, and has also been used to flavour liqueurs and confectionery.

Medicinal uses

Dong quai roots contain many active constituents including terpenes, phenylpropanoids, benzenoids and coumarins. A major constituent is ligustilide, which can be up to 5% of the total.

Dong quai is one of the most popular herbs in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, and has been used for thousands of years to strengthen heart, liver, lung, spleen and kidney and as a tonic for the blood and circulation. It is known as the female ginseng and is used in a similar way and for similar purposes as ginseng in men. Regular ginseng is sometimes prescribed for women for various purposes, and similarly dong quai is sometimes prescribed for men.

In the West, dong quai is mainly used to balance hormone levels and is particularly helpful because it is antispasmodic so it reduces cramps. It’s also useful for PMS, menopause, reducing anxiety and mood swings. It can be used in both sexes to enhance fertility, as a blood tonic and to boost the immune system. Chinese women often use it as a daily tonic in the same way as ginseng is used by men.

Dosage recommendations vary, but tend to be in the range of 500-1500mg three times a day.

Contra-indications and warnings

Not suitable for children, or for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Women should also not use dong quai if they have breast cancer or any other oestrogen-dependent cancer, endometriosis or fibroids. Men shouldn’t use it if they have prostate cancer. Nobody should use it if they have an acute viral infection, chronic diarrhea, protein S deficiency, hemorrhagic disease, abdominal bloating, low blood pressure or if they are taking warfarin or other blood thinners including fish oils and other omega-3 supplements, Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), garlic (Allium sativum), ginger (Zingiber officinale), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), ginseng (Panax ginseng), liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

May increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and may cause dermatitis. Stop taking dong quai at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Aromatherapy

Dong quai essential oil is used with an appropriate carrier oil for the same purposes outlined in this article. Do not swallow dong quai essential oil because it contains cancer-causing substances.

Final Notes

You may prefer to grow this, if at all, as a decorative plant rather than going to the trouble of processing your own dong quai. However, if you do decide to grow it for medicinal use, it’s important to ensure that you use organic methods to avoid noxious chemicals getting mixed up with your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


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.


5 Herbal Remedies that work really well

Nature has bestowed humans with unlimited treasures, including traditional herbs. Herbs offer effective solutions to common ailments. They are also generally safer as compared to conventional medicines.

From Aloe vera to peppermint, here are 5 herbal wonders that really work:

Aloe vera

Cross section of Aloe vera leaf

Cross section of Aloe vera leaf

Aloe vera contains more than 75 active healing ingredients, including enzymes, salicylic acid, lignin, saponins, and amino acids. It also has essential antioxidant vitamins A, C, and beta-carotene (Vitamin A) as well as folic acid.

Most people use Aloe vera gel for cosmetic use. It may be used to treat sunburn, acne marks and restore lost skin elasticity.

It is a natural moisturiser for dry and damaged hair. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, it helps keep your hair smooth and healthy. Due to Aloe vera’s antiseptic and antibacterial properties, it also helps rid the scalp of dandruff.

Check out the range of Aloe vera products in my online shop.

Aside from the plant’s cosmetic and beauty applications, aloe vera contains strong anti-inflammatory components. Some people recommend its juice as a digestive aid, but I advise caution: it’s a very strong purgative, which is fine, so long as you stay near a bathroom for the next few hours.

Turmeric

Turmeric

Turmeric is a well known spice

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a well-known spice that improves the flavour of dishes. It’s also an antioxidant and has proven medicinal value.

Turmeric contains antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory molecules called curcumin, which makes it particularly useful to arthritis patients.

If you have a cold, you can eat a teaspoon of honey mixed with turmeric powder to help drive it away.

Be careful to buy good quality turmeric, as some of the cheaper types are bulked out with other ingredients that at best aren’t medicinally active and at worst may be actively dangerous in medicinal quantities.

There is also a turmeric essential oil which is mainly used tor skin conditions, stress and fatigue.

I offer a range of turmeric products including supplements in my online shop.

Fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek (methi) seeds

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an Asian herb. It has been used for decades to address blood pressure and appetite issues.

Studies have found that consuming 2 ounces of fenugreek seed each day can reduce cholesterol levels.

It contains high antioxidant levels, but is mainly used for period pains, indigestion, for bronchitis and as a gargle for sore throat. Make a decoction using 4 teaspoonfuls seeds soaked overnight in 2 cups of cold water, then boil for one minute and strain off the seeds. You can take up to 2 cups a day of this.

I offer fenugreek, loose and in capsules in my online shop.

 Peppermint

Peppermint

Peppermint is a useful herb

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita officinalis) contains phyto-nutrients that fight diseases. This herb has strong anti-oxidant properties. It also contains important oils such as menthone, menthol and menthol acetate.

Peppermint helps alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and heartburn/acid reflux. For indigestion, griping pains or symptoms of IBS, have a cup of peppermint infusion (use 1-2 teaspoons dried herb to a cup of water, brew for at least 10 minutes, then strain off the herb and drink hot or cold).

In aromatherapy, the oil is sometimes used to relieve tension headaches.

As with all essential oils, peppermint 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.

I offer a range of peppermint herb products in my online shop.

Lavender

Lavender

There’s much more to lavender than just scent

Aside from its enchanting aroma, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) also offers optimal health benefits. A lavender infusion made in the same way as described under peppermint is helpful for anxiety and depression. You can drink up to 1 cup a day, usually split into 3 doses.

Lavender exudes a soothing smell that calms down an anxious mind and helps you sleep. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil or some lavender flowers in a cotton bag to your bath to de-stress after a long day. Lavender is also used in creams to treat skin conditions like acne.

You’ll find a wide range of lavender-based products in my online shop.

These five herbs offer optimal health benefits. You may find some of them in your garden. But, if you are looking for something extra, make sure to check out Frann’s Alt.Health Shop.


Mistletoe health benefits: for panic attacks (or kissing under)

European mistletoe is a welcome sight to most, an infestation to others

European mistletoe is a welcome sight to most, an infestation to others

The mistletoe, or to be precise the European mistletoe (Viscum album) is also known as European white-berry mistletoe, common mistletoe, all-heal and masslin. It is not related to other plants called allheal. It is also not closely related to American mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) or dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum), but all three of them are in the same family.

Mistletoe is sacred to modern Pagans. It is also believed to have been sacred to the Druids, though this may be a Victorian invention. It is hung up at Christmas as a plant to kiss under, though there is no biblical text relating to this; a berry is picked for each kiss.

Mistletoe is an evergreen hemi-parasitic* shrub. 1m (3′) x 1m (3′), It likes to be in full sun or semi-shade and usually grows on trees 20 years old or more, especially apple, hawthorn, lime, oak and poplar. Mistletoe is sacred to modern Pagans. It is also believed to have been sacred to the Druids, though this may be a Victorian invention. It is hung up at Christmas as a plant to kiss under, though there is no biblical text relating to this; a berry is picked for each kiss.
*  partly parasitic, but gets some of its nutrients from other sources apart from the host

Propagation is hit and miss. Obtain ripe berries in late Fall or early Winter, make wounds in the bark on the underside of a strong branch of the tree/s you wish to use and squash the berries into them.

Harvest leaves and young twigs just before the berries form and dry for later use.

Because of the potential side effects, this plant should only be used internally under the guidance of a herbal practitioner.

Do not eat berries or leaves. If 6-20 berries or 4-5 leaves of this plant are eaten, a visit to your local emergency room (casualty) is advised. Possible symptoms of overdose, which appear within 6 hours, are nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure and dizziness. American mistletoe is more toxic; even a single berry or leaf may cause serious symptoms. Ingestion of American mistletoe may cause ataxia or seizure in young children.

NB: Mistletoe is not suitable for use by pregnant or breast-feeding women or children under 12 years. Do not exceed the dose recommended by your practitioner.

Mistletoe is anti-cancer, antispasmodic, diuretic, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), nervine, stimulant and a vasodilator. It is used for anxiety, high blood pressure, cancer of the stomach, lungs and ovaries, convulsions and epilepsy, headaches, internal hemorrhage, palpitations, panic attacks, to improve concentration and promote sleep.

Externally, it is used to treat arthritis, chilblains, rheumatism, leg ulcers and varicose veins.

Approved in Germany for rheumatism.

This is the point where I normally advise you to grow your herbs organically, and this is still the best advice I can give you. However, in this case, there’s not a lot you can do for mistletoe apart from growing the tree it’s sitting on using organic methods. On no account spray mistletoe with any pesticide! Information on organic methods can be found on the Gardenzone.

Aromatherapy
A product called mistletoe essential oil is on sale. However, it does not contain any mistletoe but is in fact a blend of essential oils of anise, coriander, fennel, clove, oregano, peppermint and wormwood.

This post is a slightly adapted extract from “Sacred Herbs for Healing”, which is a Kindle book. If you’d like to buy a copy (or borrow it free if you’re an Amazon Prime member) please go to Sacred Herbs for Healing or search for it by putting B00ASMJFR4 in your local Amazon’s search box.


Liquorice (Licorice) health benefits: for peptic, duodenal and mouth ulcers

Liquorice root is available in health stores

Liquorice root is available in health stores

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Liquorice or licorice in the USA, Glycyrrhiza glabra (a subspecies, Glycyrrhiza glandulifera or Glycyrrhiza glabra var. glandulifera is grown in Russia), is well known to everybody as a common sweet or candy, though you can’t guarantee that all liquorice candies actually have very much liquorice in them. Liquorice is not related to anise hyssop (sometimes called liquorice mint).

When I was a kid, we used to buy sticks of liquorice root in the local sweet shop, and chew them, discarding the woody fibers once the taste was all gone. They lasted for a very long time, partly I suppose, because we couldn’t do a whole stick at once, unless we wanted to experience one of the most well known results of eating liquorice – diarrhea! There are other far more serious possible consequences of an overdose, see below.

Though you’d never guess to look at it, liquorice is a member of the same family as peas, beans and lentils, which means that in areas where the appropriate soil organisms are present, it should fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, making the soil richer as a result. Of course, if you’re going to use it, digging it up will probably remove most of this bounty.

Not a particularly stunning plant, but as the part used is the root, there’s no reason why you can’t tuck it away somewhere out of the limelight until it’s time to dig it up.

Liquorice is a perennial which reaches a height of 4′ (1.2m) and spreads over an area of about 3′ (1m). It needs fertile, moist but well drained soil on the sandy side, and prefers alkaline soil.

Pick off the flowers as they occur for the biggest crop of roots.

It takes 4 years to produce a quantity of roots worth digging, but as well as growing from seed you can propagate new plants from root cuttings (each of which needs to have at least one growth bud). These should be brought on in pots in a cold frame until growing away well, then transplanted to their permanent positions in Spring.

Liquorice can be invasive once established.

Although it is possible to grow this plant, given the length of time required before you can harvest it, it’s probably easier to buy liquorice root from a health store (see below). So far as I know, sweet shops no longer sell it.

Liquorice can be used as a flavoring and/or sweetener, and the leaves are used as a tea substitute in Mongolia. The root fibers can apparently be used for making wallboards and similar products!

Liquorice is not suitable for use during pregnancy (because it has a hormonal effect), by anyone suffering from high blood pressure or kidney disease, or anyone currently using digoxin-based medication. Take care not to exceed the stated dose (or eat too many liquorice candies). A large overdose can cause edema, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

Decoction: Add 1 tsp well-crushed root to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) cold water in a non-metallic pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue heating for 10-15 minutes, strain off root and use the liquid hot or cold. Dosage: Up to 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) a day, split into 3 doses.

Liquorice is a soothing herb and powerfully anti-inflammatory. In Japan, it is prescribed to control chronic viral hepatitis, and there is research evidence to show its effectiveness to protect the liver in mice. It inhibits Helicobacter pylori, which makes it a useful aid in the treatment of both duodenal ulcers and peptic ulcers. It is also antispasmodic, tonic, diuretic, expectorant and laxative. Mainly used in herbal medicine to treat coughs and other bronchial conditions including asthma and bronchitis, it is also useful for allergic complaints, to help the body recover from steroid treatments, treat urinary tract infections, bladder and kidney complaints and stomach problems. As already mentioned, it’s also a pretty good laxative. It is also sometimes used to treat Addison’s disease. Externally, a root decoction can be used to treat herpes, eczema and shingles. Use as a mouthwash to treat canker sores (mouth ulcers).

Liquorice is not used in aromatherapy.

I offer a selection of liquorice products in my online shop.

If you decide to grow your own liquorice, follow the rules of organic gardening. Since the part used is the root, this is especially important to avoid foreign chemicals ending up in your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.


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.


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.


Great Mullein health benefits: for respiratory complaints, frostbite and chilblains

The name great mullein is not undeserved

The name great mullein is not undeserved

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

Great mullein, Verbascum thapsus, has a huge number of other names including Aaron’s rod, Adam’s flannel, beggar’s blanket, beggar’s stalk, blanket herb, bullock’s lungwort, candlewick plant, clot, clown’s lungwort, common mullein, cowboy toilet paper, Cuddy’s lungs, duffle, feltwort, flannel mullein, flannel plant, fluffweed, golden rod, hag’s taper, hare’s beard, Jacob’s staff, Jupiter’s staff, molene, Moses’ blanket, mullein, mullein dock, old man’s flannel, Our Lady’s flannel, Peter’s staff, rag paper, shepherd’s clubs, shepherd’s staff, torches, velvet dock, velvet plant, white mullein, wild ice leaf, woollen and woolly mullin. It’s not related to lungwort, nor to the plant normally called goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea, which incidentally is another plant also known as Aaron’s rod) nor rose root (also sometimes called Aaron’s rod), all of which belong to different botanical families.

Great mullein in the first year

Great mullein in the first year

Great mullein is a biennial which reaches a height of 2m (6′) or more in the second year, thoroughly deserving the name, though in the first year it has a totally different form and apparently different leaves, as they are thickly coated in fuzz, see picture left, rather like lamb’s ears (also unrelated). This must be where all the names about blankets, flannel, velvet and wool come from, as the full grown plant gives very little clue to this (although the hairs are still present, they are not so obvious). In fact, it’s quite a brute, isn’t it?

Given its appearance, this is not a plant anyone is likely to grow as an ornamental, despite the fact that the flowers (as well as the size) are similar to hollyhocks (unrelated, lol). I guess since it is so big it could be tucked at the back of a border with something in front to conceal the unattractive foliage, though this will leave the first year form (which is a lot prettier) hidden. This may not work in any case, because it is insistent on living in full sun, and will not thrive in shady areas. Perhaps it is best relegated to the allotment or bought dried from your friendly local herbalist.

Great mullein is found growing wild all over the temperate world, having been introduced to the Americas, Australia and New Zealand from its native Europe, Africa and Asia. Although unlikely to become invasive except in areas with little competition or after forest fires, it is listed as a noxious weed in Colorado, Hawaii and Victoria, Australia. Because each plant produces a huge number of seeds which can lie dormant for up to 100 years, it is very difficult to eradicate completely.

If you decide to grow it, you will find that it is completely unconcerned about soil type or acidity and will thrive in moist or dry conditions, though it does prefer chalky, well drained soil. As already mentioned it needs full sun. It will not tolerate maritime winds (despite the fact that it is often found growing in coastal areas). Sow in a cold frame from late Spring to early Summer, barely covering the seed. Pot on as required until late Summer, when they can be planted out in their final positions.

The leaves contain the natural insecticide, rotenone. Do not grow great mullein close to ponds which contain fish, or allow the leaves or seeds to fall into the water. Both leaves and seeds contain compounds that cause breathing problems and consequent death in fish.

The name torches comes from the old custom of dipping dried stems into wax or suet to make torches. Dried leaves were also used as candle wicks and can be used as tinder. Leaves were put into shoes to provide insulation.

Flowers produce a yellow dye without mordant, green with dilute sulphuric acid, brown with alkalis. An infusion of the flowers with caustic soda was used by Romans to dye their hair blonde.

Due to hormonal effects, great mullein is not suitable for use during pregnancy or by anyone trying for a baby.

The parts used in medicine are the juice, leaves, flowers and roots. The seeds are not used, as they are toxic to humans as well as fish. If using great mullein juice, leaves or flowers internally in liquid form, it must be carefully strained through a fine filter to remove the irritating hairs (a “quick and dirty” method would be to put a layer of clean kitchen towel in a tea strainer and pour it through that).

Great mullein has been used in medicine for at least 2,000 years, when it was recommended by Dioscorides for chest complaints. After its introduction into the US, native Americans used it to make syrup for treating croup (an acute inflammatory condition of the airways often characterized by a barking cough). It was once listed as a medicine in the German Commission E document to treat catarrh, and in the National Formularies of the US and UK. Even today, its main use is for coughs and other respiratory disorders. The dried leaves were once smoked to relieve asthma, croup, TB cough and spasmodic coughs in general.

Properties given for this herb are: analgesic, anodyne, anti-cancer, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, bactericide, cardio-depressant, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, estrogenic, expectorant, fungicide, hypnotic, narcotic, nervine, odontalgic, sedative and vulnerary. This list refers to the whole plant. Different parts of the plant have different properties.

To make a standard infusion, use 15g (a half ounce) of fresh or 30g (1 oz) of dried leaves to 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) boiling water. Allow to infuse for a minimum of 15 minutes (up to 4 hours), then strain carefully as described previously before use. The flowers are also sometimes used in the same way. The dose is a third of a cup, taken up to 3 times a day.

A decoction of roots is made by putting 15g (a half ounce) of fresh or 30g (1 oz) of dried chopped root in a small saucepan, adding 500ml (2 US cups, 16 fl oz) cold water and bringing to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and continue heating until the liquid is reduced by half, then strain off the herb and discard.

To make an oil maceration of mullein flowers, fill a bottle with as many flowers as will fit, cover with olive oil and seal, then shake thoroughly. Place on a sunny windowsill and shake thoroughly once a day for 3 weeks, then strain off and discard the flowers using a fine filter to remove all hairs, as described above. Reseal and store in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

To make a poultice, mix fresh or dried chopped leaves with very hot water and mash up, then wrap in a piece of gauze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible. Apply to the area to be treated, refreshing in the hot water when it cools.

The standard infusion reduces mucus production and is expectorant. It is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints, including bronchitis, mild catarrh and sore throat. Its demulcent and astringent properties make it a good treatment for colic, diarrhea and hemorrhoids (if blood was found in the diarrhea, a decoction of leaves boiled in milk for 10 minutes was traditionally used instead, but my advice is to visit the doctor as this can be an early warning sign of more serious illness). It can also be used as a treatment for internal parasites (vulnerary).

An infusion made using 1 teaspoonful per cup of a mixture containing 2 parts of great mullein to 1 part each of coltsfoot and uva ursi by volume, taken twice a day, is recommended for lung repair by  Dr Elise Wright of AllExperts.com. According to eHow Health, the expulsion of a black tar-like substance after several days of use is an indication of this mixture’s effectiveness.

A decoction of the roots is analgesic and anti-spasmodic and can be used to treat toothache, cramps and convulsions. It can also be used to treat migraine.

Grind up dried roots and mix with strained mullein juice to make a topical treatment for boils, chilblains, hemorrhoids and warts. It is said to work only on rough warts, not smooth warts, though as all warts are caused by HPV, this seems strange. It’s probably worth trying even on a smooth wart, for this reason.

A poultice of leaves can be used to treat hemorrhoids, external ulcers, splinters, sunburn and tumors.

Studies have found that great mullein flowers have a bactericidal action and may also be effective against tumors. A flower maceration is used externally to treat bruises, chilblains, eczema, frostbite, hemorrhoids, mouth ulcers and ringworm. It can also be used in the ear to treat earache (2-3 drops at a time, up to 3 times a day).

A homoeopathic tincture of mullein is used to treat long-standing migraine.

As with all herbs used as remedies, great mullein should be grown organically to avoid corrupting your remedy with noxious chemicals. To find out more about growing organic great mullein visit the Gardenzone.


This beautiful damask rose is Quatre Saisons

Rose essential oils, benefits and uses

This beautiful damask rose is Quatre Saisons

This beautiful damask rose is Quatre Saisons

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Rose oil comes in two main types, rose absolute and rose otto. They are both used for the same purposes.

Because rose essential oils are costly, you may find that they are offered diluted. These are usable, but they will not keep for any length of time. If you are likely to use them up in 6 months, by all means buy the diluted variety, otherwise bite the bullet, buy the undiluted, and look on it as an investment.

You should take especial care to ensure that the rose oil you buy (or the rose oil content of a blend) is 100% pure, because there are very many cheaper products which smell like rose oil, but have more association with the factory than the garden. Additives and substitutes intended to bulk up or replace rose essential oil while maintaining a high scent impact may be actively dangerous in oils intended for therapeutic use.

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.

Rose essential oil is not the same as rose geranium oil, though both are attributed to Venus in the tables of correspondences used for centuries, before what we now consider conventional medicine arrived.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, rose otto is the more expensive of the two. sometimes called attar of roses, it has been used since ancient times. It is usually extracted by steam distillation from Rosa damascena, the Damask Rose (occasionally Rosa centifolia, sometimes called Rose Maroc) and is a pale yellow or olive green oil with a very rich, spicy floral scent. 100% pure rose otto will keep for as long as you need it, provided you keep it in a cool dark place. There are reports of rose otto produced in the 1940s which is still good.

Rose otto is the best type of rose essential oil for aromatherapy, though because of the cost, some people use rose absolute instead. On the other hand, rose otto is extremely heady, and you will probably find that you need to use much less in a blend than is normal with other essential oils.

Rose absolute is extracted by solvent extraction. This yields a reddish orange or olive green oil with a lighter floral scent, more like you would instinctively expect from a rose oil. It is much more viscous than rose otto and solidifies at quite high temperatures, so much so that you may need to warm it in your hands before use.

You might come across two other rose oils, rose leaf absolute, which is used purely for flavor and fragrance, and rosehip oil, a carrier oil effective in treating burns, scars and wrinkles, and promotes tissue regeneration. Rosehip oil has recently become popular after Kate Middleton revealed she uses it for her stretch marks. I offer rosehip oil in my online shop.

Both rose otto and rose absolute are used for the same purposes.

Uses of rose essential oil

Rose oil is often said to be mainly used in skin care, but I’ll give you the list and you can decide:

Skin care: ageing skin, broken capillaries, cold sores, combination skin, dry skin, eczema, elasticity, herpes, mature skin, rejuvenation, sensitive skin, thread-veined skin, toning, wrinkles.

Other: addiction, allergic headache/migraine, allergies, anger, antibacterial, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, anxiety, aphrodisiac, astringent, balancing, bereavement, calming, circulatory disorders, cooling, decongestant, detoxifier, digestive tonic, diuretic, emmenagogic, endocrine system, fear, grief, hangover, hay fever, heart tonic, hepatic, labor, laxative, menopause, menstrual disorders, pmt, regret, rejuvenating, relaxing, sadness, sedative, stress, tension, terror, tonic, uplifting, uterine tonic, well-being, worry about the past.

I offer a wide range of rose aromatherapy products including several different types of essential oil in my online shop.


There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil

5 different Eucalyptus essential oils, benefits and uses

There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil

There are many varieties of eucalyptus oil. This is E. citriodors

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Eucalyptus oil is a misleading label, because there are in fact several different kinds of eucalyptus essential oil extracted from various species of eucalyptus tree.

The five types you are most likely to come across are the Blue Gum, the Broad Leaved Peppermint, the Narrow Leaved Peppermint, the Lemon Scented Eucalyptus and the Lemon Scented Ironbark. Any of these (and others) may be sold labeled simply eucalyptus oil. This is unfortunate, as the different types don’t all have the same properties.

Some properties are common to all four types of eucalyptus essential oil. All are antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, expectorant and can be used to treat congestion (catarrh), coughs, colds, flu and other viral infections, aches and pains, rheumatism, cuts and wounds.

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.

Blue Gum Eucalyptus is extracted from Eucalyptus globulus, one of the tallest trees in the world. There is a tree in Tasmania recorded at 90.7m (or more than 297 feet) in height! Like all eucalyptus, these trees are native to Australia, although most of the cultivation for commercial use is in Spain and Portugal.

Additional properties listed for Blue Gum are as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, deodorant, insect repellent, soothing agent and vermifuge used to treat asthma, blisters, burns, catarrh, chicken pox, cystitis, debility, headaches, herpes, insect bites, leucorrhea, lice, measles, neuralgia, poor circulation, sinusitis, skin infections, sore throats and external ulcers.

I offer Eucalyptus (blue gum) essential oil and organic Eucalyptus (blue gum) essential oil in my online shop.

Broad Leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus is an extract of Eucalyptus dives and is sometimes referred to as dives eucalyptus. The tree is much smaller than the blue gum and most cultivated trees are produced in South Africa.

It is no longer generally used medicinally except by veterinarians. However, it can be used for broadly the same uses as blue gum.

Lemon Scented Eucalyptus is an extract of Corymbia citriodora (formerly called Eucalyptus citriodora), which reaches the same sort of height as the narrow leaved peppermint. Cultivated trees are mainly grown in China and Brazil.

In addition to the properties common to all four, it is bactericidal, insecticidal, an insect repellent and is used to treat asthma, athlete’s foot, candida, chicken pox, dandruff, fevers, fungal infections, herpes, infectious diseases, laryngitis, skin infections, sore throats and specifically to treat Staphylococcus aureus (“Staph“).

I offer Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon-scented) Essential Oil in my online shop.

Narrow Leaved Peppermint Eucalyptus is extracted from Eucalyptus radiata, which is tall (up to 5om), but doesn’t reach the same heights as the blue gum. This was the tree from which eucalyptus oil was first extracted by Joseph Bosisto in 1854, though it is less frequently used nowadays.

In addition to the common properties listed earlier, it is anti-infectious, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antispasmodic and can be used to treat bronchitis, fever, herpes, nervous exhaustion, poor circulation, sinusitis and sore throats. It’s also listed in at least one place to treat whooping cough but it must be stressed that in this case it should only be used as an addition to orthodox medical treatment, as this is a serious disease which requires immediate medical attention. Narrow leaved peppermint is also said to be supportive and uplifting and can be used as a concentration aid, to improve mental clarity and promote a positive outlook.

I offer Eucalyptus radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint) essential oil and organic Eucalyptus radiata (narrow-leaved peppermint) essential oil in my online shop.

Lemon-Scented Ironbark Eucalyptus essential oil comes from Eucalyptus staigeriana. It is uplifting to both mind and body, a natural immune system booster. Use in blends to boost the immune system, for wounds, abscesses, burns, external ulcers, veruccas (plantar warts), insect bites and for muscle, nerve and joint pain. Use in a burner or diffuser to gain the benefit of its uplifting, antidepressant and stress-relieving qualities. It is safe for use with children.

Eucalyptus oils should always be mixed with a carrier before using them on the skin. They can also be used in an essential oil diffuser, a steam inhalation, or a few drops can be added to a bath after it has been filled. Never take eucalyptus oils internally except as part of a prescribed medication.

Eucalyptus oil deserves a place in every home, and the choice of variety is up to you. Blue gum is the most frequently offered, but you may want to choose one of the others if available from your supplier, for the additional properties which it confers.