Peppermint essential oil, benefits and uses

Peppermint is a familiar garden herb

Peppermint is a familiar garden herb

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Peppermint is a familiar garden herb, though it may be confused with spearmint, a close relative. In aromatherapy as in herbal medicine, the two plants are treated quite distinctly.

The mints are a large family, and other members for which you may also find essential oils on sale include Cornmint, which is used mainly by the food, pharmaceutical and hygiene industries, rarely in aromatherapy; and European Pennyroyal or American Pennyroyal which are not used at all because they are toxic.

Peppermint essential oil is one of those which can be included in an aromatherapy starter kit, because although it should be treated with some caution it is reasonably safe in use. It is produced by steam distillation from the flowering herb of Mentha piperita, and excess menthol is then removed to obtain a liquid (otherwise it would be solid in form).

As with all essential oils, peppermint 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.

As stated, peppermint oil needs some care in use. Points to note when considering use of this oil are:
— not suitable for use during pregnancy
— not suitable for use on sensitive skin
— not suitable for use on children under 6 years old
— not suitable for use by anyone suffering from a heart condition
— never use undiluted, as it can cause irritation
— reduces effectiveness of homeopathic remedies; do not use in combination with homeopathy.

These precautions and contra-indications are the reason why I don’t include peppermint in my recommendations for absolute beginners. However, peppermint oil is so useful that it is worth keeping in stock, even so. It is very strong, and if it is to be used on the skin it needs to be diluted to a maximum of 1% , which is 6 drops to 30ml/1 fluid ounce of carrier oil. In a bath, add no more than 3 drops of peppermint oil (a single drop if you are using it to treat itchy skin) to avoid irritation.

Peppermint essential oil cools, restores and refreshes the body and is mentally stimulating, useful for students. As a massage blend or added to bathwater it is helpful for refreshing tired feet, and to treat acne, dermatitis, fevers, flatulence (“gas” or “wind“), indigestion, itchy skin, muscular pain, neuralgia, ringworm and scabies. As an inhalation it is useful for asthma, colds, bronchitis, tickly cough, cramp, flu, nausea, fainting, headache, mental fatigue, migraine, sinusitis and nervous stress. Inhale direct from the bottle or put one drop on a handkerchief to carry with you for nausea, travel sickness or vertigo and as a reviver for long journeys. Putting a few drops on the dashboard of your car will help you to stay alert and clear thinking.

Peppermint is an extremely useful essential oil and worthy of inclusion in any aromatherapy kit.

I offer peppermint essential oil and organic peppermint essential oil in my online shop, as well as a range or products based on peppermint.


Helichrysum essential oil, benefits and uses

Helichrysum aka Immortelle and Everlasting

Helichrysum aka Immortelle and Everlasting

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Unlike many other sources of essential oil, the helichrysum plant is not used in herbal medicine, though helichrysum oil is extremely useful therapeutically.

The plant is Helichrysum italicum (syn. H. angustifolium), a very attractive evergreen shrub sometimes used for hedging or as everlasting flowers. It has a strong curry scent, and is often called the curry plant for this reason, though the essential oil smells entirely different – more like honey.

As with all essential oils, helichrysum 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.

In aromatherapy, you may find helichrysum referred to as Immortelle, St John’s Herb and Everlasting or Italian Everlasting.

Helichrysum essential oil is extracted from the fresh flowers or flowering tops of Helichrysum italicum ssp. serotinum. Check the source, and only buy if it is from Corsica, as this is far more effective than oil from other places. It is one of the safer essential oils, as it is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing.

Helichrysum oil is antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal which makes it valuable for any rash, acne, eczema, skin infection, dermatitis and other allergic conditions, spots, abscesses and boils, and it’s also helpful for burns and inflammation of any kind. Some call it the boxer’s essential oil, but really it is a must for any athlete because it is so useful for bruises, cuts, wounds, sprains, strained muscles and other muscular aches and pains, including rheumatism. There’s also anecdotal evidence of its amazing ability to speed healing of broken bones.

Helichrysum’s antibacterial and anti-viral properties make it an ideal massage oil for bacterial infections, respiratory problems, colds, flu, fever, bronchitis, COPD and whooping cough. It also works well in cases of depression, debility, weakness, lethargy, nervous exhaustion, neuralgia and stress related conditions.

Helichrysum essential oil is one of the safest and most useful essential oils, and well worth including in any home aromatherapy kit, from beginner to professional.

I’m very please to offer helichrysum essential oil in my online shop.


Grapefruit, Lime and Mandarin essential oils, benefits and uses

Clockwise from 12 o'clock: Grapefruit, Mandarin, Lime

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: Grapefruit, Mandarin, Lime

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

The last three citrus essential oils are grapefruit, lime and mandarin (see picture right). There’s also red mandarin, which is used in the same ways as mandarin. I’m sure you’re familiar with grapefruits and limes from the local market. Mandarin is the name used in aromatherapy for the type of easy-peel orange you used to get only around Christmas time.

Grapefruit essential oil
This is extracted from the outer skin of Citrus x paradisi. The X means it is a hybrid – between the pomelo and the sweet orange. As both parents are sweet, the result is unexpectedly bitter, not that this has any relevance to its therapeutic value.

Grapefruit is energizing and is used mainly to treat psychological conditions such as bitterness, confusion, depression, despondency, envy, frustration, indecisiveness, jealousy, nervous exhaustion, performance stress, procrastination, worry about the past and to aid clarity of mind, but is also used for chills, colds and flu and to treat cellulitis, headaches, obesity, water retention and as a sports aid for use before exercise, and afterwards to treat stiffness and muscle fatigue.

Grapefruit essential oil is not suitable for use with children under five 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 grapefruit essential oil and organic grapefruit essential oil in my online shop.

Lime essential oil
This oil is extracted from the outer peel of unripe fruit of Citrus aurantifolia. This tropical tree is not related to the Common Lime or Linden found in many parks and alongside highways.

Lime essential oil is uplifting and energizing and is used like lemon oil: undiluted to treat boils, herpes (cold sores), warts and plantar warts (verrucas), and diluted for skin care, especially for oily skin, to tone and condition nails, and for bleaching discolored areas of skin.

Use at a 1% dilution as a massage oil to treat acne, anemia, arthritis, cellulitis and skin blemishes such as spots.

You can also use lime essential oil in a diffuser or add up to 3 drops to the bath to help clear up respiratory infections like colds and flu.

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

I offer lime essential oil and distilled lime essential oil in my online shop.

Mandarin and Red Mandarin essential oils
Mandarin is extracted from the outer skin of Citrus reticulata while red mandarin comes from Citrus nobilis. Both are used for the same purposes. Mandarin is also sometimes called Tangerine essential oil.

Mandarins/tangerines used to be a special treat looked forward to around Christmas each year, but are now available all year round under the name satsuma. The clementine is a variety of the same tree whose fruit has a tougher skin.

Mandarin essential oil is known as the children’s remedy in France and is useful for treating children and pregnant people with digestive disorders such as hiccups, gripes and indigestion as well as sleep difficulties and restlessness. Other uses include general skin care for oily skin, and as a treatment for acne and other blemishes, stretch marks, fluid retention and obesity.

Mandarin essential oil is generally regarded as not phototoxic. However, it’s probably wise to take some care about sun bathing or tanning beds within 48 hours of use.

I offer mandarin (tangerine) essential oil and red mandarin essential oil in my online shop.

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.

Lemon essential oil, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Lemon oil is extracted from the zest of the lemon

Lemon oil is extracted from the zest of the lemon

Lemon essential oil is sometimes called cedro oil, though you should be careful if buying oil with this name, as it’s also used for a type of cedar. It is extracted from the zest of the lemon by cold pressing or steam distillation.

Like other citrus oils, lemon is photo-sensitizing, and anyone using it on exposed skin should avoid prolonged exposure to the sun or use of tanning beds for 48 hours after use.

Lemon is a good choice for inclusion in a starter kit, because it can be used neat (undiluted) without any worries. In fact, one of the main uses of lemon oil is to treat boils, herpes (cold sores), warts and plantar warts (verrucas), for which it is always applied directly to the area to be treated in undiluted form.

As with all essential oils, lemon 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.

Lemon is highly regarded for skin care, particularly for oily skin, and is also used to tone and condition nails, and to bleach discolored areas of skin.

Use at a 1% dilution as a massage oil to treat acne, anemia, arthritis, cellulitis and skin blemishes such as spots.

You can also use it in a diffuser or add up to 3 drops to the bath to help clear up respiratory infections like colds and flu (a drink of lemon juice or home made lemonade would also be helpful for this, as lemons are high in vitamin C, which helps to ward off infection).

Lemon oil blends well with almost all other aromatherapy oils and is a natural disinfectant.

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


Tea Tree Oil, benefits and uses

The tea tree is a small Australian tree

The tea tree is a small Australian tree

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

History of tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is the essential oil extracted from the Australian tea tree (or ti tree), Melaleuca alternifolia. Don’t confuse this with manuka, sometimes called the New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium), nor with the tea bush from which we get our daily cuppa (Camellia sinensis). Manuka is a member of the same family as the tea tree, but the tea bush is not.

Tea tree leaves were actually being used as a healing tea by native Australians (as well as for other remedies) even before the continent was first colonized by Europeans. With typical arrogance, this knowledge was ignored until the early 1920s, when an Australian chemist called Arthur Penfold first extracted the essential oil and discovered that it was not only a very effective way to disinfect wounds, but that it stopped fungal infections in their tracks.

Tea tree oil became a worldwide success until the start of the Second World War, when supplies were diverted for use by field hospitals and civilian use virtually ceased. By the time the war was over tea tree oil had been forgotten, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that it was rediscovered and again started to be used around the world.

More recent studies have shown that tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, that works even at fairly low dilution levels (5%). It’s even been shown to work against MRSA. Partly because of its strong fragrance, which is similar to eucalyptus, it has also become popular as a treatment for respiratory problems.

As with all essential oils, tea tree 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.

 

Tea tree oil uses

teatree-infographic-sm

Click for larger image

As you might expect, tea tree is often used on skin infections and pimples, but it is much more useful than that. Acne, which is caused by a bacteria which is resistant to many other treatments, responds well to tea tree oil ointment. Burns are another application, and because of its anti-viral properties, tea tree oil is often used undiluted for herpes/cold sores, warts and plantar warts (verrucas), all of which are caused by viruses.

Fungal infections such as ringworm (tinea), nail fungus, athlete’s foot, foot rot in animals and candida (thrush) can also be treated with tea tree oil or products based on it.

One of the most important uses from a parent’s point of view is to treat and prevent diaper rash (nappy rash). Many moms swear by it and say that it works much better than any conventional remedy they’ve tried, and carries on working, unlike some treatments.

In an emergency, tea tree oil can be used neat, but otherwise for these purposes you can use the oil diluted at 1 drop of tea tree to every 2 ml of your preferred base oil. This will avoid any problems with sensitivity to the neat oil, which is in any case quite unusual so long as you make sure to buy tea tree oil of good quality.

As a hair treatment, tea tree oil not only helps prevent dandruff but also kills cooties (head lice). For the former, tea tree oil shampoo used regularly is probably all you need, while to treat the cooties, just mix a teaspoon of tea tree oil with one of the heavier carrier oils like grape seed (cheapest) or olive oil, warm it up (I stand it on the radiator for 20 minutes or so) and then apply carefully, making sure that the entire scalp and every hair is coated. Wrap the treated head up in a towel and leave it for a couple of hours, then wash it out. You will probably need to wash it at least twice to get all the oil out, but you shouldn’t find any live critters after you’re done.

You can also use tea tree oil to treat canker sores (mouth ulcers), if you can stand the taste. Just dab the sore with a little tea tree oil on a cotton tip swab, but try not to swallow too much oil as it isn’t good for you. Alternatively, try using a mouthwash that contains tea tree oil, which is likely to be a lot less overpowering.

To treat bacterial vaginosis (BV), use a douche made from 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of tea tree oil to 2 cups (475 ml/16 fl oz) of water daily for 6 weeks.

Use tea tree oil in a diffuser, in the bath, or a few drops on the pillow or a tissue to treat colds, flu and respiratory infections.

I offer many tea tree products, from oils to ointments and more in my online shop.