Ravensara and Ravintsara essential oils, benefits and uses

Cinnamomum camphora trees in Madagascar produce ravintsara essential oil

Cinnamomum camphora trees in Madagascar produce ravintsara essential oil

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

There are a number of potential sources of confusion in the aromatherapy pharmocopeia, but one that really stands out as an ongoing problem is the distinction between ravensara and ravintsara.

At first glance, you would most likely assume that ravintsara is just an alternative spelling for ravensara, or vice versa. It’s obvious from some of the information online about these two oils that this assumption has resulted in the wrong descriptions of uses in certain places, so there’s no need to be ashamed if you’re one of those that has fallen into this trap. I freely admit that I originally believed the same thing. But it’s not true.

As with all essential oils, neither ravensara essential oil nor ravintsara essential oil 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.

I’ve always advised that anyone using essential oils or herbs for medicinal purposes should pay more attention to the scientific or Latin name than to the English one. Different places have common names for particular herbs and plants that may be used for a completely different species elsewhere. Oils are extracted from these plants, and it’s not surprising of they end up being labeled with the common name local to the place where the oil was extracted. This case is just one example of the difficulties that can arise when the common, rather than the scientific name is used for identification.

So let’s try and clear this up.

Ravensara

A botanical illustration from 1829

Ravensara essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaf of Cryptocarya agathophylla (syn. Agathophyllum aromaticum, Ravensara aromatica and R. anisata). It is also sometimes called clove nutmeg oil. Another essential oil, Havozo, is extracted from the bark of the same plant.

Ravensara essential oil is not often used, as most of the oil bearing this English name is in fact ravintsara. However, Nature’s Gift recommends it for treating shingles, herpes and other viral infections, either topically or in a diffuser. It is often used with calophyllum for external use.

I offer Ravensara essential oil in my online shop.

Ravintsara essential oil is an extract of Cinnamomum camphora– but only from trees grown in Madagascar. The scientific name on the label must say “Cinnamomum camphora ct. 1,8-cineole” to indicate it is the correct extract. If you find a Cinnamomum camphora oil which does not have “ct. 1,8-cineole” on the label, then it is some type of Camphor or Ho oil, which is toxic and not to be used under any circumstances.

Ravintsara is best used to ease breathing in asthmacoughs (including whooping cough), colds and other respiratory problems.


Frankincense essential oil, benefits and uses: oil with a sacred pedigree

Frankincense is the resin collected from several Boswellia species

Frankincense is the resin collected from several Boswellia species

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Frankincense oil has an attractive scent I always associate with High Anglican churches, which I attended as a child. Frankincense is used in Roman Catholic and other “high” churches, and apparently in Lutheran ones as well. It was also used in ancient Judaism alongside the sacrifices in the Temple. Ancient Egyptians, by contrast, used it for cosmetics, perfumes, and rejuvenating face masks.

Well known in Christian circles as one of the gifts given to the infant Jesus by the three wise men along with gold and myrrh, frankincense is a resin which is collected from several different trees in the Boswellia genus (mainly B. sacra) several times a year. The trunk of the trees is slashed, the sap oozes out and congeals and is then collected.

Unfortunately, this has become unsustainable in recent years. Trees which are used for resin collection produce seed which has only 16% viability, in comparison with trees left alone, which have 80% or more viable seeds.

Frankincense is distantly related to Elemi.

As with all essential oils, frankincense 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.

Frankincense essential oil is made by steam distillation from the resin. It’s also sometimes called olibanum oil. It is a yellow or greenish liquid with a rich, balsamic scent and a fresh top note.

Frankincense oil should not be used during pregnancy (except during labor) or for children under 6 years of age. As with all essential oils, ensure that the oil you buy is pure frankincense oil, and not wholly or partly fake, or adulterated with chemicals. Even if they smell similar, oils which are not 100% pure essential oil will not have the same therapeutic effects, and may be dangerous when used in medicinal amounts.

Please note that in spite of widespread disinformation to the contrary, Frankincense essential oil does not cure cancer, despite a single anecdotal report of a skin cancer cure. The claim is based on the presence of boswellic acid in frankincense gum resin. However, it is not present in the essential oil, and the tumour-fighting benefits of boswellic acid are therefore not available to anyone using frankincense essential oil. Source

Frankincense is traditionally associated with spirituality. Used in an oil burner or diffuser, frankincense oil is an aid to meditation, calms anxiety of the mind, helps reduce the tendency to live in the past and encourages grounding and a feeling of inner peace. On the physical side, it is also useful for respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, coughs and colds, laryngitis and shortness of breath.

In a blend of 5 drops to 10ml carrier oil, frankincense oil is a good general tonic and helpful for respiratory conditions, rheumatism, poor circulation, exhaustion, nightmares, heavy periods, delayed periods or the menopause. You could also add a few drops of oil (up to 5) to the bath for the same purposes. On top of all that, it’s great for dry and mature skin, scars, wounds and any disfiguring skin problems including wrinkles. The Egyptians knew a thing or two about beauty!Continuing on the beauty front, adding a few drops of frankincense to a base cream or lotion makes a great skin tonic which will rejuvenate, reduce oiliness, gradually reduce wrinkles, stretch marks and old scars and help with healing of general skin problems such as sores.

You can also use a few drops of frankincense in the water used to clean cuts as an antiseptic and to help prevent scarring, or to make a compress for cracked skin and bed sores. A compress is a clean bandage which is soaked in liquid (in this case warm), wrung out and applied to the area to be treated.

I offer pure frankincense essential oil and dilute frankincense essential oil in my online shop.


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

teatree-infographic-sm

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.

Unfortunately, recent research has found that regular use of tea tree and lavender oils in boys before puberty can lead to gynecomastia (breast enlargement) and can interfere with their sexual development [source]. The same thing can occur in adult males, but with less serious effects, since their sexual characteristics are already established. It’s therefore advisable to restrict use of the oils and products (eg. shampoo) that contain either of these oils for boys except in occasional emergency situations.
 
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

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.