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.


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.


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.


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.


Lavender essential oil, benefits and uses 3

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Lavandin, Lavandula x intermedia

Lavandin, Lavandula x intermedia

I’ve already discussed the different types of lavender aromatherapy oil available in my first post in this little series, and in the second post I went into the uses of lavender aromatherapy oils on the skin. This post covers other uses.

As I already said, lavender is so incredibly versatile that it really should be included in everybody’s aromatherapy kit. Great for emergencies such as burns, it’s also useful for calming and relaxing both mind, body and doubtless spirit too (though there isn’t any way of proving the last of these)! This is not just a nebulous “oh it makes me feel good” thing I’m talking about. Lavender essential oil is well known for dealing with anxiety and mood swings, as well as nervous tension.

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, none of the lavender essential 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.
 

Looking at this in more detail, it helps to relieve symptoms of fear, including apprehension, negative thoughts, panic attacks, paranoia, post traumatic stress, stage fright and worry of all kinds. Since bed wetting is often caused by underlying anxiety it’s not surprising that lavender is often used to treat this, as well.

Lavender also helps to get strong emotions under control, such as hysteria, impatience and irritability. Its general relaxation properties make it useful for treating insomnia and an aid to restful sleep, also for exhaustion and overwork; on the physical side it can also help to soothe and relax stiff, swollen and painful joints.

Migraine is a very variable condition which seems to be caused by a narrowing of the arteries in the head, though the underlying reasons are still not definite. Lavender has been shown to help in many cases, and with a condition as debilitating as this, it’s definitely worth trying, though as causes seem to differ from person to person, it’s obviously not possible to guarantee it 100%. You can either use it in an oil burner, on a handkerchief or the pillow, or dab it neat direct onto the temples.

For most of the other conditions mentioned here, you can use your lavender aromatherapy oil either in an oil burner or electric diffuser or by adding drops to your bath. For a standard oil burner, I would recommend 5-6 drops of lavender essential oil, or a similar quantity added to your bath. Don’t forget that when using essential oils in the bath, it should be added after the bath is ready to get into, as otherwise all the fragrance will have dissipated before you get the opportunity to benefit by it.

Even though in most cases described here you wouldn’t be using lavender essential oil directly on the skin, it’s still important that you obtain 100% pure essential oil, as the therapeutic properties are not delivered by the fragrance alone, but by volatile components which come along with it. To get the benefit of real lavender essential oil, you have to use real lavender essential oil, not a man-made substitute that smells similar to it.

I offer true lavender essential oil and organic true lavender essential oil in my online shop.