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

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

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

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sandalwood essential oils, benefits and uses

Santalum album is now a protected species

Santalum album is now a protected species

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Geranium essential oil, benefits and uses

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

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

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

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

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

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

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

As already mentioned, the two types have different properties.

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

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

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

Phew.

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

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

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


Jasmine essential oils, benefits and uses

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

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

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

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

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

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

Jasmine oils you may find on offer include:

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

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

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

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

Note: Jasmine hair oil

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

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

 

Benefits of Jasmine Oil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.