Botanical blends for health and healing
A little journey into how essential oils work, why they’re good for you and how you can use them at home – compiled by Jacqui Cammish, Owner of Tranquil Aromatherapy, April 2019.
My journey into the world of aromatherapy started in 2015. Initially studying Swedish massage, I was persuaded by my tutor to add a diploma in aromatherapy to the mix and can honestly say, I haven’t looked back since.
Now a fully qualified ‘Clinical Aromatherapist’ with an understanding of the chemistry behind the lovely smells – the reason why they act on the body in the profound way that they do, I want to pass on to others how using this type of therapy in our lives can be truly transformative and relatively simple.
Of course, it’s nothing new for people to use essential oils, just look back to the heady world of the patchouli fragranced 1970’s, and way back to the pioneers of this therapy – the Egyptians – with their use of oils for cosmetic, religious and medicinal purposes.
However, what appears to be new and exciting as we head towards the year 2020, is that more people than ever are embracing, indeed seeking out the complementary therapy world of which aromatherapy is a part of, in order to balance bodies and minds.
Why turn to essential oils?
There have been a number of occasions over the last 4 years which have driven home my understanding of the powerful healing properties of these botanical blends.
We took my now 7-year-old daughter, tinged a becoming shade of blue and coughing with a bark like a seal, on a couple of occasions to the emergency department at Southampton General. She was compassionately treated by the brilliant staff with salbutamol and steroid inhaler and diagnosed with a viral induced wheeze. At the time of these visits she was between the ages of 2 and 3 and at that age they are very reluctant to diagnose asthma.
If only I’d had my essential oil toolkit back then! I would have been able to help ease some of her symptoms and protected her against the viruses in the first place. She has, thankfully, grown out of these episodes and I have been able to support her along the way with essential oils.
What I see in my aromatherapy practice in Southampton
Increasingly I am seeing clients ranging from young children to mid-life and elderly palliative patients, suffering with chronic anxiety. Whether it is induced by PTSD, end of life anxiety, ADHD, the menopause or our increasingly ‘switched on’ lives, when it strikes, particularly in the form of a panic attack, the effect it has on the body and mind is intense.
I’m very happy to say that one of my young female clients is now able to manage her anxiety by using an aroma-stick containing essential oils specifically blended for her needs. Between the regular massage treatments, when she feels the onset of a panic attack, taking a few deep breaths of the stick immediately makes her feel calmer and in control.
I am also having success using aroma-sticks with young children, containing blends suited to their needs. A couple of sniffs and the essential oils start to work through the olfactory system, dispersing the blend into the body system, soothing and calming the central nervous system.
Why does it work?
The reason why aromatherapy works is not magic, although wouldn’t it be great if it was! It would certainly attract Harry Potter fans across the globe to train in this modality. No, it is organic chemistry and the way the body absorbs the oil particles through the olfactory system (smell) and absorption through the skin.
I’m often asked about the method of taking essential oils through ingestion. I don’t profess to being a fan of taking them orally, which is also the view held by IFPA The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists and the FHT Federation of Holistic Therapists. ‘In the FHT’s opinion, the oral administration of essential oils is a potentially high-risk practice, particularly if the individual recommending or administering essential oils is not medically qualified to diagnose or has a lack of knowledge regarding essential oil pharmacology.’ (FHT statement 26 February 2016)
In Essential Oil Safety, Tisserand and Young (2013) highlight some of the risks associated with the oral administration of essential oils, including ‘a greater risk of overdose, of gastric irritation, and of interactions with medication’. What a surprise that companies selling essential oils recommend ingesting them!
Back to chemistry. The essential oil I used with my daughter, Ravensara, is high in phenols and terpenes. It has anti-viral properties so strong it makes it perhaps the most effective of essential oils against flu and other respiratory viruses.
Monoterpenes predominate in frankincense oil, phellandrene and camphene, with some other terpenes and a single alcohol: olibanol. The reason it works so well on anxiety is because it has a very calming effect on the lungs, slowing and deepening the breathing, and is also excellent for asthma.
People often ask, if I had to scale down my now 50+ (and growing!) bottle collection of essential oils and choose just 5 to take to my desert island which would they be? It’s such a hard decision as there are so many, all with different properties and benefits for individual clients, but I would probably have to say: ravensara, frankincense, lavender and mandarin, vetiver.
Using blends with common concerns
I’ve chosen 4 common concerns many of my clients ask me to help with and suggested essential oil combinations which you may find beneficial. As well as receiving a massage with essential oils, they can be inhaled by using an aroma-stick or diffuser, or simply added to a warm bath.
1) Essential oil blends for cold and flu
This winter season, I wanted to give ‘practice what you preach’ a go and decided against my usual annual flu vaccination. Instead, in the early part of the new year, while the coughs and colds were doing the rounds with my clients, at my children’s school and at my husband’s work, I used the following oils as a chest / neck / feet rub to help combat the pesky viruses.
Thyme ct linalool – also known as sweet thyme, was one of the earliest medicinal plants in Western herbal medicine. Unlike the aggressive red thyme, this gentle thyme is suitable for children and the elderly. It is excellent for respiratory conditions and infectious diseases as it is antiseptic, antimicrobial, antispasmodic and anti-viral.
Ravensara – probably my favourite all-time essential oil! From a tall forest evergreen tree native to Madagascar where it is used for digestive and respiratory problems. It is antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and is safe for use with children and the elderly. It is both warming and stimulating and has anti-microbial and immune-enhancing properties.
Sweet Orange – the cleansing, stimulating and toning action of this oil makes it an excellent lymphatic system boost. It has a warm, cheerful aroma and has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine to treat colds, coughs, digestive spasms and stimulate digestion. Also a great up-lifter so is able to bring a sense of warmth and cheer which is often needed if you are suffering with a virus.
2) Essential oil blends for stress and anxiety
When choosing essential oils for anxiety, I have many in my toolkit, so an understanding of the cause of the stress and anxiety is really important in order to blend the correct combination. Prolonged anxiety has many effects on the body ranging from muscle tightness, digestive problems, migraine, allergies, insomnia to heart disease. Here are some I have had success with:
Frankincense – this beautiful essential oil comes from a small tree native to North Africa and some Arab countries. A resinous, reassuring oil which is both soothing and stimulating to the mind, making it a valuable calming tool. It can be used for people who are agitated and worried, or if the mind is distracted and overwhelmed by thoughts. It is able to treat nervous tension and exhaustion and is also excellent in skin-care as it is a cytophylactic/anti-oxidant oil so really good for scars – both physical and emotional.
Vetiver – the Indian name for vetiver is ‘the oil of tranquillity.’ It is a very tranquillising oil but is not sedative. It is soothing, anti-depressive, an immune system tonic and also a general tonic. It is a very grounding and calming oil which helps to strengthen the body and mind and is recommended for anyone who has been under any long-term stress.
Benzoin – this golden coloured, thick and resinous essential oil is wonderful for lifting the spirits and enhancing mood. It takes forever to come out of the bottle due to its thick, reassuring consistency, but is well worth the wait. As well as being a relaxant and sedative it is also excellent for treating depression, anxiety and stress by decongesting the body and mind.
3) Essential oil blends for sleep
Lavender – an absolute staple for any medicine cupboard, lavender angustifolia is probably one of the most useful oils in my toolkit. It is a very versatile essential oil as it is balancing and normalising with properties such as being an analgesic, antiviral, a cardiac tonic and sedative. Whether the causes of insomnia are physical or mental stress, lavender is able to sooth and calm and just a few drops in a pre-bedtime bath or in a diffuser in the bedroom will help to make all the difference.
Clary Sage – this oil is rich in esters which are known for their antispasmodic and sedative properties. Whilst it is recommended for managing some of the symptoms of the menopause, preventing sweating and mood swings, it is also beneficial as a relaxant for insomnia. A word of advice though – if you are consuming alcohol it is recommended not to use clary sage as its effects are heightened. Also, due to its sedative effect it is advisable not to drive after taking it.
Frankincense – as well as being an excellent essential oil for stress and anxiety, it also plays a very important role in helping to treat insomnia. This oil has a particular affinity with the lungs, which of course govern the breath, which is why it is such a key oil for relaxation.
4) Essential oil blends for SAD and depression
In the same way it is important to understand the root of stress and anxiety, depression also stems from many sources so it is important to look into what it is which is causing the low mood. SAD – Seasonal Effective Disorder usually affects people throughout the darker, winter months, whereas depression can affect people all year round. As well as many lifestyle suggestions like taking up a sport or hobby etc., there are many essential oils suggestions for assisting with feelings of sadness and despair.
Bergamot – known as my ‘sunshine in a bottle’ essential oil, is excellent for treating feelings of sadness and depression as its cheery, citrus aroma immediately uplifts the spirits. The rind of this Italian tree is also used in the production of Earl Grey tea. It helps to balance moods and ease anxiety with its ability to disperse tension, irritability and frustration – to let go of all the negativity.
Rose – this essential oil has a particular affinity with women and is often known as the ‘queen of oils.’ As well as being an anti-depressant, it is also excellent in treating disorders of the female reproductive system with its cleansing and regulating properties. In the treatment of post-natal depression rose is said to boost self-esteem, confidence and mental strength. It brings healing to the heart and is also a wonderful oil for the skin – particularly for dry, ageing and sensitive skins.
Neroli – often classed as one of nature’s most effective anti-depressant essential oils, it has a complex chemical construction which perhaps mirrors its ability to treat on many levels. Emotionally, neroli can help to calm anxiety and relieve depression and is excellent in the treatment of shock and hysteria. Because of its calming and anti-stress action it is also beneficial in treating PMT and menopausal symptoms. On a physical level, it can help to relieve muscle spasms, especially in the intestines and helps with the treatment of nervous tension. It is also excellent for the skin, promoting the growth of healthy new skin cells.
There are so many oils, for so many ailments, I could go on forever (!) which is why I always ask new clients to complete a consultation form and give me a little background about why they have come to receive a treatment. Whether physical or mental discomfort, essential oils are able to help with the bodies healing process.
It is interesting to hear that the University of Southampton are currently running trials by asking GPs to prescribe a South Asian herbal remedy to patients suffering from colds and the flu to see if it could take the place of antibiotics. The new trial, which starts this month and runs until the summer, comes after the NHS announced its five year antimicrobial resistance action plan, aiming to cut prescribing by 15 per cent by 2025.
Read more here: https://news.yahoo.com/nhs-trial-ayurvedic-herbal-remedy-000100070.html?soc_src=community&soc_trk=fb&guce_referrer=aHR0cDovL20uZmFjZWJvb2suY29t&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAI_QV8Gwm9uAmupxWLW3B_LvAjVuzKKHyyj5jDfPSywfXKVrF1mWVcg_WFkvSVgeP-xjeerYno-H4WvYoJQNMl1e21MEJtnyG-bwuXWQCP00FKGMSbFuA3yunNTliOU6nQCcETGipokrlq50mPUy76zQTo-8SbpnHSL4b3QzFxB6&guccounter=1
I can only talk from my experience in the field of aromatherapy, but what I have found over the last 4 years in my practice with my clients and with my family, is that using nature’s botanical blends as part of our medicine kit works. It’s not magic, it’s chemistry!
In my work supporting oncology patients I think this quote from Jane Buckle RN in her book ‘Clinical Aromatherapy – essential oils in healthcare’ sums up the role of aromatherapy perfectly: ‘Conventional medicine saved my life, but clinical aromatherapy saved my sanity and made the process much more bearable.’
If you would like to find out more about how you can use essential oils with your family, please contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 07467 243219. Or visit my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/tranquilaromatherapy/