Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley – convallaria majalis – grows in the United Kingdom, a perennial. A herb used in heart medecines to slow the heart rate and chronic lung problem medications. A diuretic, reducing blood pressure. This herb is used in the same way as foxglove is used but a less toxic build up within the body.
Aromatherapy & Health Uses: Used in heart medicine, slows the heart beat. This herb is also a diuretic so lowers the blood pressure. Used as foxglove is used but this is less toxic.
[Purchase Lily of the Valley Based Products]
Ancient rituals used aromatherapy as a means to fight against negativity and evil. Our ancestors believed that good aromas ward off evil beings and keep bad creatures at bay. Essential oils were used to eliminate things that were not good for health or human well being. It was strongly opined that aromatherapy had a profound effect on one’s life and hence should be mandatory in all kinds of cleansing – physical, emotional, spiritual or psychic. Right from the ancient Egyptians to Greeks, Hindus, Romans and Persians, everyone advocated aromatherapy as an alternative kind of medicinal system.
Native Americans and Aromatherapy: Native Americans, like the ancient civilizations, have been using essential oils in their daily routine and spiritual/domestic rituals for a long time. They possess a respect for mother earth and use everything natural in their day to day life. They believe that essential oils, with their strong aromas, can fight against evil spirits and enhance their well-being. Native American practices use fragrant herbs and oils for cleaning a space. They have faith in aromatic herbs like Sage, Sweetgrass, Juniper, Cedarwood, Pine/Pinion needles to help cleanse and clear the air of negative influences and attract positivity into life.
But why should we talk about the Native American way of aromatherapy? Reason: It is simple, useful, primitive and natural. They have a wider sense of aromatherapy than most aromatherapists and know which oils or herbs are the best to ward off intense emotions, mental havocs and other bad energies from life. Most of the herbs/oils used by the Natives are common to all and can be purchased from aromatherapy stores or online. Though they do not make attractive blends (like popular aromatherapists do), they use herbs in their most natural form – as herbs with aromas. Below are a list of herbs preferred for use by aromatherapists.
Native American essential oil recipes: The natives do not follow any particular recipe except the use of smudging sticks or what is called the smudging ritual. Tying together sage sticks into bundles, the Natives use them as smudge sticks. As sticks, Sage is often used as a form of incense. The aroma of Sage cleanses the space and frees the air of negativity.
Sweetgrass is another commonly used herb/oil by Native Americans. They believe that Sweetgrass will cleanse a room, scent and purify a space. Unlike smudge sticks, Sweetgrass is generally made into a braid of about 12 inch thickness. Several other herbs or oils are also used by Native Americans, but most of them are burned raw, without addition of any other synthetics. Another way to use Sweetgrass or Sage or Juniper etc. is to use them as hydrosols. This not only saves money, but also reduces the intensity of the aromas. On the other hand, such hydrosol usage should be checked for any additional synthetic additions.
Essential oils are very complex by nature on account of their presence in plants. Their molecular structure is complex, consisting of all kinds of atoms, including hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen atoms. Even sulfur atoms are also present sometimes. Though made of several chemical ingredients, every essential oil acts together as a whole, treating infections or promoting healing, based on the dominant chemicals in them. This article will explain in detail the chemical components of essential oils.
Essential oils chemistry: Essential oils are complex structures to study. However, studying them or understanding their chemical structure can help with use of them for treatment or therapeutic purposes. Apart from that, when you know the chemistry of an essential oil, you can know its hazardous as well as therapeutic properties. This will make things easy for you if you have allergies against particular chemicals. Below are a list of the common chemical ingredients present in essential oils:
1. Monoterpenes: Found in most essential oils, Monoterpenes are antiseptic and tonic in nature. They are good air purifiers which have about 10 carbon atoms in them. Though Monoterpenes are present in almost every other essential oil, a large percentage of them are found in Citrus oils. They are colorless, highly volatile and deteriorate quickly. Hence, they should be handled with care and kept at cool temperatures. Limonene found in Lemon oil, pinene found in Pine and camphene found in Camphor are examples of essential oils.
2. Sesquiterpenes: Though not as volatile as Monoterpenes, Sesquiterpenes are effective and have about 15 carbon atoms in them. They have a calming effect, are anti-inflammatory and anti-infectious. Zingiberene in Ginger oil, cedrene in Cedarwood and caryophellene in Clove oil are some of the sesquiterpenes found in essential oils.
3. Phenols: The most antiseptic chemicals found in plants, Phenols stimulate bodily functions in small doses. However, large doses of can be a poison to the nervous system and can cause skin irritations as well as digestive comfort to sensitive people. Thymol found in Thyme oil and eugenol found in Clove are examples of Phenols.
4. Alcohols: A lot of alcohol content is also present in essential oils. Highly antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-fungal and antibiotic, alcohols are good tonic to the nervous system and stimulate immune response in the body. Lavendulol in Lavender, nerol in Neroli and geraniol found in Geranium oil are examples of alcohols in oils.
5. Ketones: Anticoagulants, Ketones can relax, sedate and heal scar tissues, immune system or respiratory system in the body. However, Ketones can be harmful to the nervous system and can result in miscarriage, convulsions and epilepsy. Examples of Ketones are thyone in Sage, pinocamphone in Hyssop, and carvone in Peppermint.
6. Ethers/Esters: Ethers and esters have similar properties but ethers are the stronger of the both. Antispasmodic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, ethers are gentle on skin and help in rebalancing the nervous system effectively. Cinnamyl acetate in Cinnamon and myrtinly acetate in Myrtle.
7. Aldehydes: Anti-inflammatory, Aldehydes have properties that are similar to Ketones and Alcohols. However, excess of Aldehydes can cause major irritation to the skin and the mucous membranes. Furfurol in Lavender, Sandalwood, Cinnamon and Cypress are aldehydes.
8. Coumarins: Anti-convulsant and anti-coagulant, Coumarins have a relaxing and sedative effect. As these chemicals can be photosensitive, essential oils with these constituents should be used with caution and should not be exposed to the sun. Bergaptene in Bergamot, angelicine in Angelica and Citroptene in Citrus oils are examples of Coumarins.
Essential oil extraction is a subject for study for aromatherapists. This is because, there are so many things involved in extraction of oils from plant parts like roots, flowers, bark, resin, rinds and fruits etc. However, there are several extraction methods which are used to extract essences from plants. These methods are often known only to aromatherapists and aromatherapy students and are often practiced on a small scale. The most popular of the methods is steam distillation. This has been prevalent from the eighth century and practiced by the Arabs, Egyptians and others. Distillation is used only for extraction of oils from leaves, barks, seeds, stems and roots. There are several less known methods of extraction too. They are Expression, Enfleurage, Maceration and Solvent Extraction.
Extraction nuances: Essential oils extraction is not easy as any other industrial processes. Since we deal with delicate raw materials like plant products, it involves nuances of a subtle kind. The percentage of raw materials is to the end result varies depending on type of plant used. The method of extraction and the quality of plant used determines the oil’s value and price. For instance, it takes 12,000 Rose petals to produce 5 ml of Rose essential oil, while 100 kilos of Lavender to produce 3 liters of Lavender oil. As a result, Rose is about 20 times costlier than Lavender in the market. Similarly, raw materials vary from plant to plant, oil to oil. Lavender is extracted from its flower, Orange/citrus fruits from their rinds, Frankincense from the resin of its tree, Cinnamon is taken from its bark while Pine is extracted from its needles. Soil quality, climatic conditions and harvest time/distillation/extraction process of a plant determine an oil’s purity. There are other nuances like – Jasmine flowers must be picked by hand at dawn (if they are for extraction) and Sandalwood must be 30 years old and at least 30 feet high to produce best quality oil.
Essential oils extraction methods: Below is a brief of essential oils extraction methods like Expression, Enfleurage, Maceration and Solvent Extraction.
1. Expression: Most of the citrus fruits like Orange, Lemon, Mandarin, Bergamot and Lime are extracted from this method. This is a simple method which squeezes the rind of fruits to produce essences.
2. Enfleurage: This method uses a fixed oil, mostly a vegetable oil or animal fat or lard. It involves use of a sheet of glass mounted on a wooden frame. The plant part from which the oil is to be extracted (flower petals) should be placed on the sheet, mixed with fixed oil. Then, the whole sheet is placed in the sunlight. Later, this mixture is dissolved in alcohol and evaporated from it during the final process. Rose, Neroli, Jasmine and Violet are usually extracted from this method. Labeled ‘absolute’, enfleurage is quite rare as it is very expensive.
3. Maceration: Maceration is just like Enfleurage which uses a heated up fixed oil to release the essential oil from the plant parts easily.
4. Solvent Extraction: This is a process in which essential oils is extracted from delicate flowers like Rose, Jasmine, Violet or Mimosa. Here, a solvent like petroleum ether is used to extract essential oils which is later dissolved in alcohol. The procedure is like this: flower petals are placed on metal perforated trays. The extracts are called absolutes and are expensive than enfleurage.
When you apply an essential oil ‘neat’, you apply it directly on to your skin, without dilution. Undiluted application of pure essential oils is termed as neat application and leads to several problems, including skin disorders. Though not many people know this, it can result in life-long sensitization to that oil, making one develop skin problems the moment he or she comes in contact with the oil. However, this is a debatable topic as a few aromatherapists, even companies, profess that there is no harm in applying Lavender and Tea Tree oil in a neat way. This is not true and this article will explain why.
The sin of sensitization: Sensitization of skin basically means contact dermatitis of skin. Application of pure essential oils without dilution results in what is called sensitization – severe rash or itchy skin that appears every time your skin comes in contact with that particular oil. For instance, if you apply Lavender oil undiluted, you will develop sensitization every time you come in contact with the oil, even after 20 or 30 years. The proof for this is mentioned by Marge Clark in her famous book, ‘Essential Oils and Aromatics’. To avoid any such skin problems, ALWAYS use essential oils only after dilution. This is a must at least for the topical dilution of essential oils. Because, permanent sensitization can be a curse for life.
How to use essential oils: Though essential oils are natural substances, they can be too tough to handle. That is, overuse or abuse of them can result in problems that maybe otherwise caused by abuse of medicines. This is why it is important to treat them with respect and use them like medicines. Use caution every time you come in contact with an essential oil and ensure that you dilute your oil before topical application. With regard to essential oils, always remember that less is more. Even with minimum drops, you can reap maximum benefit. Similarly, avoid using essential oils that are hazardous or have the potential to cause skin irritation. These include: Bay Laurel, Benzoin, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, Oregano, Fir Needle, Parsley, Needle, Sage, Tagetes, Thyme and Spruce. Avoid oils like Anise, Bay Laurel, Benzoin, Fennel, Cassia, Catnip, Cinnamon, Citronella, Clove, Peru Balsam, Pine, Star Anise, Tagetes, Melissa, Oakmoss and others that cause sensitization.
Diluting essential oils – methods: A simple and easiest way to dilute essential oils is to add 12 drops of pure oils to 1 fl. Oz (30 ml) of carrier oil. This means a 2% dilution and involves no complex measurements. Though the mixture is not of appropriate measurements, this 2% dilution is enough to ensure that pure essential oils are blended well with carrier oils and do not cause harm on topical application.
Raindrop Therapy (pure application) is said to advocate use of pure oils. Avoid the therapy or check well with aromatherapists before going for any such undiluted topical application of oils.
You need to be very careful while using essential oils. This is because oils can have contraindications on account of their high concentration and pure properties. Neat or undiluted applications of aromatherapy oils can result in skin problems and even life long sensitizations. To avoid trouble, get to know which oils need to be avoided at different times/situations of life and which are safe to be used. One of the most commonly used oils is Lavender. It is said that Lavender oil is harmless even if applied neat, but this is not true. Also, Lavender oil can be used in a variety of sensitive applications like during times of pregnancy, child birth and for babies. No wonder Lavender oil is often called the mother of oils. It is soothing, relaxing and extremely pleasing to everyone who uses it. These are the reasons Lavender oil finds usage in many applications. First, we will take a look at the dos and don’ts of Lavender oil.
Lavender – The Mother of Oils: As mentioned earlier, Lavender oil is revered by many aromatherapists for its multifarious healing properties. Pregnant women can use Lavender oil anytime, except the first trimester. But use only ½ of the strength of the oil as heavy dose of essential oils are not recommended during pregnancy. Lavender oil helps in reducing blood pressure. If you happen to have low blood pressure, be careful when you use the oil. Similarly, the oil has proved to be safe for babies, even the 6-week infants. If your baby has a stomach upset, rub Lavender oil in a circular, clockwise motion on the baby’s tummy. You can add a drop or two of the oil on baby’s items – pillows or toys – to give the baby a general well-being and good bath. However, you can start using the oils only after 6 weeks of infancy and should avoid it for a week, when you go for vaccination.
Lavender dosage to people: For an infant who is just born, you can use Lavender oil only after 6 weeks, that it more than 1 ½ months. For babies aged from 1 to 5 years should have 2 drops of Lavender per 1 tbs of carrier oil. For use of children from 6 to 12 years of age, use 1 drop of essential oil per 2 tsp of carrier oil. For adults, 2 to 5 drops of essential oil per tsp of carrier oil, while for the elderly, use ½ strength of the dose used for adults. For pregnant women, use 1 drop of essential oil per 2 tsp of carrier oil. But, there are different opinions on why and how oils should be used.
Essential oils to avoid: Several essential oils are to be avoided if you have skin disorders, if you are pregnant or if you have heart problems/pain with your body. You can be sensitive and allergic to anything, so keep in mind while using essential oils safely:
1. Avoid Bay Rum, Roman and German Chamomile, Clary Sage, Juniper, Rose, Spearmint, Black Spruce, Thyme etc. during pregnancy.
2. For skin problems, skin irritation or sensitive skin, avoid Bay Rum, Bergamot, Citronella, Ginger, Lemon Yellow, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Scotch Pine, Black Spruce, Sweet Orange, Tangerine, Thyme etc. as they may aggravate the disorder and sensitize the skin further.
3. Safe oils to use: Red Myrtle, Palmarosa, Pink Pepper, Ravensara, Spruce, Tea tree, Vanilla, Vetiver and others.
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids and hence should be handled with care. The moment we tell this, people are panicky and decide to abhor essential oils altogether. This is not required. You need not abhor the whole clan of essential oils for the sake of the caustic effects of a few oils. It is enough if you get clear-headed about the myths surrounding essential oils and the steps needed to avoid the un-safe use of aroma therapeutic oils.
Essential oil safety myths: When something is considered pure, of high value and is a bit unfamiliar, generally, there are two ways of approach to it – under-use or over-use. Yes, people may become paranoiac and refrain from using essential oils or may abuse it by overusing it without following any kind of safety information. This article will explain to you the safety myths surrounding essential oils usage and what best practices ensure the safe use of oils. By following the tips given below, you can pave your way to pure and unadulterated use of aromatherapy. You can even consult your physician or expert aromatherapist in case of doubt.
1. Lavender, Tea Tree can be used undiluted on skin: A myth prevails that Lavender and Tea Tree oil can be used undiluted on skin texture for better therapeutic effect. This is wrong. Whatever be the quality of Lavender, a pure essential oil, when used on skin, can make you extra-sensitive. There have been reported cases of severe sensitivity, where individuals feel the impact of pure Lavender oil even after 10 years or so. If you happen to apply these pure oils on broken skin, it turns all the more worse. So, be careful while using essential oils. Undiluted oils are not meant for application, howsoever soft or fruitful the oil is projected to be. If you ignore this rule, you will be suffering from sensitization forever.
2. Not all individuals are ok with essential oils: Some individuals can respond with allergic reactions to oils. Most of such people will contract dermatitis every time they come in contact with essential oils. To avoid such skin outbreaks, use essential oils only after you do a skin patch test. Apply a drop of essential oil and stick a bandage over it. Wait for 24 hours and check your skin condition after that. Even if a particular oil is supposed to be soothing on your skin, don’t venture into skin application without a patch test. You will save a lot of trouble in future.
3. Essential oils can be ingested: The worst of myths. Essential oils are not for ingestion and cannot be consumed even if they are harmless or diluted. Only after a detailed consultation with a reputed aromatherapist, your general physician and your family members, you can engage in the intake of essential oils.
4. Essential oils are suitable for any kind of ailment: No. Some oils have contraindications and hence should be avoided at all costs. Most of the oils are not suitable for therapy during pregnancy, after child birth, in case of diseases like asthma, epilepsy, cancer etc. Check thoroughly whether an oil is suitable for your ailment and whether it has any side effects with other ailments you have, before using it.
Buying essential oils is an art. Indeed, it is. This is because, when you buy, you buy with credibility in the purity of oils and the quality of the manufacturer. But mishaps do happen and your oil sometimes grows old, starts stinking or becomes imbalanced and invalid for use. This is why it is important to look for quality signs while buying. Above all, buying essential oils can be fun. You can try out any number of recipes even as an amateur. If safety precautions are adhered to, essential oils are safe and proper to use. You also get to know the shades of a blend, its top, middle and base notes while buying oils. In brief, you get a practical, down-to-earth knowledge on how to buy oils that would not trouble you in future and have a long life. This article will detail to you on what to monitor and look for while buying different essential oils.
Buying essential oils – Tips: When you buy essential oils, you may have to look up for one of the following things. The underlying fact is, you need to compare oils and choose the best out of them. Below are a few tips on how to do this:
1. Sniff and compare brands: Very important. An essential oil is first known by its scent/smell. If you are someone who wants to compare between two or more brands of essential oils, you need to sniff and find out the differences. Keep the oils at a distance of about 5 inches from your nose and compare/identify oils you like. Never use undiluted oil which is strong and can cause you headaches. Take breaks while comparing different scents/brands. This is because pure oils can enter our blood stream and invigorate all our senses. This would make every oil look the same and of the same aroma.
2. Look for label information: This is a must if you are intent on buying quality oils. Look for the Latin name and soil/growth information of the oils. Check if the essential oils are full of natural aromatics without any synthetics. Check if the oil is formulated to contain only the safe/allowed level of each ingredient included in it. Check for the date of harvest, month of distillation and packaging etc. This will give you a clue of how old an essential oil is.
3. Check for therapeutic, non-aromatic properties: An essential oil, if it is pure and of high quality, should have more of therapeutic, than aromatic properties. For instance, an oil like Tea Tree is a natural germ fighter, while German Chamomile is a killer anti-inflammatory that does not smell good. Check if the oil you buy can be used for any of these purposes: treatment of common ailments, emotional well-being, skin care, personal care, hygiene products, for massaging, personal/room/home fragrancing, cleaning and anti-microbial protection. If your oil is not therapeutic and is only aromatic, we suggest you to not buy it. This is because you can substitute such aromatic oils with other liquid materials like hydrosols, absolutes or CO2s.
Similarly, do not buy oils that have been diluted with carrier oils. You can find this out by pouring a drop of the oil on to a tissue paper. If the oil leaves a stain after evaporation, gather that it is not pure.
Essential oils are not ordinary liquids that can be disposed off readily down the drain or in the garden. They are highly concentrated liquids which require proper mode of disposal. Since people are used to storing essential oils in ½ oz bottles, they tend to forget that oils are flammable substances and should be treated with care even while disposing. Essential oils are just like hazardous materials that can be compared to pharmaceuticals, paint thinners, chemicals, gasoline and fuels. You cannot dump them in your garbage can or flush them down the drain. Chances are, these oils may come in contact with water supplies, vegetation and other important organisms on the soil and spoil them for life. This is why there needs to be a structured way of disposing essential oils. This article will throw light on how to do that.
Why is disposing essential oils important? First, you might wonder why you should dispose off essential oils considering their therapeutic value and uses. There are reasons. Essential oils can age with time and lose their therapeutic properties as years pass by. Some oils can go rancid and emit a foul smell, or a smell that is unlikely of pleasant aromas. Other oils can grow stale and be of no use. The problem of disposal is more if these oils are blends – mixed with vegetable or carrier oils. While pure essential oils at least evaporate with time, blends prepared with carrier oils are heavy and take a lot of time to vaporize. Another reason is, if bad essential oils come in contact with elderly people or children or pets in your home, the result can be devastating. When essential oils age, they cannot be used in skin care or for direct application. This complicates your problem of clearing them off your shelf. If you want to cope up with all these harmful effects of a bad/rancid essential oil, you can use the below guidelines to dispose them off.
How to dispose essential oils safely? It is always easy to dispose off small quantities of essential oils. But understand that with regard to concentric oils like essential oils, even less is more. Adding 2 or 3 drops down your toilet drain for aromatic purposes is fine, but making it a mode of disposal is not recommended. Especially so if you have a large inventory of oils to be disposed. Below are a few steps to help you out:
1. Contact the Waste Management Department of your region/community/city. Get from them tips on how to dispose essential oils. Some of their procedures may sound unreasonable and too complicated. But they are no big if you are willing to take on them. Follow the procedures and dispose all your essential stuff.
2. Most of the procedures recommends mixing the highly concentrated oils with an inert substance like sand and sealing them in an approved container. You can look into the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the oils from your retailer or supplier. This sheet will have all the details on product safety, guidelines to follow during disposal, harms that the product/oil can inflict etc. Follow the MSDS and stick to it.
3. Another popular way of disposing essential oils is to dig a hole in your garden and pour your oils into it. However, you need to check how this may affect the growth of your garden plants and whether it will have an impact on your underground water system.
4. The best way is to find other uses for remaining oils. But for this, you need to first detect in which way your oils have aged – therapeutic or aromatic. If your oils have lost their aromas, you can get a load of old couch roll and pour it onto it and wrap in a bag and throw it in the bin. The oil will vaporize in a short period of time. If your oils have lost their therapeutic properties, you can always find aromatic uses for them as toilet fresheners, for drain scenting etc.
There are multifarious essential oils in the market and you do not get to use all of them for your recipes. Yes, there are times when you lack certain oils for your essential oil blends or recipes. This can be devastating if you have built your hopes on a particular recipe and cannot imagine forgoing it. Say, you have been using a particular diffuser for your home-office and all of a sudden, you cannot find a particular oil to prepare the blend you are used to – it can be terrible if you are a person who takes time to accustom yourself to blends. In such a case, without letting doom befall on you, you can substitute the required oils with other essential oils. But there are rules for substitution and those should not be taken lightly.
Substituting essential oils: As you would have deemed, it is not easy to substitute essential oils with other similar oils. You need to know a few things before you do that – 1. the properties of both the oils (both aromatic and therapeutic properties), 2. the blending nature of the oil that replaces the originals, 3. the purity and quality of the oil that replaces. You need to choose from the same family of oils while substituting stuff. Also, you need to decide on your purpose behind substituting essential oils. If it is just for aromatic purposes, you can choose from oils of the same family of aromas – floral, earthy, spicy, citrus etc. If you want to substitute for therapeutic purposes, you need to take into account only the therapeutic benefit of the oil that replaces the original one.
How to substitute essential oils: Most of the substitutions are aromatic. This is because one cannot gauge the aroma of the oil that will be created if one substitutes for therapeutic purposes. And since you go only by the therapeutic properties, you can hardly expect a pleasant aroma. On the other hand, if you are substituting essential oils for aromatic purposes, you can do so by using oils from the same aroma family.
For instance, you can substitute Mandarin oil with Sweet Orange as both have a similar aroma. Though Rose Otto and Rose Geranium do not complement each other in properties, the aromas are a bit similar and you can substitute one for the other. Similarly, you can substitute Lemon for Grapefruit, Tangerine for Sweet Orange, Lavender for Lavendin, Spearmint for Peppermint, Benzoin Resin for Vanilla Absolute and Clove for Cinnamon (as both are spices) or vice versa. In much the same way, you can substitute and replace Neroli oil, Jasmine oil and Ylang Ylang oil. Though all three are different from each other in almost everything, they have the same aroma and that makes a huge difference when it comes to substituting the right oils.
Therapeutic substitution of oils follows a different thumb rule and all properties of both the oils used should be studied carefully before substituting one with the other.