| Latin Name: aloysia triphylla syn. lippia citriodora, verbena triphylla, lippia triphylla
Alternative Name: yerba louisa, cedron, herb louisa, verveine citronelle or odorante, lemon-scented verbena
Forms Available: Leaf, flower Lemon Verbena – aloysia triphylla syn. Lippia citriodora – Lemon Verbena has strongly lemon-scented whorls of three or four leaves along its stems and panicles of tiny, pale summer flowers. The leaves are used to flavor drinks and fruit and sweet dishes, and to make herb tea. The tea is refreshing and mildly sedative. The leaves also yield a green coloring and essential oil. The leaves and flowering tops are used to lower fevers and to relieve gas and indigestion. Lemon Verbena is calming, a sedative for the nerves. Steep two teaspoons per cup of water for twenty minutes and take one-fourth cup four times a day. Stimulating to the skin, lemon verbena makes a good facial scrub for pimples and blemishes. To make the scrub, grind the dry herb or use the powder and mix in a little natural clay and ground oatmeal, add water to make a paste.
Aromatherapy & Health Uses: The leaves and flowering tops are used to lower fevers and to relieve gas and indigestion. Lemon Verbena is calming, a sedative for the nerves. Other Uses: Often sold simply as “Verbena” This full lemon-scented essential oil is wonderful in love blends. Added to other mixtures to increase their strength, and is also used to purify an area or is added to bathwater for protection and purification purposes.
By now, you should know that apart from pure essential oils, there are other oils like carrier oils, infused oils, resins and CO2s. Infused oils are as good as essential oils in their therapeutic properties as they are infused with the immune qualities of a herb. In general, an infused oil is a carrier oil “infused” with the wisdom of one or more herbs. Infused oils are more beneficial than carrier oils as they combine the holistic healing properties of both carrier oils and the herbs used.
What are infused oils? Why is there a necessity for infusing essential oils? Some of the plants do not have essential oils to protect them. Their immune mechanism is different and it is very difficult to extract essential oils from such plants. Infused oils bring out the healing qualities of such plants. By infusing such herbs into carrier oils, we infuse the health quotient of those herbs into the carrier oil of our choice. This is especially very useful for aromatherapy purposes as you can use even infuse popular oils with herbs to add to the therapeutic grade of the oils.
Properties of infused oils: Infused oils are no different from carrier oils or essential oils in properties. They are more therapeutic than base oils as they carry the strength of herbs in them. However, most of the infused oils are a bit oily and like carrier oils, can go rancid if not prepared or stored well. It is essential for you to read the safety information on carrier oils/herbs before preparing an infused oil recipe. This is because certain herbs may go rancid if used without caution. There are several ways to prepare infused oils. Two most popular ways are – 1. Preparation of Hot Infused Oils and 2. Preparation of Cold Infused Oils.
How to make Infused Oils: Making infused oils can be very useful and can be used in bath water, as body powder and in even food and other aromatherapy recipes. For instance, you can infuse basil into Olive oil, Calendula into Sweet Almond oil etc. While the former will make a great salad dressing, the latter is a remarkable skin toner.
Hot Infused Oils: Hot Infused oils are prepared in low heat. To make a hot infused oil, you will need the following supplies – Double Boiler, Cheese cloth, 250 g of herbs, 3 cups of carrier oil of your choice – Olive oil, Sunflower oil, Sweet Almond oil and Avocado oil. Place the herbs in double boiler and cover with oil. Let the mixture simmer for 3 hours. Stir well and see to it that the herbs are infused into the oils. Remove from heat after the herbs are fully infused and filter the whole blend through a cheese cloth. Then, pour the oil into bottle and store in a cool, dark place.
Cold Infused Oils: You require the same supplies for this, except for the stove. Dry the herbs completely and place them in a large jar. Add oil and keep the mixture in sunlight for about 2 to 6 weeks. The infusion process will take place in the presence of sun.
When aromatherapy was in its nascent stages (as a science of healing in ancient civilizations), floral waters were in vogue. The Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans were known to have used hydrosols extensively for their healing and aesthetic properties. Since essential oils were produced only by the methods of solvent extraction, the Middle Ages paid little attention to essential oils and revered the hydrosols more. With the advent of the science of essential oils and aromatherapy, the floral waters suffered a backlash again. Only in the early 20th century, the aromatic pendulum shifted and hydrosols came to be recognized for their therapeutic properties.
What are hydrosols? Hydrosols are derived from the terms “hydro” (meaning water) and “sol” (meaning solution). These are left-over waters that remain in the extraction container after the steam-distillation of a plant. Hydrosols or hydrolates or hydrolats, by whatever terms the waters be called, they mean the same. These condensate waters contain everything that was in the plant and are often more aromatic than even the essential oils. When essential oils are produced using steam distillation, not all the healing and aromatic principles of the plant are captured. But the waters contain the condensate of whatever the plant had when it was alive and growing.
It is wrong to call hydrosols as floral waters as such waters are not just extracted from the flowers. They are extracted from almost everything – herbs, needles, roots, woods, plants, barks, seeds etc. Hydrosols retain the healing properties of plants or herbs in their most pristine form. Even essential oils may contain a residue of solvents in them, with hydrosols you need not have any such worry. They are always pure and 100% natural.
Healing Hydrosols: Hydrosols were not used in the Middle Ages owing to problems with logistics of transportation. Since their healing properties were too less known, people preferred using the smart and neatly-packed essential oils (which work by drops) to the heavy waters of hydrosols. But the 20th century saw hydrosols in a new light and started using it in aromatherapy and general, day-to-day use. Hydrosols are affected by weather changes, climate and soil conditions as a plant’s internal chemistry changes with respect to everything in its environment. So, if you find difference between hydrosols of a same plant, don’t blame it on the manufacturer, but the country and region in which the plants were grown.
Hydrosols are versatile healing waters. They can be used in a multitude of ways – from personal care and general hygiene to skin and hair care. Below are a few uses of hydrosols:
1. Skin care: Use hydrosols of rose, orange blossom (neroli) and lavender to hydrate skin and cool dry or sensitive skin conditions. Sun-burns can be soothed and cured by these hydrosols.
2. Dark circles: Nothing works miraculously on dark circles like chamomile hydrosols. Just place two cotton wool pads soaked in chamomile waters on your eyes regularly around for 10 minutes and see your dark circles disappear.
3. Body coolant: Peppermint is the ultimate body coolant on sultry summers. They do not just hydrate you, but also offer a calm effect.
4. Washing/Laundry: Use a few drops of rose or neroli waters in the final rinse water of your washing cycle to get a hygienic and aromatic wash. You can even use them as a fragrant to perfume your linen while ironing.
5. Babies: Hydrosols of lavender or chamomile can be added to baby’s bathwater, used in treatment of eczema, diaper rashes and to calm restlessness.
Apart from these, you can use hydrosols in the following situations also:
6. Use hydrosols as a facial mist or toner to cleanse the dirt in your face.
7. Add hydrosols in your bathwater for a natural, aromatic and homeopathic bath experience.
8. Use hydrosols in hair care to treat damaged hair or as a wonderful conditioner that makes hair grow healthy and strong.
9. You can use hydrosols to treat wounds, open cuts, bruises and many types of injuries. They are harmless and do not cause any serious irritations or side effects.
Essential oils are definitely wonder oils that can treat many ailing conditions. They bring about a miraculous cure when applied on body parts or inhaled through the nose. They can treat and alleviate viral infections, skin conditions, pain and aches, symptoms of various chronic illnesses etc. They also calm an individual’s mental state, promote cell regeneration and relieve stress, anxiety and pain – physical, psychological and emotional.
Toxic essential oils: Though essential oils can do all these, one has to remember that they are potent compounds that are highly concentrated. Some essential oils can be toxic to the human body. When used in massage therapy or ingested internally, they can produce hazardous and allergic reactions, resulting in fatal conditions. There are a list of pure essential oils which are not used in aromatherapy owing to their ill nature. Some oils carry a high risk of oral or dermal toxicity and hence no essential oil should be taken internally without guidance from a qualified and licensed medical practitioner. Some oils need to be diluted for practical use or to avoid side effects like skin irritation.
Below is a list of essential oils that are harmful and should be avoided in aromatherapy:
1. Sweet Birch oil: This oil has the same ingredient found in drugs like aspirin (methyl salicylate) and hence should be avoided. If you are already on aspirin, then, using this oil could mean an overdose.
2. Bitter Almond oil: Cyanide or Prussic acid is the main constituent of bitter almond oil. Just like the cyanide, taking small amounts of the oil can have lethal effects.
3. Calamus oil: Though the oil is used topically for a lot of ailments like headaches, vertigo and nerve problems, oral intake of it can be dangerous. It has asorone which has carcinogenic properties and can result in convulsions, kidney or liver damages.
4. Camphor oil: Camphor oil is a single compound monoterpene which is toxic to the nervous system, causing mental confusion, nausea and vomiting if taken internally. However, the oil is used in treatment of nasal congestion, chest problems and in pain relief.
5. Tansy oil: Tansy oil can be fatal to anyone. It contains thujone, a highly poisonous substance which causes convulsions, uterine bleeding, vomiting, respiratory problems and cardiac arrest.
6. Mustard oil: Mustard oil contain allyl isothiocyanate which is a toxic skin and mucus membrane irritant.
7. Pennyroyal oil: The herb is used in treatment of irregular menstrual cycles, PMS etc. But the oil, which is toxic, is an abortifacient that can result in lung and liver damages.
8. Wormseed oil: Earlier wormseed oil was used to kill round and hookworms in children and adults. But later it was found out that the oil caused liver and kidney damages, suppression of heart beat, neurotoxicity and general toxicity in the body.
9. Wintergreen oil: Like the Sweet Birch oil, this too contains methyl salicylate which is similar to aspirin. Though it is used in relief of pain and aches due to arthritis or rheumatism, it is highly toxic and can be a poisonous skin irritant.
10. Savin oil: Savin or Juniperus sabina is toxic due to the presence of sabinene, sabinol and sabinyl acetate, which are skin irritants and abortifacients.
11. Wormwood: With thujone, neurotoxin and convulsant as active ingredient, wormwood is abhorred by aromatherapists due its abortifacient properties and absinthe constituents.
Essential oils can be used in babies and children, but caution should be a constant in such usage. Though essential oils are regarded high for their therapeutic value, they can play havoc with a child’s life or health if not used properly.
Essential oils for babies: According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), it is best to avoid use of essential oils in children under the age of two due to a number of reasons. Some of these reasons are:
1. Liver and kidney damages: A baby’s liver and kidneys are still under the stage of development when the baby is below 2 years old. Since essential oils stay in the body for a longer period of time, babies may have problem excreting them in case of a heavy dose.
2. Silicone and mineral based: Essential oils may bind to the components in silicone and mineral based baby products, making it difficult for absorption of oils by the body. Also, the body loses its ability to eliminate such oils.
3. Skin barriers: A baby’s skin pores are smaller than in adults. When too many lotions, soaps and oils are used on it, the skin pores may get clogged, making it difficult for the skin to eliminate body wastes. This is why it is advised that babies, toddlers and children should be given only oils with lesser dilutions.
However, the TGA does not rule out the use of essential oils in babies under medical supervision. Before you plan to subject your baby to aromatherapy, consult a licensed aromatherapist on the options available. Essential oils can remove diaper rashes, cure skin disorders, colic problems, common cold and a wide assortment of ailments or conditions in a baby or child.
Safest essential oils: Due to the above reasons, it is better if you operate on well-known safe oils. To start with, you need to experiment with one or two oils on your baby. Also, you need to ensure that you know the proper application techniques and dilution methods. Essential oils should not be applied without diluting them with carrier oils, however over-proportion of carrier oils can result clogging of pores. So, use the right kind of oils in the right measures. Below are a few safe essential oils you can use for your baby or child:
1. Jojoba oil: Both a carrier oil and an essential oil, jojoba is safe for skin and is highly recommended for babies. It is effective in treating skin disorders in children, including diaper rashes, skin sensitivities etc.
2. Lavender oil: Most of the baby products have lavender oil in their ingredients. A mild and delicate oil, it has a pleasant and soothing aroma and produces a relaxing effect on the baby’s nerves. It can be used to cure sleeping disorders in babies.
3. Almond oil: Ideal oil for baby skin care. It can protect the baby from possible skin conditions by regular usage, by adding to your baby’s bath or regularly massaging after bath. The nut ingredients in the oil can be allergic to certain babies, so ensure that your baby is not allergic to almond oil by doing a skin patch test before application.
4. Chamomile oil: This oil provides skin care and pain relief in infants. Several baby products have chamomile as their main ingredient owing to its natural healing properties. It prevents dampness in baby’s bottom and cures diaper rashes. It also heals sores, inflammations and other serious skin conditions.
5. Rosemary oil: A popular herb, it can be used in skin care in babies and children. The oil also stimulates the immune system and enhances digestive and circulatory functions of the body.
Aromatherapy is a unique science that demands great care and attention from the practitioner. And not everyone can master it. Anyone new to essential oils can be confused with the name tags associated to groups of oils. A beginner can be baffled by terms like Base Oils, Carrier Oils, Hydrosols, Vegetable Oils, all and sundry. If you are illiterate about essential oils, you may assume all these oils to be of one variety or may think they fall into different categories. You may even confuse essential fatty oils with aromatherapeutic oils. To avoid all such confusion, this article will brief on the differences (and similarities) between Essential Oils, Base Oils, Carrier Oils and Hydrosols.
Essential Oils: As you must have by now known, essential oils are extracts from the root, bark, stem, leaves and aromatic portions of the plant. There are several extraction methods in practice like the steam distillation method, cold-pressing method and solvent extraction method to produce essential oils of absolute or concrete kinds. Essential oils are thin oils with strong aromas. They evaporate pretty quickly and are classified into Top Notes, Middle Notes and Base Notes based on their evaporation levels. Essential oils do not go rancid over time, but they can oxidize and often lose their therapeutic properties. Every essential oil should be within a particular therapeutic grade to be effective. Very diluted oils yield no sort of therapeutic benefit and are no better than aromatic fragrances. Essential oils should be stored in tinted glass bottles in dark, cool places to avoid evaporation and oxidization.
Carrier Oils: Carrier Oils are vegetable oils that are used to dilute Essential Oils. Since essential oils can cause skin irritations or itching when used in undiluted forms, Carrier Oils are used as base oils to dilute them. Also called as Base Oils, Carrier Oils are derived from the fatty portion of plants like seeds, nuts and kernels. Since each Carrier Oil has its own set of therapeutic benefits, an essential oil’s value, worth and effectiveness depends on the proportion and properties of Carrier Oils used in the blend.
Natural skin care products, body lotions, bath oils, lip balms and other skin products are produced using Carrier Oils. From a simple oil to a complex blend, Carrier Oil can make huge differences to the properties of Essential Oils with which they are mixed. They can change the aroma, color, texture, shelf life and quality of essential oils in aromatherapy. Carrier Oils are either odorless or have faint, nutty odor. They turn rancid in a short period of time and hence have to be bought and used immediately. They do not evaporate readily as Essential Oils and hence are mixed with them during massages and topical applications.
Base Oils: Base Oils or Fixed Oils are nothing but vegetable oils, used as Carrier Oils. However, it should be noted that not all Base Oils/Fixed Oils are vegetable oils. Especially, animal-based oils are not used in aromatherapy work.
Hydrosols: Hydrosols are floral waters that are byproducts of the distillation process of plants. First used by American herbalist Jeanne Rose in 1990, Hydrosols are referred also as distillate waters. Anti-inflammatory and water soluble, Hydrosols are used in general skin care. They are also free of irritants and hence can be used in children and adults as well. Sometimes, they are even ingested into the body owing to their antiseptic, styptic and refreshing properties. They serve as natural substitutes of tonic lotions used in the cosmetic industry.
The medical world has gradually warmed up to the functions of essential oils as antibiotics. Though essential oils have been in practice for ages, it is but recently the scientific, especially the antibiotic properties of essential oils have been recognized and recommended for use in treating viral diseases and acting as disinfectants. These essential oils do not just cure viral or bacterial infections, but rev-up the immune system also.
Essential Oils as Antiviral Oils: You may wonder how can an oily substance that is but a plant extract be effective in treatment of several ailments. Essential oils are not just ordinary plant extracts. They are the life-blood of plants. They support a plant’s immune system and prevent it from infections and viral attacks. Since essential oils are basically concentric absolutes, they are highly effective plant extracts. With oxygen, carbon dioxide and so many common nutrients between plants and essential oils, these plant extracts act as antibiotics in the human body. There are several essential oils with antiviral properties. These oils prevent and cure viral infections when massaged or applied topically or when used in aromatherapy.
How do antiviral essential oils work? Many essential oils work by the following ways: They stop virus replication; they improve efficiency of white blood cells; they change the electrical potential of cell walls and make them immune-supportive. Some essential oils are highly antimicrobial, owing to their bactericidal and antiseptic properties.
Antiviral essential oils: There are a few essential oils which have the reputation of treating viral infections like herpes, skin disorders, influenza etc. Below are a list of such oils:
1. Strong antiviral oils: Melissa, Ravensara, Clove, Cinnamon, Oregano and Thyme are some of the well-known essential oils with antiviral properties and immune-supportive characteristics. Of all of them, Melissa and Ravensara have strong abilities to combat viral infections. If you have to deal with virus or pathogen, you can rely on Clove, Cinnamon, Oregano as they are high on phenol and reduce inflammation or infectious conditions. However, these oils can cause skin irritations if used without carrier oils. So, dilute them with appropriate, therapeutic base oils before aromatherapy.
2. Cold sores treatment: Melissa oil, peppermint oil, spearmint oil and bergamot oil are effective in fighting cold sores. They reduce the inflammation and pain drastically when applied immediately after outbreaks.
3. Immune-supportive oils: Some essential oils help generate more white blood cells. They stimulate the body to produce more immunity resistance. Such essential oils are lavender oil, bergamot oil, lemon oil, niaouli, rosemary, tea tree, and ravensara.
4. Influenza and respiratory infections: Eucalyptus, Radiata, Rosemary and Ravensara can be used as complements to regular medical care. These oils do not just relieve the patient of infection, but also speed up the recovery process and protect from further damage. These oils can also be applied regularly to lymph nodes for better results.
While using essential oils as antiviral oils, it should be understood that different plant families exhibit varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the virus strain. Healing depends on the molecular structures of the oils, the extent to which they penetrate the human body and structure of the virus strain. So, cure is possible only when appropriate, therapeutic grade oils are used in the right measures.
Essential oils are highly beneficial health care products. What distinguishes them from other medicinal products are their drug-free, side effects-free, safety properties. When you use an essential oil for a particular ailment, you can be sure of getting cured without hiccups. Essential oils do not interact with other oral medications too. On the whole, they are 100% safe irrespective of the person on whom they are administered.
Types of essential oils: Essential oils are differentiated or grouped by their extraction methods. Nowadays different methods are used in extraction, but the most common and prevalent methods are: Steam Distillation, Cold Pressing and Solvent Extraction. Based on these methods, essential oils can be classified into four different types: 1.Steam-distilled, 2. Expressed, 3. Solvent-extracted and 4. Absolutes or concretes.
1. Steam-distilled oils: Steam distillation is the oldest and traditional method of oil extraction. Pure aromatherapy oils are extracted through this process as it yields pristine oil, free from impurities. The process works like this: Plant material is placed in a container and steam is passed through it. Heat from the steam opens pockets of plant containing aromatic molecules and oils. When released, these molecules rise with the steam and pass through a closed system. After this, the aromatic steam is passed through a cooling process and is distilled with cold water. During this process, the essential plant oils condense and transform into liquid state. The liquid mixture is separated later into two – essential oils and aromatic water or hydrosol.
Steam distillation takes into account a variety of things, including the pressure of steam passed through plant material, the coolant used, the temperature of the closed system during production of oil etc. An oil’s quality and purity is based on all these factors and the skill of the distiller. Reputed distillers’ oils are rated high owing to the quality and purity of their extracts.
2. Cold-pressed or Expressed oils: This is a method used to extract oils from the citrus family of fruits. Oils are produced from the rind of fruits like tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, oranges and others. Though they should be known only as expressed oils, they are classified under essential oils due to their high therapeutic value. Using mechanical pressure, oils are forced out of the fruits in juice form. Since the juicy form of oils contain a lot of water, a separation process is carried out to separate oils from water. One downside to this method is, cold-pressed oils get spoilt quickly than other oils. So it is recommended that these oils are bought in small quantities and refilled whenever required.
3. Solvent Extracted Oils: Some plant material cannot tolerate heat (in steam form) or be subjected to cold-pressing. When they are subjected to any such method, the oil thus produced may be contaminated or impure in quality. To avoid this, some plants like Jasmine, Rose, Orange Blossom (Neroli), Tuberose and Oak are extracted through solvents. Solvents such as ethanol, ether, methanol, hexane, alcohol, and petroleum are used to extract essential oils.
The process works like this: Plant material is first passed on through hydrocarbon solvents. Then, the solvent mixture is filtered and distilled in low pressure to produce essential oils. A downside to this method is that, sometimes, solvent residues remain in the oils. This can cause allergic reactions in certain individuals.
4. Absolutes or concretes: Absolute oils are essences that are obtained by extraction of a concrete with alcohol. A concrete is generally the solid waxy residue that remains after extraction of oils by solvents (especially hexane).
Essential oils are efficient in treating several ailments in the human body. They are very different from vegetable or fatty oils and are non-greasy, anti-microbial, transport oxygen, and do not clog the skin pores. Essential oils work in a specific way to cure illnesses. This is because they are highly complex substances which are mosaics of hundreds of natural chemicals.
Essential oils and the human body: Any average essential oil may contain about 80 to 400 known chemical constituents that combine together to have a therapeutic effect on the body. These are natural chemicals that are useful in protecting plants from several environmental attacks. By supplying essential oils to the body, you can protect it from bacterial and viral infections, and deliver proper oxygen and nutrients to cells. Since carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are common to both plants and humans, these plant oils also digest toxic waste in the body. They also have a lipid-soluble structure that makes them compatible with human body.
Historical methods of healing through Essential Oils: Essential oils were historically used in three different methods called the French, the German and the English methods. The English method dilutes drops of essential oils in vegetable oil and uses the mixture in massages, body relaxation techniques etc. The French follow the oral method of healing. They swallow therapeutic essential oils internally for quick healing effects. Many French practitioners believed that essential oils were extremely useful when taken orally. The Germans recommended the inhalation of oils and engaged in aromatherapy. This has been scientifically proved to be a good method as the aromatic compounds of the oils have a strong effect on the brain, especially the hormone center of the body (hypothalamus) and the seat of emotions or the limbic region.
Major ways of healing: Three major healing methods are practiced in aromatherapy to bring about the therapeutic effects of essential oils. Though there are several other methods to bring cure, these are the most common methods that are known to every aromatherapy practitioner.
1. Pharmacological: In the pharmacological method, essential oils enter the blood stream through lungs. Candles, air fresheners, inhalers and room sprays are used in this treatment. By controlling or reacting with different hormones and enzymes, the essential oils produce chemical changes in the body.
2. Physiological: In the physiological method, essential oils are made to enter the body through skin. With products such as lotions or massage oils, essential oils are absorbed through the skin in order to treat ailments. When applied to the affected area, they cause human body systems to become sedated, energized and stimulated. This method works especially well with physical ailments related to muscles, body pain, headaches, injuries and wounds.
3. Psychological: Psychological way is through the brain. Like the German method, this way is through inhalation. By inhaling an essential oil, you can have a strong impact on the brain and the hormonal system of the body. This method is often said to bring peace, happiness and feelings of sedation into an anxious and otherwise-restless body. By inhaling, you can also avoid oral intake and cure your conditions in a safe, natural and drug-free way.
Since aromatherapy does not interfere with any of the medications, its benefits are numerous. All the major ways of healing work to bring a calm and relaxing effect on the body. When the body is relaxed, the oils act on the enzymes and hormones, curing the ailment for which they are used.