Time to smell the roses…3

lavender oilHere’s a reminder of some of the hints and tips passed on by Julie Payne of Naturally Tip to Toe on last Sunday’s show…

The foundations of aromatherapy, the art and science of using naturally aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonise and promote the health of body, mind and spirit, go back thousands of years…

The ancient Egyptians had a god of fragrance and perfumes and used oils extensively in burial rituals, while both Greek and Roman medicine relied heavily on plants and their products.

But it wasn’t until 1937 that the term ‘aromatherapie’ was coined by French perfumer and chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, in his book of that name – and the first aromatherapy book in English, by Robert Tisserand, was only published in 1977!

A mere one per cent of the world’s plants are classed as aromatic and huge quantities of their petals are required to prepare and produce essential oils. It takes one ton of petals, handpicked from around 120 bitter orange trees, to produce one litre of neroli – and to fill a 10ml bottle of damask rose, the highest-priced oil, one ton of petals has to be picked before or soon after sunrise when their oil content is at its highest.

Genuine Indian sandalwood is almost impossible to buy – the trees take 30 to 40 years to reach maturity, every one of them is numbered and owned by the Indian government which regulates the cultivation, harvesting and sale of products.

And oils are often adulterated – only about 20 tons of lavender are distilled each year in France but export statements declare that 250 tons have been exported so, if you’re using oils for therapeutic reasons, it’s important to check its authenticity.

Using lavender and tea tree for simple self-care

There are many sorts of lavender oil but only two are used widely in aromatherapy – true (or English) lavender and spike lavender.

Smelling more like camphor and less floral, spike lavender is good for aches and pains as it improves the circulation and can also help with respiratory problems such as catarrh and bronchitis.

True lavender is good at healing the skin and is useful for stress, depression, aches, pains and headaches and helping you sleep. It’s also known as a woman’s oil as it’s good for PMS and menopausal symptoms.

But as an adaptagen, its effects will differ depending on how much you use – only two drops will help you to relax and more to stimulate…

Native to Australia but also grown in South Africa, India and Malaysia, tea tree is said to have been given its name for one of two reasons – either because it turns nearby pools of water into a clear brown tea colour due to the tannins from the leaves and twigs that fall into it or because its named after Captain Cook’s crew, who ran out of tea while in Australia and used the tea tree leaves instead!

One of the most scientifically studied of all the essential oils, it’s useful for killing germs, supporting the immune system and is antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal – in fact, it’s pretty much anti-everything!

Used a lot in skin products, it heals wounds quickly and can help neutralise or diminish the scar marks left by acne – but we’re talking the pure essential oil here as tea tree facial products may include other chemicals such as parabens and other by-products of the petrochemical industry which may cause sensitisation.

Use lavender in the bath to help you relax, 5-10 drops in a suitable carrier such as milk, Epson salts or unscented shower gel: inhale it and it goes through your skin.

Tea tree oil will help head colds and blocked sinuses – use neat on a tissue or as an inhalant, blended with eucalyptus for blocked noses or lavender to fight off a cold, adding five to seven drops of the oils to three litres of hot water.

For massage, the rule of thumb is five to eight drops of oil per 10ml of carrier oil for small areas or one to six drops for a full body massage.

Lavender and tea tree are the only two oils Julie would apply directly to the skin and used neat she suggests

  • A couple of drops of lavender for headaches
  • Tea tree on spots or wounds
  • Lavender for itchy insect bites, tea tree if they are infected
  • Lavender for burns

A few important words of caution – in some rare cases, people may be overly sensitive to the oil, as a form of a minor allergenic. And there have been numerous reports of people who have accidentally consumed tea tree oil –  this should be strictly avoided and tea tree oil should always be kept away from pets and children.

Using oils in the home

Using a diffuser or cotton wool balls on radiators in the colder months, try

  • Rosemary for alertness
  • Lavender for relaxation
  • Eucalyptus as a decongestant
  • Lemon as an antiseptic

For general household freshening

  • For a quick and easy natural air freshener, put a bowl of boiling water on the kitchen counter, in the bathroom or any rooms you want to scent (a glass bowl is best). Add one to nine drops of your chosen essential oil – within a few second the area will be filled with a wonderful aroma!
  • Add a few drops of your favourite oil to two cotton wool balls and drop them into your vacuum cleaner bag or into its filter
  • Make your own antibacterial room spray by mixing 10 drops of oil and one cup of filtered water in a spray bottle and spritz every time you want a clean, fresh scent – spray on the toilet and leave it to air dry too, for more of the antibacterial component of this mix
  • Freshen up clothes with a few drops of lavender oil on cotton wool balls in drawers or wardrobes
  • A few drops of oil will revive potpourri that’s lost its scent
  • A few drops of citronella, lavender or peppermint oil sprinkled on tissues or cotton wool balls, placed near doorways and windows, will act as a natural insect repellent

In the bathroom

  • Keep a bottle of eucalyptus or lemon in the bathroom and add about five drops directly into the toilet water to instantly freshen the area – the oil remains there until someone comes along and flushes it away
  • Three to six drops of oil on the inside of the cardboard tube of a roll of toilet paper will fragrance the bathroom with every turn!

In the kitchen

  • Add a few drops of oil to your kitchen bin
  • Sprinkling a few drops of lemon oil in the dishwasher before running a load will make the dishes sparkle and cut soap and mineral deposits on the interior of the machine – double duty from a couple of drops of oil!
  • Disinfect your dishcloth overnight in a bowl of water with a drop of lemon oil
  • Add two to five drops of lemon oil directly onto a damp sponge and use it to wipe counter tops and cutting boards to help combat bacteria and germs
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