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Focus on Health
by Teri Brickey
Imbolc 2003, Vol 2-2
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MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly Web Zine for Goddess Women Near & Far
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Copyright Ian Britton, courtesy of
Aromatherapy: Essential Oils as Healing Tools

The word "aromatherapy" has been so overused these days that just about anything with a scent is labeled with it. True aroma-therapy, however, involves the therapeutic use of essential oils for health and healing. Yes, essential oils were originally produced by perfume houses for their scent. But many of these businesses soon learned that they could get the same scents much cheaper by creating them in a laboratory. The therapeutic properties were then lost in perfumery and scented products.

A true essential oil contains the entire essence of a growing thing (or a part of it, like the flower or fruit), not just the scent. Each drop of essential oil is so chemically complex that scientists have not yet been able to pinpoint all of the ingredients. We do know, however, that many essential oils help to correct imbalances in our human bodies, from physical illness to emotional instability. In much the same way that our growing friends provide for themselves, they help to provide for us.

As this is the season to prepare ourselves and our world for the new growth that will happen in the spring, I will share some of my favorite clearing and balancing oils here. But first, a word of caution. Essential oils are very powerful tools. If not used properly, they can cause harm. Following these few simple guidelines should help make your experience a pleasant one:

  • Never ingest essential oils. Not only could you cause harm to yourself, they are really not effective when absorbed in this way.
  • When applying to the skin, use caution. Most essential oils should be mixed with a carrier (oil or alcohol) to protect your skin and allow easier absorbtion. A good rule of thumb is 10-15 drops per ounce of carrier.
  • Oils should be stored in dark glass bottles. Plastic, light, heat and air will lessen their potency.
  • Less is more: it is possible to negate the effects of an oil by using too much of it. Follow directions for number of drops as closely as possible. If your bottle does not have a dripper, invest in some eye droppers.
  • If an oil gets into your eyes, or directly onto any mucous membrane, remember they are soluble in oil, not water. The best treatment for removing an essential oil is to dip a cotton swab or tissue in a carrier oil (almond or sunflower usually work well) and dab away the essential oil.
  • Pregnant and nursing women, as well as anyone with serious health conditions, should use caution with essential oils. Consult a qualified aromatherapist for advice.

Now for the fun stuff! Some great oils to use for clearing and balancing are listed. You can find a lot more info in any aromatherapy book. I prefer books by Jeanne Rose and Valerie Worwood, as each of these women have been practicing for a number of years and are well respected in their fields.

The Citrus Oils: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Neroli, Petitgrain, Tangerine.
Oils all have their own individual properties, but the group as a whole helps to lighten the atmosphere, like a ray of sunshine. Think of the places that these fruits grow. Bringing that energy into your home can do wonders. In a diffuser, two to three drops (in water) will clear the air and freshen a room. These are great to use in households where someone has been ill, or even just to clear stale, stagnant energy. Be careful about skin application, however, because they can cause photosensitivity (reactions to sunlight).

The Breathing Oils: Cajeput, Cedarwood, Cinnamon Leaf, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Marjoram, Niaouli, Peppermint, Pine, Rosemary, Spruce, Thyme.
Again, each has its own individual properties but each is useful in strengthening the respiratory system. Especially in cold weather, our lungs are working overtime to get us the oxygen we need to function. Giving them a little help can work wonders. Some (frankincense, peppermint, pine, and rosemary in particular) can be very helpful when applied to the skin. A rub consisting of 10-15 drops of oil per 1 oz. of carrier oil, especially in a steamy bath, can dispel many of the complaints of the common cold or flu.

Another hint: sniff the oil before you use it. If it doesn't smell good to you, it's not the one you need at that time. Your sense of smell is a very powerful tool. Use it, and use it well. Just as it can tell you the difference between dishwater and chicken soup, it can tell you which essential oils you need to balance your system.

In good health!

Disclaimer: the information in this article should not be used as a substitute for competent medical attention. No guarantee of safety or usefulness is implied.

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