Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Herbaceous Essential Oils

I send a big thank you to Juliet who provided such great information about herbs that grow well here in the northwest (see her enlightening contribution in the post below this one)! While I enjoy growing herbs and cooking with them often, my deep love for herbs truly emerged once I began using herbal essential oils in my massage practice. I use many of the herbs from Juliet's recommended list in the form of 100% essential oils. (Note: It's important that you use 100% essential oils if you wish to experience the therapeutic and healing effects of the herbs. Products labeled as "aromatherapy" aren't necessarily naturally derived, and while they may smell yummy, they won't affect your body in the same way as oils created from the plants themselves).

There are ma
ny ways you can use essential oils, from experiencing their therapeutic effects during a massage session to taking a bath infused with a few drops of oil to calm you before bed. An essential oil is a concentrated oil from a plant, so that little bottle you buy at PCC or Whole Foods packs a punch. You only need a small amount to experience positive effects. If you put any essential oil on your body it is important to dilute it in a carrier oil (such as grapeseed oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, etc.). Now a drop or two straight from the bottle placed on your skin in an area smaller than a deck of cards should be fine. For more information on safety using essential oils, click here.

So, now to the juicy stuff: healing properties of essential oils! I've taken three herbs from Juliet's lis
t and created a sort of "herb profile" for each based on the physical and emotional healing characteristics. I chose three herbs that aren't often chosen for my use in massage sessions. If you want more detailed information about each essential oil from Juliet's list, I recommend reading Roberta Wilson's Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty.

• • • Bergamot: The bergamot tree, a result of cross breading a bitter orange tree with a lemon tree, produces small white star-shaped flowers. The essential oil comes from pressing the rinds of the fruit. (See third picture.)

Physical healing:
  • astringent properties (great for skin problems like acne, eczema, psoriasis, shingles);
  • useful for urinary tract infections (use 3-4 drops in a bath)
  • boosts immune system for colds and flu
  • soothing for chronic fatigue syndrome
Emotional healing:
  • refreshing & uplifting
  • equalizes emotions by balancing the activity of the hypothalamus gland
  • helps relieve fear, anxiety, panic, sadness, and depression

• • • Marjoram: A bushy herb that produces pink or white flowers. Its smell is sweet and a little woody or peppery. (See second picture.)

Physical healing:
  • Soothes arthritis, muscular aches and spasms
  • increases circulation and dialates blood vessels (helps with high blood pressure and other heart conditions)
  • stimulates appetite
  • soothes upset stomach, relieves gas and constipation
  • helps with insomnia and headaches
Emotional Healing:
  • relaxes body and mind and relives anxiety
  • eases obsessive behavior and negative thoughts
  • supports during times of loneliness, sadness, or grief
  • strengthens confidence

• • • Scented Geranium: The whole plant (leaves, stem, & flowers) is steam-distilled to produce the essential oil. (See first picture.)

Physical he
  • balances hormones by stimulating the adrenal cortex
  • improves immune system function
  • helps treat gallstones and kidney stones, diarrhea, and urinary tract infections
  • eases sore throats and tonsillitis
  • helps with PMS symptoms
  • decreases fluid retention and edema
Emotional healing:
  • antidepressant effects
  • decreases anxiety and stress
  • increases sensitivity to pleasure and sensuality
  • simultaneously calms and invigorates
Feel like expanding your essential oil palate now? Essential oils work great in combination, too, so feel free to experiment to find the right balance of sweet and earthy or pungent and fruity! I'm quite fond of geranium, lavender, and marjoram together. It's soothing to the heart chakra and feels heavenly.

Happy growing, clipping, cooking, bathing, sniffing, and massaging!


julietsketches said...

Hi Courtney, I forgot to mention to you that the Ethel Dupar Fragrant Garden for the blind and Deaf-Blind (in the Atlantic Neighborhood) is a great place to sample some great herb scents. I haven't been there yet myself, but I hear it's fantastic and I hope to go for a visit this summer. They have guided tours starting in July.

Courtney Putnam said...

Oh, thank you for this resource, Juliet!


CleaDanaan said...


While I was in Seattle, I visited Rainbow Natural Remedies and LOVED it. They had some obscure herbs I can't find other places.

When here in Denver, I get my herbs and some oils at MoonDance Botanicals. You would love Tonja, the owner. Come visit us and teach a class there!!