What is aromatherapy?
It is a therapy that applies the essential oils of various aromatic plants, shrubs and trees. Oils extracted from the plants can be used to treat both medical and psychological conditions, as cosmetics or merely to promote a sense of pleasure and wellbeing. Certain essential oils may be used to ease aching muscles or relax a tired body. These are found in ‘conventional’ soaps, bath oils, skin creams and lotions.
The practice of Aromatherapy may be traced back to ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Egyptians, Arabs, Persians and the aboriginal people of Australia, India and Africa where essential oils were used as medicines, perfumes and incense and for embalming.
The nature of essential oils
Essential oils are extractions from living plants and trees. The oil yields from different parts of plants – flowers (lavender), leaves (rosemary), seeds (vanilla), roots (ginger) or bark (sandalwood). Oils can also be extracted from aromatic grasses such as lemongrass, and three different oils can be extracted from citrus fruit trees – the flowers, the leaves and the skin. In some plants there are microscopic quantities of oil, such as jasmine, and others are more generous. Similarly, some oils are easy to extract whereas others, such as jasmine, yields with reluctance. For every ounce of oil, one thousand times that weight of flowers must be used. Essential oils are concentrated and the vast majority can irritate the skin when used neat. The exceptions are lavender and tea tree.
Methods of using essential oils
Massage – essential oils used for massage should be diluted with base oil, such as almond, avocado, jojoba, wheat germ, either singularly or blended.
Inhalation – steam inhalation is used for respiratory complaints and dry inhalation is beneficial for asthmatics. Alternatively, simply place a few drops on your pillow – eucalyptus for blocked noses, or lavender for restful sleep.
Steam facial – particularly good for skin prone to oiliness.
Bathing – add a few drops of oil to your bath water. Mix essential oils with base oil before adding to your bath and be aware that prolonged use of oils could damage the surface of your bath. Use rosemary to revitalise or chamomile to induce a good night’s sleep. Do not use soap, shampoo, and bath-oils in an aromatic bath.
Sitz Baths – beneficial in the treatment of menstrual disorders, thrush, cystitis, hemorrhoids and constipation. Tee tree oil is particularly beneficial in the treatment of thrush.
Compresses – cold compresses are beneficial for treating headaches, fever, and pain from bruising or muscle strain and hot compresses can be used to treat boils.
Mouthwashes – can be used to treat gum infection, bad breath, oral thrush and mouth ulcers. The oil should be diluted in a small amount of alcohol, vodka is generally recommended. Mouthwashes should never be swallowed.
Hair care – tea tree oil is useful for dandruff and rosemary is used to condition and stimulate hair growth. Dilute in a carrier oil, rub well into the scalp, wrap a towel around the head and leave for an hour or so, wash as normal.
Vaporisers, diffusers, room spray, burners – add fragrance to a room. Some oils can be used to fumigate or disinfect and prevent the spread of disease.
EXCERPTS FROM NATURAL LIVING’S GUIDE TO USING ESSENTIAL OILS IN THE GARDEN
Essential oils play several roles in the garden. They are a natural pest deterrent and as pests carry disease in the form of bacteria and viruses, the oil’s antibacterial and antiviral properties act as a form of preventative medicine for your garden. Fungi and mould are other problems essential oils can deal with quickly and effectively.
Strong healthy plants resist disease, and essential oils build up the health of plants, an example being that roses love to be in the company of garlic, basil or thyme and you can either plant them around the bush or use their essential oil when watering them. Add 2 drops of each essential oil to your watering can, mix well and water.
Essential oils not only control pests and make your crop stronger, they improve the taste and fragrance of the plant. Ants can be deterred by peppermint. To clear a nest just put 2 neat drops of peppermint oil directly onto the nest. If ants are coming into your house put 1 or 2 drops of oil where they enter. Thyme and lavender oils protect all vegetables and can be used in your watering can.
Of course, certain insects are essential for pollination, including bees, wasps and butterflies, and using essential oils in your garden will attract these useful insects. Bees especially like coriander.
Sprays can be used as insect deterrents, to banish fungi and mildew, or to encourage growth. Use 4 – 6 drops of essential oil in 4 litres of water for spraying onto flowers, fruit and vegetables. Treated with the antifungal essential oils the mould and fungi do not survive very long and simply disappear. Patchouli, Tea Tree and Cinnamon are recommended.
Slugs can be easily deterred using essential oils. They have an acute sense of smell and hate the smell of garlic. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to your watering can, mix well and water the area where the slugs and snails are causing damage.
NATURAL PEST REPELLANTS
Insect Essential Oil
Ants – peppermint, garlic, citronella
Aphids – peppermint, cedarwood, hyssop
Black Fly – lavender, tagetes
Caterpillars – peppermint
Fleas – lemongrass, citronella, lavender
Flies – lavender, citronella, peppermint, basil
Gnats – citronella, patchouli
Lice – peppermint, cedarwood
Mosquitoes – lavender, citronella, lemongrass
Slugs – garlic, cedar wood, pine
Snails – cedarwood, pine, garlic, hyssop
Ticks – thyme, citronella, sage
Weevils – sandalwood, citronella, sage
Vegetable Essential Oil
Green beans lavender, basil
Broccoli basil, thyme
Cabbage peppermint, sage, thyme
Potatoes basil, sage