The greatest dilemma that many people face today is the speed of change. Coinciding with the dynamics of change is often a sense of separation and isolation. However, there is help at hand.
Since time began, human beings have looked to nature as a resource. The cycle of the seasons can be depended on; the regeneration of plants can be trusted. The medicine provided by thousands of plant species to heal our bodies and minds is at our fingertips with aromatherapy practices. So often, our spirits are rejuvenated by activities such as a walk in the park or a weekend in the country. With the daily use of essential oils, these benefits can now be extended into our personal lives.
As our senses are tantalized, our memories and emotions are evoked, and our bodies seduced into relaxation through the power of the aromatic, volatile plant extracts known as essential oils. Knowledge has been handed down through the ages regarding the contributions that essential oils can make in our lives. Some of the stories originated in our grandmothers' tales, some were told by wise sages, while others were revealed by those deeply in touch with the plants. Whichever way the information has reached us, one thing is certain: Essential oils could not have endured the test of time had they not been established and revered as a reliable and resourceful healing modality.
So what exactly are essential oils? An essential oil is a substance extracted from a single botanical source; the extract is 70 times more concentrated than what is originally found in plant form. Being highly aromatic, essential oils are prized in the perfume industry, and the scent also plays an important role in aromatherapy. These volatile substances are found in many different parts of the plant. Orange, for example, is taken from the peel, while Eucalyptus is found in the leaf of the tree.
The process of extraction varies somewhat according to the oil that's being extracted; the most common form is steam distillation. In this process, the plant material is harvested and placed in a large enclosed vat. Then, with enormous pressure, steam is passed through the vat, rupturing the oil-bearing glands of the plant. The aromatic vapor rises and passes through a chamber surrounded by void water, where the vapor condenses, and, now in a liquid form, separates into water and oil. The essential oil is then removed from the surface of the water.
Essential oils can also be extracted using solvents, as well as by cold pressing. Whichever way they are extracted, it is important to use only pure oils for aromatherapy. Essential oils contain many components that occur naturally in the plant, so it is crucial that they remain "essential" so that they can work for us on the body and in it.
It is the wisdom of Mother Nature that creates each plant's unique chemical combinations. An intellectual process in a laboratory cannot possibly imitate what Mother Nature does intuitively. When practicing aromatherapy, choose your oil with discernment.
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How To Use Essential Oils
Since essential oils are highly concentrated, they must be diluted before they're used and not applied directly on the skin. You can use them in any of the following ways:
In a bath: Hopping into a warm bath at the end of a long day is one of life's most blissful moments. Add 5 to 8 drops of a blend of 3 oils before you climb into the bath. Agitate the water. Submerge your body to prepare yourself for the night ahead -- whether you're staying at home for a quiet and relaxing time, going to a party, or spending a romantic evening with your lover. You can also use essential oils in the morning to invigorate and refresh you for the day ahead.
In a vaporizer: You can use a vaporizer at home or work to uplift or relax you. Vaporizers are used to fill the atmosphere with essential oils. Add 8 drops in total of your chosen combination of oils to the shallow dish filled with water at the top of the unit. Underneath, light a candle to heat the water and scent the air with healing vapors. You can choose oils to freshen the air, to assist with breathing, to aid concentration, or during a romantic interlude.
Massage: Massage is already a popular and highly respected way of loving and healing the body. Combine this with the use of essential oils, and you have a recipe for divine relaxation. A massage oil is a combination of essential oils added to a base oil. You can use massage oils to promote circulation, stimulate the release of toxins from the body, or uplift the senses -- the list is endless. To every 10 milliliters (ml) of base oil, add 5 drops of essential oil (a 2:1 ratio).
Body rub: You can begin every day with energy and vitality by indulging in a two-minute body rub after your shower. When the body is warm, it absorbs oil quickly. Choose 3 essential oils to add to your base oil, and blend in a small bowl. Smooth the oil over the entire body to stimulate circulation and protect you during the day to come.
Inhalation: To help balance physical disorders and release emotions, you can inhale oils directly by adding 3 to 5 drops to a stainless steel or glass bowl, filled with boiling water. Add the drops of essential oils to the water (agitate to release the vapors). Place a towel over your head, and breathe deeply. For maximum benefit, keep your head over the bowl for 10 minutes. Remember to protect the sensitive eye area.
Compresses: Use a compress for facial skin care-- it's useful for softening the skin and promoting cell regeneration -- or for first aid to help relieve pain and swelling and reduce inflammation. Hot compresses are generally used to alleviate chronic pain, while cold compresses are ideal for acute pain and injury
To make your compress, add 5 drops in total of your chosen 3 essential oils to a basin of hot or cold water. Fold a piece of gauze or a small towel, and soak it in the water. Squeeze out the excess water from the cloth, and apply it to the skin after the cloth has absorbed as much of the oil as possible from the surface of the water.
Spritzer: Ideal for summer, a spritzer hydrates and reenergizes the skin. This is a bottle with a nozzle that sprays water in a mist-like form. You can also use a spritzer to apply essential oils to wounds or burns. Using 90 ml of water, add 5 drops of a combination of 3 essential oils to a spritzer bottle.
Knowing What to Choose
In ancient Tibet, ignorance was considered the primary source of all suffering. Aromatherapy awakens our senses and connects us deeply with nature and with the inner message of self-regeneration that is inherent in the plants. As we expand our awareness of what essential oils can do, we deepen our trust in our intuition, which will guide us to the right oils at the right time.
Healing ourselves begins with insight into the source of our distress or our challenge. As we look closely at our lives and what is causing the disturbance, we discover that this is the first step to healing ourselves, and at the same time, to developing our inner wisdom. Thus, we become even more clear that we are our own healers.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher,
Hay House, Inc. ©2000. www.hayhouse.com
Excerpted From The Book
Aromatherapy 101 (Gift Book)
by Karen Downes.
Aromatherapy 101 empowers you to use the extensive medicine cabinet provided by Mother Nature. From her flowers, trees, bushes, and herbs, oil is extracted to create "aromas" to aid healing and well-being. Much like a walk in the park or relaxing in nature, our senses can be tantalized, our memories and emotions evoked, and our bodies seduced into relaxation by the power of the these aromatic, volatile plant extracts known as essential oils. Aromatherapy 101 is beautiful with four-part color, and is set in an easy-to-read A-Z format.
Info/Order this book.
About the Author
Karen Downes is a director and co-founder of Australia's largest Aromatherapy company, which distributes high quality essential oils throughout Australia and around the world. She has co-authored five other aromatherapy/lifestyle books with over 500,000 copies sold worldwide, and travels extensively conducting lectures and programs that help to empower women. Karen lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, Jeffrey, and daughter, Rebecca. Karen can be contacted by email: [email protected]