Spicy Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter S post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I’ll be discussing spicy essential oils like cinnamon, cardamom, etc. I really love these oils. In fact, I especially wanted to buy cardamom essential oil. Too bad it’s relatively expensive, but I eventually got it.

First off, let me discuss cinnamon. Cinnamon essential oil is steam distilled from either the bark or the leaves of the cinnamon plant. Cinnamon bark essential oil is usually preferred, but it is also much more expensive than cinnamon leaf oil. Cinnamon bark oil’s aroma is much richer than that of ground cinnamon. It can be described as peppery, earthy, spicy, bright yet slightly woodsy. The oil blends well with many different essential oils, including citrus and mint oils, as well as other spicy essential oils. Cinnamon essential oil should be used with extreme caution when you want to apply it to the skin.

Another plant in the cinnamon family of which essential oil is distilled, is cassia. This oil is very similar to true cinnamon but more affordable. I don’t own this oil as far as I know, though now that I think of it, my “cinnamon” essential oil might actually be cassia.

Another of my favorite spicy essential oils, is cardamom. This oil is steam distilled from the seeds of the Elettaria cardamomum plant. The scent is spicy, woodsy, rich and sweet.

Lastly, I want to discuss clove essential oil. When an oil is simply referred to as “clove”, it is most likely steam distilled from the flower buds of the clove plant. However, clove leaf and stem essential oil are also available.

Clove bud essential oil is very strong, so always be cautious when using it. For example, the maximum usage rate in skincare products is 0.5% (about one drop in 200ml of carrier oil). Even when diffusing clove bud essential oil, use it sparingly in blends.

Clove bud essential oil has a strong, warm and spicy aroma. It is well-known for its pain-relieving properties. Some people will use a drop of clove essential oil on a painful tooth. However, I don’t recommend using any essential oil internally. Rather, use an actual clove bud instead.

Do you like spicy scents?

Rosemary Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to the letter R post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. Today, I will talk about one of the first essential oils I purchased: rosemary.

The name “rosemary” is derived from the latin term for “dew of the sea”, because it is native to the sea cliffs of the Mediterranean. The highest quality essential oil is derived through steam distillation from the flowering tops of the plant Salvia rosmarinus. This plant used to be known as Rosmarinus officinalis and you may still see this used by essential oil companies.

Rosemary belongs to a larger family of herbs that includes lavender, mint, myrtle and sage.

The scent of rosemary is fresh, herbaceous and sweet. AromaWeb reports that it smells “slightly medicinal” and I agree.

Rosemary was considered sacred by people in many ancient cultures. It was used in incense, for protection and as a reminder of the life-and-death cycle. It may also have been used to improve memory, which isn’t so far off. After all, at a 2017 conference on aromatherapy, rosemary was actually reported to help with cognitive function.

In the Middle Ages, rosemary was thought to ward off evil spirits and keep the bubonic plague from spreading. For this reason, rosemary branches were commonly spread across floors and doorways to keep the disease from spreading. In addition, rosemary was often tossed in graves to symbolize the fact that loved ones who had died, wouldn’t be forgotten.

Sixteenth-century German-Swiss physician and botanist Paracelsus recommended rosemary as a herbal treatment for all kinds of conditions.

Currently, rosemary essential oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve stress and nervous tension, to boost mental activity and to support clarity and insight. It is used to improve alertness, reduce negative moods and improve the retention of information by increasing concentration. It can also be used to combat fatigue and to promote a healthy respiratory system.

When applied topically to the skin, rosemary essential oil can reduce pain, soothe inflammation and boost the immune system. It can also be used to promote hair growth and help your hair look and feel healthy. You can also use rosemary essential oil in a massage to promote healthy digestion and relieve bloating, flatulence and constipation.

Rosemary essential oil blends well with other herbal essential oils such as lavender, clary sage, peppermint and spearmint. It can also be used in blends with citrus essential oils.

Have you ever used rosemary? If so, do you like it?

Starting to Explore the Enneagram

A few days ago, I read on another blogger’s post about the enneagram and suddenly got interested in exploring it. At first, I thought it may be against Christian values, so I shouldn’t be exploring it if I’m serious about being a Christian. Then I checked out some books on it anyway and discovered that several actually look at the enneagram from a traditional Christian perspective.

I first got Helen Palmer’s book The Enneagram, which explained the basics of how the enneagram works. I honestly had no idea at first. I mean, I saw it as just another personality typology just like the MBTI and had little idea that the points are actually connected in several mathematical ways.

I took an enneagram test and it showed I’m a Four with a strong Five wing. I’m still undecided whether that’s correct or I’m really a Five with a strong Four wing. After all, I really do feel deeply (which is consistent with type Four), but I don’t easily verbalize my emotions.

I got a book off Bookshare called The Enneagram Type 4 by Beth McCord. This book is rooted in the Christian faith and the enneagram alike. The first chapter explores faith and the enneagram from a type Four perspective. It starts out by giving an overview of the type.

In the first part, Fours are described as having a deep and rich emotional life. My gut response was: that may be me, but is it truly me or is it what I want to be? Then the explanation goes on to talk about how Fours see themselves as somehow apart from the rest of humanity. They often feel that they’re missing something that everyone else has. Wowah, that’s so me! When I read on, I got a flashback of my father telling my psychiatrist shortly after my admission to the psych hospital, that I just want to be different. Maybe he’s right in some way.

Fours also long for the ideal life and are constantly seeking to change their circumstances and themselves to try to find that “missing piece”. Wow. I read somewhere that most Fours keep the door even in a committed relationship ajar, always keeping the possibility open that their truer love will come by at some point. I don’t do this with my marriage, but I certainly do this with my living situation.

At the end of the chapter, there are some questions for reflection. One of them is about rescuing yourself or bringing about change on your own. How have you attempted to rescue yourself?

Well, for me, I’ve constantly been on the lookout for a better living situation. Even just yesterday, for no apparent reason, I started looking at another care agency’s website to see if I might fit better into one of their homes.

I feel constantly insecure because of my childhood trauma. Then again, maybe I’m also hopelessly looking for an ideal that doesn’t exist.

A thought that has been on my mind for a while now, is what one of my fellow patients at the locked unit told me back in 2007: I need to work on me, not on circumstances. This ran totally counter to my admission’s objective, which was to find a suitable living facility for me. However, now, over thirteen years later, it’s truer than ever. I am in the best possible living situation already and there’s no perfect place. Besides, I always take me to whatever place I go.

The last question for reflection is how realizing you belong to Christ helps you? It is still hard for me to truly surrender to belonging in Christ, so I’m not 100% sure how to respond. However, when I can get myself to understand that I truly am God’s beloved child and belong to Christ, it will radically transform my life. I no longer need to be on the lookout for the perfect life, since I’m made whole through Jesus.

Quality of Essential Oils: Does It Matter? #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter Q post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I will be talking about quality of essential oils. Does it really matter whether you buy a cheap drugstore brand of essential oil or an expensive brand? Do you need to get all-natural, organic essential oils or are synthetic or non-organically grown plant essences just as good?

The answer, in general, depends on what you want to do with your oils. I mean, if all you want is a nice smell, does it really matter whether your oil is natural or not? I don’t think so, unless you intend on blending your oils. In that case, after all, you’ll really need to know a lot about perfumery. For example, I have tried blending coconut and vanilla fragrance oils and that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped for, despite the fact that the scents seemed to go well together.

If you want to use your oils for their actual therapeutic properties, though, I do recommend you get all-natural oils. Even then, it matters where the oil came from geographically, how the conditions under which it was grown were, what extraction method was used, etc. For example, cold pressing is generally the best extraction method, but this isn’t possible with most oils. Steam distillation is, therefore, second best.

Many lower-quality essential oils have been adulterated in one or more of several ways. For example, thyme essential oil’s constituents may vary from 100% thymol to 90% carvacrol, with some varieties containing citrol or geraniol. Secondly, rose essential oil, for example, is often diluted with geranium.

An essential oil’s constituents can be analyzed using gas chromatography and mass spectometry. These are not methods the average consumer would be able to employ themself, so they must rely on the supplier to have done this analysis. I for one, so far never got these analysis reports. I’m not even 100% sure the vendors I normally buy from, offer them. I, indeed, had to look to a supplier I wasn’t before familiar with to see a random oil’s report to see what it looks like. Guess I’m learning something now that I do this challenge myself.

Patchouli Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Hello and welcome to my letter P post in the #AtoZChallenge. The theme I chose for this challenge is aromatherapy and today, I’ll be talking about patchouli essential oil.

The name of patchouli appears to have come from the Hindi word “pacholi”, which means “to scent”. The plant belongs to a family of other aromatic plants, such as lavender, mint and sage. Its grounding, balancing aroma makes it an ideal essential oil to be used in aromatherapy and cosmetics alike.

Even though you might think of patchouli as “the scent of the sixties” if you’ve lived that long, the history of the plant’s use dates back much earlier. It is believed that Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried with patchouli essential oil.

Early European traders would trade it for gold too. Patchouli was also used by Asian traders to protect silk and other fabrics.

Patchouli essential oil is steam distilled from the young leaves of the Pogosteman cablin plant. The oil is quite thick and ranges in color from light yellow to a deep amber. The scent can be described as earthy, musky and slightly sweet. The scent is pretty strong and may therefore be overstimulating to some people.

The main constituent of patchouli essential oil is patchoulol. This constituent is believed to give patchouli essential oil its grounding, mood-balancing properties. Other constituents of patchouli essential oil include α-patchoulene, β-patchoulene, α-bulnesene, α-guaiene, caryophyllene, norpatchoulenol, seychellene, and pogostol.

Patchouli essential oil can be used in aromatherapy as a sedative yet also anti-depressant and aphrodisiac oil. It is a great oil to use in skincare products too, as it neutralizes body odor.

Patchouli blends well with many different oils. For example, I like to blend it with lavender and ylang ylang for a calming effect. It also blends well with citrus oils, such as orange, bergamot or grapefruit.

Do you like the smell of patchouli?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (April 18, 2021)

Hello everyone and welcome to my #WeekendCoffeeShare post for this week. I just had my afternoon coffee. I think there’s still some left, or you can have a tea, fizzy drink or water. We alsso have custard cupcakes if you want one. They’re delicious! Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you about your weather. Ours has been steadily improving over the past week. On Monday, we still had a bit of ice rain, but the rest of the week, it’s not rained much. Today, we have some sunshine and temperatures of about 16°C during the day. It’s still close to freezing at night though.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, on Wednesday, I had a good talk with my community psychiatric nurse. I was able to express some of my anxiety. Then again, Thursday night I ended up in a bit of a crisis again. I tried to reach my CPN on Friday. Unfortunately, by the time she called me at 5:30PM, there was little she could do for me.

Tomorrow, I’ll meet with my nurse practitioner again. I’m considering asking him about my medication, both my daily meds and my PRN tranquilizer. While the PRN med, the atypical antipsychotic quetiapine (Seroquel), works okay for reducing sensory overload, I’m experiencing increasing anxiety, particularly at night. I don’t blame the quetiapine, but I’d really like something to help with this.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I had quite a scary experience yesterday. I was walking outside in the sunshine and suddenly completely blinded. Of course, it is only to be expected that I’ll eventually lose my light perception too, but it’s still scary. My staff interestingly did understand my panic about being blinded. Most people probably won’t, since to a sighted or even partially sighted person, I’m pretty much totally blind.

I also had a pretty nasty headache, so I’m wondering whether I might have experienced a spike in eye pressure. My staff is going to inquire about getting my eye pressure checked by an ophthalmologist. I’ve heard, after all, that glaucoma needs to be treated even in blind people.

This experience did motivate me to finally inquire about getting a pair of NoIR sunglasses again. I had them in the past, but cannot find them in my size at the most well-known low vision shop. My staff E-mailed the occupational therapist about it. For now, another staff gave me a pair of regular sunglasses.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I got a new roller tip for my white cane on Friday too. I now have a marshmallow tip, which I think works better than the large ball tip I used to have.

If we were having coffee, I’d share how happy I am with all the engagement on my blog. It’s truly heartwarming to see how many people are touched by my posts.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d tell you that my husband and I went for a walk in the “wolf woods”, as he calls the woods between Raalte and the nearby theme park. A wolf was found in the theme park a few weeks ago. Thankfully, we didn’t spot it.

How have you been?

Orange and Other Citrus Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hello and welcome to my letter O post in the #AtoZChallenge. I have been looking forward to sharing this post ever since I found out that the letter O in the #AtoZChallenge alphabet scavenger hunt is for orange. Yes, I’m writing about orange essential oil. Oh, and all the other great citrus essential oils too.

When referring to orange oil, many people mean sweet orange essential oil. Wild orange essential oil is also often used in aromatherapy. I for one don’t own that oil, so I always substitute it with sweet orange.

Unlike most other essential oils, sweet orange and most other citrus oils are not extracted using steam distillation. Rather, they are extracted by cold pressing the rinds (peel) of the fruit. There are distilled varieties of citrus essential oils, but they are much harder to come by. I, for one, have searched a lot of places to find steam distilled lime and lemon essential oils, but haven’t been able to find them here in the Netherlands.

Sweet orange oil is one of the more skin-safe oils out of the citrus group. It is most likely not phototoxic. However, most other citrus essential oils, such as lime, lemon and also bitter orange, are phototoxic.

Another citrus essential oil I love is bergamot. This aroma and flavor may be well-known to those who drink Earl Grey tea, as bergamot oil is used to flavor this type of tea. Bergamot’s scent is citrusy like orange, but somewhat more floral with bitter undertones too. Be very careful when using bergamot essential oil on the skin, as it is highly phototoxic due to it containing bergaptene. When using bergamot essential oil on the skin, be sure to choose the furocoumarin-free (FCF) variant, which has the bergaptene removed. Still, even FCF bergamot essential oil can be irritating to the skin as well as photosensitizing.

Citrus essential oils blend well with many different essential oils, including lavender, eucalyptus, etc. I also love the combination of several different citrus essential oils in a diffuser blend. For example, here’s a recipe for my keylime pie diffuser blend:


  • 2 drops sweet orange

  • 7 drops lime

  • 1 drop lemon

I also like to blend citrus essential oils with spicy essential oils such as cinnamon and clove bud. However, just about anything goes!

Color Vision

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am blind. I wasn’t always totally blind though. As a child, up to around age twelve, I could see most colors. I could still see some very bright colors until I was eighteen.

When I asked the ophthalmologist at the university medical center to put me on the waiting list for cataract surgery in 2013, some color vision was all I hoped for. The doctor said that the best possible outcome was that I could have hand motion vision, ie. see someone’s hand move from one meter away. I didn’t really care about seeing anything one meter in front of me. If I’d have to hold a colored paper five centimeters in front of me to see its color, that was fine by me. I just wanted to be able to distinguish colors again. Unfortunately, though the surgery was at least a partial technical success, I never regained color perception.

When asked at the rehabilitation program for the blind what we’d be happiest about to regain if we ever regained our vision, most of my fellow clients mentioned some variation of independence. I, though, said that I’d be able to enjoy the colors of nature again. Unfortunately, though technology has come a long way, it will likely never be able to recreate an experience remotely similar to color vision.

I can still, fortunately, see some colors, but it’s in my mind’s eye. You see, I have projected grapheme-color synesthesia. When I touch the characters on my Braille display, they evoke a visual sensation of a color. Each letter corresponds to its own color, though some of the colors are very similar. That probably reflects the fact that I was never able to see the full variety of shades of colors that sighted people can. For example, the V and J are both a light shade of green. I can tell them apart if I see them both, in that the J is a slightly lighter, mintier shade, but it’s hard to describe.

Words also have an overarching color. In case you’re wondering, the colors of color words don’t always align with their meaning. For example, the word “Green” is more red (after the letter G) than green, even though both E’s are green.

I love my synesthetic color perception. It makes up for a loss of appreciation that no amount of technology can compensate for.

This post was inspired by CalmKate’s Friday Fun Challenge with the theme of “Colors”. I’m not really sure whether this rambling piece fits the idea of the challenge, but oh well.

Nonsense?: The (Lack Of) Scientific Basis for Aromatherapy #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter N post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I’m really struggling to find a word that fits my theme of aromatherapy. I mean, I don’t own any essential oils starting with the letter N. I originally intended on using the word “nose” and going into some theories of smell. Then again, I’m really too lazy to dig deep into this. So instead, I decided to talk about the (lack of) scientific evidence for aromatherapy.

Indeed, there is little to no solid, scientific evidence behind the use of essential oils for physical health. One of the reasons may be that it’s hard to create truly controlled studies. After all, a proper trial would use a double blind, placebo-controlled design. This means that neither the patients nor the doctors or staff administering the oil, should know whether they get real essential oil or a placebo. However, obviously most people will be able to smell whether they are inhaling an essential oil oor a placebo.

Generally speaking, essential oils do not effect physiological signs of the body. For example, lemon and lavender oil were tested in a study on pain control. They were not found effective on any of the physical signs of pain (heartrate, pain ratings, stress hormone levels, etc.).

However, the oils did improve mood. One reason for this may be that smells are strongly connected to emotions and memories. In fact, when a smell signal is transmitted from the nose to the brain, it reaches the limbic system as well as the olfactory cortex. The limbic system, particularly the amygdala, is responsible for emotions and emotional memories. For this reason, smells can directly trigger positive (or negative) emotions.

Besides, the placebo effect can be really strong. This means that, if you expect something to work, it is likely to help at least somewhat. I’ve even heard, though not specifically in aromatherapy, that the placebo effect can alter brain chemistry. For example, people’s brains respond to fake painkillers by producing endorphins, which are the body’s own pain-relieving chemicals.

All this means that, even if there’s no scientific evidence behind aromatherapy, it can still be useful. Like, when you believe that, say, lavender essential oil will help you fall asleep, it actually will. If for no other reason, it will aid in your bedtime routine, and a set routine is always helpful.

Mint Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hello and welcome to my letter M post in the #AtoZChallenge. My theme for the challenge is aromatherapy and today, I’ll be talking about minty essential oils. The most well-known oils in this category are peppermint and spearmint. I don’t own spearmint, though I want to someday. I do own peppermint essential oil and also field mint (also known as corn mint), which is very similar.

Peppermint essential oil is far stronger than most other essential oils. Though it is generally safe to use peppermint essential oil in massage and skincare products, you should very much dilute it into a carrier oil. I, for one, prefer to use at most 0.2% peppermint essential oil. This means two drops of essential oil in a 100ml bottle of carrier oil. Don’t use peppermint essential oil in a bath or in whole-body massages. Field mint is somewhat safer to use.

Besides concentrated peppermint essential oil, there also are peppermint extracts, which are less concentrated. You can also buy enteric-coated capsules, which contain a tiny amount of peppermint oil in a special coating.

Peppermint can be used to lessen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The menthol in peppermint supposedly helps block calcium from moving across the intestinal membrane, thereby lessening symptoms of intestinal spasming, which are the main cause of IBS-related discomfort and pain.

Peppermint essential oil, when inhaled, may also be able to reduce indigestion and nausea. However, it may actually contribute to reflux, so do consult your doctor when you experience persistent heartburn or acid reflux.

Minty essential oils, along with eucalyptus essential oil, are well-known for their refreshing properties and can be used to relieve cold symptoms.

Spearmint essential oil, unlike peppermint, is safe to use on children. It is also more skin-safe than peppermint. It doesn’t have as strong an aroma, but still is refreshing. It can be used to stimulate the senses and clear the mind.

Spearmint essential oil blends well with many different oils, including citrus oils such as bergamot and orange, lavender, ylang ylang, etc. It has a unique combination of uplifting and stress-reducing properties.

Peppermint oil blends well with oils like lemon and eucalyptus. It is more stimulating and energizing than spearmint.

Do you like the smell of peppermint? If you’ve tried spearmint, do you like it?