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?

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!

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?

Lavender and Lavandin #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter L post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. Today, I’ll share about one of my favorite and most commonly used essential oils: lavender. I will also discuss its cousin, lavandin.

True lavender essential oil is distilled from the flower spikes of the plant Lavandula angustifolia. It has a sweet, floral yet slightly herbal scent. Lavandin comes from a hybrid between true lavender and Lavandula latifolia. Lavandin’s scent is more herbaceous and camphoraceous than lavender, but it still retains some of lavender’s floral scent. I like to describe it as “lavender light”. Lavandin was originally introduced to the cosmetic industry in the 1970s because of it being more affordable than lavender. For this reason, some essential oil profiteers adulterate true lavender essential oil with the less expensive lavandin.

Lavender essential oil is very well-known for promoting relaxation and sleep. There are no controlled clinical trials of lavender essential oil in people with anxiety, but some less well-designed studies show that lavender may definitely help lessen anxiety as well as improving one’s mood. A study I found reported that internal use of lavender might work as well as lorazepam in treating anxiety. However, please note that I do not recommend using essential oils internally. Besides, this study was done over a time of six weeks, which is enough time for people taking lorazepam to have developed tolerance.

Lavender, when consumed as a tea (not the essential oil, but the herb itself!), is reported to help with digestive issues such as nausea, intestinal gas, an upset stomach and abdominal swelling.

Lavender and lavandin essential oils blend well with many other oils, including clary sage, citrus oils such as bergamot and orange, ylang ylang and patchouli. I like a blend of eight drops of lavender oil and two drops of geranium essential oil to promote sleep.

Do you like the scent of lavender?

Keeping Your Essential Oils Safe #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter K post in the #AtoZChallenge. I focus my challenge posts on aromatherapy. Today, I want to talk about how to keep your essential oils safe.

First, essential oils, unlike carrier oils, don’t go rancid. This, however, doesn’t mean that they last indefinitely.

After all, essential oils may change composition under the influence of air, temperature and (sun)light. By this I mean that some components of the essential oil will start to evaporate and the concentration of others might increase. One study even found that, after exposure to ultraviolet light (such as rays of sunlight), an essential oil may start to contain components that weren’t in the oil before. In other words, it is no longer the same oil.

It is therefore recommended that you keep your essential oils away from direct light. I have a container with space for each bottel of essential oil and I keep the lid closed when not using it. Also do keep your essential oils away from sources of heat, such as the radiator. It may even be recommended to keep your essential oils in the fridge during the hot months. Lastly, screw the lid tightly onto your essential oil bottles when not in use, because oxygen in air can damage your oils too.

How long will essential oils last? It depends on the oil. For example, citrus essential oils are the most volatile and can be used about two to three years after opening. Other oils, such as clary sage, are much more stable.

The only surefire way of knowing whether your oil is still of good quality, is to retest it. Since this isn’t really possible for consumers, I recommend replacing your essential oils every several years. Don’t pour essential oils down the drain or throw them in the garbage. Rather, get them to the chemical waste depot.

Juniper Berry Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter J post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I will talk about juniper berry and its essential oil.

Juniper berry (juniperus communis) is probably most well-known for being the tree that gin is made out of. Gin is made out of the dark blue, waxy seed cones or “berries”. The essential oil I’ll discuss here is also derived from the berries through steam distillation. There are also CO2 extracts from juniper berry, as well as essential oils derived from other juniperus shrubs, such as cade essential oil. I don’t own these though.

Juniper berry can be used to help with restlessness, especially when blended with other oils that have sedative properties, such as clary sage or lavender.

Juniper berry essential oil can also be used in massage oils to reduce aches and pains. In fact, juniper berry needles and berries used to be used in natural medicine infusions to deal with joint and muscle pain.

In addition, juniper berry can be used in helping relieve gout attacks. After all, it is a circulatory stimulant and can help rid the body of excess uric acid. It also helps rid the body of excess fluids.

Juniper berry blends well with many different oils, including geranium, grapefruit, eucalyptus, lavender, etc. I prefer to blend it with another strong smelling essential oil, because I personally don’t really like the gin-like smell of juniper berry.

Juniper berry is not safe during pregnancy. It should also not be used by diabetics or those with kidney disease.

Internal Use of Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter I post in the #AtoZChallenge. My series is about aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I have a quick post for you on the safety (or lack thereof) of using essential oils internally. Are essential oils safe to ingest? The short answer: no!

Essential oils are highly concentrated. This means that, just because you can safely consume, say, orange juice, doesn’t mean orange essential oil is safe to ingest. It is not!

Aren’t essential oils used in food? Yes, they are. For example, candy canes may contain a tiny amount of peppermint essential oil. Candy canes and other industrially-manufactured foods that may contain essential oils, though, are produced in such large amounts that a drop of essential oil doesn’t nearly have the same effect as it would when you added it to your food.

Can you add essential oils to your drinking water, even just a drop? No, don’t! They really aren’t safe to ingest, not even a drop.

So why do certain companies, like Young Living and dōTERRA, advocate the internal use of essential oils? I honestly don’t know. It’s probably a way of making their essential oils sound better than other companies’. In reality though, I wouldn’t trust a company whose safety advice goes against that of major aromatherapy associations such as the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.

Can you use essential oils in lip products or toothpaste? I’d say no. Again, some cosmetic product manufacturers will put essential oils into their products and some companies say that some of their oils are safe for lip products. However, if you aren’t well-educated on aromatherapy, I recommend you don’t take the risk. I personally don’t! Instead, I will always use food grade flavor oils.

Hazardous Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter H post in the #AtoZChallenge on aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I will talk about hazardous essential oils. I will also talk some about the risks of generally safe essential oils.

There are some oils you should definitely not use. These include bitter almond, boldo leaf, deertongue, sassafras and garlic. See a more complete list on AromaWeb.

However, you should not assume that an oil is safe just because it doesn’t appear on the list. For example, birch oil can make people very ill. Some people will use it for its phenomenal painkilling properties, but I wouldn’t recommend taking the risk. Birch oil used to appear on the AromaWeb list I linked above. So did wintergreen, which is now commonly used in diffuser blends.

In general, pregnant women should be cautious about using essential oils. While some oils are safe to use in pregnancy, the list of oils that can affect the unborn baby, is long.

Never apply essential oils on the skin undiluted by a carrier oil. Many essential oils, though, can be irritating to the skin even when diluted. These include citrus oils such as lemon and bergamot, peppermint oil, spicy essential oils such as cinnamon and clove, etc. AromaWeb has another list of skin irritant oils. Oils that are photosensitizing will cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight. Phototoxic oils are even worse, in that they can cause severe sunburn.

Even with generally skin-safe essential oils, it is recommended to do a patch test (applying the diluted essential oil to a small spot on the skin) before using an essential oil in baths or for general massage. After all, you may get irritated skin from or develop an allergic reaction to any oil.

Lastly, there are some other risks to using essential oils. For example, clary sage essential oil should not be used when you’ve consumed alcohol because of its sedative properties. Certain oils, such as ylang ylang, can cause a headache when inhaled over a prolonged time. Finally, oils such as fennel and hyssop may not be safe for people with seizure disorders.

In general, if you have any chronic medical conditions, you should be extra cautious when using essential oils. I’ve also heard that essential oils can interact with medications or natural remedies. I haven’t personally experienced such interactions as far as I know.

Geranium Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter G post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. For this letter, I will talk about geranium. This is one of my less favorite scents, but when blended appropriately, it can definitely be beneficial.

Geranium is originally not native to Europe or the Americas. It originates from Africa and was introduced to Europe in the seventeenth century. Currently, it is cultivated all over the world. Geranium essential oil is sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s rose oil”, because it has similar properties to rose essential oil but is much more affordable.

The most common geranium species used for its essential oil is Pelargonium graveolens. Geranium essential oil is distilled from the leaves and flowers of the plant. It has a sweet, floral aroma, which comes from its constituent geranyl formate. Other chemical constituents of geranium essential oil include Linalool, Citronellol and Geraniol. The preferred variety of geranium essential oil by aromatherapists is Bourbon geranium, as it has a smell preferrable to others.

In aromatherapy, geranium essential oil is used for the reduction of feelings of anxiety, sadness and fatigue and to promote general wellbeing. It is also known to help with concentration and cognitive function.

Used topically on the skin, geranium essential oil is known to help eliminate dead skin cells and regenerate new ones. It is known to help tighten the skin and, as such, reduce effects of aging such as sagging and wrinkles. Geranium essential oil is also used in the promotion of healthy hair growth.

Geranium essential oil is a gentle and relatively safe oil to use. However, pregnant women are advised to be cautious with this oil, as it effects hormone balance and it is not known how this oil might effect their unborn child.

Geranium essential oil blends well with most other oils. I like to blend it with calming oils such as lavender and clary sage when I want a relaxing effect. It however also blends well with citrus oils. When creating diffuser blends, I personally like to add only one or two drops of geranium essential oil into my blends, as I don’t really like its scent when it’s too strong.