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.

Frankincense #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter F post in the #AtoZChallenge. I focus my A to Z posts on aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I want to talk about frankincense.

Frankincense is a resin (highly viscose substance that the plant uses to protect itself) derived from any of five species of Boswellia. It is used in both incense and in perfume-making or aromatherapy.

Frankincense has been used ever since at least 1500 BC. It was introduced to western Europe by the Franks, who had found it on their journeys to the eastern Roman empire. The name, though, doesn’t refer to the Franks, but is derived from the old French word for high quality incense.

Frankincense has been claimed to have medicinal benefits for many centuries. In traditional Chinese medicine, frankincense and myrrh combined are used for their antimicrobial and blood moving properties. In Persian medicine, frankincense was used for diabetes and stomach ulcers.

Frankincense essential oil is produced via steam distillation of the resin from a Boswellia plant. I only own Boswellia Carterii essential oil.

Frankincense essential oil has a fresh and fruity yet warm, woodsy and spicy scent. It is a stimulating essential oil and can be used to clear the mind and increase focus.

When applied to the skin in massage oils or other skincare products, it is supposed to help prevent skin aging and help with dry skin.

Frankincense essential oil blends well with citrus oils such as lime, lemon and orange. It also blends well with oils such as lavender, geranium, ylang ylang and woodsy oils such as cypress and sandalwood.

Please note that some species of Boswellia are near threatened status. Although they are exempt from the international regulations on trading endangered plants or animals, it may be advised to take their rarity into account when buying frankincense.

Blending: Essential Oils in Synergy #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter B post in my #AtoZChallenge, in which I discuss aromatherapy and natural healing. Today, I will discuss the principles of aromatherapeutic blending.

Most people who know a bit about essential oils, will know that they often aren’t used singly, but rather in combination. That is, when I first bought essential oils, I used single oils only, because I was clueless about blending. Besides, being blind, I found it hard to count the number of drops I put in my diffuser, so I would just give the bottle a shake and hope something came out.

Now, I rarely if ever use single oils in my diffuser or in my homemade skincare products. However, you may be wondering, why not? What is the advantage of using essential oils in combination?

The simple answer might be that, just as with perfume, combinations of essential oils smell better (when done correctly) than the single scent. However, experience also shows that one oil can complement or strengthen another’s therapeutic benefits. This is called synergy.

According to Jennifer Peace Rhind, the author of Aromatherapeutic Blending: Essential Oils in Synergy, the first known example of synergistic blending of plant components dates back to ancient Egypt, around 1500 BC. The Egyptians used combinations of myrrh and frankincense. So did traditional Chinese healers when treating blood stagnation and inflammation.

Indeed, the author says, synergistic effectiveness of different essential oils has been proven in the lab, at least in some contexts. She said that a combination of frankincense and myrrh was shown to have significantly better antimicrobial properties than either alone.

Similarly, ayurvedic medicine uses combinations of herbs in its traditional treatment of illnesses. Jennifer Peace Rhind says that, indeed, the combination of for example ginger and long pepper has shown to have synergistic benefits. This might be because compounds in one prevent breakdown and enhance absorption of the other.

The first person to describe the effects of aromatic essences on anxiety and depression was Paolo Rovesti in the 1970s. He, however, also noted that combinations of oils work better than one oil on its own.

One of the reasons for this could be that single essential oils when not diluted often have a very strong odor. This may be experienced as unpleasant. When combined, though, essential oils’ odor may be more pleasant. If nothing else, essential oil blends are more pleasing to the senses than single oils and, as a result, contribute to mental wellbeing. After all, no-one is going to feel better when smelling an odor they don’t like!

So is there any evidence for synergy? Well, insofar as there is evidence for aromatherapy, that is. It seems there is, if for no other reason, then because essential oils are themselves a mixture of compounds. Peace Rhind cites a study in which various components of lavender essential oils were proven to work together against anxiety in animals.

Interestingly, essential oil blending is much more complex than the simple idea that certain oils promote one another’s effects. After all, Peace Rhind says, certain oils work together (synergy) at certain doses but work against each other (antagonism) at other doses. The author explains a way of plotting the effectiveness of essential oil blends in a graph. I won’t get into this though, as I barely understand it myself.

Aromatherapy: An Introduction #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day one in the #AtoZChallenge, in which I talk about aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I’ll share a brief introduction to what aromatherapy is. In future posts, I’ll go deeper into the different uses of aromatherapy and essential oils.

Aromatherapy is a form of complementary or alternative medicine in which essential oils and other plant compounds are used in the promotion of health and wellness. Essential oils are natural oils typically extracted by distillation and having the characteristic odor of the plant. They are therefore also known as aromatic oils. They are, for clarity’s sake, not the same as fragrance or perfume oils. Though perfume oils are also often created from partly natural ingredients, they don’t offer the therapeutic benefits of essential oils.

Aromatherapy has probably been practisedforever. Hippocrates, the “father of modern medicine”, promoted it some 2,500 years ago.

However, according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), the term “aromatherapy” (or “aromathérapie” in French) wasn’t introduced till 1937. It was first used by the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé. According to the NAHA, Gattefossé is most well-known (within the field of aromatherapy, I suppose) for an incident in which he burned his hand and then put it in a vat of lavender, which prevented the otherwise inevitible scarring.

Essential oils are the most commonly used component of a plant in aromatherapy. However, aromatherapists also use carrier oils (which are used to dilute essential oils), hydrosols (or floral waters) and other parts of the plant. I will get to these later in this series.

In this series, I will also be discussing the various essential oils I know about. Please note that not all essential oils are equal. Quality may be an issue, which I’ll get to later. However, as the author of AromaWeb says, there are many different oils grouped together that may come from different plants. For example, both eucalyptus globulus and eucalyptus radiata are often referred to as “eucalyptus”. Same for Atlas cedarwood and Virginia cedarwood, which are actually very different plants. In this series, I will group together various oils that have related properties and constituents. After all, if I were to describe each oil individually, I could have half a dozen A to Z Challenges filled up.