Content by Julie Foster, IFPA Vice Chair.
Frankincense (Boswellia Thurifera)
Frankincense, distilled from the gum which seeps from the bark of the frankincense tree, is a particularly useful oil in treating anxiety and hyperactivity. It has a warm, spicy scent and is known to be almost overwhelming in its ability to relax the mind whilst inducing a “higher state” of consciousness.
Frankincense is known to slow down and deepen breathing which is why it is so conducive to prayer. Deeper breathing can help those suffering from stress-related asthma or fatigue because it enables the body to acquire more oxygen. It also helps to slow down speech which in some people can be enough to slow their minds down and reduce feelings of panic and overwhelming emotions.
Frankincense is a sedative so it can help with stress-related insomnia and it is helpful in calming the digestive tract, reducing symptoms of indigestion, irritable bowel and bloatedness.
It also has a balancing effect on the skin so many aromatherapists Frankincense is one of the “jewels in the Aromatherapy crown”.
There is probably no civilisation in the East or West that has not prized Frankincense – Egyptian, Persian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Greek, Roman & Hebrew cultures all attached great importance to its use as a purifier and holy ointment.
It is mentioned in the thirtieth book of Exodus in the Old Testament because as Moses led the Jews out of Egypt in 1240BC he received instructions from God to use Frankincense to make Holy Incense.
The Egyptians were the first to use Frankincense in 1500BC. Pictorial evidence from the tombs of the pharoahs has shown that they blended it with animal fat and honey for use as a cosmetic face mask.
I often blend frankincense with lavender and orange sweet to make a shower gel for my daughter at university, to help her cope with exam anxiety and fatigue.
Blend: 2 drops frankincense, 2 drops lavender, 1 drop orange sweet, added to 15ml shower gel.
Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum Nobile)
Chamomile, distilled from the herbal flowers, is one of the best oils available for treating anxiety and insomnia. It has a calming and antidepressive effect.
Chamomile has a profoundly balancing effect on the emotions which makes it ideal for the hyperactive, workaholic types or the chronic worriers.
It is antiinflammatory so helps with aches and pains caused by age related conditions. It is a useful oil to use to help treat stress related skin conditions such as allergies and eczema.
It is generally believed to stimulate the immune system so it is useful for those people who tend to succumb to “bugs” when they are working very hard.
Chamomile has been used for over 2000 years for treating nervous complaints. Its name derives from the Greek Kamai meaning ground apple because of its fresh fruity scent. It was called Maythen by the Saxons and was revered as one of their nine sacred herbs. It was later adopted by the Christians and dedicated to Saint Anne who was the mother of the Virgin Mary.
In the language of flowers chamomile stands for “Patience in adversity”. It is often known as the “Plants’ Physician” because it seems to improve the health of the plants within its immediate vicinity.
I like to use chamomile for my husband, who has arthritic knees and often feels under pressure due to his work. I use a blend of 4 drop chamomile, 2 drops myrrh and 4 drops bergamot in the diffuser in the evenings.
Clary Sage (Salvea Sclarea)
Clary Sage is recommended for physical and mental relaxation, particularly for individuals who are suffering from stress-related insomnia. Although Clary Sage has a sedative action it is also “uplifting” and can engender a euphoric state in some people.
It is calming for the digestive system and can be helpful for indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. It also has a good reputation for relieving the pain associated with menstruation and stress-related migraine.
Clary Sage, named for the Latin word Clarus meaning clear, has been used since mediaeval times for its healing properties. The great herbalist Culpepper referred to it as “Clear Eye” because it was believed to cure any eye problems and it was also known as “eye-bright”. Historically it was made into a tea with chamomile to treat “female hysteria” which today would be referred to as panic attacks. A similar brew was also made to cure headaches and migraine.
For a client with low moods and menstrual cramps I like to make a massage oil with 30ml safflower oil, 4 drops clary sage, 2 drops cedarwood, 3 drops grapefruit and 2 drops geranium.
Sandalwood (Santalum Album)
Sandalwood is recommended for individuals who overwork and find it difficult to switch off. It can be very helpful for anxiety and depression. It has a beneficial effect on dry skin for women and sensitive skin on men (hence its use in 80% of aftershaves).
It is a base note and therefore it is an effective fixative i.e. it fixes any oil blend and lengthens its life and intensity. It has a soft, warming scent which is attractive to both sexes.
Sandalwood is preferable to Rosewood in Aromatherapy because it is farmed therefore there is no threat to the hardwood forests.
The therapeutic properties of Sandalwood have been known since the Fifth Century BC. It has been used for centuries in India by those who believe that Sandalwood impart energy into those using it and that it has the power to enlighten the mind.
The Japanese use sandalwood in their worship of and communication with Buddha whilst Muslims believe that Sandalwood will purify body and soul and carry prayers heavenward.
I love to use a blend of 4 drops Australian Sandalwood, 4 drops of Rose Absolute and 2 drops of Green Mandarin in the diffuser – I just love this aroma!
Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Distilled from the flowers and leaves of the herb, lavender is a widely used essential oil which is an effective antidepressant. It is a good “balancer” so it is useful in helping people to recover from mood swings. It is a well-known treatment for insomnia and it is equally good for relieving tension headaches.
It has a restorative, tonic effect which makes it useful for treating individuals with debilitating fatigue or lethargy. It is an effective painkiller and anti-spasmodic so it is valuable in treating tension-related aches and pains as well as the pain associated with arthritic or rheumatic conditions.
It can also used for insect bites, chilblains, varicose veins and cellulite.
The name derives from the Latin “”lavare which means “to cleanse”. In Pagan times it was burnt as sacred protection against harmful spirits. Lavender was popular in the monastic medicinal gardens of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Gerard in his Sixteenth Century Herbal said that flowers helped to cure “lovesickness” & all pains & “Maladies of the head”. The Victorians lined their hats with it to ward off headaches. In the First World War it was used as an antiseptic for wounds and as a drug to ease psychological pain and induce sleep.
For a client whose baby was struggling to sleep I made a blend of 10 drops lavender, 1 drop frankincense and 1 drop mandarin to place on a damp cloth on the radiator in the bedroom.
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Tea Tree oil from the leaves of the Australian Outback Tea Tree is antiseptic, antiviral and anti-fungal. Many people call it “nature’s antibiotic” and it has the additional property of being a powerful immuno-stimulant, helping the body to fight back when it is threatened by disease or injury. It is used to treat colds, flu and other infectious illnesses which are common in the school or office environment.
Tea Tree can be extremely effective in the treatment of skin problems including acne, abscesses, athletes foot and warts. It’s properties are well researched and it was featured some time ago on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World as a potential solution for the increasing problem of drug-resistant bacterial infections which are causing major problems in hospitals
Tea tree oil is an ancient Aboriginal medicine from Australia. It’s medicinal properties were first recognised in the west in 1925 through the work of prominent scientist Rd. Penfold. It is the ultimate “green” medicine as it is produced from renewable tree stock and the tree consumes greenhouse gasses during growth.
To avoid picking up a virus during a flight I blend 4 drops tea tree, 2 drops lemon and 2 drops myrrh and drop onto a tissue to keep inside my t-shirt or on the side of a neck pillow.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary has a stimulating effect on the nervous system and is commonly recommended as a tonic during periods of stress. It is clinically proven to improve memory and concentration, and can combat work-related fatigue or improve focus as an aid to study. It is an effective hair tonic and is reputed to promote growth and improve condition.
Rosemary has a similar action to Eucalyptus so it is an excellent oil for treating colds and flu and for clearing the sinuses. It is a warming oil which is helpful in treating muscular aches and pains and arthritis. (It should be avoided during pregnancy or if you are epileptic)
Rosemary meaning dew of the sea was considered a sacred plant by the Romans. Christians believed that the flowers were originally white but turned blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on a bush on the journey to Bethlehem. Throughout the ages Rosemary has been carried to ward off evil spirits & protect against illness. It’s medicinal properties were documented as early as 1370 & it has been used throughout the ages since. In the West Rosemary has always been associated with the love of friends as in Ophelia’s much quoted line from Hamlet “That’s rosemary for remembrance”
I used a blend of 3 drops rosemary, 3 drops tea tree and 1 drop eucalyptus to fragrance my late Dad’s bathroom when he was suffering from Parkinson’s shakes and dementia. The oil can be dabbed on the inside of the loo roll (don’t let it touch the tissue) or on a cloth on the radiator.
Lemon (Citrus Limon)
Lemon, in common with Orange and Lime, is refreshing and mentally and physically uplifting. It is ideal as a stimulant to be used in the car to maintain concentration and alertness. It has an affinity with the respiratory systems and is therefore commonly used for treating breathing problems such as asthma.
It is a powerful antiseptic which can be used on wounds but care must be taken if the skin is sensitive. Research has shown that lemon stimulates the white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infection. In Japan the scent is used in high-tech factories to improve productivity and reduce faults.
The lemon tree originated in India and was brought to Europe in the Fifth century. Lemon has long been respected for its ability to lift the spirits and its antiseptic properties have always been put to good use. The essential oil of is pressed from the outer rind of the lemon and it can take as many as 3,000 fruits to produce a kilo of Essential Oil
For frequent colds I often recommend a hot bath with 3 drops lemon, 4 drops tea tree and 4 drops benzoin.
Feel free to contact Julie with any questions: