Welcome to the repeat of the 2018 series about essential oils and aromatherapy and I hope those new to the blog will enjoy.
Twenty-two years ago I ran a health food shop and diet advisory centre here in Ireland and we sold essential oils for aromatherapy. I thought that I should learn more about it and took a course on the subject. I am looking forward to sharing this relaxing therapy with you.
What is Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses essential oils which have been extracted from specific sweet smelling plants for therapeutic massage. They are blended with specialised carrier oils to ensure that they are used in a diluted form and are easily absorbed by the skin. The oils can also be used to add these therapeutic aromas to our environment as well with the use of burners.
Last time I covered the exotic essential oil Frankincense and its uses to maintain a healthy immune system, hormones and anti-aging.. this week the versatile lavender Oil which is found in skincare products, perfumes and also contains some pretty impressive natural healing properties.
Lavender is sourced from Tasmania, England and France uses the flowers.
- Scent: Floral
- Usage: Inhalation, Bath, Skincare, Massage
- Note: Middle
- Mood: Soothing
- Safety: Some restrictions (at the end of the post).
The essential oil that we use today is usually from the common lavender (lavendula officinalis or Lavendula augustifolia). There are other varieties of lavender such as spike lavender that has a different effect on the body and mind. Check with your supplier and avoid any essential oils that are not made from the common variety as they are not usually suitable for home use and are used in commercial preparations.
If you have traveled through the South of France between June and August you will see the lavender fields at their best. It is an amazing sight and from small plots on hillsides, grown by local farmers and villages, there are now acres of purple plants stretching for miles.
The name lavender probably originates from the Latin Lavare ‘to wash’ or livere ‘bluish in colour’.
We are not the first to make use of this multi-talented flower as the Greeks used for top to tail health including sore throats and constipation. The Romans gave their famous baths the lavender treatment for its fragrance and antiseptic properties. In medieval times herbalists would recommend lavender water for head lice and laundries would use to keep linens fresh and the moths at bay. Bed bugs were a real issue then and using fresh lavender in the sheets kept them away.
When I was learning about essential oils 22 years ago, I was fascinated to discover how different cultures could discover not just existing healing properties hundreds of years apart, but also new ones that enriched the essential oil’s reputation. This applies to lavander.
Chemist Rene Gattefosse was working in his father’s perfume factory when there was a small explosion and he burnt his hand. He covered it in lavender essential oil and was amazed how quickly it healed without infection setting in.
This inspired him to research all the essential oils and the therapeutic properties and the result was the book Aromatherapie… giving us the English word we use for essential oils.
It is an all round family friendly essential oil but it is still not recommended to use essential oils for children under five, unless under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist.
- It is very useful to smooth a drop of lavender essential oil over bruises once or twice a day.
- Diluted lavender oil smoothed around the neck and temples, overlaid with two drop of the pure oil may alleviate headaches.
- Some diluted lavender oil combined with 1 drop of chamomile essential oil at bath time for children can calm them after a stressful day.
- For adults you can blend 2.5ml of lavender oil with a drop each of pure mandarin and geranium essential oil for a soothing and relaxing bath.
- If you are lucky enough to have an extended period of sunshine, you can mix 5ml of soothing Aloe Vera Gel with 5 drops of Lavender pure oil and spread over any pink areas of skin.
- You can also cool down after a day in the sun by keeping 250ml of still mineral water combined with 20 drops of pure lavender oil in an atomiser in the refrigerator.
- Any mild burns in the kitchen can be cooled first under the cold water tap and then apply neat lavender oil. Cover with a gauze, and change the dressing regularly. When it begins to heal use the aloe vera gel and oil mix that I detailed above.
- The oils antiseptic properties also come in use for skin conditions such as eczema, insomnia, bacterial infections, teenage acne, and when rubbed into joints relieve the pain of rheumatism and arthritis.
- In a blended massage oil, lavender is calming and relaxing.
- Add 2 drops of lavender oil and 2 drops of eucalyptus oil to a small bowl of very hot water and place by your bed to help you sleep.
- Use the dried lavender, infused with lavender oil in small organza sachets for use in your linen cupboard or clothes drawers.
- Lavender can be combined with other oils in a diffuser to naturally scent your home.
Lavender essential oil and pets.
There are some oils that are not pet friendly so do check before using as they can be toxic. I do suggest that you research each oil individually or talk to a holistic vet before using.
Lavender oil is considered safe to be used in small quantities and especially in the fight against one of the most difficult parasite to get rid of.. Fleas. There is however a major problem and it is important not to get the wash anywhere near a dog or cat’s eyes. That is difficult with cats who use their paws to rub across their faces.
For dogs you can make a wash from 600ml warm water, 2 drops of essential oil and 2 drops of cedarwood oil. I have used a plastic hair brush dipped in the wash and then drawn through the dogs coat from the back of the head down the back and then the sides. Avoid the face and also any delicate bits and pieces.
For cats you can adapt a fabric collar dipped in 150ml of water 5 ml of alcohol (vodka is best as it does not have the pungent smell) 3 drops of lavender oil and 3 drops of citronella. Let the collar thoroughly dry and then repeat every 6 weeks or as needed.
You can also make a collar for dogs who are carsick or get excited easily by using a diluted oil, drying the collar completely and then using when traveling. Also perhaps coming up to Firework displays or large family gatherings.
The best essential oils to blend with Lavender.
Cedarwood from Algeria and Morocco is extracted from the wood.
- Scent: Woody
- Usage: Inhalation, Bath, Skin Care, Massage
- Note: Base
- Mood: Balancing
- Safety: Avoid in Pregnancy
Jasmine from Egypt, India and France and uses the flowers.
- Scent: Floral
- Usage: Inhalation, Massage, Baths
- Note: Middle
- Mood: Reassuring
- Safety: 24hour test on sensitive skin.
Mandarin is made from the peel of the fruit and comes from Brazil, Algeria and Argentina.
- Scent: Citrus
- Usage: Bath, massage, skin care
- Note: Top
- Mood: Soothing
- Safety: Avoid exposure to sunlight.
Neroli is made from the flowers and comes from Morocco, Tunisia and France.
- Scent: Floral
- Usage: Skin care, massage, baths
- Note: Top
- Mood: Calming
- Safety: None indicated
Whilst most oils that I have shared have no serious indications with moderate use of the diluted oil it should be remembered that these oils can have a powerful effect on the body.
Lavender is one of the oils that is not known for severe interactions but you should be aware of some of the restrictions on its use, particularly for the very young and elderly who might have a compromised immune system.
- Lavender essential oil is not recommended during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. After the foetus has reached that stage you should still work with a qualified practitioner.
- As with all oils it is a good idea to do a small patch test on your skin 48 hours before using for the first time.
- Recommended maximum dilution for home use is a lot lower than a qualified practitioner might use after a detailed history of their client…so only use 3 drops in 100 drops of carrier oil. Instead of measuring your carrier oil every time measure 100 drops once in a measuring tube or syringe and that can be your standard.
- Lower this dilution rate to just one drop per 100 drops of carrier oil for elderly or those with a compromised immune system.The same for children 3 – 12 years old.
- There are certain health conditions when Lavender oil is not recommended such as diabetes and epilepsy, again consult a qualified practitioner.