Smorgasbord Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Essential Oils and Aromatherapy – An introduction.

Twenty 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. It is not something that I have covered here on the blog, and I am looking forward to refreshing my memory from my course notes. and introducing you to this relaxing therapy at the same time.

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.

One of the first things that I learnt on my course, was that the original Coca-Cola was developed as a nerve tonic by pharmacist John Pemberton in 1886 by blending the essential oils of orange, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and neroli together. And of course the unknown secret ingredient to this day ‘7X’. How cool is that.

How does aromatherapy work

Essential oils enter the body through the skin mainly because of their very small molecules. Apart from being absorbed into the skin during a warming massage, the aromatic molecules are also breathed in, and when they hit the nerve receptors in the nostrils, it sets of a reaction resulting in brain activity. This also occurs when using essential oils to bath water which adds to the relaxation of being immersed in the warm environment.

The history of essential oils.

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years as the mainstay of a healer’s medicine chest. With experimentation over centuries the uses and the recipes were refined and eventually became commercially available.  One of the issues of course is finding unpolluted plant sources which is increasingly difficult. One of the largest growing areas for Lavender which is one of the most popular essential oils in in Provence in France. In the early days of its cultivation weeding was done by goats and sheep who fertilised the crop too!

These days there are very strict regulations governing the production of essential oils in the region and you can find out more here:

Making your own essential oil preparations.

You can use essential oils in the preparation in many of the products that you currently buy in bottles and plastic. For example here in Ireland you can buy wonderful handmade soaps that contain all natural ingredients and feel and smell wonderful. I bought some when I was selling my books at Christmas fairs and there is no comparison to the shop bought products. Some also provide training days to get you started on making your own soaps and this is just one that is south of us.

Some of you might have used Arnica in the past in one form or another to reduce bruising or inflammation. It can also be used for painful joints, sprains and muscle strains. The problem with shop bought premixed lotions is that many can contain petroleum and other chemical additives. This first link will show you how to make your own arnica salve, using another of my essential natural ingredients for lotions…. coconut oil…

I do recommend that you buy your essential oils or products made from them from a reputable source and that you opt for the organic makes.

Medicinal benefits of essential oils.

Whilst essential oils have been used as I mentioned, for thousands of years, there is now a lot of scientific research into the the use of the oils in modern medicine. Some enlightened doctors actually have aromatherapists working in their practices. The oils have varied properties, some are effective against viral or fungal infections, some such as Arnica are useful as an anti-inflammatory and relieving pain.

My all in one essential oil.

The one essential oil that is always in my medicine cabinet and my toiletries is Tea Tree Oil. I discovered its benefits when I was learning about essential oils back in the late 1990s and I have used for mosquito bites, tooth ache, in a soap, shower gel, face cream and toothpaste ever since. It is a powerful oil and has antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral,  fungicide and insecticide properties, to mention just a few. Great for athlete’s food, or other fungal conditions as well as keeping hair clear of predators!

With regard to aromatherapy its primary property is as a stimulant and has that effect on blood circulation, hormone secretion and on the immune system. You do not take Tea Tree orally, but it is still effects your internal body systems with its absorption into the skin during massage. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect on sore muscles and joints.

Next time I will be giving you a list of essential oils, where they are extracted from and their uses.

But first a little safety warning.

  • Never take essential oils internally.
  • Keep out of your eyes and away from children
  • Do not apply undiluted (ways to dilute and blend later)

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid the following: (hormone and other stimulating effects)

  • Cinnamon,
  • Basil
  • Juniper
  • Fennel
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Clary Sage
  • Oregano
  • Clove
  • Nutmeg
  • Bay
  • Pimento Berry
  • Sage
  • Hyssop
  • Wintergreen
  • Birch Oils.

If you are going to be in direct sunlight within four hours avoid citrus essential oils such as Bergamot as they increase your sensitivity to the sunlight and can result in burning.

Thank you for dropping in today and I look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally








Smorgasbord Health – A-Z of common conditions – Bruising.

smorgasbord A - Z

There will not be many of us who have not knocked some part of our body and seen a bruise appear the next hour or so.  When we bang into something harder than the skin’s surface we damage the very small blood vessels. This causes a discolouration of the skin in varying shades of blue and green and sometimes purple along with a tenderness to the touch. Usually both the pain and the bruise disappear after a few days as the blood vessels repair beneath the skin. As they heal the colour will change to red.. green and yellow as the blood is absorbed back into the body.


For these occasional bangs and wallops that result in bruises there is little reason for concern and the discomfort can be eased with the application of something that is always in my medicine cabinet.

Arnica also known as Leopard’s Bane and Sneezwort is a herb that has been used for centuries as a treatment for bruises, inflammation such as sprains and acne. To be honest their is as usual very little scientific research into arnica and its properties but I have used it on bruises for many years and I do believe that it speeds up the healing process and reduces some of the discomfort.

It is used in the form of a tincture which is the concentrated herb diluted with fluid which is alcohol (acidic herbs) or if a resin such as balsam you would use a water and alcohol mix.. You would then leave the concoction for about three weeks before using..Thankfully, you can buy the tincture ready prepared in most health food shops.

N.B  There are few interactions reported but I do suggest that if you are pregnant that you do not use any herbal remedies, even topical ones without a qualified herbalist.. Also if you notice a reaction or rash after use, wash off immediately.

One very simply if chilly method to decrease inflammation and pain is to apply ice immediately.  If possible keep the bruised area elevated to decrease blood flow to the damaged site and inflammation.

Lavender oil has also been used on the continent. Make a soft compress with a pad for the lavender. Gently bandage in place and leave on for 24 hours.

The other medicine cupboard staple is Witch Hazel.. again available in pharmacies and health food shops. Rub into the bruised area three or four times a day.

Other reasons for bruising.

If you find that you bruise easily and particularly in areas that you feel you have not damaged then you should visit a doctor.  It could be as simple as a Vitamin C deficiency but it could be an indication of a more serious condition. Including leukemia and other blood disorders, diabetes and certain medications that have a blood thinning property such as aspirin or wafarin. It can also be the result of taking cortisone medicaion.

As our skin becomes thinner as we age, bruising becomes more common.. The bruises tend to be purple in colour and take far longer to dissipate if at all.

Diet to develop a thicker skin!!

It is important to have a balanced diet but Vitamin C plays a vital role in many organs of the body including our skin which is the largest waste organ of the body.

VITAMIN C: ASCORBIC ACID; An antioxidant that protects LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) from oxidative damage, leading to hardening of the arteries. May also protect against heart disease reducing the hardening of arteries and the tendency of platelets to clump together blocking them. Vitamin C is necessary to form collagen, which acts like glue strengthening parts of the body such as muscles and blood vessels. It aids with healing and is a natural anti-histamine.


It is essential for the action of the Immune system and plays a part in the actions of the white blood cells and anti-bodies. It protects other antioxidants A and E from free radical damage and is involved in the production of some adrenal hormones. It is water soluble and found in all fruit and vegetables with best sources being Blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.

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©smorgasbordhealth 2017

You will find the other common conditions in this directory:

Thank you for dropping by and please feel free to share.. thanks Sally