Heather Dawn: Godfrey. P.G.C.E., B.Sc. (Joint Hon)
The Role of Essential Oils within Plants
Essential oils occur as secondary metabolites in plants and, while not vital to the plants existence, they play a significant supportive role.
Exuding as an auric, enveloping, vaporous mist surrounding the plant, their volatile molecules create an environment that is one and the same time repelling to predators and harmful microbes, yet attractant to pollinating bees, butterflies, birds and animals. Essential oil molecules also relay signals to other plants, and modify the immediate environmental temperature to avert water loss.
Within the plant they are ‘hormone-like’ and relay messages in response to changes in atmospheric conditions, tissue injury, damage or disease. They disarm invasive microbes, and stave infection and disease, while their tissue-regenerating properties heal and repair.
Essential Oils and their gifts to us
Animal and plant cells are similar. in deed, we share a symbiotic relationship with plants, which, among other things, provide nutrients, medicines and oxygen vital for our survival. Essential oils lend us the qualities they gift the plant, and so much more. They are anti-microbial, protective, restorative and regenerative. They are also wonderfully sensual and hedonistic. They gracefully influence mood, emotion and spirit. They aid memory, clarity of thought and perception. They instil a sense of being grounded, uplifted, peaceful and vibrant. They may invigorate, brace and strengthen, calm and gently subdue. They rebalance and restore equilibrium.
And what about their perfumes?!!
A wisp of scent is enough to immediately transport us on a sensory journey – a jasmine kiss on a starlit night; a rose garden in summer; the earthy-agrestic woodiness of a northern forest in spring; Mediterranean citrus groves in winter; a log fire on a cool dusky evening; spicy warm fruit cake fresh from the oven – sunshine on the cloudiest day. Tones, colours and shades, nuances that seamlessly imbue from conjured images, memories and impressions, complex and deep, often experienced beyond words, sensually illuminated by the gift of smell.
Their qualities are numerous.
Essential oils can journey with us through the seasons, to protect and support us while we re-calibrate and adjust to changing conditions. They can be applied to create an ambient atmosphere, support meditation and relaxation, to aid concentration whenstudying; in deed, scent detection immediately returns conscious awareness to the present moment.
Their anti-microbial and decongestant qualities can alleviate the symptoms of colds and ‘flu (for example, peppermint, myrrh or
cypress). Frankincense and myrrh, for example, are ‘earthing’, warming, drying, antimicrobial, they support the immune system, while they are also calming; an antidote to the cold the dampness of winter. Combined with bitter orange or another citrusy oil, they can at the same time dispel feelings of anxiety and depression. Mandarin and the earthy-smoky scent of vetivert, combined with the sweet rose-like scent of geranium express similar uplifting yet grounding qualities. There are so many essential oils to choose from, yet it just takes a few carefully selected oils to create your own scented pharmacopeia, bringing nature to your senses; let your intuition and nose guide your choice. Enjoy your journey!
Applying Essential Oils
You can diffuse essential oils into the atmosphere or add them to a bath blended in a vegetable oil (to prevent skin irritation), or apply them in a roller bottle diluted in coconut oil or jojoba.
A word of advice: do not apply essential oils neat to your skin, always dilute them in an emollient such as non-perfumed cream or lotion, or a vegetable oil. Do not diffuse essential oils near an infant’s headspace as their respiratory systems are delicate and easily sensitised. Always check the therapeutic qualities of an essential oil before applying it.
Books and Learning more about Essential Oils
My books, Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation, Essential Oils for the Whole Body, and my soon-to-be published new book, Healing with Essential Oils, provide details about blending and safe application and will guide your creativity.