I originally studied the principles and practice of a number of complementary medicine modalities in a bid to understand their philosophies and methods. In so doing I discovered a common thread between all: that is, energy, in its various forms and manifestation, but especially as a quintessential constant.
Design or coincidence? Meditation came to my awareness when I was a teenager in the early ‘70’s, searching for my ‘truth’, trying to make some sense of the ‘world’, and my ‘purpose’ and ‘place’ within it. I realise now, even more than I did at the time, that learning to meditate was a gift bestowed; this simple process of being ‘present’ and aware grounds my psyche in ways I cannot always find the words to explain. And, as one path seems to lead to another, ‘alternative medicine’ (as it was termed in those days) eased, almost seamlessly, gently alongside; the common underpinning tenets of each complementary to the other. I discovered that practicing meditation lends experiential insight to the subtle principles and expressions of many ancient healing and wellbeing practices; my body truly is my temple as well as my vehicle, and earth, also a gift, is a garden of abundant nourishment and joy; blessings deserving reverent respect, nurture and care.
Of all the complementary medicine modalities I have studied, however, essential oils seem to resonate with my ‘way of being’ or personality most (as in the sense expressed in Robert Tisserands title ‘The Art of Aromatherapy’); this is not to say, however, that essential oils ‘stand alone’ or are better than other integrated modalities, as each brings it’s own significant dynamic and special value in terms of holistic wellbeing and health. In reality, essential oils straddle many principles and practices: from phyto-chemistry and botany, to psycho-emotional-spiritual and ethereal (an aspect of their appeal to me). One advantage of essential oils, however, is that, alongside their subtle and creative dynamics, their chemistry presents clearly observable, identifiable, measurable physical properties and qualities, as evidenced through numerous research studies exploring their health benefits.
For example, essential oils posess anti-microbial, skin and wound healing, and psycho-emotional agent and regulatory properties. They uplift, ground, calm, even inspire, mood and emotion through chemical and hedonistic responses instigated within Limbic system. They stimulate cognitive function, aid mental alertness, concentration, clarity of thought, and memory. They revitalise and aid regeneration of skin tissue, and support the immune system. They are attractant, repellent and protective (for example, in the plant they attract pollinators and repel or ward off plant eating herbivores and invasive insects, fungi and microbes). Thus, essential oils are employed in many ways, beyond scent; for example, for example, their antimicrobial and preservative attributes enhance and protect the integrity of many manufactured foods and household products. Essential oils are found in beauty products ranging from perfumes and shampoo, to face cream and skin care preparations; they add flavour and shelf life to foods, and mask unpleasant tastes and odours; they scent various household products, from polish to paper, room incense to insect repellents. Their qualities truly are diverse.
Combined with massage (or soft tissue manipulation), the qualities of essential oils are further potentiated. Massage warms surface tissues, aids the circulatory (lymph and blood), nervous, and immune systems, and aids essential oil absorption into the deeper layers of skin, from where essential oil molecules are transported throughout the body via the circulatory system.
My personal passion for essential oils is inspired by their sensual (‘scentual’), psycho-emotional-spiritual influence, their creative potential to influence ambience, to tap into and connect to deep intrinsic feelings, moods, emotions, and memories. I am endlessly fascinated by their ability to restore, rejuvenate, repair, and protect not just body tissues, but the whole body, from physical to subtle.
My motivation for writing my books is to share my experience, insights and knowledge, but importantly, to present information about essential oils in way that will inform and enable others to go on their own journey of discovery too, understanding how to use essential oils safely and effectively in the process. My books have potential to reach many more people than I can teach in a class or small group, even in a lifetime. Also, I am a perpetual student too; writing means I research and discover, question and reflect, expand and continually push my own boundaries. So while I guide, I travel alongside too – we’re in this together.
How do I use essential oils? I use essential oils in various ways, but I am mindful, from experience, that less is often more when applying essential oils, so very small amounts can be incredibly effective. It is easy to become chemically saturated with a product, any product, if it is overused, most especially essential oils, because they are so concentrated, so I utilise these in small amounts. The best way to use essential oils in moderation and to vary the essential oils, or oil, you use to avoid sensitisation – for example, I don’t use the same essential oil repeatedly, but select alternatives, and create different blends or combinations to avoid using the same oils repeatedly.
So, I tend to wear small amounts of essential oil as perfume on my cloths and in my hair, rather than on my skin. I use certain essential oils as first aid remedies, but do not use these repeatedly; thus, these oils are reserved for emergencies, if and when needed. The same goes for adding essential oils to skin care remedies; I use very small amounts and make up non-scented creams and lotions too, so I have essential oil-breaks (carefully selected vegetable oils have amazing skin care qualities of their own), and apply the same principle for face-masks, I also use essential oils in hair products (non-scented shampoo or conditioner) occasionally rather than every wash, and so on.
I create environmental perfumes, using essential oils to instil an ambience or particular theme or mood, which I diffuse into the atmosphere – but not every day or all the time, just in inspired bursts on occasion. I don’t use essential oils to clean my house, they are too far too precious*, but I do use them to environmentally cleanse and ‘fumigate’ from time to time (dried herbs, such as sage, can be ‘smoked’ or ‘smudged’ to the same end); daily cleanliness and hygiene are better served with soap and water – we build our immune system through coming into contact with germs and bacteria and by allowing certain minor infections and illnesses to ‘run their course’; I save the troops for ‘battle’ rather than a minor skirmish.
I might use one drop of an essential oil to flavour foods or deserts, especially citrus oils, peppermint or, extravagantly, rose. However, I firmly believe that plants, herbs, spices and edible flowers are best consumed in their whole-plant form, either fresh or dried; flavonoids and minerals are not distillable, but significantly contribute to a plants nutritional, healing, and anti-oxidant value.
* Hundreds of pounds of plant material is required to produce a relatively small amount of essential oil, thus, it is important to be mindful of the ecological footprint incurred when producing and consuming essential oils (such as, sustainable farming or wild harvest methods, sourcing and using locally grown and distilled essential oils, optimum distillation conditions, and so on). Nature provides essential oils in very small amounts in their natural form; thus, we should take a ‘leaf’ from natures book and use essential oils sparingly and sustainably, reserving their intense use for acute short-term scenarios (such as, occasional environmental cleansing and fumigation, or remedies for ‘flu, infections, viruses, and to support mood and emotion as and when required, and so on – perfumes should be worn sparingly, subtly, as a treasure, a lovely gift).
It takes 35 pounds of lavender flowers to produce just 15ml of essential oil (or approximately 300 drops), 2,500 to 4,000 kg of rose petals to produce just 1 kg of rose essence. Just one drop of essential oil is equivalent to 15-40 cups of medicinal tea or up to 10 teaspoons of tincture.
Balance and variety is key in terms of maintaining health, wellness and fitness. I do this in various ways: meditation; walking in the fresh air and in nature; yoga/gentle stretching exercises (I am not a ‘sporty person’ and have never enjoyed going to the gym); I have been a vegetarian since I was seventeen and try to eat mainly ‘real’ fresh whole food– although I do love chocolate; essential oils are my companions, but as in all relationships, in respected moderation; I try to balance my time and activity to move my mode between working, resting, nourishing, socialising, exercising, creating, and helping. I don’t like to tell anyone else how to live their lives, but I think we help each other by being consciously compassionate, living from our best intention, and ’being present’.
You can find out more about essential oils and my work, and connect with me here:
My books offer a comprehensive guide about the varies ways of applying essential oils effectively.