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Essential Oils Blog

Tag Archives: body

Castile Soap DIY’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients: Saponified Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut Oil), Saponified Organic Otea Europaea (Olive Oil), Saponified Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Oil), Rosemary Extract, Organic Aloe Vera.

 

Now that Plant Therapy has added Castile Soap to our line of products, I went in search of different ways to use it. To my surprise, there are hundreds of uses for it! While I am testing out and tweaking these recipes I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

 

Foaming Hand Soap

Here’s what you ‘ll need:

Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Add the water to the foaming pump dispenser
  2. Add Castile Soap
  3. Add  Optiphen +
  4. Add essential oil
  5. Replace cap, shake well

 

Multi-Purpose Spray

What you’ll need:

  • 5 ounces water
  • 3 ounces white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Castile Soap
  • 1/2 teaspoon Polysorbate 20
  • 25-30 drops essential oil (I use Germ Destroyer or Germ Fighter in most batches )
  • Spray Bottle

What you’ll do:

  1.  Add all ingredients to the spray bottle and shake well.
  2. Spray and wipe.

 

Body Wash

What you’ll need;

What you’ll do;

  1. Measure all ingredients.
  2. Pour into bottle.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Store in your bathroom and use as you would a traditional body wash.

 

Fruit and Veggie Wash

What you’ll need:

A bowl of cool water (approximately 2 quarts)

5-6 drops Castile Soap

2 drops Lemon Essential Oil

Mix together and that’s it! There is no need to rinse your fruit and veggies, they are ready to go. If you are not using them right away, just drain and store in the fridge.

 

KidSafe Shampoo

What you’ll Need:

4 ounces Castile Soap

1 tablespoon Carrier Oil of choice

4 oz plastic bottle

18 drops of KidSafe Synergy or KidSafe Single Essential Oil of choice.  (Lavender, Tea Tree or Get “Em Gone are great options).

What you’ll do;

  1. Measure ingredients.
  2. Pour into bottle.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Store in your bathroom and use as you would a traditional body wash.

 

Bubbling Bath Salts

What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  1. Measure Epsom salt, pour into medium bowl and set aside
  2. Measure 1 TBSP coconut oil, into small dish or beaker, set aside
  3. Measure 2 mL essential oil with graduated cylinder {or drop 40-45 drops}. Pour into coconut oil
  4. Measure body wash
  5. Add carrier/essential oils mixture to the body wash, stirring well. Mixture will turn opaque and thicken slightly as you stir
  6. Add carrier/essential oil/body wash mixture to Epsom salt
  7. Stir well
  8. Package in a container of your choice, but do be sure it’s airtight!

To use, run about 1/4 cup under your warm water as you fill the tub. This is the perfect way to send yourself or your little one, or yourself, off to bed all calm and snuggly!

 

Plant Therapy’s Castile Soap is unscented making it safe for kids and adults alike to use for effective and safe cleaning. This soap is perfect for hand, body, and face washing, as well as for dishes, mopping, and other household chores. This green, nontoxic soap base is perfect because of its many, many uses. We will be sharing more of these many uses with you soon!

 

How do you like to use Castile Soap?

 

 

My Top Three Oils for Whole Being Balance

By Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist


Recently, we discussed the practice of holistic care in “What Does Holistic Have to Do with Our Health.” Essentially, we are caring for mind, body and spirit to bring balance to our whole being for a greater state of wellbeing.

You may recall from “Food for Thought, that our mind, body and spirit are interconnected. Depending on our state of mind, our body and spirit are impacted in chemical messages from the brain created by stress. This distress of the mind, especially over the long-term, can lead to dis-ease due to our body’s inability to compensate and re-balance.

Aromatherapy, in particular, the practice of holistic aromatherapy, is the perfect partner for helping to support harmony on all three levels of our existence. When we can find balance within ourselves and our environment,  we can experience a greater sense of optimal wellbeing.

Each essential oil and extract has its own therapeutic profile and value, often with multiple core applications.

And, often, we blend synergies from a selection of essential oils to create the holistic profile we are seeking as we did to accompany self-balancing activities outlined in Balancing Our Whole Being.”

There are, however, some essential oils and extracts that are just excellent at equally supporting and entire being.

I find myself reaching over and again for three in particular when I want well-rounded and robust support to bring my being back into balance.

The three I love the most for holistic use are: Bergamot, Fragonia and Blue Yarrow. Oh my goodness, do I love the gifts of these oils.

On their own, they are wonderful to bring equilibrium to mind, body and spirit. Mixed in other synergies, they enhance the holistic value. In my opinion, blended together, they create something extraordinary.

Below, you will find why I consider these my top three essences as my very favorites for holistic support on all three levels — mind, body and spirit.

In addition, I have included one of my very favorite blends with the added benefit of a soothing bath. I find this one of the best ways to find balance from within for my whole being.

As always, I  encourage you to consider options that match your own unique needs.

 

Bergamot Citrus bergamia  (bergapten free)

Bergamot is a favorite for its array of uses and its sunny scent. Bergamot is an incredibly uplifting, calming and balancing essential oil.

It is especially helpful when you feel off balance due to nervous tension and when you need to invite in more positive thinking and energy.

Mind:  Balancing to emotions. Uplifting and calming.  Promotes positive thinking while helping to release negative emotions.

Body: Supports the body in returning to a state of relaxation. Soothes the nervous system and smooths nervous tension held in the tissues.

Spirit: Helps to harmonize the spirit, especially when affected by strong, negative emotions. Supports the ability to receive positive energy and helps our natural energy to flow smoothly.

 

 

Fragonia Taxandria fragrans

Fragonia is highly valued for its uniquely balanced composition. It, too, has a wide array of core therapeutic uses and has a soft, refreshing scent.

It is especially helpful for letting go of old emotional thought patterns and negative energy blocks that are impacting your balance and wellbeing.

Mind:  Helps to release old emotional patterns. Calming and uplifting, it helps to reduce worry and nervous tension.

Body:  Balancing to the nervous system. Relaxing and relieving to nervous tension creating discomfort in the body.

Spirit:  Helps to release deep-seated blocks in the energy flow caused by old wounds. Strengthening to the spirit.

 

 

Blue Yarrow – Achillea millefolium

Blue yarrow has been prized throughout time for its ability to support wounds on all levels. Though it provides powerful support, it is gentle in nature.

Its “blue” constituents are especially helpful to bring a cooling sense of balance to  heated conditions of mind, body and spirit.

Mind:  Supports emotional equilibrium. Helps to calm worry and nervous tension.

Body: Calming to the nervous system. Relaxing and relieving for nervous tension held in the tissues.

Spirit:  Powerful support in releasing blocks created by repressed strong, negative emotions. Helps to support a smooth natural energy flow. Balanced between opposing energies, it helps to equalize these energies in our own being.

 

Balancing Bath Blend

2 drops Bergamot  Citrus bergamia

2 drops Fragonia Taxandria fragrans

1 drop Blue Yarrow Achillea millefolium

Mix with 2 T natural, unscented body wash

Add 1/2 c of Epsom Salts and mix.

Add to your warm bath and soak for 20 minutes.

Bringing the best of the abilities from my top three oils for whole being balance. This is an especially wonderful immersion experience before bedtime. 

 


Sources:

Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.

Lawless, Julia. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health & Well-being. New York: Fall River, 2014. Print.

Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance through Essential Oils. London: Gaia, 2005. Print.

Shutes, Jade. The Dynamics of Blending: A Guide to Blending . Willow Springs, NC: NW College for Herbal and Aromatic Studies, 2011. Print.

Zeck, Robbi. The Blossoming Heart: Aromatherapy for Healing and Transformation. East Ivanhoe, Victoria: Aroma Tours, 2004. Print.

Immortelle Skin

 

Personally, I LOVE the smell of fresh coffee in the morning, so using this scrub in the shower before work gives me that extra boost I need to get up and going.  Plus, it smells delicious….and tastes good too! (Only because I accidentally got it in my mouth, but I DO NOT recommend eating my facial scrub!)

Growing up, I was blessed with blemish prone, oily skin and to this day I still struggle with occasional breakouts of pimples, blackheads, or clogged pores. I always thought that at the young age of 27 (okay, okay ….. 31) I would be over the pre-pubescent era and free of its evil clutches, but sadly many of us still suffer with some form of blemish our entire lives.

So, the challenge began. I needed to find something that would both clean and moisturize my skin without irritating it or drying it up. I tried countless over-the counter products, but they would either be too drying – which would cause my face to over-produce oil, in turn causing more breakouts (defeating the purpose), or too oily which would give me that too “shiny” look in pictures.

As I began working more with essential oils and carrier oils, I learned about the benefits of use and which ones are most effective in a given situation. Also, early in the testing stages, I found salt scrubs to be too abrasive for the sensitive skin on my face; which is why I decided to try a sugar scrub instead.

Initially, when I tried this scrub for the first time, my first thought (while I was rinsing it off) was, “Wow – this is wayyyyy too greasy!” But, after you towel dry and wipe off any excess oil, you will love the way your skin feels. Now that I have used it 3 times this first week, I cannot believe what it has done for my face. My pores feel tighter, my skin feels smoother, more hydrated, and for some reason, my everyday makeup just looks better.

Now before I give you the recipe, let me list some of the benefits of the ingredients I chose to use in this recipe:

Sugar – Sugar helps remove the outermost layer of dead skin and leaves your skin soft and smooth without causing pain or being too overly aggressive on the skin.

Coffee Grounds – The caffeine in coffee helps increase circulation, exfoliates, softens, and smooths skin.

Virgin Coconut Oil – This is the most versatile oil for the body and is extremely hydrating to skin.

Organic Moroccan Argan Oil – Argan is incredibly conditioning and known for its skin rejuvenating properties, rich in Vitamin E, and smooths fine lines and improves skin elasticity. Perfect for those prone to breakouts or those who have sensitive skin.

Near Perfection – This Carrier Oil Blend helps minimize the appearance of imperfections, is skin balancing, softens and conditions irritated skin, and contains Tamanu Oil, which extends to a wide range of natural treatments for blemishes and general oily skin.

Helichrysum Italicum – Also known as Immortelle, alleviates the appearance of bruising, rejuvenates the look of healthy skin, and helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, scars, and stretch marks.

Carrot Seed – Nourishes, rejuvenates, assists with healing,  and softening and smoothing to the skin.

Geranium Egyptian – Well known for the ability to help tone skin and revitalize complexion, and is very skin balancing.

Rose Absolute – Cooling, soothing, perfect for dry skin, helps minimize the appearance of scarring,  calming, and smooths skin.

Elemi – Rejuvenating, helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, skin supporting, and restores healthy younger-looking skin.

Organic Rose Hydrosol – Aids with blemishes, reduces redness, aids in removing dirt and oil in pores, and is safe for spraying directly on the skin. Hydrosols are also safe for children and pets alike.

Ingredients:

1 Cup Organic Brown Sugar

1/4 Cup Granulated White Sugar

2 Tbsp (Used) Coffee Grounds

1/4 Cup Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

1/4 Cup Organic Argan Oil

2 Tablespoons Near Perfection (Blend of Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil, Avocado Oil, Tamanu Oil, and Vitamin E)

Rose Hydrosol in a spray bottle

 

 

Essential Oils:

Helichrysum Italicum – 6 Drops

Carrot Seed – 6 Drops

Geranium Egyptian – 6 Drops

Rose Absolute – 3 Drops

Elemi – 12 Drops

Directions:

  1. Combine both sugars in a large bowl and mix together.
  2. Add all carrier oils to the dry sugar blend.
  3. Add all essential oils and mix thoroughly.
  4. Use no more than 3 times the first week – then use once a week to maintain a healthy glow.
  5. Use the Rose Hydrosol nightly as a facial toner.

For the Facial Scrub and Toning System I created, I recommend washing your face first, then using the scrub 1-3 times a week depending the needs of your skin.

Begin by gently wetting your face, then take about a quarter sized amount in your hands and gently massage your face with it for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Rinse well and towel dry. Next, spray the Rose Hydrosol directly on your face (as a nightly toner) immediately following the scrub. You will feel a difference almost immediately; first with how smooth and hydrated your face feels, and then with how tight your pores start to look and feel. I promise you, this is a scrub you won’t want to live without!

For this recipe, I intentionally wanted to keep my essential oil dilution rate below a 1% since it will be used on the face and used frequently.

What are your morning routines that help put a “spring in your step”?

DIY Deodorant

By: Kimberly Daun, Certified Aromatherapist

 

I was recently talking to a friend of mine about traditional deodorants.  Our conversation was eye opening as she enlightened me to just how harmful they can be.  Upon conducting research, I found there to be aluminum in virtually all store bought brands.  Not being entirely sure what that would do to my body, I decided to find out for myself.  Some of the most alarming side effects are that it clogs your pores and therefore minimizes your ability to sweat.  My initial response to that information was, well, isn’t that what deodorant is supposed to do?  However, our bodies were made to sweat, as it in an effective and healthy way of eliminating toxins.  I think we already have enough hygiene products that we don’t feel entirely comfortable using, or even some where we avoid the ingredients label all together.  I set out to find a homemade deodorant recipe that I felt was safe and would help me maintain my hygienic sanity as two of my boys approach their teen years.  As an added bonus, it’s only 1/3 of the cost of traditional deodorants. After some trial and error, the best one I have found is the following coconut oil deodorant recipe.

 

Baking Soda: I use this often to neutralize odors around the house.  It helps balance your’ body’s PH levels keeping you smelling nice. You know your skin the best, if you feel like this ingredient is a bit abrasive for you then replacing it with arrowroot powder will give you the same results. If replacing it entirely doesn’t resonate with your skin type either you can use both baking soda and arrowroot powder and find a good balance of both. Luckily with this recipe you can fine tune it to you or your family’s needs.

Arrow Root: Absorbs excess moisture and the contains calcium chloride to help balance your PH levels.

Corn Starch: Rather than blocking your pores, like store bought deodorant, it helps to absorb excess moisture.  It can help soothe skin irritation, relieve issues caused by warm/damp environments, and keep your underarms nice and dry.

Virgin Coconut Oil: This is another ingredient that helps keep your body balanced and eliminate skin conditions that can potentially cause an unpleasant odor.  The high content of Lauric Acid found in coconut oil offers a nice support to your immune system.

Bentonite Clay: This is my favorite ingredient because it actually HELPS your body by drawing out toxins, keeping your lymph nodes clear.  Your lymph nodes are a part of your body largely responsible for fighting infection, illness, and eliminating things the body doesn’t need or may be harmful.  Keeping your lymph nodes clear is necessary for a fully functioning immune system. How cool to add an extra boost to your health by using your deodorant, and it doesn’t stain!

Tea Tree:Essential Oil: Warm and damp places are an ideal place for fungus and other germs, aka our underarms on any given day. Luckily, Tea Tree Essential Oil is a great remedy for the unwanted substances and whatever odor could accompany them. Tea Tree has a high content of Terpinen-4-ol which is what makes unpleasant odor lose the battle. If you struggle with skin sensitivity or razor burn Tea Tree can also help with bumps, break outs, and general skin irritation. Because of its immune boosting constituents it has health benefits that extend far beyond your underarms. Not only do I LOVE the aroma of Tea Tree but it was also the first essential oil I was introduced to so it has a special place for me. Because, of the previous factors Tea Tree was the best options for me, however if you want a bit more soft and synergistic aroma, Lavender is a really fabulous addition.  Not only does it help with odors but it also has a very calming effect on the mind and body.

Beeswax I used this to ensure the deodorant would stay solid at room temperature.  We throw these in our gym bags and I would hate to open it up to a melted mess when I need deodorant the most!  Not to mention the benefits of vitamin A for your skin and immune system.

 

What you’ll need

 

What you’ll do

  1. Over a double boiler melt beeswax and coconut oil.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk in dry ingredients and essential oils.
  4. Pour into Twist Tube.
  5. Let sit until hard.

 

I specifically wanted to stay with a 1% dilution for my essential oils since we’ll be using this often.  This will help minimize the risks associated with sensitization.  This is my FAVORITE natural deodorant recipe, and has given me the option of never going back to expensive and unsafe store bought deodorant.  Using this natural deodorant helps me to smell nice and boost my immune system.

 

 

What are your favorite essential oils to combat unpleasant odors?

 

 

An Achilles Heel to Healing

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist


 

We are told “when life gets tough, the tough get going.”

What does that really mean? Generally, we interpret that to mean we “toughen up” to persist in working through adversity.

Most often, persistence is a trait we are taught to admire. But, is it a trait that helps us be whole? What if this persistent state of armoring is actually an Achilles Heel to our healing?

Greek mythology depicts Achilles as one of its greatest warriors during the Trojan War. Yet, for all his armor and strength, he was killed by a poisoned arrow that found its mark on his heel. That vulnerable spot came to be known as the Achilles Heel. Even one who is heroically strong can meet his downfall through a poisoned weak spot.[1]

In the modern world, we are often met with constant sources of stress that can feel like an army of arrows flinging at us. We armor up and soldier on to persist on our path while trying to prevent or push back the adversity coming at us.

By definition persistence is “the firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” [2]

Yet, when we heroically persist in armoring up, we also create a rigid pattern of holding that can impact our overall wellbeing on all levels. This very armor against stress tends to repress its toxic effects binding it into our whole being and creating our own poisoned Achilles Heel.

Emotionally, physically and energetically, continued persistence can put us in a state of fighting a continuous battle, which can eventually erode our strength and stamina. This unrelenting sense of distress can create dis-ease on all levels by impacting our ability find a healing balance.

 

As we read in “Food for Food for Thought,” and “Take and Breath and Cool Your Jets,” distress of the mind, unchecked, also creates a stress response in the body. In therapeutic bodywork, we say your issues are in your tissues. You know that feeling of discomfort from the knots in your shoulders and neck where many hold their stress. This is the body armored and ready for battle. But, this unrelenting state of distress also can lead to chronic and serious conditions through the stress cocktail that impacts our body’s ability to find a healing balance.

In energy work, we say this sense of armoring, or holding, creates blocks in the natural energy flow of our subtle body. From this perspective, left unreleased, these blocks can become a deeply suppressed source of dis-ease that eventually manifest as physical health conditions, most especially where weak spots have developed.

In my own healing journey, a colleague recently pointed out my persistence in working to heal a chronic lower back condition. In fact, I was so persistent, that I tried pushing forward with the same therapeutic modality for a year.  And, though I made some progress, I wasn’t making a breakthrough.

In retrospect, I needed another approach, but I was not willing to flex to some other options because I was certain this was the answer if I just gave it enough effort and time. Yet, the more I persisted the more frustrated I became with my body leading to some distress in the mind, creating more stress in the body, which affected the pain I was experiencing through a state of dis-ease and back to the frustration and stress of the mind. What a cycle, huh?

The breakthrough came, when I eventually broke down. A few months ago I “suddenly” had an issue with intense acute back pain that impacted my ability to fully function. What I thought had been under management morphed into requiring much more intensive therapeutic work. I had missed the message in my persistence to progress.

What also made itself known was a major jump in my blood pressure into a very high and concerning range indicating I was holding stress under my “can do” persistent armor. My acupuncture physician had also been warning that my liver meridian was way out of balance indicating a holding of anger and resentment. Whether you practice western or eastern medicine (or both like me), the modalities were in agreement. I was holding in frustration that was turning toxic.

The very act of persistence became my Achilles Heel, blocking my continued healing of lingering issues, and creating new chronic conditions.

While we never want to be sidelined by injury or illness, if it happens it is always an opportunity to stop and “take a look.” What I discovered about myself was that I persisted in getting through the last nine years, after the life-altering accident, by armoring up and toughing it out. In fact, those were skills I likely learned early in life and had sourced within to get through. And, they did in fact get me to a certain point. But, now, it was time to let go of persistence and learn something new that would take me farther in my journey.

So, then, what else can we do when the stressors of life are zinging at us?

We learn to bounce through resilience vs. battling through persistence.

Researchers have found that healthy people are more resilient in nature and that resilience is a key factor in greatly improving the healing process. From a wellness perspective, psychologists define resilience as the “the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.”[3]

As it relates to our wellbeing, researchers have this to say:

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” [4]

Key factors identified in resiliency are the ability to keep a positive outlook, manage our emotions, and adapt. “Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.” [5]

Rather than pushing forward through adversity with the obstinate rigidity of persistence, the practice of resilience is a softening of our stance allowing us the flexibility to regroup and respond.

Here was a novel concept. I could armor up, absorb the reverberations of the stress I was creating, experiencing holding in as my personal poison — or, I could relax into a buoyant stance, taking care with self-care after the fact to ensure I had not overlooked any arrows to my heel.

Aromatherapy excels in supporting this softening of our being so necessary to a healthy resilience. So often, when I open my spirit to working on a certain place of healing in my being, the absolute perfectly necessary essential oil shows up in my space to support me just at precisely the right time. Blue Yarrow is no exception. It came to me at just the right time to help calm the mind, relax the body and soothe the soul.

Blue Yarrow, Achillea Millefolium, is named for Achilles. The herb was traditionally used in battles for wounded warriors. [6] And, so for those of us who have learned to battle forward through persistence, blue yarrow is wonderful companion in learning to remove the self-inflicted stress poison of own Achilles Heel.

Blue Yarrow essential oil also is considered wound healing for blocks in our natural energy flow created by deeply repressed negative emotions, such as the anger, rage and frustration that so often accompany chronic stress and impact our overall wellbeing.[7]

It can be used when you need greater emotional support and insight during significant life changes, when you feel challenged by your weak spots, and when you seek stay balanced while keeping your sense of integrity.[8] Blue Yarrow has also been used in ancient cultures to promote intuition and divination.[9]

 

If you are having a day, week, month or moment that feels like you are coming in from a battlefield, blue yarrow is a wonderful support to any self-care routine you have that allows you to slow down, soften up and relieve your stress as practice resiliency. If you would like some ideas for some mindfulness approaches that would support steps toward a resiliency practice, to start, take a look at “Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets” and “M is for Meditation.”

Below are two of my new favorite mini-master blends working with blue yarrow to support my journey toward a softer stance and bouncing back. I like them both in personal inhalers to have with me on the go. You can triple the blend to use them that way, or you can use as is in your diffuser.

 

Blue Bliss

2 drops bergamot

2 drops coriander

1 drop blue yarrow

This is a great blend for calming the mind, body and spirit. It is clearing and cleansing, especially for repressed emotions such as tension, frustration and anger, and helping to balance our natural energy flow. It encourages optimism and enthusiasm, while uplifting and calming to mind, body and spirit.

 

Blue Skies

2 drops elemi

2 drops grapefruit, pink

1 drop blue yarrow

I love this blend as support for healing meditation. It is grounding and strengthening while opening our mind to our intuition and the Divine with greater clarity and inspiration. Helps to clear and move deeply held, negative energy blocks such tension and frustration. Promotes a sense of peace while uplifting and the mind and spirit.

 


Sources:

[1] “Achilles’ Heel.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

[2] Persistence.” Google. n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

[3] “Resilience.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

[4] “The Road to Resilience.” Pardon Our Interruption. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

[5] “Resilience.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.

[6] “Achillea Millefolium.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.

[7] Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance through Essential Oils. London: Gaia, 1999. Print.

[8] Zeck, Robbi. The Blossoming Heart: Aromatherapy for Healing and Transformation. East Ivanhoe, Victoria: Aroma Tours, 2004. Print.

[9] Achillea Millefolium.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.

Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy and Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.

Shutes, Jade. The Dynamics of Blending: A Guide to Aromatic Medicine Making. Willow Springs, NC: NW College for Herbal and Aromatic Studies, 2011. Print.

 

DIY Vapor Rub

By: Kimberly Daun, Certified Aromatherapist

We have had quite the month of sickness at my house.  First my husband spent 8 days with a cold, then I spent 5 days with it, and now both my 7 and 5 year old’s caught it.  They are coughing, suffering with a need to endlessly blow their noses, and just feeling achy and fatigued.  I typically diffuse for upper respiratory issues however we are in the middle of a move and I  don’t have access to my diffusers.

I remember the relief I got when my mom rubbed vicks on my chest when I was little, instantly helping me breathe a little easier.  Fortunately we are in the days of information, and I know that due to the artificial ingredients and chemicals unsafe for little ones that it isn’t the ideal choice for use with my children. I needed to make a safe alternative!

I’m always searching “how to boost immune system”, to take a multifaceted approach to supporting my kids’ health.  The essential oils I chose are powerful tools if you’re seeking ways to boost your immune system. I wanted to pack as much power in this recipe as possible, carefully choosing each ingredient based on its properties.  My intention was to both, help my sons’ breathe a little easier, and kick this illness as quickly as possible.  I absolutely love that Plant Therapy offers batch specific GC/MS reports so I can choose oils high in the constituents I’m looking for.  The percentages I list are for my bottles of essential oils, and if yours is from a different batch the percentages may vary.  I aimed for something a bit softer and easier to apply than a salve, this is more of an ointment consistency which is exactly what I was hoping for.

Beeswax is so fabulously versatile and I use it in many recipes primarily to harden whatever I’m making (deodorant, salves, chapstick).  For this recipe, it’s especially helpful to help hold the aroma longer than a carrier oil which quickly absorbs into our skin.  It also has vitamin A which nourishes the skin, and supports a healthy immune system.

Solid coconut oil has a high amount of Lauric Acid which is helpful in supporting a healthy immune system.  Due to having a high comedogenic level (can clog pores) I don’t use it in my facial products, even though it is moisturizing, but with application to the chest I’m not concerned about clogging pores.

Fragonia contains approximately 30% of the chemical constituent 1,8 cineole.  This is one of the essential oils that has a low enough level of 1,8 cineole to be safe for children (under 40%), but still offers the benefits of an essential oil high in this constituent.  1,8 cineole is helpful with clearing congestion, breaking up phlegm, warding off seasonal threats, and shortening the length of an illness. This essential oil is great for helping my sick ones get better faster, helping my healthy ones stay healthy, and offer respiratory support to help them breath with ease.

Rosalina has about 42% of the chemical constituent Linalool.  This constituent helps give your immune system a boost, minimize the perception of pain, and help suppress coughing.  It is also helpful at encouraging a restful sleep by calming both the body and mind.  Their coughing seems to increase at night and has caused some issues sleeping so I’m very grateful to have this essential oil to help my boys sleep peacefully.

Cypress has 50% Alpha-pinene which is helpful in warding off seasonal threats and shortening the length of an illness.  It is also helpful at relaxing the lungs and opening the airways to offer optimal oxygen intake, allowing them to take nice, deep breaths.

 

Vapor Rub

What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  1. Over a double boiler melt together the beeswax and coconut oil.
  2. Remove from heat and quickly stir in your essential oils.
  3. Pour into tin.
  4. Allow to cool.
  5. Shelf life of 1 year when stored in a cool and dark place.

*Update:

4 Tablespoons of Beeswax Pellets = 1 weighed ounce

2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil = 1 weighed ounce

*This statement has not be evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Plant Therapy and it’s representatives are not intending to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Winter Solstice for the Spirit

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

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The advent of the Winter Solstice is a deeply profound period for me on many fronts. Steeped in the rich symbolism of rebirth and reawakening, it has become important to me to recognize this point in time by creating a restorative ritual that allows me to go deeply inward as a means of continually moving forward.

This year’s Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st marking the shortest day and the longest night of the annual cycle of dawn to darkness. And, for some, this longer descent into darkness can trigger a plunge in spirits.

For many years, when I worked in Chicago, I took the train from the suburbs into the city to work. During the icy, cold grip of winter, I departed in the dark and returned home after dark. A California girl by birth and nature, my spirit mourned the loss of light to the night.

BuWinter Solstice for the Soult, then, I had an awakening and I came to see the Winter Solstice as light at the end of the tunnel. For this longest day of night marked the milestone when we would again march toward the light. I rejoiced that the dawn of a new day meant we had turned again toward the much-needed sun for my soul. Rather than fear the dark, I had faith that every day would be a bit better than the last.

Ancient civilizations recognized this turning point toward the gradual return of the light as a time of reawakening and rebirth heralding a time of new beginnings. Because the coming deep winter months also required preparation for a period of survival on less sustenance, the Winter Solstice was also known as the hibernal solstice, and celebrated as the last joyous feast day until spring.[1]

For me, the Winter Solstice follows my birthday in early December and, what I refer to as, my re-birthday in early February, acknowledging not the trauma of the accident, but the impetus through which I was reborn to my authentic self.  This period, provides the perfect time for introspection – a searching inward toward the innate wisdom of my own core essence in preparation for my spirit to open more fully to receive the coming light.

I create  mindfulness rituals for myself especially focused on restoring, renewing and reawakening my spirit. This involves quieting mind, body and spirit, creating affirmations and meditation. With the arrival of the Winter Solstice, I also take time to express gratitude for where I’ve been, where I am, and the Divine connection that nourishes my spirit and has supported my journey so far. I also set intentions, in my mind’s eye, of where I see myself next and how I wish to be.

 

Creating You Own Restorative Ritual

If the idea of creating time for a restorative inward reflection this Winter Solstice resonates with you, you will find below an array of options below to help inspire your own introspection ritual. The idea is  to pick a practice, or practices, along with an aromatic  approach that works for you personally, or to create you very own, so that you may honor the movement of time and light in support your own sense of reawakening and renewal.

I hope you find these helpful and wish you joy on your journey. As we say at the end of yoga “namaste.” There are many beautiful interpretations. But, here, I will leave you with one of my favorites.

 

“The light in me honors the light in you.”

 

1) Practices for Quieting the Mind

We’ve discussed these mindfulness practices throughout the past year.  For review, some blogs you may find helpful, include:

 

2) Aromatherapy to Support the Spirit.

This is the blend I created especially to support a divine awakening within my own spirit. I share it with you here as an offering if it resonates with your own sense of reflection, restoration and renewal.

Given the purpose, I chose to blend intuitively letting my senses and nose lead. Once, I sensed the synergy connect with my spirit, I checked the implications with my sources on subtle aromatherapy. I am always amazed and affirmed how when I listen to my inner knowing, the messages I need will come through.

 

Winter Solstice in a Frosty Forest

(This blend is KidSafe)

2 drops coriander

1 drop balsam fir

1 drop bergamot

1 drop chamomile, roman

 

Support for the Spirit:

Grounds and promotes a sense of security. Clearing and cleansing, while helping to calm and relax the conscious mind. Invites positive energy and optimism while encouraging confidence and motivation.  Encourages intuition and insight and helps to manifest.

Supports the healing process on all levels, especially wounds of the heart. Helps to clear emotional blocks and supports the transformation of challenging emotions to promote balance.

Strengthens connection to a higher consciousness. Allows us to better receive and communicate spiritual truth.  Encourages Divine love and compassion to move through our being. Connects us to the collective wisdom of the world around us.

 

In addition to the blend’s support for the spirit, it also is soothing to the mind and body. This helpful to keep in mind if you want to experience the multi-purpose effects on all levels of your being.

 

For the Mind 

Uplifts, while calming and clarifying.  Relaxes and soothes, inviting a sense of peace. Restorative for mental and emotional fatigue.

For the Body

Relaxes nervous tension held in the body.  Helps to release and soothe overworked and tired eases muscles. Restorative and balancing.

 

3) Aromatic Applications to Support your Ritual.

  • Diffuser add 5 -8 drops
  • Inhaler – add 15 drops
  • Bath Soak – add 5 drops to natural body wash and mix. Add ½ cup Epsom salts. Add to warm bath. Soak and relax for 20 minutes.
  • Massage Oil—add 18 drops to 1 oz (2% dilution) of jojoba or other carrier.
  • Body Lotion – add 9 drops to 1 oz unscented body lotion (1 %)
  • Roller Bottle – add 6 drops to 10 ml carrier (2%). Apply to pulse points.
  • Room/Linen Mist – add 9 drops to 1 oz (1%) pure grain alcohol, such as Everclear.

 


Sources:

[1] “Winter Solstice.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.

Shutes, Jade. “The Dynamics of Blending: A Guide to Blending and Reference Manual for Essential Oils and Base Materials.” N.p.: East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies. N.d. Print.

 

 

A Cup of Compassion — Part II

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

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Now that we have some simple steps fill our own Cup of Compassion from Part I, let’s discuss the benefits of practicing a compassionate life when the world around us may not always feel so kind. In the world of natural health, we say “we get a healing when we give a healing.” And, so, we enhance our own wellbeing by working to enhance the wellbeing of the world around us.

And, it is indeed a practice. At times, it can be a struggle. Like any practice, it requires an intention and a striving to stay grounded in that intention with gentle persistence. Without an intention to live a compassionate life, I find I can just get buffeted around by unkindness around me. I absorb that energy and become reactive.

This triggers the fight or flight condition and my stress levels increase. The more I feel unmoored from a compassionate heart, the more negative thoughts are able to rule my mind creating stories about others and heightening my sense of anxiousness as I enter into a sense of defensiveness and self-protection. And, then, I become part of the problem by contributing my crabbiness in a reactive mode as I flail around in choppy waters.

But, when I empower myself, by making the conscious choice to stay in a proactive mode of positivity, I feel much more anchored and sheltered in the calm of potential storms.

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” — Mahatma Gandhi

heart-light-web-sizeSo, with wisdom handed down from gifted healers and thought leaders who have been part of my healing journey, I have developed a personal practice of living a compassionate life. Not only does it help me stay well within, I am hopeful it contributes to the wellbeing of the world around me. And, because we are human, this is never a perfect practice. Support is important. And, as always, I find aromatherapy to be my perfect partner by helping to calm my mind and body, as well as inspiring a deep sense of peace within.

Be The Ripple in the Pond

 If I am a pebble in the pond, what is the energy I am putting out there? In Food for Thought, we learned how negative thoughts can influence our wellbeing. How I am feeling inside can affect how I react and interact.

Not only am I balancing the wellbeing of myself, I create the opportunity to positively impact the moment I interact with others. It can simply be that vibe we feel when we cross paths.

A big part of my healing journey is learning to be peaceful within. Equanimity – calmness of mind in stressful situations – does not come naturally to me. It had to be cultivated. In fact, if I allow it, folks who are unkind can really flip my switches from the flow of happy juice to stress cocktail.

In Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets, we learned how stress starts in the mind and contributes to serious health conditions. Am I in the “fight or flight” mode of the stress response when I am out and about? Or, are I am radiating a peaceful energy of calm, kindness, and compassion?

Years ago, When I was an undergraduate in a psychology class, I was assigned to a smile experiment. It involved making eye contact with everyone I passed – on campus, at the mall, in a restaurant, at the store – just in every day life –and smiling and recording responses. I was astounded at the number of people who smiled back with genuine pleasure, and often, with surprise. It made such an impression on me, that it is still a habit I practice today. I am still often amazed at how it changes the energy around me, while it charges my own.

Choose To Let It Go

If I carry around perceived or felt hurts or slights, I am taking on the negative energy put out by others. This can be hard for sensitive folks like me.

Trust me, I can be taken way out of my Zen Zone if I feel my wellbeing is being threatened either intentionally or through negligence. And, I’m not talking about turning the other cheek when it comes to big societal ills. Those are discussions for another time and another approach.

What I am talking about are the everyday concerns. Someone didn’t say thank you. A co-worker was brusque. Your spouse came home grumpy. Your friend was late for a night out. Am I going to react, take on that energy, and let it weigh me down? If I do, I am giving away my own power over my own wellbeing.

I can choose how I am going to react and respond. This is where taking a few deep breaths to turn off that fight or flight stress response can be helpful. That also gives me time to calm my reaction and change the dialogue in my head from “wow she is really being a witch today, to “wow, she is not herself at all today, I wonder what is wrong?” Just that compassionate change in my mindset, creates a more peaceful change in my body. Not only am I letting go of the issue, I am letting go of the tension I feel.

Meet Them With Compassion

This doesn’t meant accepting bad behavior. But, sometimes it means either walking away and discussing at another time if merited, or meeting them with compassion and seeing what happens.

At the health practice where I spend some time, our patients are often grumpy, short on patience, and sometimes, just short of rude when they first come to us. But, I have been on that side of the aisle. They are also hurting, stressed, overwhelmed, fearful and frustrated. I believe their healing experience starts with the energy and interactions they feel when they walk through the front door. So, my goal is to meet them with compassion. A smile when they come in, kindness while they are there, and hug (for the huggers) when they leave. It’s amazing how much most of them relax. This creates a healing environment for their wellbeing, and my own inner being benefits from more peaceful exchanges that can literally change from barking at me to laughing with me.

The point is, we don’t know what folks around us are experiencing and we don’t know their stories. We don’t know if something just happened, or if something terrible is going on in their lives. The day I held my beloved canine companion of 15 years in my lap as she passed over to the Rainbow Bridge was absolutely heartbreaking. As I moved through the world in a dismal fog for days after, who knows what I projected around me and the stories people may have told themselves in reaction. Maybe I didn’t park correctly, or perhaps I accidentally cut someone off in the grocery line. Or, maybe I just didn’t smile when I ordered my coffee in the drive through. What I do remember is the folks who didn’t know my story, but met me with kindness anyway and how much that helped to sooth and smooth my heartache.

Reflect the Glow for Good

 I have always been drawn to dragonflies. And, they seem to be drawn to me. Many years ago, I looked up their symbolic meaning and learned that the dragonfly represents the power to reflect light and energy out into the world for the good of others. This resonated with me deeply as I was pursuing my path in the natural healing arts. I adopted the dragonfly as my spiritual reminder of this message of empowerment for impacting those around me in a positive way. Every time a see a dragonfly, I am reminded I have the power and the choice to reflect a glow for good both professionally and personally.

Yes, there are cranky and crabby folks out there. But, there also those filled with grace and kindness. And, that is whom I choose to focus on and absorb the energy to be redirected for my next interaction.

Recently, I was leaving a store just as the skies opened up in a drowning drenching. Of course, I did not have my umbrella with me and my car was parked across a large lot. Just in the moment I was exiting the store to be confronted by this dilemma, a gentleman was just arriving at the doors with his wife under a giant umbrella for two. As she was passing me into the store, without missing a beat, he said “you go ahead honey, I am going to escort this young lady to her car.” And with that, he had already pivoted toward the parking lot, placed the umbrella over my head and simply said “which way is your car, Miss?”

I can’t even describe the rush of gratitude and goodwill I felt at that moment by such a seemingly simple act of compassion on his part, but I simply smiled (probably beamed) and carried on to my car with my unexpected escort. And, I carried that warm glow the rest of the day, basking in it and letting if affect my mood and outlook on the world as I passed by a multitude of other in my daily rounds. More importantly, I am reminded, no matter how much of a rush I am in, it only takes a moment to extend a simple act of kindness to others who could benefit from an assist. I may be flitting around like a dragonfly, but in that moment, I can still reflect positive vibes and an act of kindness.

So, I admit, living a compassionate life isn’t always an easy practice. But, a practice it is. It is a conscious choice to be the ripple in the pond, let things go, meet folks with compassion, and reflect the glow for good. I mentioned how aromatherapy is my perfect partner, and I’ve created synergies to support these sensibilities depending on the situation. These can be used in a diffuser or tripled to carry with you in a personal inhaler.

 

Balance Blend

2 drops geranium bourbon

2 drops neroli

1 drop orange, sweet

This is my go-to, when I need a little boost to balance my being by letting go of strong turbulent emotions

 

Bliss Blend

2 drops ho wood

2 drops kunzea

1 drop sandalwood

Relaxing and grounding to the mind, body and spirit. This blend is often helpful to set a blissful mood.

 

Zen Zone

2 drops bergamot

1 drop blue cypress

1 drop davana

1 drop sandalwood

Relaxing, centering, uplifting and calming. I like this blend to help me return to a place of peace.

 

I know I feel better by doing better for those around me. It is really my choice. Do I want to continually drink the poison of the stress cocktail, or do I want to bathe my being in happy juice? I know when I experience inner peace, I am more able to transmit that back out into the world. And, I can create that by being the calm in the storm. When I do, while all may not be right with the world, all is right with my world right now. And, perhaps, just a bit of that helps another looking for their own piece of peace.

 

A Cup of Compassion — Part I

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

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I don’t know about you all, but I am weary of the level of unkindness that seems to have taken hold in our society. Social media. Political cross talk. Talk shows. Aggressive driving and road rage. Someone could probably do (and probably has) a social study on the level and volume of hostility that seems at times to float in an unholy gumbo around us.

There have been tons written on what is wrong, what can be done right, and why it should be so. Many share a concern for what seems like an erosion and disconnect from not only basic manners, but also a declining level of discourse and what it means for our culture and society in general. These are big issues that can seem overwhelming and out of our control.

cup-of-kindness-webAnd, these interactions can be draining to our whole being leaving us with not much to give. But, the good news is, we can fill our cup of compassion with some really simple steps that, in return, provide positive benefits for our own wellbeing. I’ve outlined some ways we can help our health by helping others. And, I’ve included some aromatherapy blends to help mind our mood.

So let’s all take a deep breath, let go, and take a look at what we can do. Can we change the world? Maybe. But, I know we can change our inner world and how we interact with the world around us.

“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.”

— The Dalai Lama

As gentle souls, when we take in negative energy around us, it can challenge our health and wellbeing. We’ve talked about stress in Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets. Remember, stress starts in the mind and travels to the body through a stress cocktail of cortisol and epinephrine that can have serious consequences to our health and wellbeing over the long term.

BUT, we also have a group of chemicals that I like to think of as our happy juice. These neurochemicals also start in the brain and travel to the body. And, guess what? They have a positive effect on our health and wellbeing.

 Dopamine – The Go Getter

Who loves to make lists and gets a little happy (ok, a lot happy) when you get to make that check mark after the task is completed? That’s your dopamine at work. It is responsible for motivation toward goals and that little happy high you get when you have achieved it.[1] Anyone in the crowd get a little glow from helping others? Kindness also releases dopamine and gives us what is known as the “helper’s high.” In addition to the happy high from helping and doing, dopamine is vital to many functions in our brain such as movement and memory.[2]

 Serotonin – The Mood Lifter

Serotonin is thought to be vitally important for keeping our mood and spirits elevated. Low levels are associated with significant bouts of depression. It flows when we feel sense of achievement, fulfillment and a sense of belonging.[3]

Serotonin is not only vital for keeping our mood lifted, it also affects most of our brain cells impacting everything from sexual desire, to sleep, to our ability to learn. In our bodies, serotonin impacts the functions of our cardiovascular and endocrine systems, as well as muscle movement. [4]

Endorphins – The High Way

These are the big-gun chemicals that give us a sense of euphoria and help us reduce the perception of pain. They actually bind to the same receptor sites as morphine giving us the effects without the side effects.[5] Think of a marathon runner hitting the “runner’s high” to get their second wind to finish the distance. But, here’s a fun fact. Researchers have linked laughter to the reduction of pain and believe it is due to the release of endorphins. The pain threshold increased even more when laughter occurred in groups heartily laughing while watching comedy together over 15-minute intervals.[6]

Oxytocin – The Love Connection

This is often referred to as the “love hormone.” It is believed to create bonding through “emotional warmth.”[7] It is what we feel when we fall in love. Or, when a parent sees their new child for the first time. Hugs and warm contact significantly increase oxytocin levels. [8] And, puppy love? Oh yes! When bonded dogs and their humans gaze into each other’s eyes there is a flood of oxytocin in both.[9] According to NIH, oxytocin “lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal.”[10]

So, with the information from above, here are ways we might fill our own cup of compassion:

  • Put reaching out to help others on your “to do” list and then do it.
  • Participate in groups where you feel like you belong and that give you a sense of fulfillment.
  • Enjoy the company of others with whom you love to laugh.
  • Provide warm, compassionate touch – especially hugs – to your loved ones (cuddling with your puppy love is included).

Now, let’s add aromatherapy to our master blend of happy juice. In Food for Thought, we talked about the impact aromatherapy has on the mission control center of our brain where mood, behavior, and stress are managed. Setting and supporting our mood is an area where aromatherapy excels. If we aren’t in the mood to start, it can be awfully hard to generate compassion.

Here are some blends I find helpful in my efforts to fill my own cup by inspiring a more uplifted and positive outlook.

 Inner Child

This is one of my favorite blends for inviting cheerful energy when my own spirits need a lift.

2 drops grapefruit

2 drops mandarin

1 drop of spearmint

Enjoy in a diffuser, or triple blend for a personal inhaler.

 

Hopeful Soul

Helps to infuse a sense of enthusiasm and emotional warmth, while inviting positive energy and creating calming and centering experience.

2 drops coriander

1 drop bergamot

1 drop copaiba balsam

1 drop sandalwood

Enjoy in a diffuser, or add to a warm bath before bedtime by blending with 1-2 tablespoons of unscented body wash and ½-1 cup of Epsom salts.

 

Sacred Space

 I use this blend to help support a clear, positive and protected personal space and to help maintain cheerful energy when interacting with others.

2 drops bergamot

2 drops juniper berry

2 drops rosemary

It can be blended into a room spray by combining 6 drops of the blend per each one ounce of pure grain alcohol in a mister bottle. Use before or after interacting with others. You can also pre-blend and add a drop to a diffuser necklace to wear throughout the day.

 

So, here, we have some simple steps to fill our cup of compassion with happy juice to benefit mind, body and spirit. For when we give happy, we get happy, and then, we can give more happy to those around us. And, that’s a good thing because, as the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

With our cups refilled, let’s meet back here for A Cup of Compassion Part II to discuss further the benefits of living a compassionate life.


Resources:

[1] Bergland, Christopher. “The Neurochemicals of Happiness.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Aug. 2016

[2] Mandal, Ananya, MD. “Dopamine Functions.” News-Medical.net. News Medical. Life Sciences and Medicine, 10 Jan. 2010. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

[3] Bergland, Christopher. “The Neurochemicals of Happiness.” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.

[4] Feature, Colette Bouchez. “Serotonin and Depression: 9 Questions and Answers.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

[5] “Exercise and Depression.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

[6] Welsh, Jennifer. “Why Laughter May Be the Best Pain Medicine.” Scientific American. Scientific American, 14 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.

[7] Hamilton, David R., PhD. “5 Beneficial Side Effects of Kindness.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 2 Aug. 2011. Web. 9 Aug. 2016.

[8] “The Power of Love. Hugs and Cuddles Have Long-Term Effects.” NIH Health in News. National Institutes of Health, Feb. 2007.

[9] Hecht, Julie. “Is the Gaze from Those Big Puppy Eyes the Look of Your Doggie’s Love?” Scientific American. Scientific American, 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

[10] “The Power of Love. Hugs and Cuddles Have Long-Term Effects.” NIH Health in News. National Institutes of Health, Feb. 2007. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

 

M is for Meditation

By: Ellen Brenner, Certified Aromatherapist

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I know, I know… now I’ve gone and used the “M” word. Wait! Don’t run.

Still think that meditation is “too woo woo” and not for you?

What if I told you that by simply calming the mind you could reduce nervous tension and worry, slow the aging process, increase your ability to think, reduce the process that leads to serious disease and chronic conditions, and even change the way your genes govern your health?

Ok, so then you think it is too hard and takes too much time?

What if I told you that you can actually create a positive impact on your wellbeing, down to the genetic level, in just 20 minutes day? And, even small single sessions yield benefits!

And, naturally, aromatherapy pairs perfectly with the practice of meditation so I’ve included some blends you may find supportive.

Still with me?

Let’s start by breaking down meditation’s potentially amazing and effective benefits within your own power. Then, we’ll break down the “how to” into seven simple steps to get you started with your own aromatic meditation.

Previously, in Food for Thought we discussed how the mind, body and spirit are connected. Often, our lack of wellbeing starts in the mind and then imCalm Water Web Sizepacts the body.

Meditation creates the oasis of overall optimal wellness starting with a calm mind that ripples outward throughout our whole being. 

While Eastern traditions of medicine have historically used mindfulness and meditation as part of the overall holistic approach to wellness, researchers across the nation’s major academic research institutions have been busy in more recent years studying the practice to explain why and how it works.

 

Meditation’s Effects on the Mind:[1]

  • Helps preserve the aging brain, as documented by a study at UCLA
  • Helps to quiet an over-active and wandering mind, often associated with worry, according to Yale University
  • It can be as effective as medication for anxiety and depression, according to research at Johns Hopkins University.
  • It can increase the volume of the brain governing learning, memory and emotions and decrease the volume of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety and stress, according to Harvard University.
  • It can improve focus, concentration, attention and memory retention, according to scientists at UC Santa Barbara.
  • It can be effective in supporting those recovering from addictions, including smoking according the American Lung Association.

 

Meditation’s Effects on the Body:

We know from Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets, that chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation can lead to serious and chronic health concerns.

Previous research has shown meditation to be effective in helping to improve health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression and Alzheimer’s[3]

Now, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have shown why. First, they found that meditation is even more effective in reducing inflammation in the body than other relaxation techniques.[2]  And, by studying the brain circuitry and blood chemistry, they have been able to link meditation to an improved effect on how the brain manages stress (as an inflammation trigger), leading to reduced inflammation in the body.

Ok, now wait for it …

We know about genetic predispositions to certain conditions that run in families. But, what if our genetic code is not our destiny?

Harvard University researchers found that meditation for 20 minutes a day over an eight-week period can create positive changes down to our genetic level. In fact, meditation actually “turned up the genes that boost immune response, energy metabolism, and insulin secretions, and turned down the genes linked to stress and inflammation.” Even a single session showed a positive result on impacting our health at the genetic level. [4]

So, what is meditation exactly and how do you do it?

 

Meditation in Seven Simple Steps

While meditation has gone more mainstream in recent years, for many of us it can still seem like a foreign and difficult practice. But, here is the thing. Meditation is not necessarily the achievement of an empty mind, but the practice of calming it. I like this definition I recently came across.

Meditation is simply “cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment.” [5]

We don’t  need to retreat to anywhere away from home (although this is always a treat), we don’t need anything fancy, and we don’t need any expensive accessories. All we need is ourselves, our breath, and even some small space in our days. And, of course, aromatherapy is always a wonderful means of support.

And, while a meditation practice is simple, it isn’t always easy, especially at first. So, it is important to be persistent without pushing to be perfect. This just sets us up for frustration and failure.

While there are many, many forms of meditation out there you may wish to explore (guided, visualization, mantras with beads, walking, kinesthetic such as knitting or coloring, etc), we are going to start with  one of the most basic practices — simply  focusing on the breath. In just  a few easy steps, we can learn to quiet the mind and create a healing balance in our whole being in a practice that can be as portable as needed.

Aromatic Meditation in Seven Simple Steps:

  1. Choose an aromatherapy blend. (see below)
    • You can either diffuse or use a personal inhaler.
  2. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably.
    • Note that you can even create calm in the midst of chaos by plugging in soothing music with noise canceling ear buds)
  3. Gently close your eyes.
  4. Notice your breath, without trying to control it.
  5. Breathe through your nose and bring your focus to each inhalation and exhalation like the ebb and flow of gentle waves.
  6. Choose an option to keep your focus on your breath.
    • You can count each breath; or
    • You can select a word(s) to repeat with each breath 
    • (I like to inhale “Calm” and exhale “Peace.”)
  7.  Return your focus to your breath as needed.
    • When you find thoughts coming to the surface, simply notice them like clouds floating by (without judgment) and return your attention to your breath and your counting or words.

Aromatherapy can provide an incredible sense of support in meditation, most especially for helping to quiet the mind. One essential oil traditionally associated with meditation that often comes to mind is  frankincense carteri. Others you may like include buddha wood,  blue cypress, davana, and ho wood.

Here a few of my favorite blends to get you started. If I am home, I like to use the diffuser. But, I can be sitting in an airplane seat, with my noise canceling headphones and personal inhaler (just scale the blends up to 15 drops), and create a calming session for myself that literally lets me tune out what’s around me and tune in to my own internal sanctuary.

 

Reflect blend

2 drops bergamot

2 drops coriander

2 drops frankincense carteri

For a quieter and more balanced state of mind. Inspired introspection.

 

Mellow Mind

2 drops ho wood

1 drop blue cypress

1 drop buddha wood

1 drop ginger co2

Grounding. Supports a sense of peace. Helps to calm a busy mind. 

 

Sangria Siesta

2 drops davana

1 drop lime

1 drop lemon

1 drop sweet orange

Soothing, calming, relaxing and quieting to the mind, while uplifting the spirits.

 

I try to meditate at least 30 minutes a day. More on days where more is needed.  But, I started slow. Sometimes I could only do 10 minutes, then I worked my way up to the 20-minute mark given the results from the Harvard study and it seemed like a bite from the apple I could chew.

Eventually, I was ready to make it a habit, so I challenged myself to practice at least 20 minutes a day for 60 days straight. At that point, I found it was something I was able to fit into my daily routine and actually increased my time to 30 minutes. It has become my time to shut down and recharge both my mind and body and if I miss out I do miss it.

The thing to do, is just to give it a try. Remember it is called a practice for a reason. The vision of the guru sitting high on the mountain with an empty mind is not the goal. This is just another step in our healing journey giving us the power to soothe our selves by calming the mind and minding the body.

 


References:

[1] Walton, Alice G. “7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain.” Forbes.com. PHARMA & HEALTHCARE. Forbes 2/09/2015. Web. 02/20/15

[2] Gregoire, Carolyn. “Here’s How Meditation Reduces Inflammation and Prevents Disease.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 July 2016.

[3] Gregoire, Carolyn. “Here’s How Meditation Reduces Inflammation and Prevents Disease.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 July 2016.

[4] Quinn, Corina. “Reset Your Health.” Yoga Journal June 2014: 22.

[5] Walton, Alice G. “7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain.” Forbes.com. PHARMA & HEALTHCARE. Forbes 2/09/2015. Web. 02/20/15

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