Geranium – it’s a bit like Marmite

‘Lieutenant Dan, I got you some ice cream’

Love geranium? You want to slather it from head to toe and rub it all over yer face! Hate geranium? You’d rather eat a marmite-and-cheese sarnie! Rich in alcohols. 100% vegetarian. Geranium essential oil – you love it or hate it.

Forget Parsley Island, geranium divided my aromatherapy class into ‘lovers’ and ‘haters’. Those who loved its rosy scent added it liberally to blends, while those who hated it held their noses and turned green. I confess to being a splitter – I don’t love the smell but I have come to appreciate the therapeutic properties of this essential oil.

Geranium is the great ‘balancer’ of aromatherapy, ironic but true. Its primary action is to balance moods and emotions, and it has a harmonising effect on the body that is particularly useful in skin care.

Balancing skin care range

Geranium essential oil is extremely versatile for use in skin care and it is widely used by the beauty industry. Its balancing effect makes it useful for dry, oily and problems skins. It is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent which makes it good for skin conditions such as acne and eczema. Its gentle action means that it can usually be tolerated by sensitive skins.

Geranium and lavender in particular complement each other in a blend and make an effective skin care duo. Lavender also helps counteract the pungent scent of geranium. The simple blends below show how you can include geranium essential oil in your daily skin care routine.

Sebum-regulating facial wash

  • 30ml unscented foam face wash*
  • 9 drops geranium oil
  • 9 drops lavender oil

*Alternatively blend 20ml aloe vera gel and 10ml jojoba oil in a bowl with a hand blender to make your own face wash base.

Wash your face with this foam wash each morning if you have skin that is too dry or too oily, or prone to spots and acne. The essential oil blend will help to regulate your skin’s production of sebum (oil) and restore balance to your complexion.

Balancing make-up remover oil

  • 30ml jojoba oil
  • 9 drops geranium oil
  • 9 drops lavender oil

As above, remove your make up daily with this blend if you suffer from an over- or under-production of sebum. Massage a teaspoonful over your face and remove with a hot damp face cloth. Repeat for effective deep cleansing.

Geranium and lavender moisturiser

  • 30ml unfragranced base cream (available from aromatherapy suppliers)
  • 9 drops geranium oil
  • 9 drops lavender oil

To reap the benefit of geranium and lavender all-day or all-night long, use this simple face cream blend. The cream is best used as a night cream during spring and summer months, because it does not contain an sunscreen or sunblock. (I am fastidious about using and recommending proven and effective sun protection for skin!)

The three blends above have a shelf life of 3 months if stored in dark glass containers and in a cool place out of direct sunlight, because sunlight can oxidise the vegetable oils or base creams of the blends and shorten their shelf life.

When you start using these blends, allow at least one week to start to see improvement and at least one month for significant results. Natural remedies often work slower than prescription or over-the-counter products. If your skin condition is moderate to severe, consult your GP for your primary treatment and use these natural remedies to complement.

Clarifying face mask

  • 3 tsp kaolin clay (available from aromatherapy suppliers)
  • 1–2 tsp water
  • 1 drop geranium
  • 1 drop lavender
  • 1 drop palmarosa

Blend the kaolin clay and water first into a paste. Add the water slowly, a drop at a time, blending to desired consistency, then add the essential oils and blend well. The mask will be a bit lumpier than shop-bought products but it will be just as effective. Smooth over cleansed skin and leave for 15–20 minutes, then remove with a warm damp flannel. Use once a week to maintain a clear complexion.

Geranium and grapefruit body scrub

Geranium is often used to treat cellulite because of its diuretic and detoxifying properties, it helps to drain excess body fluids. Combined with detoxifying and clarifying grapefruit, this body scrub exfoliates and clarifies to leave skin unbelievably soft and smooth.

  • 450g glass jar (use a washed-out jam or honey jar)
  • soft brown sugar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 drops geranium oil
  • 30 drops grapefruit oil

Pour brown sugar into the glass jar until it is two-thirds full, then fill the remainder of the jar with olive oil. Stop before reaching the rim to allow you to stir the contents without spilling. Use a teaspoon to stir the olive oil into the brown sugar. Once the oil and sugar are thoroughly mixed, add the essential oils and stir in. The sugar scrub has a shelf life of three months, but be sure to store it away from direct sunlight.

To use, scoop a dollop of the scrub out of the jar and into the palm of your hand. Massage from foot to shoulders all over your body. Use firm upward stroking movements but be gentler over tender areas of skin. Robust massage around thighs and buttocks can really help to improve the appearance of cellulite and help to tone and tighten skin. Use regularly, at least three times a week.

If you have hard skin on your feet, use this as a foot scrub daily followed by a myrrh rapid-healing heel balm.

Using the scrub can be messy, so apply in the shower then rinse off with warm water.

Harmonising room fragrance

Finally, if you are a ‘lover’ burn geranium essential oil as a room fragrance or add a couple of drops to your bath oil to bring harmony to your mood and emotions. Geranium is thought to be a ‘mothering’ oil that comforts and reassures.

As it is Mother’s Day, this post is dedicated to my mum xxx

Profile of geranium:

Latin namePelargonium graveolens
Plant family: Geraniaceae
Plant type: herb
Perfume note: middle
Extraction: steam distillation of the leaves, stalks and flowers
Botany and origins: a perennial hairy shrub growing up to 1m with pointed jagged-edged leaves and small pink flowers. It is native to South Africa, but cultivated in Russia, Egypt, Congo, Japan, Central America, Spain, Italy and France. The three main producers of geranium oil are Reunion (Bourbon), Egypt, Russia and China
Chemical properties/active components: 63% alcohols (citronellol, geraniol, linalool) which are attributed to the oil’s powerful but gentle-acting properties. Alcohols are also antiseptic and uplifting
Blends with: clove, bergamot, clove, citrus oils, jasmine, juniper, lavender, neroli, palmarosa, patchouli, rose, rosewood, sandalwood; geranium is often added to blends with rose to enhance the fragrance of this more expensive essential oil
Key actions: anti-bacterial, anti-depressant, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, balancing, comforting, detoxifier, diuretic, sedative, stimulant, uplifting
Common conditions: cellulite, circulation (lymph and blood), fluid retention, oedema; anxiety, depression, nervous tension, stress; acne, eczema, dry and oily skins, problem skin, mature and most sensitive skin types, congested skin, dermatitis, psoriasis, insect repellant (particularly mosquito), ringworm
Contraindications: non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitising. It may cause dermatitis in some individuals so it is recommended to avoid over-use. Avoid during pregnancy
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9

Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Myrrh The Merciless

‘You pitiful fool! My life is not for any Earthling to give or take!’

Myrrh is your humble friend. Her hidden inner beauty reveals many virtues and strengths. Her presence will free you from worry and bring stillness and peace.

I love movies and Flash Gordon was a childhood favourite. An impossibly implausible plot – idiot football star defeats 1,000-year-old emperor of the universe – that is brilliantly redeemed by Ming the Merciless, Brian Blessed and Queen.

I liked Ming best, because he was the only character who wasn’t stupid. Sure, he was evil, but is it any wonder he was compelled to rule the universe? He was surrounded by unbelievably stupid people! Ming had presence, confidence and the best lines. If I had an evil nemesis, I’d want it to be Ming.

Brian Blessed as Voltan was a close runner-up for favourite character by virtue of his immortal catchphrase ‘Gordon’s alive?’, which is the only line that he doesn’t SHOUT.

What does any of this have to do with myrrh? Nothing except that ‘Myrrh The Merciless’ has a certain ring to it (no pun intended to Ming fans). I also felt that this humble and often overlooked essential oil needed some bigging up. Ok, it’s a tenuous link, but I haven’t had the opportunity to use a great movie quote since eucalyptus.

Just because.

‘Flash, I love you! But we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!’

When remembering the therapeutic properties of essential oils I find it useful to think of where the oils come from. Myrrh is extracted from the resin of a tough little tree growing on rocky terrain in desert regions of Somalia, Yemen and Ethiopia. The tree exudes the resin when its bark is damaged to seal the wound and to heal itself.

The essential oil has similar properties. Myrrh was traditionally used for wounds that were slow to heal, and it is extremely beneficial to dry, cracked or damaged skin because of its remarkable fast skin-healing actions.

I made a myrrh foot balm for a client to treat their cracked heels. The heels were so painfully cracked and dehydrated that they caused pain when wearing shoes and discomfort when walking. The client was advised to massage their feet, focusing particularly on the heel area, with the balm twice daily and then cover with clean cotton socks to allow maximum absorption of the balm into skin.

Significant improvements were seen within one week. The cracked heels were completely healed within one month. I recommended continuing treatment by massaging feet at night for a further two months and thereafter one to two times a week as a top-up to maintain results.

If your feet are in need of saving fast – follow the recipe below for a myrrh foot balm.

Myrrh rapid-healing heel balm

Ingredients

  • 20g beeswax
  • 80ml sweet almond oil
  • 40ml distilled water
  • 50 drops myrrh essential oil
  • 50 drops benzoin essential oil

You will need:

  • 2 heat-resistant glass bowls
  • glass measuring jug
  • measuring scales
  • large saucepan
  • wooden spoon
  • hand blender
  • 100ml dark glass jar
  • labels

Method:

  1. Stand the jug of distilled or flower water in a bowl of boiled warm water to gently warm it
  2. Put the beeswax and oil in the heat-resistant glass bowl and place the bowl in a saucepan of shallow water
  3. Slowly melt the beeswax in the oil over a low heat, gently stirring
  4. Remove the bowl from the saucepan once the beeswax has completely melted in the oil
  5. Use the hand blender to blend the distilled or flower water one drop at a time into the oil mixture
  6. Mix the water and oil mixture thoroughly with the hand blender at the lowest setting
  7. As the water and oil start to set (be quick as this will happen rapidly) pour in the essential oils and blend quickly
  8. Before the mixture completely hardens into a balm pour and scoop it into a dark glass jar
  9. Leave the jar open to allow the balm to completely cool and avoid condensation trapping in the lid. Then seal with a lid and label with the ingredients used and a three-month expiry date
  10. Store in a cool dark cupboard or drawer out of direct sunlight to preserve the blend. The balm will melt on contact to body heat and can be scooped out with fingers to massage on your heels

Tip:

Distilled water or flower water can be bought from health food stores or you can make your own flower or herb water. For example, weigh 25g dried rose or orange blossom petals into a bowl and pour over 100 ml boiling water. Cover the bowl to ensure the volatile chemical constituents are not lost to evaporation and leave to cool. Filter into a dark glass bottle for use in the blend above, the remaining flower water can be stored in the fridge for a week and used as a facial toner.

‘Oh well, who wants to live forever? DIVE!!’

Myrrh is an excellent anti-aging oil, but frankincense is often a more popular choice because its smell is more appealing. The secret is all in the blending. Make the anti-aging facial oil below and massage on skin before bedtime for an overnight beauty treatment (avoid contact with eyes). Myrrh is also cooling and calming to skin which makes this blend particularly useful for hot summer nights.

Myrrh beauty sleep oil:

  • 30ml rosehip oil
  • 4 drops myrrh
  • 4 drops frankincense
  • 5 drops neroli
  • 5 drops mandarin

As with all blends, store in a dark glass jar and out of direct sunlight. It has a shelf life of three months.

‘Later. I like to play with things a while before annihilation’

Patricia Davis states that myrrh has long been renowned for its anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions. A tincture of myrrh, available from health stores, is recommended for mouth, gum and throat infections. Apply a drop to the gums or gargle. You can also buy myrrh toothpaste or mouth wash from health stores or online to help treat gum infections. If symptoms do not improve within four to five days, see your GP.

‘Long live Flash, you’ve saved your Earth. Have a nice day’

In ancient times frankincense and myrrh were believed to have spiritual properties and were burned as incense during religious rituals. This may be because the vapors of both frankincense and myrrh slow and ease breathing, encouraging deepness of breath which aids meditation.

Burn the blend below to promote tranquility and stillness of mind:

  • 2 drops myrrh
  • 2 drops frankincense
  • 3 drops mandarin

Myrrh is also beneficial for colds, coughs and bronchitis, and will help stimulate your immunity to fight respiratory infections.

This post is dedicated to my dad, because he is my superhero! Flash – aha!

Profile of myrrh:

Latin nameCommiphora myrrha
Plant family: Buseraceae
Plant type: resin
Perfume note: base

Extraction: steam distillation of the resin
Botany and origins: a shrub or small tree reaching 10m with sturdy knotted branches, trifoliate leaves and small white flowers; resin is exuded from the trunk as a pale yellow liquid that hardens into a reddish brown resin. Native to north east Africa and south west Asia, found particularly in Somalia, Yemen and Ethiopia
Chemical properties/active components: comprising 40% alcohols, indicating powerful but gentle-acting stimulating properties and anti-fungal and bactericidal action. It is also high in sesquiterpenes (39%), indicating antiseptic, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties
Blends with: benzoin, cypress, frankincense, geranium, juniper, lavender, mandarin, neroli, patchouli, peppermint, pine, sandalwood
Key actions: anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic (meaning reducing inflammation and fever), antiseptic, astringent, anti-viral, aphrodisiac (said to stimulate sexual desire), bactericide, calming, tranquilising
Common conditions: wounds (particularly those that are slow to heal), ulcers, weepy eczema, athlete’s foot, cracked, chapped skin, ringworm, mature skin; thrush; colds, flu, bronchitis; worry, mental restlessness and distraction
Contraindications: non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitising. Myrrh has been classified as an arbortifacient since ancient times, although there is no scientific evidence base. However, many aromatherapy texts advise to avoid this oil during pregnancy
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9


Lemon and lime – not to be underestimated

Your lemon and lime friends are sparkling, confident and positive. Their energy and enthusiasm are irrististable. They uplift your emotions and revitalise your outlook on life.

Lemon and lime have similar therapeutic properties, although lime is gentler in action and often chosen over lemon for this reason. Both are powerful-acting essential oils.

Skin care oils

I prefer skin care that is gentle-acting and which works with your skin rather than against it. Lemon and lime essential oils – and bergamot – are too harsh for my skin except in very low dilutions, although others may tolerate them.

Lemon and lime are antibacterial, antiseptic and astingent – excellent properties for treating oily skin, spots or acne. Lemon can cause skin irritation and worsen your skin condition, so anti-inflammatory lime may be the safer choice. Lime oil is helpful for over-production of sebum and can help to prevent or treat acne.

Both lemon and lime essential oils should be used sparingly on skin and in dilutions of 1% or less. Patch test a blend that has lemon or lime before general use on skin.

Lemon and lime are also toning to skin and anti-aging, but there are other essential oils that have anti-aging properties and which are safer to use on skin, for example: lavender and tea tree.

Lime facial wash

If you are experiencing over-production of sebum that is making skin oily and spot prone, wash your face every morning with this lime facial wash:

  • 3 drops lime
  • 6 drops lavender
  • 6 drops geranium
  • 30ml unfragrance cleansing gel or lotion (available from aromatherapy suppliers or health food stores)*

*Try this DIY cleansing gel base. Blend 2 parts aloe vera gel to 1 part olive oil. Whisk with a hand blender in a bowl until a white creamy gel forms. Transfer to a dark glass jar and add essential oils of your choice, stirring in with the handle of teaspoon.

Lemon treatment for warts and verrucae

Patricia Davis states that lemon oil can be used neat for warts or verrucae applied directly to the spot with a cotton bud. I recommended this for a colleague who had a stubborn verruca that had persisted for a year. Within three days the verruca had shrunk half in size, it was gone within a week and, as far as I am aware, has not recurred. Use this treatment with care – apply only to the wart or verrucae and be careful not to apply to unaffected areas of skin.

Phototoxic oils

Both oils are thought to be phototoxic – they may cause skin reaction in sunlight. For this reason it is best to use lemon and lime in low dilutions, or not at all, 24 hours before exposure to strong sunlight. If you are prone to hyperpigmented skin conditions or burn easily, avoid using these essential oils in spring and summer.

Stimulating and uplifting

Lemon and lime have are energising and reinvigorating. Both oils are ideal for a tired mind and may also be helpful for anxiety and depression. Burn two drops each of lemon and lime in an oil burner for a revitalising and uplifting room fragrance.

Lemon oil is also thought to stimulate the immune system, which makes it a useful oil to burn during winter months to stimulate the body and strengthen it against colds and flu.

This post is dedicated to Sophie – who is sparkliness and sunshine personified

Profile of lemon:

Latin nameCitrus limon
Plant family: Rutaceae
Plant type: citrus
Perfume note: top

Botany and origins: small, thorny evergreen reaching 6m with serrated oval leaves and sweetly fragranced flowers; unripe fruit mature into yellow
Extraction: cold expression of the peel
Chemical properties/active components: high in monoterpenes (87%) which are antiseptic, analgesic and rubefacient; a key constituent is limonene (a monoterpene)
Blends with: benzoin, citrus oils, chamomile, eucalyptus, fennel, frankincense, geranium, lavender, lavandin, juniper, neroli, sandalwood, rose, ylang ylang
Key actions: anti-microbial, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, astringent, bactericidal, detoxifier, diuretic, clarifying, lightening (to skin and moods!), toning, strengthening
Common conditions: colds, flu, fever, infections, bronchitis, thought to stimulate immunity by promoting production of white blood cells (although unlikely to do this through inhalation alone, and concentrations required on skin to achieve this effect would be high risk), observed in vitro to kill Diptheria bacteria in 20 minutes at 0.2% dilution; cellulite, obesity, acne, oily and congested skins, over-production of sebum, aging skin, boils, warts, verrucae; tones blood vessels, varicose veins, broken capillaries, nosebleeds, poor circulation; throat infections, bronchitis, catarrh; rheumatism, arthritis; lifts the spirits, mental fatigue, mentally stimulating, aids decision making, relieves stress
Contraindications: slightly phototoxic – do not use in concentrations of more than 2% if exposed to sunlight 12 hours after application; can cause irritation, inflammation and sensitisation; avoid in first three months of pregnancy
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9

Profile of lime:

Latin nameCitrus aurantifolia
Plant family: Rutaceae
Plant type: citrus
Perfume note: top

Botany and origins: small evergreen reaching 4–6m with wide canopy of 7m and irregularly spaced branches with drooping short spines (some cultivars are spineless); Key, West Indian and Mexican cultivars, and Persian limes; it is native to northern India and Burma, and is thought to have been transported to Central and South America by migrating Polynesian tribes via the Pacific Islands
Chemical properties/active components: high in monoterpenes hydrocarbons (72%) of which its key constituents are limonene, camphene, cymene, sabinene, myrcene; these are analgesic, antiseptic, anti-viral, decongestant, general tonics and stimulating, and also thought to have hormone-like actions
Blends with: benzoin, citrus oils, chamomile, eucalyptus, fennel, frankincense, geranium, lavender, lavandin, juniper, neroli, sandalwood, rose, ylang ylang
Key actions: anti-microbial, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, bactericidal, calming, decongestant disinfectant, insecticide, refreshing, sedative, stimulant (mood and appetite) tonic, uplifting,
Common conditions: fluid retention, cellulite; varicose veins, nosebleeds, arthritis, rheumatism, poor circulation; over-production of sebum, oily and problem skins, brittle nails, boils, chilblains, corns, cuts, insect bites, skin infections, herpes, warts; throat infections, catarrh, bronchitis; fatigue, apathy, anxiety, depression
Contraindications: very phototoxic – do not use in concentrations of more than 2% if exposed to sunlight 12 hours after application; expressed lime is more phototoxic than any other citrus oil due to chemical constituent bergaptene; avoid in first three months of pregnancy
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9

Image (lemon): Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image (lime): Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Sweet marjoram – off to bed, sleepy head!

Sweet marjoram is stillness and silence. She brings calm to a busy mind and quiet to restless thoughts. She is serenity and peace.

Sweet marjoram is a wonderful remedy for insomnia. In my experience, the sleep-inducing effects of sweet marjoram are more powerful than lavender and chamomile, which are more often used to aid sleep. A couple of drops of sweet marjoram on a pillow will help even the most frustrated insomniac drift into sleep. I have recommended this remedy to people who have tried everything else (other essential oils, herbal teas, a warm bath, relaxing music, even over-the-counter sleeping tablets). Sweet marjoram has worked for all but one, and even in that case it caused drowsiness.

Sweet dreams

If you are lying in bed wide awake, pour a couple of drops of sweet marjoram oil on the corner of your pillow. As you inhale the fragrance it will slow your breathing and still your thoughts. You will become drowsy, your head will feel heavy… Before you realise, it is morning and you have slept through the night.

After a stressful day, vaporise 3–4 drops of sweet marjoram in your bedroom an hour before bedtime. This will ensure a good night’s sleep.

Save the best for last

Lavender and chamomile (particularly Roman chamomile, I find) are also effective remedies for sleep. If you only rarely suffer from a sleepless night, I would recommend trying these oils first. If these essential oils have no effect, use sweet marjoram.

This post is dedicated to Lydie – my favourite scary little ghost girl of Cornwall who gave me one sleepless night!

Profile of sweet marjoram:

Latin name: Origanum majorana
Plant family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Plant type: herb
Perfume note: middle
Botany and origins: a perennial or annual plant growing 60cm high with a hairy stem, dark green oval leaves, and clusters of grey-white flowers. It is native to the Mediterranean, Egypt and North Africa, and the essential oil is also produced in France, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Bulgaria, Hungary and Germany
Extraction: steam distillation of the flowering herb
Chemical properties/active components: high in monoterpenes (40 %) which are antiviral and bactericidal, and alcohols (50 %) which are powerful but gentle acting and indicate bactericidal and fungicidal properties
Blends with: bergamot, chamomile, cedarwood, cypress, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, tea tree
Key actions: analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericidal, fungicidal, sedative
Common conditions: insomnia and sleeplessness, nervous tension, anxiety, stress, headaches; colds, flu, bronchitis, asthma; muscular aches and stiffness, rheumatism, sprains and strains; thought to be an anaphrodisiac – diminishes sexual desire – and thought to have a ‘deadening’ effect on strong emotions which can be useful for grief, sorrow, depression or loneliness
Contraindications: non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitising; do not use in pregnancy
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9

Sweet fennel – ‘We are Spartans!’

Fennel is single-minded and determined. She is courageous and does what needs to be done. She is practical – no frills, no fuss. Fennel clears away clutter and provides a fresh start.

Fennel is one of the best detoxifying essential oils in aromatherapy. It is also excellent for treating fluid retention and cellulitis. I use fennel in massage with other powerful detoxifiers like juniper and lymph-draining oils like geranium.

Fennel decongesting oil

Blend this massage oil and use on areas of the body to relieve fluid retention or to improve the appearance of cellulite:

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 6 drops fennel oil
  • 6 drops geranium oil
  • 3 drops grapefruit oil
  • 3 drops juniper oil

This is a powerful and effective blend, so do a patch test first to check for skin sensitivity.

Massage on cellulite three times a week, or daily, to help improve the appearance of orange-peel skin and to treat fluid retention. Expect to start seeing results after 6-8 weeks.

Combine this treatment with a cellulite-busting regime:

  • body brush twice daily before showering or bathing
  • drink 6–8 glasses of water
  • eat fresh fruit, vegetables and fish
  • cut back on caffiene, alcohol, salt, and avoid processed foods
  • don’t smoke!

Try to exercise for 30 minutes every day to boost circulation. Within a couple of months you will notice a remarkable improvement in your cellulite and in the overall appearance of your skin.

Fennel tea

I drink fennel tea to cleanse, purify and energise my body. It has an invigorating aroma and a revitalising effect. The herb is also a digestive and soothes your stomach after you have over-indulged – a perfect Boxing Day remedy.

Buy fennel tea in health food stores or infuse half a teaspoon of dried fennel seeds in a cup of boiled water.

This post is dedicated to Dail – no frills, no fuss, she gets the job done!

Profile of sweet fennel:

Latin name: Foeniculum vulgare
Plant family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
Plant type: herb
Perfume note: middle
Botany and origins: a biennial or perennial herb growing up to 2 m and bearing feathery leaves and bright sunny-yellow flowers. Thought to be native to Malta, but now grown in France, Italy and Greece
Extraction: steam distillation of the crushed seeds
Chemical properties/active components: high levels of phenols (62 %) which are antibacterial, antiviral, immunostimulating and tonic, but toxic if used over prolonged periods. Contains fenchone (a ketone) and phenol anethole which may stimulate upper respiratory tract secretions. Avoid bitter fennel which has toxic levels of fenchone
Blends with: basil, clary sage, cypress, geranium, lemon, juniper, melissa, peppermint, rosemary
Key actions: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, detoxifier, diuretic, expectorant, lymphatic decongestant, stimulates circulation,
Common conditions: fluid retention, cellulite, obesity, oedema, rheumatism; dull and oily complexions, mature skin, bruises; flatulence, anorexia, constipation, nausea, urinary tract antiseptic
Contraindications: non-irritating, low levels of toxin; do not use if you have sensitive skin, high blood pressure or epilepsy, and avoid during pregnancy; do not use bitter fennel
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9

Ravensara – kind to bogmonsters

When you are a bogmonster – runny nose, scratchy throat, red eyes and sneezy – you need ravensara. Ravensara is the friend who clears your head. She lets you breathe and she strengthens your soul.

One Sunday I caught a cold before my aromatherapy massage class at Neal’s Yard Remedies. My head felt like a balloon, my eyes red and streaming, nose blocked and voice hoarse – my transformation to bogmonster was complete. The aromatherapy tutor was delighted, ‘Perfect’, she said, ‘I was just about to demonstrate the powers of ravensara essential oil in facial massage!’

I was ushered onto a couch and given a facial massage that can only be described as heavenly. Skilled fingers drained my sinuses while the scent of ravensara wafted to unblock my nose and soothe my breathing. I sat up and felt instantly lighter and brighter.

The tutor gave me a vial of ravensara oil to take home after class, instructing me to pour one or two drops on the corner of my pillow at night until my cold was gone. Ravensara is also slightly sedative and helped me to sleep easy.

On Monday morning my cold was gone. By Tuesday the bogmonster was a distant memory.

Anti-viral facial massage oil

Ravensara is reputed to have anti-viral properties, which makes it a useful weapon in the armament against the common cold. I burn it regularly from late autumn to early spring to help fight off colds. I also take echinacea tincture, zinc and vitamin C supplements, and make sure to eat well and rest sufficiently – I hate being ill.

Next time you get a cold, be kind to your bogmonster and soothe the symptoms with this facial massage blend:

  • 10 ml olive oil
  • 5 drops ravensara oil

In children and babies, I recommend substituting ravensara essential oil for myrtle essential oil, which is gentler in action but still effective at clearing congestion and easing breathing during sleep. Do not use as a facial massage oil for children and babies. Instead, pour a drop of myrtle oil on a cotton wool pad and place inside the pillow, or vaporise two drops of myrtle oil one hour before bedtime.

Mind-clearing room fragrance

Ravensara makes you feel remarkably clear headed and focused. If you are feeling indecisive or need to concentrate on an issue, burn a couple of drops of ravensara in an oil burner.

This post is dedicated to Joyce, who introduced me to the wonders of ravensara.

Profile of ravensara:

Latin name: Ravensara aromatica
Plant family: Lauraceae
Plant type: wood
Perfume note: middle

Botany and origins: red-barked tree growing up to 20m. Native to Madagascar and also cultivated in Reunion and Mauritius
Extraction: steam distillation of the leaves and twigs
Chemical properties/active components: rich in oxides (60 %) which exhibit good properties for the respiratory system. The Lauraceae family has a powerful stimulating action
Blends with: woody and medicinal essential oils, eg eucalyptus, myrtle, rosewood
Key actions: antiviral, bactericidal, expectorant, stimulating,
Common conditions: colds, chills, shivers, flu (preventative and treatment of), bronchitis, sinusitis, glandular fever, herpes virus, chicken pox, shingles; insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome; muscle aches and pains
Contraindications: non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitising; do not use during pregnancy

Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9


Grapefruit – the oil of paradise

Little Miss Sunshine, grapefruit is the bringer of joy. She is enthusiasm and energy, she is a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.

Grapefruit essential oil evokes memories of warm summer days studying aromatherapy in the rooms at Neal’s Yard Remedies, Covent Garden. Grapefruit was the favourite essential oil of our tutor, Joyce, who called it ‘the oil of paradise’, inspired by its Latin name Citrus paradisi. Joyce said the aroma when burned reminded her of gin and recommended burning a few drops of grapefruit at the end of a long day in place of a gin and tonic!

Sunshine on a rainy day

Grapefruit is a ‘sunny’ oil. Its sweet citrus fragrance is light and uplifting. It is thought to be helpful to those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) because of its reviving and warming effects. The scent of grapefruit dispels moodiness, lethargy or nervous exhaustion, and relieves stress. It can be used for those who suffer from depression alongside conventional treatments. Vaporise 4–5 drops in an oil burner during winter months to uplift your emotions and promote a positive mood.

Clarifying skin oil

Like most citrus oils, grapefruit oil is toning for skin and hair. It can be added to facial washes to help clear a congested complexion, combat acne and clarify pores. The blend below provides a facial wash to use daily for one month. Use it in the morning to deeply cleanse and refresh your skin, it also has a reviving ‘wake me-up’ effect.

  • 30ml unscented foaming facial wash
  • 6 drops grapefruit
  • 6 drops geranium
  • 3 drops lemon
  • 3 drops lavender

Cellulite massage oil

Grapefruit is also helpful for cellulite. Blend it with geranium oil and massage onto areas of cellulite daily.

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 9 drops grapefruit
  • 9 drops geranium

Combine with a cellulite-busting regime of daily body brushing (with a loofah before showering), drinking more water and eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, salt and processed food for at least a month and you will soon notice an improvement in your overall skin tone.

Grapefruit and lavender shampoo

Add grapefruit and lavender to unscented shampoo. These essential oils are thought to promote healthy growth of hair and can help if your hair is thinning or lack-lustre.

  • 30ml unscented shampoo and/or conditioner
  • 9 drops grapefruit
  • 9 drops lavender

Reviving bath oil

Grapefruit essential oil can help you to unwind after a stressful day. Its uplifting effects are both reviving and relaxing. Run a warm bath then add a tablespoon of olive oil with 12 drops grapefruit oil and swoosh around the bath. Relax, breathe and unwind.

This post is dedicated to Ali who is my little ray of sunshine.

Profile of grapefruit:
Latin name: Citrus paradisi
Plant family: Rutaceae
Plant type: citrus
Perfume note: top
Botany and origins: a tree reaching 10m with large glossy green leaves and large yellow or yellow/blush-pink fruits. Native to Asia and the West Indies, but also cultivated in the US (California, the main producer of the oil worldwide, and Florida), Brazil and Israel
Extraction: cold expression of the peel
Chemical properties/active components: high in monoterpenes (96% average), its key constituent is limonene which is stimulating, bactericidal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory
Blends with: bergamot, cardomom, cypress, geranium, lavender, lemon, neroli, palmarosa, rosemary, and most spice oils
Key actions: antiseptic, antitoxic, antiviral, astringent, bactericidal, diuretic; stimulating, reviving, uplifting, but also calming and warming
Common conditions: cellulite, acne, oily skin and congested complexions, promotes hair growth, toning to skin and hair; colds and flu; stress, nervous exhaustion, lethargy, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), low self esteem and depression
Contraindications: Non-irritant and non-sensitising when used in dilution. It may be slightly phototoxic, do not use in dilutions of more than 3% if going out in the sun within 12  hours of application
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9