Juniper berry – the perfect antidote to January

Juniper clears your mind. She is the friend who lifts confusion and doubt, and who helps you to see true. She is a breath of fresh air when you need it most.

Juniper berry oil is best known for its detoxifying and mind-clearing properties. It comes from the blue-black berries of the juniper conifer tree and, like many essential oils from tall forest trees, its effects are purifying, uplifting and revitalising.

Juniper berry has a sharp, piercing balsamic smell which makes it a potent burning oil – the perfect antidote to January.

Cleanse and clear

Add 3–4 drops of juniper berry oil to an oil burner. Make sure all windows and doors are shut, and burn the oil for 30 minutes to banish the staleness of the previous year. Inhaling its vapours will help remove toxins from your body due to the over-indulgences of Christmas and New Year, and clear your mind of the January blues.

Hair of the dog

Juniper berries are used to flavour gin. If you have not yet kick-started your New Year resolutions and find yourself suffering from left-over Saturday hangovers, burn juniper berry to relieve your headache and clear your mind.

Detoxifying skin oil

If you are suffering post-Christmas and New Year party breakouts, get your skin off to a good start with this detoxifying juniper berry oil cleanser:

  • 30ml jojoba oil
  • 6 drops juniper berry oil
  • 6 drops tea tree oil
  • 6 drops lavender oil

Massage a teaspoonful of this blend on your face. To enhance the blend’s detoxifying effects, massage the oil using small circular movements and work from the centre of your face towards temples, earlobes and the neck. This helps to drain toxins from your skin through your lymph vessels and nodes. Remove the oil with a hot damp cotton flannel. Repeat twice. Use the blend throughout January and discard any left-over oil at the end of the month. This facial blend removes make up but do not use on the eyes.

Cellulite-busting oil

Juniper berry is often used in massage to help treat cellulite, because of its powerful action of eliminating toxins from the body. Massage this cellulite busting oil into orange-peel skin:

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 6 drops juniper berry oil
  • 6 drops geranium oil
  • 6 drops grapefruit oil

Exercise also helps to improve the appearance of cellulite.

A bit gouty

If your indulgences have been of the excessive kind and left your toes a bit gouty, rub this ointment on your foot to help relieve this painful condition. Juniper berry’s detoxifying properties help eliminate the build up of uric acid crystals that cause gout, and arthritis, for which juniper is also helpful.

  • 30ml unfragranced ointment cream
  • 6 drops juniper berry oil
  • 6 drops cypress oil
  • 6 drops fennel oil

And, er, lay off the booze for a bit!

This post is dedicated to Christine who is always the life and soul of the party

Profile of juniper:

Latin name: Juniperus communis
Plant family: Cupressaceae
Plant type: wood
Perfume note: middle
Botany and origins: evergreen tree or shrub native to the northern hemisphere and growing up to 6m high, with blue-green narrow needles, small flowers and round berries; main producers of juniper berry oil are France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia
Extraction: steam distillation of the berries (oil from the needles or wood are also extracted by this method but not used in aromatherapy due to their toxic properties)
Chemical properties/active components: rich in monoterpenes (80 %), which indicates its actions are likely to be stimulating, expectorant, bactericidal and antiviral
Blends with: benzoin, cedarwood, citrus oils, clary sage, cypress, fennel, geranium, lavender, lavandin, pine, rosemary, sandalwood, vetiver
Key actions: analgesic, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, astringent, detoxifying, diuretic, vulnerary
Common conditions: cellulite, acne, oily skin; gout, arthritis and rheumatism, painful joints, stiffness, eliminates uric acid, fluid retention, obesity; cystitis; anxiety, nervous tension, stress-related conditions, intellectual fatigue
Contraindications: Non-sensitising and non-toxic, juniper berry may cause irritation in some; it has a reputation as an abortifacient, however, this may be due to confusion concerning its Latin name; it should only be used in moderation due to adulteration of the wood with turpentine oil
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 © 123RF


Palmarosa – sweet!

A rainbow personality – palmarosa essential oil

Palmarosa is the friend who gives you the freedom to change. She does not expect you to be as you were yesterday or the day before. She accepts who you are in the present moment and who you will become in the next.

Palmarosa is one of my favourite essential oils. It is lovely to use for skin care. It has a sugary, sweet fragrance – if using in a perfume blend, add sparingly.

Palmarosa is one of the most useful essential oils for skin care. It is antiseptic and bactericidal, which makes it an effective treatment for acne and minor skin infections. It balances the production of sebum (the skin’s natural oil) and so helps to prevent breakouts. It is hydrating and toning, which makes it useful for dry, dehydrated or undernourished skin. It is cicatrisant, which means it can stimulate cellular regeneration and can be used to treat scars or wrinkles. It is an all-round beauty oil!

Palmarosa cleansing oil for problem skin

After a long hot summer’s day, I use this blend to cleanse my skin. It cools as well as deep cleanses and helps prevent breakouts during hot and humid weather.

  • 30ml jojoba oil
  • 6 drops palmarosa oil
  • 6 drops peppermint oil
  • 6 drops tea tree oil

Store the blend in a dark glass jar and use it daily for a month (the shelf life of your blend). To cleanse, massage on a teaspoonful then remove with a hot cloth, and repeat. The first cleanse removes surface make up and dirt, and the second cleanse removes deep-down dirt clogging pores. Apply this philosophy to any nightly beauty regime – especially if you live in London!

Palmarosa-perfecting blend

This blend can be used on skin that feels dry and undernourished, or as an all-round anti-aging oil. It revives skin and restores a glow to the complexion. It can also be used daily to massage on scars and to help improve their appearance over time. Expect to notice an improvement in scars or red acne marks in 6–8 months.

  • 30ml rosehip oil
  • 6 drops palmarosa oil
  • 6 drops rosewood oil
  • 6 drops lavender oil

Massage a teaspoonful of this blend on your face at night after cleansing. Once the blend has been absorbed you can use your usual night cream.

Soothing bath oil

Palmarosa is also good for emotional conditions of nervousness, stress and anxiety. Combine with lavender and geranium in a bath oil. Pour this blend into the bath after it has run and swoosh around before getting in.

  • 20ml olive oil
  • 4 drops palmarosa oil
  • 4 drops lavender oil
  • 4 drops geranium oil

This post is dedicated to my lovely friend Marion Two-Puddings Davies, who is a true free spirit and accepts you as you are

Profile of palmarosa

Latin name: Cymbopogon martinii
Plant family: Graminaceae
Plant type: grass
Perfune note: middle
Botany: a grass with slender stems, fragrant grassy leaves and flowering tops. It is native to India and Pakistan, although now grown in Africa, Indonesia, Brazil and the Comoro Islands
Extraction: water or steam distillation of the fresh or dried grass
Chemical properties/active components: high in alcohols (85%) with active constituents including geraniol (antiseptic, antiviral, uplifting) and linalool (stimulating, tonic)
Blends with: cedarwood, lavender, geranium, peppermint, rosewood, sandalwood
Key actions: antiseptic, bactericidal, cicatrisant, comforting, hydrating, stimulant, stabilising
Common conditions: balances sebum production, stimulates cellular regeneration, acne, dermatitis, minor skin infections, dry and undernourished skin, scars, wrinkles; stress, restlessness, anxiety, nervous exhaustion, encourages adaptability and brings feelings of security, soothes feelings of nervousness
Contraindications: Palmarosa is non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitising.
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 © 123RF

Frankie, oh Frankie!

Frankie is the friend who picks you up, dusts you off and puts you back on the road again. She encourages you to put the past behind you, focus on the present and to make a new start.

If you feel like the past is holding you back, old or recent wounds have left you feeling fragile and vulnerable, and you are afraid to set off on new paths, then frankincense is the essential oil you need.

Patricia Davis says that frankincense can ‘help break links with the past and may be very valuable to people who tend to dwell on past events, to the detriment of their present situation’. Grief, heartbreak and fear are all emotions that can hold you back. Frankincense helps to cleanse your emotions, dispels negativity and fills you with inspiration. It puts you back on track.

Oil of meditation and tranquility

Frankincense (olibanum) has been used for centuries in meditation and ritual. Its incense filled temples and churches, creating an atmosphere of tranquil contemplation. Its scent slows and deepens the breath, helping to prepare the body for a meditative state. Only a few drops are needed in an oil burner – its effects are quite powerful.

Respiratory complaints

Frankincense is thought to be helpful for respiratory complaints – easing coughs and helping to open respiratory passages. To use, rub on the upper chest in a blend of 10ml petroleum jelly and 5 drops frankincense oil. This is a soothing blend to use at night to aid sleep.

Rejuvenating skin oil

Let’s not forget frankincense’s age-old use in beauty. It has long been valued in skin care for its rejuvenating, nourishing and moisturising properties, even helping to prevent and smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. Use the blend below as a nightly oil to massage onto skin, and wake up with a glowing and radiant complexion. After a few weeks of regular use you will really notice the difference – your skin will look firmer, smoother and more toned.

  • 6 drops frankincense oil
  • 6 drops lavender oil
  • 6 drops neroli oil
  • 30ml jojoba oil

Be inspired

My favourite way to use frankincense is as a bath oil. Run a warm bath, then add 10ml olive oil mixed with 6 drops frankincense oil and slosh around. Get in, relax, truly unwind and allow your mind to wander as frankincense inspires thoughts and dreams.

This blog post is dedicated to Yazzy Que, who recently picked me up, dusted me off and put me back on the road again.

Profile of frankincense:

Latin name: Boswellia ssp
Plant family: Burseraceae
Plant type: resin
Perfume note: base
Botany and origins: also known as olibanum, frankincense is the resin of the bark of a small tree with pinnate leaves and white or pale pink flowers. It is native to western India, southern Arabia and north-eastern Africa; major producers of frankincense are Somalia and Ethiopia
Extraction: steam distillation of the resin
Chemical properties/active components: 40% monoterpene hydrocarbons, including pinene, terpinene, myrcene, cymene and limonene
Blends with: sandalwood, pine, vetiver, geranium, lavender, neroli, rose, sweet orange, bergmot, basil, black pepper, cinnamon, cedarwood, rosewood and other spices
Key actions: antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti-oxidant, cytophylactic, expectorant, mucolytic, regenerative; deepens the breath, and calms and stills the mind
Common conditions: anxiety, nervous tension, stress; bronchitis, catarrhal conditions; dry, oily and mature skin, wrinkles, scars
Contraindications: frankincense is non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitising. Avoid during the 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 © 123RF

Peppermint – the not so desperate housewife!

Peppermint is the Bree of the aromatherapy world. She runs a clean and efficient house, is super-organised and impeccable in appearance. She helps you to see clearly and is a calming presence no matter what the dilemma.

The grass-mint smell of peppermint has a profound effect on the mind and emotions, helping to clear and calm at the same time. This essential oil is great to use on-the-go as its fragrance can help to uplift and energise while also reducing nerves, stress or anxiety.

I particularly love using peppermint in summer months for its cooling effect on the skin. It’s a great addition to skin-care regimes when the weather is hot and the city feels dirty and muggy.

Clarifying skin oil

This cleanser is a great recipe to use to remove dirt and grime from your face at the end of a hot summer’s day in the city. It cleans deep down, declogs pores and helps to prevent blemishes. Simply blend:

  • 6 drops peppermint oil
  • 6 drops palmarosa oil
  • 6 drops lavender oil
  • 30ml jojoba oil

Store in a dark glass bottle, the blend will last for three months if kept out of direct sunlight. Massage a teaspoonful on your face and wipe off with a hot damp flannel. Repeat a second time.

Peppermint foot spray

Cool and relieve hot sweaty feet with a peppermint foot spray. Make a cup of peppermint tea and leave to cool overnight. Decant into an empty 100ml spray bottle. Add 20 drops peppermint oil and shake vigorously. Spray two to three times on your feet when needed, to refresh and deodorise. Also shake vigorously before each use. The spray will last one week if refrigerated regularly when not in use.

Stimulating scent

The scent of peppermint is both stimulating and soothing, making it the perfect oil to burn or vaporise when you are working. Pour 3 to 4 drops of peppermint oil in a burner. The oil is also expectorant and helps to clear congestion and aid easy-breathing.

If you are at work and can’t use a burner in the office, substitute the oil for the herb. Peppermint tea has an enlivening effect on the mind and also lowers stress. As an added bonus, it is great for your digestion – no work ulcers for you!

Peppermint has a zillion other uses, listed in the profile below. But as with all essential oils I’d advise that you don’t view it as your primary source of care for any common condition. Instead it can be used to complement conventional methods.

I particularly love this recipe recommended by Plume Perfume: invigorating peppermint-eucalyptus-body-wash.

This post is dedicated to Maria Davidova, who is an inspiration in every sense.

Profile of peppermint:

Latin name: Mentha piperita
Plant family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Plant type: herb
Perfume note: middle
Botany and origins: a perennial herb growing up to 1m, with green stems and leaves (white peppermint) or dark green serrated leaves, purple stems and reddish-violet flowers (black peppermint); it is grown commonly in Europe and America and cultivated worldwide
Extraction: steam distillation of the flowering herb
Chemical properties/active components: high in alcohols (42%), including menthol and ketones (30%) including menthone
Blends with: benzoin, rosemary, lavender, marjoram, lemon, palmarosa and eucalyptus
Key actions: analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, expectorant, stomachic, vasoconstrictor, and a local anaesthetic action
Common conditions: nausea, vomiting, travel sickness, flatulence; clears head, aids concentration, relieves mental fatigue, headaches, migraine, nervous stress; sinus congestion, infection or inflammation, bronchitis, spasmodic coughs, colds (most useful at onset), flu, fevers; muscular pain; in skin care it can be used as a refreshing tonic in low dilutions (otherwise it may cause irritation), it cools and constricts the capillaries in steam treatment; also: acne, dermatitis, ringworm, and toothache
Contraindications: peppermint should be used in moderation. In low dilutions, it is non-toxic, non-irritant, but it may cause sensitisation. 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 © 123RF

Rose – the queen of essential oils

Some friends walk into our lives just when we most need them. They open our hearts to love and friendship, and restore our faith in ourselves.

These days when I hear the name ‘Rose’ my mind immediately makes the connection to Rose Tyler – fiesty, fearless and loyal companion of the Doctor. Rose walked into the Doctor’s life at a time when he had lost faith in the universe and in himself – and restored it, capturing the heart of the Time Lord in the process.

These are the qualities of rose essential oil. Often called the ‘queen of essential oils’ by aromatherapists, its fragrance is warm and nurturing. Rose is a ‘mothering’ oil. She opens our hearts to giving and receiving love, and allows us to believe in ourselves and others. She is also a luxurious and sensual oil – a flower of Aphrodite and Venus, her scent is thought to act as an aphrodisiac.

Otto or absolute?

In aromatherapy you can buy two types of rose essential oil – Rosa damascena (rose otto) and Rosa centifolia (rose absolute). The first is the only ‘true’ essential oil because it is extracted from rose petals by steam distillation. The second is extracted by solvent extraction and is an ‘absolute’. But both smell gorgeous and are delightful to use. The only real difference is to your purse – rose otto is significantly more expensive. The botany and actions of both are provided in the summary profile below.

Beautiful skin

Rose is one of the most luxurious oils you can add to your skincare routine. It has long been used to restore a youthful bloom to mature or prematurely aging skins. It hydrates, stimulates and softens the skin. It is also helpful for dry or sensitive skins, being anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent. Use rose oil in facial massage at 3% dilution for dry and itchy skin, skin rashes, eczema and even for broken capillaries, because it helps to reduce skin redness.

  • 5ml apricot or peach kernel oil
  • 3 drops rose oil (otto or absolute)

A personal favourite anti-aging and rejuvenating blend of mine is given below. Massage a teaspoon amount on your face, nightly for one month, to achieve best results.

  • 20ml jojoba oil
  • 10ml evening primrose oil
  • 6 drops rose otto oil
  • 4 drops lavender oil
  • 6 drops neroli oil
  • 2 drops frankincense oil

Women’s health

Rose is thought to be a feminine oil and is used in aromatherapy to treat gynaecological problems, particularly to regulate menstruation or to relieve menstrual cramps and excessive bleeding. To treat such conditions, it is usually massaged on the abdomen. However, I would offer a word of caution when using rose oil, or any other essential oil or natural remedy, for ‘women’s problems’. It can be helpful for women suffering mild irregularities, but for those who have a more serious condition, such as menorrhagia (excessive bleeding leading to haemorrhaging and clotting) medical advice from a GP should be sought to diagnose the underlying causes. The NHS website provides useful advice for women.

Digestive system

Surprisingly, rose oil is thought to be good for the digestive system. I remember my aromatherapy tutor told us that inhaling rose oil can help to regulate a poor appetite and that massaging the lower back with rose oil can help to alleviate constipation. I also remember she told us that, at around £50 per 5ml of pure rose otto, it would be cheaper to drink a cup of ginger or mint tea.

The oil for special occasions

If you are going to treat yourself to rose oil reserve its use for beauty care and relaxation – two uses in which it excels. If you can’t afford to buy the pure essential oil there are many aromatherapy suppliers that offer rose oil ready-blended for use in massage. Essentially Oils offer rose otto or absolute in 5% dilution in jojoba oil at very reasonable prices.

To burn rose oil you only need about three drops in a vaporiser to work its subtle magic. Rose oil is thought to relieve depression (mild), sedate the nervous system, release anger, despair and frustration, banish fear and bring comfort. It nurtures your emotional self.

If the fragrance is too subtle and you wish to enhance it, but not use up your oil too quickly, add one drop of geranium oil to your burner. Geranium enhances and complements the fragrance of rose.


This post is dedicated to Marina, who walked into my life just when I needed her most and is a dear friend.

Profile of rose:

Latin name: Rosa damascena (rose otto) and Rosa centifolia (rose absolute)
Plant family: Rosaceae
Plant type: floral
Perfume note: middle
Botany and origins: Rosa damascena is a prickly shrub with fragrant pink blooms and whitish fuzzy leaves; Rosa centifolia is an oil extracted from a hybrid plant called rose de mai (Rosa centifolia (pink rose) and Rosa gallica (red rose)).
Extraction: the otto is extracted by steam distillation, the absolute from solvent extraction
Chemical properties/active components: where to begin – rose oil has more than 300 active chemical constituents which science has yet to crack and replicate in synthetic form. How d’ya like them apples, science boys!
Blends with: almost all essential oils, try it with lemongrass for a delicious, summer room fragrance
Key actions: antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, antiseptic, astringent, antispasmodic, antiviral, calming, circulatory stimulant, comforting, emollient, hydrating, laxative, loving, regulating, sedative, softening, stimulating, uplifting
Common conditions: primarily useful for skin care (mature, dry, sensitive, itchy, irritated, reddened, eczema, rashes and broken capillaries); and for its emotional effects (antidepressant, uplifting, refreshing, irritability, heart palpitations, insomnia, anger, dispair, frustration, fear); it is also thought to be useful for gynaelogical irregularities, and toning and stimulating to both the digestive and circulatory system
Contraindications: non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitising. However, it is advised to avoid during pregnancy. In my personal experience, I’ve found that rose oil can cause irritation for people with very sensitive skins or just as an idiosyncratic (individual) reaction. Therefore, as with all essential oils, it is advisable to patch test before general use.
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 © 123RF

The oils of the orange tree

Blown in from Neverland on the breeze of children’s laughter, the oils of the orange tree are forever young. They bring warmth, cheer and optimism, their innocence and happiness connects with your inner child.

With spring in the air, trees in blossom and summer on its way, I’ve been living with aromatherapy’s cheeriest and sunniest oils – the oils of the orange tree: sweet orange, petitgrain, neroli and mandarin.

The first three oils hail from the same small evergreen tree (Citrus aurantium var amara or Bigaradia) and are extracted from its fruit (sweet orange), leaves and twigs (petitgrain) and blossom or flowers (neroli). Mandarin is extracted from the fruit of another evergreen (C. reticulata). Both trees are natives of China and India, though their treasures are now distributed worldwide.

As with all essential oils, the orange oils have a variety of uses. I’ve described some of my favourite here. Summary profiles of all four oils, listing actions and uses, are provided at the end of this post. One property the orange oils have in common is their ability to calm nerves, to reduce tension and to uplift moods.

A children’s remedy

Mandarin, and sweet orange, is often referred to as the ‘children’s remedy’. Its scent is sweet and fruity, making it pleasing and comforting to babies and children. Its actions are subtle and gentle, making it very safe to use. A soothing and slightly sedative mandarin-scented bath can be used for babies after six months. It’s best to use the lowest dilutions for babies and children, even when using the gentlest of essential oils. The blend below is a 1% dilution:

  • 10ml full-fat milk
  • 2 drops mandarin oil

Run your baby’s bath, then slosh in the milk and mandarin oil blend, making sure it’s distributed thoroughly in the water. Now bathe your child and let them enjoy the subtle orange-like fragrance to aid a good night’s sleep.

Mothers to be

There are many aromatherapists that specialise in aromatherapy for pregnancy – I am not one of them. And while there are many aromatherapy books on the subject, their advice often varies. With this in mind, and preferring to err on the side of caution, I am guided by these three recommendations:

  1. Don’t use essential oils during the first trimester
  2. Only use one or two essential oils in a blend and always at a 1% dilution (ie 5 ml carrier product to one drop essential oil)
  3. Always ask your medical practitioner (GP or midwife) before using aromatherapy treatments, especially if there is a prior history of miscarriage and/or other medical complications in this or any previous pregnancy

Safety bit out of the way, the orange oils are lovely for mothers to be – in baths, room fragrances or massage. Daily massage the blend below onto your tummy using gentle circular movements:

  • 10ml olive oil
  • 1 drop neroli oil
  • 1 drop mandarin oil

If used everyday from the second trimester this blend is thought to help prevent or minimise stretch marks.

Spring cleaning

I love blending sweet orange and petitgrain, creating a sweet, fruity, citrus, woody aroma. It’s perfect for use during spring cleaning. When doing my laundry I like to use it to scent towels and bed linen. Pour three drops each into your cup of washing powder or onto laundry tablets, allowing the oils to soak into the powder before placing in the drawer or drum of your washing machine. Your laundry will come out with a lovely subtle orangey fragrance.

For a room fragrance, fill a 30ml spray bottle with water and pour in 9 drops each of sweet orange and petitgrain. Shake vigorously and then spray around the room, especially around curtains and carpets to let the fabrics pick up the scent.

The flower of the princess

Finally, my favourite of the orange oils is neroli – typically the most luxuriant and expensive of these essential oils. It was the favoured perfume oil of Anne Marie Orsini, a 17th-century princess of Nerola (Rome, Italy) who famously used it to fragrance her gloves. Its benefits to skin include helping to stimulate new cell growth, minimise scars and stretch marks, reduce thread veins and broken capillaries, and soothe dry or irritated conditions. It’s a wonderful anti-aging and rejuvenating oil. Use on its own in a 5% dilution (unless pregnant) blended in jojoba oil, or in the blend below for nightly facial massage:

  • 30ml jojoba oil
  • 6 drops neroli oil
  • 6 drops rose otto oil
  • 6 drops frankincense oil

Massage a teaspoonful on cleansed and dry skin, avoiding the eye area. After two to three weeks of use you should notice your skin is looking younger, fresher and more radiant.

This post is dedicated to Kim, whose inner child is alive and well.

Profile of sweet orange:

Latin name: Citrus sinensis
Plant family: Rutaceae
Plant type: citrus
Perfume note: top/middle
Botany and origins: a small evergreen tree native to China and India (Citrus aurantium var amara or Bigaradia)
Extraction: cold expression of the fruit peel
Chemical properties/active components: primarily monoterpenes (75%), particularly limonene, which is stimulating, bactericidal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory
Blends with: lavender, clary sage, frankincense, myrrh, rose, chamomiles, citrus and spice oils
Key actions: antidepressant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, bactericidal, fungicidal, sedative (nervous system) and stimulant (to body tissues and fluid)
Common conditions: cramps, constipation, flatulence; colds and flu, chills; heart palpitations, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, stress; dry and irritated skin, acne, mature skin, dull and oily complexions
Contraindications: non-irritant, non-sensitising, but may be phototoxic – avoid using 12 hours before exposure to sunlight or sunbeds. Avoid during the first three months of pregnancy.

Profile of petitgrain:

Latin name: Citrus aurantium var amara
Plant family: Rutaceae
Plant type: floral
Perfume note: top
Botany and origins: a small evergreen tree native to China and India (Citrus aurantium var amara or Bigaradia)
Extraction: steam distillation of the leaves and twigs
Chemical properties/active components: primarily esters (55%), particularly linalyl acetate, which is antispasmodic, calming and toning
Blends with: lavender, geranium, rosemary, palmarosa, jasmine and the other orange oils
Key actions: antispasmodic, antiseptic, astringent, bactericidal, uplifts, refreshes, restorative, stabilises
Common conditions: nervous exhaustion, stress, depression, insomnia, irritability, anxiety; tones oily skin and hair, congested complexions, acne, promotes hair growth
Contraindications: non-irritant, non-toxic, non-sensitising – avoid during the first three months of pregnancy.

Profile of neroli:

Latin name: Citrus aurantium var amara
Plant family: Rutaceae
Plant type: floral
Perfume note: top
Botany and origins: a small evergreen tree native to China and India (Citrus aurantium var amara or Bigaradia)
Extraction: steam distillation of the blossom flowers
Chemical properties/active components: primarily alcohols (40%) such as linalool and monoterpenes (35%) such as limonene, which contribute to its bactericidal and antiseptic actions
Blends with: chamomiles, lavender, rose, frankincense, palmarosa, geranium, jasmine, ylang ylang, clary sage, benzoin, myrrh and most other floral and citrus oils
Key actions: antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, bactericidal, aphrodisiac, sedative
Common conditions: heart palpitations, poor circulation, muscle spasms; nervous tension, anxiety, insomnia, nervous exhaustion, depression, agitation, PMS, shock, stress; red/dry/irritated skin, broken capillaries, thread veins, mature skins, scars, stretch marks
Contraindications: non-irritant, non-sensitising – avoid during the first three months of pregnancy.

Profile of mandarin:

Latin name: Citrus reticulata
Plant family: Rutaceae
Plant type: citrus
Perfume note: top/middle
Botany and origins: a small evergreen tree native to China and India (Citrus reticulata)
Extraction: cold expression of fruit peel
Chemical properties/active components: primarily monoterpenes (90%), particularly limonene which is stimulating, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory
Blends with: the orange oils, citrus oils and spice oils
Key actions: antispasmodic, antiseptic, stimulant (digestion), sedative (nerves), cheering, optimistic and comforting
Common conditions: calms intestinal spasms and upsets, flatulence; insomnia, nervous tension, restlessness; fluid retention, cellulite, stretch marks, acne, oily and congested skins, scars, spots
Contraindications: non-irritant, non-sensitising, non-toxic, non-photosensitising – avoid during the first three months of pregnancy.

Further reading: These profiles are based on my own experience and knowledge of using these essential oils. 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 © 123RF

Myrtle, the quiet one

Myrtle is your shy friend. She is quiet and unassuming, often fading into the background. Her nature is humble and pure. When life leaves you feeling a little grey, myrtle will reveal her inner radiance and help you to shake off the cobwebs, allowing you to shine once more.

Myrtle is a subtle and charming plant. It originates from the Mediterranean and grows like a shrub or small tree, with oval and shiny dark green leaves. If you’re lucky your myrtle will bloom delicate white flowers, which will eventually turn into edible dark berries.

There are many myths surrounding myrtle, but the most enduring is that of the goddess Venus and her priestess Myrene. Myrene, a favoured priestess of Venus, took a secret lover and the goddess, angered by her priestess’s indiscretion, killed the young man and turned Myrene into a myrtle tree. Since then myrtle has always been planted by temples of Venus and eventually became a symbol of the love goddess.

Myrtle is a particular favourite of mine because it was the subject of my plant study during my training as an aromatherapist. As a result my mother’s garden is now home to two myrtle plants, which have, as yet, survived assault from our leonberger Mackie.

Easy breathing

Myrtle is helpful for respiratory problems. It has an expectorant action, helping to ease breathing when you have a cold or flu. Its scent is less obtrusive than eucalyptus oil and so it tends to be tolerated better by babies and young children. Its effects are also slightly sedative.

I gave a bottle of myrtle oil to a friend of mine when his baby son was suffering from a persistent cold and having trouble sleeping due to a stuffy nose. I advised dropping a little myrtle oil onto the corner of his pillow, and vapourising the oil in the room about half an hour before bedtime. He reported back that his baby son slept soundly and peacefully through the night for the first time since catching the cold.

Of course, I always like to mention when recommending aromatherapy for children that their primary source of healthcare should be from a medical practitioner (your GP), and a complementary method used only as a helping hand.

Radiant skin oil

After winter I always feel that my skin looks a little grey. To brighten my complexion for spring, I like to make a facial wash using myrtle oil. You’ll need:

  • a medium-sized dark-glass jar with a screw-top lid
  • 50ml aloe vera gel
  • 25ml olive oil
  • 30 drops myrtle oil
  • sterilised teaspoon (stirrer)

Whisk the aloe vera gel and olive oil in the jar with your teaspoon (use the handle of the teaspoon if this is easier) until you have a white-coloured gel. Add 30 drops myrtle oil and stir well again.

You can now use this blend as a simple gel-based facial wash every morning. Remove with a warm cotton flannel. Myrtle oil’s astringent and restorative properties will brighten skin, and clarify and tighten pores.

Purifying fragrance

Myrtle oil is a good choice for lifting your mood and dispelling dark thoughts or negative energy. The effects of its fragrance when burned in a room are uplifting and purifying. With spring on its way, I burned myrtle at home this week to banish negative stale energies and to welcome in positive emotions for the new season, such as optimism and hope.

This post is dedicated to Gosia, whose inner radiance shines like myrtle.

Profile of myrtle:

Latin name: Myrtus communis
Plant family: Myrtaceae
Plant type: floral
Perfume note: top/middle
Botany and origins: a small evergreen shrub with oval-shaped dark green leaves, small white flowers and edible blue-black berries; originally native to the Mediterranean.
Extraction: steam distillation
Chemical properties/active components: primarily cineol (oxide), helpful for respiratory problems
Blends with: bergamot, lavandin, lavender, rosemary, clary sage, lime, ginger and other spice oils
Key actions: astringent, antiseptic, bactericidal
Common conditions: acne, oily skin, large pores; asthma, bronchitis, chronic coughs, colds and flu; bladder infections
Contraindications: non-toxic, non-sensitising and non-irritant. As with most essential oils, it’s advisable to avoid during the first three months of pregnancy. Thereafter, it may be helpful for skin problems.
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 © Mauro Rodrigues / 123RF

Living with lavender

bumble and honeybee on lavender

Your lavender friend is kind and understanding. She instinctively knows how you feel and she is ready to give a friendly smile and a comforting hug when you need one. 

I became a professional aromatherapist in 2005 after completing my diploma in Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Science with Neal’s Yard Remedies Ltd in Covent Garden, London. I studied hard to learn about the essential oils, carrier oils, anatomy and physiology, massage, beauty treatments, therapeutic relationships, and the history of natural medicine. My studies included profiling over 70 essential oils, such as their chemistry and actions.

My tutor Joyce West was a wonderful aromatherapist who taught us to “live with the essential oils”. Every week we chose an essential oil to wear as a fragrance, to use in skin care and massage, for bathing and other uses around the home. “Live with an essential oil,” said Joyce, “From morning till night, immerse yourself in its aroma and personality.”

This was my first post on my first blog about living with essential oils, which I have now revived here.

An introduction to lavender
Lavender is one of the most commonly used essential oils in aromatherapy. The herb has been popular since ancient times, it is a valued and versatile healer that restores balance to the body and mind. The 17th-century English herbalist, physician and astrologer Nicholas Culpeper (1616–54) described lavender as “being an inhabitant almost in every garden, it is so well known that it needs no description”. He assigned planetary rulership of lavender to the quick-witted messenger of the Roman gods, Mercury, because the herb helped to soothe headaches and aided sleep, yet stimulated the mind. It is lavender’s ability to both revive and calm, to balance most physical and emotional states, which makes it so widely used in aromatherapy.

There are different types of lavender. The essential oil that I lived with, and which is described here, is known as true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). It has a distinctive yet subtle aroma, being sweetly floral and herbaceous. Its lance-shaped leaves with spears of purple flowers are familiar in most gardens. Press the flower head or leaf between your fingers, rub gently and lift your hand to smell the beautiful fragrance.

Lavender is widely known as the oil which started modern aromatherapy. The story of the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé (1881–1950) who discovered the oil’s healing properties in a laboratory accident is mentioned in almost every book about aromatherapy. Gattefossé burned his hand and accidentally immersed it in lavender oil, but then found that the oil eased his pain and helped the skin to heal faster without leaving a scar. It is a popular account of the revival of aromatherapy, although I’m not personally saying that burns and scalds are treated other than medically advised.

Still, I always keep a bottle of lavender oil in my cupboard. It is a kitchen staple because of its usefulness in treating so many ailments: spots, acne, eczema, minor skin infections, insect bites, inflammation, aching muscles, and so on. I find that it is a gentle-acting oil, but effective, and so suitable for most people to use.

My lavender diary
Gentle cleansing oil
I used lavender essential oil to care for my skin this week. A blend of 15 drops lavender oil and 15 drops geranium oil to 30ml olive oil in a dark glass bottle to use as a skin cleanser. The blend gently and effectively removed all traces of make up from my face, although, of course, I didn’t use the oil to remove eye make-up.

To use an oil-based cleanser like this, pour a teaspoonful amount onto the palm of your hand and massage on your face for a few minutes. Wipe off using a hot damp cotton cloth, and repeat. The first cleanse lifts off the grime of the day, while the second cleanse removes deep-down dirt and debris clogging up pores.

Adding lavender oil to my evening skin-care ritual helps to relax my mind and brings harmony to my thoughts at the end of a hectic day.

Relaxing and revitalising bath
After a long hard week, I used lavender oil for a comforting bath. While the bath water ran, I blended 10 drops of lavender oil with 10ml full-fat milk; skimmed milk is no good as the essential oil needs to bind with the fat to blend. When my bath was run, I poured in the whole blend and sloshed around thoroughly. I felt like Cleopatra bathing in my creamy lavender bath as the fragrance restored inner peace.

Sweet dreams
Finally, for a good night’s sleep and to awake feeling refreshed, I poured three to four drops of lavender oil on the corner of my pillow to drift naturally into sleep.

Lavender in folklore
I love to read about the myths and legends of plants and flowers, exploring the wisdom traditions in which they were once used. In Ancient Greece, lavender was a herb of Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, and in pagan traditions it belonged to the Willow Moon which shone between 15 April to 12 May.

I remember a herbalist telling me how lavender wine was once drunk to help cure flatulence or colic. The herb was also thought to prevent fainting spells when mixed with fennel, cinnamon, horehound and asparagus root.

This post is dedicated to my grandmother, Antonie Ursula Dees, who introduced me to aromatherapy and a world of fragrances.

Profile of lavender essential oil:
Latin name: Lavandula angustifolia
Plant family: Labiatae or Lamiaceae
Plant type: herb
Perfume note: middle
Botany and origins: evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean, now cultivated worldwide
Extraction: steam distillation
Chemical properties/active components: 45% esters (linalyl acetate, lavandulyl acetate), which are wound healing and anti-inflammatory; rich in alcohols (linalool), which are stimulating, powerful and gentle
Blends with: almost all essential oils
Key actions: antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, cytophylactic (stimulates skin renewal and wound healing, helps prevent scarring), decongestant (mild), sedative or stimulating
Common conditions: anxiety, agitation, depression, frustration, irritability, nervous tension, shock, stress; insomnia, headaches; high blood pressure, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism and arthritis, strains and sprains; colds and ‘flu; cystitis; acne, burns, eczema, inflammation, insect bites, skin infections, spots, sunburn, wounds
Contraindications: lavender is reportedly non-toxic and non-sensitising, but it is advised to avoid during the first three months of pregnancy
Further reading: This profile is based on my diploma studies, knowledge and experience of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. Some of the most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are published in Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9.