What is an essential oil?

Essential OilEssential oils are the odorant chemicals extracted from plants. Aromatic plants grow in great numbers but not all of them yield enough essential oil to make it worthwhile to go through the extraction process. Some of them also have a very toxic effect and therefore cannot be used for therapeutic purposes in the practice of aromatherapy.

When one asks what is an essential oil, it is useful to think about their characteristics and appearance. Essential oils are fluidic, odorant, colored and volatile. This means they undergo chemical changes when they come into contact with sunlight, air and heat. They are not water-soluble but will dissolve in pure alcohol or chemical solvents such as fatty or oily substances, petroleum and ethers.

Essential oils have a density generally lighter than water which causes them to float on the surface of water. There are however some essential oils that are heavier and will sink to the bottom. They generally do not freeze, although there are some exceptions to this rule.

Always keep essential oils in cool temperatures, around 5° Celsius. They should be stored in dark glass containers that are tightly capped or sealed to stop evaporation and prevent oxidation. This will ensure they will keep their therapeutic properties for the length of their shelf life.

Essential oils must be kept away from direct sunlight and heat to prevent photocatalytic activity. When purchasing essential oils from a shop it is important to look out for where and how they are stored.

Essential oils are obtained from various parts of a plant including leaves (Thyme), roots (Ginger), seeds (Coriander), flowers (Chamomile), wood (Sandalwood), fruit (Grapefruit) and bark (Cinnamon).

Skin Food

Skin FoodAdding skin food to your face and body is a wonderfully simple thing to incorporate into your everyday skincare regime.

Your skin absorbs chemicals and pollutants far quicker than your digestive system. Therefore it makes sense to think about what you are putting on your body not just what you are putting in your body. If you can eat it, you can put it on your skin!

You may well already have plenty of skin food already in your refrigerator, kitchen cupboards and your garden. Botanical ingredients have benefits and active healing properties including fruits, vegetables, herbs, oils, grains, nuts, seeds, pulses and dairy foods. Many are rich in vitamins, minerals, fruit acids, enzymes, amino acids, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), antioxidants and proteins.

Below is a list of many skin foods and their various uses and properties in each category.

Skin foods – fruits

  • Apple – contains malic and tartaric acids which gently exfoliate the skin. Grated apple is very soothing and smoothing to a dry skin.
  • Avocado – rich in natural oils. Mash the flesh and apply as a simple face mask. Avocado is soothing, softening and is an emollient to dry skin.
  • Banana – contains mucopolysaccarides which improves skin hydration. Mashed banana can be used in skin preparations for its soothing and softening properties.
  • Grapes – contains tartaric acid. Crushed grapes are very soothing, cooling and toning to the skin.
  • Lemon – contains citric acid and is anti-bacterial and an astringent. Lemon juice is useful for treating oily and blemished skin (please note, it is best to use diluted). Also good for hair and skin preparations to counteract the alkalinity of soaps and shampoos and will reduce any product build up and irritation that may result from their use.
  • Pawpaw/Papaya – contains the enzyme papain which has the ability to dissolve keratin and therefore dead surface skin cells. Mash the fruit and leave on your face for 10-15 minutes as a gentle exfoliant.
  • Pineapple – contains the enzyme bromelain which is a gentle exfoliant. Either the flesh or the juice can be added to skin preparations.
  • Strawberry – contains salicylic acid which removes dead skin cells, allowing it to absorb moisture more efficiently. The fruit can be mashed or juiced and added to skin preparations for its soothing, toning and mildly bleaching properties. Strawberry leaves can be infused and used as an infusion for oily skin.

Skin foods – vegetables

  • Cucumber – hydrating and mildly astringent to the skin. Grated cucumbers make a gentle and mild astringent mask. Useful for sunburn. Slices are great to pop onto your eyes during a face mask. Mixes well with aloe vera.
  • Lettuce – mash with a mortar and pestle to produce a very soothing preparation which promotes the healing of blemishes.
  • Potato – juiced or grated potato is soothing and an anti-inflammatory. It can reduce bruising and calm puffy eyes.
  • Tomato – has astringent properties making it useful for oily skin conditions.

Skin foods – nuts, seeds, grains, pulses

Ground nuts, seeds, grains and pulses are perfect for skin exfoliation for both the face and body. Use smaller grains for the face while the larger grains are best suited to the body. Suitable ingredients can be ground such as almonds, lentils, adzuki beans, rice, semolina, bran and lecithin.

Oats can also be used, specifically in the form of oat flour, oat bran and oatmeal which can all be used in skin preparations to sooth and heal the skin. Oats also relieves irritations, inflammations and itchiness.

Foot and body powders can be made from corn starch, potato starch, rice starch and chickpea flour. They can be combined with essential oils and herbs to make luxurious fragrant body powders or combined to make a dry hair shampoo.

Skin foods – herbs

  • Aloe vera – the cooling gel is obtained from the plant’s succulent leaves. It is an effective healing agent for burns, injuries and acne. It is soothing, cooling and hydrating and stimulates the growth of new cells.
  • Calendula – infusions can be made from the flowers and are antiseptic, healing, soothing and anit-inflammatory. Can also be used to highlight fair hair in a rinse.
  • Chamomile – makes a soothing infusion that can help with wound healing. Used as a compress to soothe the skin and eyes and reduce inflammation and irritation.
  • Comfrey – contains allantoin and mucilage which gives comfrey its excellent healing and soothing properties.
  • Elder flowers – infusions are used for their mildly astringent and soothing properties. Makes a great skin toner and eye compress.
  • Ginseng – can be helpful in increasing skin elasticity and in revitalising epidermal cell production.
  • Lemon balm – antiseptic, astringent, soothing and healing. Useful for sensitive and blemished skins. The infusion is good to use as a facial toner.
  • Lemongrass – good for oily skins to help normalize excessive sebaceous secretions.
  • Peppermint – relieves inflammation, skin irritation and itchiness. The infusion has a refreshing and cooling effect on the skin and useful in hair preparations to combat dandruff.
  • Rosemary – antiseptic, astringent, deodorant, stimulating and healing properties. Improves blood circulation and can help devitalised skin. Also useful in hair preparations to relieve dandruff, encourage hair growth and improve scalp conditions.
  • Thyme – has antiseptic, astringent and healing properties. Used as an infusion, herbal vinegar or herbal oil in deodorants, shampoos, hair rinses, and aftershaves.

Skin foods – dairy

  • Cream – rich in butterfat and contains lecithin. Cream is a good addition to facial masks to soften and soothe dry skins.
  • Eggs – egg yolks are a major source of lecithin which is a natural emollient and preservative. Egg whites are very astringent and drying. Both are great to use on the skin and also in hair preparations to give body and shine.
  • Yoghurt – rich in protein, calcium and vitamins. Yoghurt can be used as a face mask on its own or with other ingredients and is suitable for all skin types.

Stay tuned for our upcoming skin food recipes using these wonderful fresh ingredients from your kitchen or garden.

Natural deodorant

Natural deodorantMany commercial deodorants on the market contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions when applied to the sensitive underarm skin. Not only that, many of these ingredients can be harmful when used regularly which deodorant usually is.

A common ingredient in commercial deodorants and antiperspirants is aluminum chlorohydrate and this is believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease. The aluminium compounds may disrupt the normal activity of acetylcholine which is deficient in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

For these reasons, it makes much more sense to avoid these commercial products and either buy natural deodorants or make your own. Below is a simple recipe to make a lovely natural deodorant spray choosing your favorite essential oils.

The ingredients are natural antiseptics and astringents that will help to combat the bacteria that is formed when the by-products of perspiration break down and are exposed to the air.

Natural deodorant recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons witch hazel
  • 8 drops of essential oils

Method

Mix all the ingredients together and store in a jar with a spray lid. Shake well before each use.

Deodorizing essential oils

Bergamot, Clary Sage, Cypress, Grapefruit, Eucalyptus, Juniper, Lemon, Lavender, Patchouli, Pine, Rosemary, Tangerine, Tea Tree, Thyme.

Facial clays – a quick guide

Quick guide facial claysThere are a wide variety of clays you can use for making facial clay masks. This quick guide to facial clays will help you find the best facial clay that is most suitable for your skin type.

French clays are clays with high mineral content and this gives them the active properties that affect the skin. They generate heat due to the mineral salt content and this helps the skin to release toxins. Facial clays are excellent for cleansing, drawing, detoxifying, exfoliating dead skin cells as well as being healing, soothing and toning.

Also known as Argiletz clays as they come from Argiletz in France, these facial clays come in different colours which is due to their mineral content and this gives each type its unique healing properties.

Green clay

Green clay consists mostly of chromium, nickel and copper. It is best suited to oily skins and useful for acne treatments. It reduces sebum production, exfoliates dead skin cells, assists in tissue repair, draws out toxins and calms inflammation. Green clay is ideal for poultices to relieve and sooth a variety of skin conditions.

White clay

White clay consists of pure aluminium oxide with traces of zinc oxide. It can be drying and is best suited for detoxification and balancing sebum and is milder than green clay. White clay is suitable for delicate, sensitive and mature skins. It can also be used as a deodorant and natural alternative to talcum powder.

Yellow clay

Yellow clay is derived from iron oxide. It helps to improve the condition of devitalised, tired and neglected looking skin.

Red clay

Red clay contains iron and is an oily and mildly absorbent clay. It helps to improve the condition of dry and sensitive skin and is excellent for cleansing as well as toning. A word of caution here, if using red clay please be aware that is can stain easily so use dark towels to cover clothes when applying it.

Pink clay

Pink clay is soothing, cleansing, hydrating and gently detoxifying. It exfoliates dead skin cells and is suitable for dry and sensitive skin. It makes a great clay to use as a maintenance program for both face and body masks.

Other facial clays

There are a couple of other facial clays worth mentioning here that are not French clays yet just has useful in any skin care regime.

White kaolin

Also known as China clay, White Kaolin gives an astringent and drying effect on the skin. It is excellent as a detoxifier and improves the lymphatic flow and increases blood flow to the area applied. White Kaolin is best suited to normal and oily skin and like white clay above is a great alternative to talcum powder as a body deodorant.

Fuller’s earth

Last but not least is Fuller’s earth, a very common ingredient in facial clay masks. It is a soft, brown clay and another excellent exfoliator for dead skin cells and helps to stimulate the epidermis. Fuller’s earth is most suited to oily skins.

For more information on facial clay masks and some great recipes, please visit facial clay mask page in the natural skin care recipes section.

Aromatherapy Hair Tonic

Aromatherapy Hair TonicsA beautiful head of healthy, lustrous, shining hair can be one of your greatest beauty assets. You can spend a fortune on commercial hair products, however, most products you can make yourself at a fraction of the cost using ingredients you already have.

You can’t change the type of hair you were born with but you can improve its natural state.

Using natural ingredients for your hair ensures gentle, revitalizing and restorative treatment and the best possible advantage for the protection and appearance of your hair.

The addition of essential oils can only be beneficial to your hair as each essential oil has their own therapeutic properties and penetrates deep into the hair follicle. Essential oils give your hair a natural shine and many encourage new hair growth.

Aromatherapy for Beautiful HairThe aromatherapy hair tonics below are suitable for most hair types including oily, normal and dry.

Oily Hair Tonic

  • 100ml rose water
  • 5ml cider vinegar
  • 10 drops Clary Sage essential oil
  • 12 drops Rosemary essential oil

Normal and Dry Hair Tonic

  • 100ml chamomile flower water
  • 5ml cider vinegar
  • 10 drops Carrot essential oil
  • 12 drops Geranium essential oil

Add all of the ingredients to a clean jar. Shake the jar to mix well and massage into clean, damp hair. Apply twice a week, shaking the jar well before each use. There’s no need to rinse the hair after application.

For a complete guide to using aromatherapy in all your hair care products, check out the Aromatherapy for Beautiful Hair ebook.

Birch Essential Oil

Birch essential oilBirch essential oil has a powerful and penetrating aroma with many useful properties including being an antiseptic, analgesic, diuretic and sudorific.

It blends well with Chamomile, Ginger, Lavender and Thyme essential oils among others and was often used in the perfume industry.

To find out more of Birch Essential Oil and its uses visit the full profile here.

Image by: Andrew Butko [GFDL 1.3 or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Aromatherapy in Pregnancy

Aromatherapy in PregnancyPregnancy is such a wonderful time in a woman’s life however it can sometimes cause all sorts of havoc on the body. Morning sickness can often be experienced early on and can range from mild to debilitating. To help calm your stomach, you can add a drop or two of Spearmint essential oil to a bowl of boiling water and have the bowl nearby to breath in the aroma.

If you suffer from insomnia during pregnancy which is also quite common, you can add a few drops of Mandarin essential oil to 30ml of sweet almond oil. Get your partner or a friend to gently massage this blend into your lower back. This will also assist with any lower back pain which is often another symptom.

Digestive problems and heart burn can also occur for a variety of reasons. Useful essential oils to use in this case include Coriander, Melissa and Lemon. Use very sparingly by adding 1 drop of each or one only to 30ml of sweet almond oil. This blend can then be gently massaged into your abdominal area.

Stretch marks are a common occurrence in pregnancy for obvious reasons. To prevent these you can use the stretch mark massage blend for pregnancy found in an earlier blog post. For best results, start using this blend as soon as you discover you are pregnant. If you use this blend consistently throughout your pregnancy, you could well escape from any signs of stretch marks at all.

It is extremely important in pregnancy to use only those essential oils that are recommended by a qualified Aromatherapist. Many essential oils contain emmenagogue properties which means to bring on periods or contractions. These include essential oils such as Angelica, Basil, Bay, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Clove, Cumin, Hyssop, Juniper, Lavender, Myrrh, Peppermint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme.

Essential oils that are euphoric such as Fennel, Basil and Aniseed should also never been used in pregnancy as they are potential nerve poisons.

The safest essential oils to use in pregnancy are Mandarin, Bergamot, Jasmine, Neroli and Rose. These should only ever be used in moderation however, especially in the first three months of pregnancy and always consult a qualified Aromatherapist if in any doubt whatsoever.

5 Fun Aromatherapy Perfume Recipes

5 Fun Aromatherapy Perfume RecipesIf you love essential oils and aromatherapy, you’ll love making your own aromatherapy perfumes. It’s fun and easy to do and also extremely rewarding.

I’ve picked 5 of my favorite perfume recipes from the website which you’ll find below. There’s lots more on the site or you can make your own perfumes by being creative and blending your own essential oils.

All instructions for making your own aromatherapy perfume recipes can be found here.

Moroccan mystique

  • 3 drops Bergamot
  • 2 drops Palmarosa
  • 3 drops Rose
  • 4 drops Sandalwood

Tranquility

  • 4 drops Cedarwood
  • 2 drops Clary Sage
  • 1 drop Grapefruit
  • 2 drops Mandarin

Devotion

  • 1 drop Clary Sage
  • 3 drops Patchouli
  • 2 drops Rose
  • 4 drops Rosewood

Joyfulness

  • 2 drops Basil
  • 1 drops Geranium
  • 3 drops Melissa
  • 2 drops Sandalwood

Poise

  • 2 drops Basil
  • 3 drops Bergamot
  • 1 drop Coriander
  • 4 drops Petitgrain

You can find many more aromatherapy perfume recipes here.

Elemi Essential Oil

Elemi essential oilElemi essential oil is distilled from the tree bark of the elemi tree originating from the Philippines.

It is a useful expectorant to help ease lung problems such as coughs and excess mucous in the lungs. It has a grounding and calming effect on the mind.

To find out more of Elemi Essential Oil’s properties and uses see the full profile here.

Home Remedies for Stretch Marks

Home Remedies for Stretch MarksThere are various home remedies for stretch marks that can be very effective, especially when combined with regular massage. Stretch marks are often caused by weight fluctuation and during pregnancy. The most prone areas are breasts, stomach, buttocks and thighs although other areas can be affected such as the upper arms and the chest area. Body builders may see stretch marks appearing in these areas when they gain or lose muscle very quickly.

The following stretch mark remedies are simple to make at home and you can experiment using different essential oil blends depending on what you have in stock. Please keep in mind that if you are treating stretch marks in pregnancy, only use the last blend as the other three contain essential oils that should not be used if you are pregnant.

Stretch mark massage blend 1

  • 20ml sweet almond oil
  • 10ml wheatgerm oil
  • 6 drops Cypress essential oil
  • 4 drops Lemon essential oil

Stretch mark massage blend 2

  • 20ml sweet almond oil
  • 10ml carrot infused oil oil
  • 5 drops Fennel essential oil
  • 5 drops Geranium essential oil

Stretch mark massage blend 3

  • 20ml sweet almond oil
  • 10ml rosehip oil
  • 7 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 4 drops Mandarin essential oil

Stretch mark massage blend for pregnancy

  • 20ml sweet almond oil
  • 10ml wheatgerm oil
  • 5 drops Tangerine essential oil

For all the blends above, add the ingredients into a clean jar and shake well to mix. Massage the blend into the areas affected by stretch marks in a circular motion. Do this regularly for the best effects and also for the prevention of stretch marks.