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The Base Formula Blog

The information provided on the Base Formula blog is for personal information and interest only. It is not intended to offer professional medical advice or treatment for any condition. We recommend that you consult your GP or nurse if you have any health concerns whatsoever. Our advice has been provided on the basis that there are no known contra-indications to treatment. If you have any health problems or are taking any medication you should seek advice from your healthcare provider prior to using aromatherapy. We would also advise that you make an appointment with a local aromatherapist who will be able to take a full case history and offer you tailored treatment advice. Please note that Base Formula accepts no liability for misuse of essential oils or other products or for any reliance on the information provided within.

Please visit our website for more details on using essential oils safely and effectively.

rosehip_fruitIn the popular press Rosehip Seed Oil is being hailed as the next “big thing” – the new coconut oil – due to its amazing skin rejuvenating properties.

Rosehips are the fruits of the ‘Dog Rose’ (Rosa canina), sometimes called ‘Briar’ or ‘Wild Rose’. The best quality oil is produced by “cold pressing” the seeds of the Rosehip fruit. The resulting oil is considered one of the best for skincare as it is packed full of vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids!

The oil is predominantly produced in Chile, and is yet another oil that the ancients discovered first – it was used by the ancient Egyptians, the Mayans and the Native Americans for its healing properties!

Rosehip Seed Oil is excellent for soothing sensitive, itchy, dry skin (and scalps), and can help to reduce dark age spots, fine lines, wrinkles and scars. It is especially good for skin that is prematurely aged due to sun or environmental damage.

Unlike many of the highly nutritious base oils, this light, dry oil is extremely absorbent, and non-greasy, and makes an excellent rejuvenating oil to apply at night, to boost and plump the skin and restore its natural elasticity.

For Dry Itchy Scalp:

Take 100ml fragrance free Hair Conditioner. Add 15ml Rosehip Seed Oil, 3 drops German Chamomile, 10 drops Geranium, 10 Lavender and 5 drops Sandalwood. Use an SLS free shampoo as normal then massage 20ml of Conditioner into the scalp and leave on for 5 minutes before rinsing.

Dry Skin Face Mask:

Take ½ avocado and ½ banana, and mash up with 10ml Rosehip Seed Oil, 1 tablespoon pinhead oatmeal, 2 drops Neroli, 2 Roman Chamomile and 4 Frankincense. Apply to the face and neck and leave on for 15 minutes. Rinse off with cold water.

Night Facial Oil for Mature Skin:

Mix 80ml Apricot Kernel Oil, 10ml Rosehip Seed Oil 10ml Macadamia Nut Oil. Add 4 drops Neroli, 8 Frankincense, 2 Rose and 8 Geranium. Shake well before use and massage in a couple of drops at night, with a light, upwards motion.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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frankincenseFrankincense (Boswellia carteri) essential oil has an unmistakable odour – being both warm and resinous yet penetrating and camphorous. It is one of those few oils that actually improves with age – and is one of the most ancient and revered of essences – used in temples and vaporised in religious ceremonies since the earliest of times. It was famously used in the embalming process in Ancient Egypt, the aroma still detectable thousands of years later – when their tombs were discovered and explored.

The resin was initially gathered as it formed bubbles and crusts from cracks in the tree bark – but as demand increased, cuts were hewn into the bark to encourage more uniform exudation. The essential oil is extracted from the resin using steam distillation – which produces an oil that is usually a pale yellow colour.

Whilst much is covered regarding the rejuvenating properties of Frankincense for mature skin, this feature is going to focus on the extraordinary properties it has in relation to its other physical, emotional and spiritual actions. One of the reasons this oil is ideal at this time of year is that it has such a warming, comforting action, which can really help when those Wintery winds first start to bite. Its main therapeutic actions – aside from those properties relating to the skin – are extensive, but fall into 3 main categories:-

Immunity boosting: 

This essential oil is enormously effective in helping the immune system – both whilst under attack from various bugs – and as a tonic during convalescence. It blends particularly well in relation to these uses with Lavender, Eucalyptus, Bergamot and Palmarosa.

For flu: Try vaporising this combination and use as a twice daily inhalation: 3 drops of Frankincense, 3 Bergamot, 3 Lavender and 1 Eucalyptus.

Emotional tonic:

Frankincense has been used throughout the ages for its powerful relaxant and calming effect. It was used in many forms of religious ceremonies, and indeed still is, as it creates an effect conducive to prayer and meditation. In one of my books I referred to it as the “Little Hug Oil” – such is the comfort and reassurance it brings. So, for sadness and depression, anxiety and nervousness, it has a grounding, uplifting effect that is a real delight. It blends particularly well with the fragile flower essences and citrus oils, as well as Sandalwood, Geranium, and Lavender.

For depression: Try regular massage with 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort, 2 drops Neroli, 2 Jasmine, 4 Frankincense and 6 Geranium. This blend is also great for a soothing aromatic bath – combine with 15ml of Bath Milk and add to the bath once water has run.

Respiratory tonic:

Frankincense has a wonderful effect on the rate of respiration, and the depth of the breath, encouraging deep slow breathing – particularly useful for those who shallow breathe at a rapid rate due to anxiety and stress. It has a drying action for those with chronic or acute congestion – excess catarrhal congestion due to infection and/or a diet which creates excess mucus. This oil can also be particularly effective when used regularly in massage for those who suffer from asthma. For these uses, it combines well with other resinous essential oils – such as Pine, Cedarwood and Sandalwood, Ginger and Lemon, Bergamot and Eucalyptus.

For preventative treatment of those prone to asthma: Try regular massage with 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml Neem Oil, 1 drop Eucalyptus, 4 Frankincense, 4 Pine and 1 Ginger.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

Blog Disclaimer

Young woman having fluThe clocks have gone back signalling that Winter is on its way – prompting me to think about the wonderful aromatherapy oils that I need to stock up on to cope with all the typical Winter health challenges! You know what life is like, if you order everything you need, it could well be your insurance against having any problems at all! It’s a lovely feeling, being prepared. When my Base Formula oils arrive in the post this time of year, it makes me feel like I’m ready for almost anything! 

My winter shopping list tends to fall into 5 main categories:

  • Antivirals/antiseptics/antimicrobials
  • Circulatory stimulants
  • Analgesics
  • Mood enhancers
  • Digestives

Of course – the essential oils’ amazing properties mean that some fall into most categories in one go, they are so versatile – but this check list enables me to “tick off” those that I know I need to have on board ready for the drop in temperature and the reduction in daylight. Some of us can really dread this time of year, but remember there’s much to look forwards to as well – the festivities, the beauty of the change in seasons – and the fact that it makes you appreciate the changes that will come along again in the Spring!

If you are one of the many who has come to dread the commercialization of Christmas, remember, to a certain extent, it’s up to you to make it what you want! Historically it used to be about sharing good food and good company first and foremost and entering in to community celebration – so perhaps it’s time to re-focus our attention and do things differently this year. If you find yourself on your own or lonely, I highly recommend getting involved in some of the charities that serve Christmas lunch to the homeless on Christmas Day. My daughter and I got involved with local charities for a good few years. It gave Christmas a whole new dimension, and made us feel exceptionally fortunate with what we had ourselves too, never a bad thing at a time when we are bombarded by messages of commercial acquisitiveness.

Anyway, getting back to our Winter shopping list – these are my special favourites at this time of year:

Essential oils:-

Antivirals/antiseptics/antimicrobials:
Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Lemon, Frankincense, Pine, Myrrh, Cedarwood and Sandalwood.

Circulatory stimulants:
Black Pepper, Rosemary, Ginger, Plai and Thyme.

Analgesics:
Clary Sage, Marjoram, Lavender, Palmarosa, Clove and Roman Chamomile.

Mood enhancers:
Bergamot, Sweet Orange, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Jasmine, Rose and Neroli.

Digestives:
Peppermint, Spearmint, Fennel, Nutmeg and Mandarin.

Base oils:-

When you’re thinking about what you need at this point in the year, don’t forget your base oils! I go for those rich in nutrients – as your skin is under extra pressure with the harsher weather and central heating. I always stock up, so I have something for every skin type and almost every eventuality. Firm favourites would include: Jojoba, Argan, Avocado, Neem, St John’s Wort and Rosehip Seed Oil.

Now let’s get down to how you can use of these wonderful oils – then you really will be fit for anything!

AROMATHERAPY INHALATIONS:

One of the most effective ways of combating low immunity and many different types of infection – not just those of the respiratory tract. Remember that this is the fastest route – via the blood rich lining of the lungs, to get the essential oil molecules into the blood stream.

Coughs/Colds: Frankincense will help dry up excess congestion, Eucalyptus will help decongest the sinus and lungs, Tea Tree will help boost the immune response, and all are strongly antimicrobial! Place 4 drops Frankincense, 1 Eucalyptus and 3 Tea Tree in a bowl of steaming hot water. Lean over the bowl and place a towel over your head, breathing in through the nose and mouth for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

Flu: Is caused by a virus – and so needs a different approach – which takes in to account the low mood that often accompanies the virus. Try Bergamot to lift the spirits, Tea Tree to boost immunity and Cedarwood to help ease congestion and temperatures – all 3 are antiviral/antimicrobial agents. Use 3 drops Cedarwood, 6 Bergamot and 2 Tea Tree and follow instructions above.

Sinusitis: As the mucus membranes are inflamed during sinus infections, this can be an extremely painful condition which must NEVER be ignored or left untreated. The back of the sinus cavities run close to the brain – and deep sinus infections can actually cause death if the infection creates an abscess which can rupture into the brain mass! Rare but not unheard of, sadly. So – for minor sinusitis try an inhalation using Lavender to ease pain and inflammation, Thyme to stimulate circulation and immunity, and Eucalyptus to help decongest the sinus themselves.  Use 4 drops Lavender, 2 Thyme and 1 Eucalyptus.

AROMATHERAPY BATHS & FOOT BATHS:

Warming bath for chills: Mix 15ml Bath Milk with 2 drops Rosemary, 1 Ginger, 2 Frankincense and 5 Lavender to help ward off chills after a cold day out. Mix well and add to the bath once the water has run.

Warming bath to lift low spirits: Some of us can feel a little low after a long cold Winter’s day – especially if we go to work and come back from work in the dark! Try and get some natural daylight by getting out in your lunch hour and consider taking BioCare Bio-emulsion D drops – then bathe in a deep hot bath before bed: Mix 15ml Bath Milk with 5 drops Bergamot, 1 Black Pepper, 3 Frankincense and 3 Neroli. Simply lovely!

Foot bath for poor circulation. Use 2 drops of Black Pepper, 2 Thyme and 2 Plai to boost circulation and warm up those extremities.

AROMATHERAPY GELS, CREAMS & LOTIONS:

Aloe Vera Gel for chilblains: These are a sign of poor circulation – and possibly a deficiency in Vitamins C, E and Calcium. Try massaging this gel into your toes regularly as a preventative measure and also to help ease the symptoms when they arise. Take 100ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, add 5ml Neem Oil, 5ml Argan Oil, 5 drops German Chamomile, 20 Lavender, 5 Lemon and 10 Marjoram. Drink Lemon and Ginger or Rosemary Tea to boost circulation internally too.

Cream for cold sores: These are caused by the immunity dropping through stress or others infections, which triggers the dormant virus “herpes simplex”. Mix 50ml Moisturising Cream, 5ml Argan Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort, 5 drops Roman Chamomile, 5 Myrrh and 10 Tea Tree. Apply as soon as you feel the tingle. Remember sunlight triggers the virus in some – so wear lip salve to protect sensitive areas.

Chest rub cream for coughs and colds: Having this made up ready in your bathroom cabinet is highly recommended. Blend 50ml Moisturising Cream, 2 drops Eucalyptus, 2 Black Pepper, 4 Thyme, 10 Sandalwood and 10 Pine. Rub onto chest and back at the first sign of a cough or cold – hopefully with some Vitamin C and an early night you’ll ward it off!

AROMATHERAPY MASSAGE OILS:

Warming reassurance: 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort, 5 drops Lavender, 1 Ginger, 4 Frankincense and 5 Bergamot.

Winter warming immunity booster: 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort, 2 drops Palmarosa, 2 Lemon, 3 Plai, 4 Frankincense and 4 Lavender.

Uplifting blast of sunshine: 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort, 5 drops Geranium, 5 Bergamot and 5 Ylang Ylang.

WARMING AROMATHERAPY COMPRESSES:-

To ease muscle spasm put a square of muslin in a bowl of warm water – add 5 drops Lavender, 3 Marjoram and 2 Roman Chamomile. Swirl the muslin around, squeeze out excess water and apply to affected area.

To ease joint inflammation – as above – but add 3 drops German Chamomile, 2 drops Peppermint and 6 Lavender.

To soothe stress related headaches – as above – but add 6 drops Lavender, 1 Spearmint and 2 Neroli.

Additional seasonal tips:

Garlic: Take 1 clove of garlic, raw, chop finely and swallow after supper (when stomach is lined) for colds, coughs and flu – as it is a natural antibiotic.

Ginger: Finely slice and make ginger and fresh lemon tea to stimulate immunity and aid digestion.

Lemon: Taken in water regularly lemon helps to neutralise acidity in the gut – this helps with detoxing and reducing general inflammation.

Probiotics: If your immunity is low take a course of pro-biotics to supercharge your immunity and give your digestion a tonic!

“The Paleo Solution” By Robb Wolf: If you want to give yourself a pre-Christmas boost, or if a HUGE health kick is overdue – this book is a REAL find. You may have heard of the Paleolithic Diet – “hunter gatherer” type eating – well 30 days in and my energy has doubled, my skin tone improved, the little bulbous “ring of fat” around my middle has almost disappeared completely (I kid you not) and my concentration levels are fabulous – no more mental fog at the end of the day! I highly recommend this read – which is extremely informative and humorous too!

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

Blog Disclaimer

Pure and Beauty  female feetNails are actually an extension of our skin – so what effects our skin condition will often effect the nails too. Nails are mainly composed of the protein keratin. Finger nails take about 4 months to grow from nail bed to tip and toe nails approximately 6 months. The rate at which your nails grow, and the quality, texture and shape of them, is hugely influenced by the nutrient and protein levels in your diet.

As a general “rule of thumb” (as it were) if nails are growing slowly and have a discoloured appearance – you probably have a fungal infection. This can also cause the nails to grow thicker. If they are growing slowly but are normal in colour – it is probably an indication of a nutritional deficiency – particularly a lack of quality protein in your diet. Remember that if you paint your nails and use a nail polish remover a lot – this can also cause discolouration. Other underlying health issues could include diabetes, food intolerances, high stress levels, and a lack of intestinal flora balance following prolonged anti-biotics or a poor diet. Pro-biotics can be strongly indicated to repopulate your intestinal flora, if this is the case.

Other abnormalities in the appearance of your nails can be useful to recognize, such as:

  • Brittle nails/pale nail bed can be an indication of lack of iron (anemia), essential fatty acids (very common in a typical Western diet), vitamin A and calcium. It can also indicate poor circulation, kidney or thyroid weaknesses.
  • Horizontal ridges can indicate damage to the nail bed following an injury, chronic stress with the resultant B vitamin deficiency, or thyroid issues.
  • Vertical ridges again indicate lack of iron or general poor health.
  • Cracking/peeling nails indicate low protein, vitamin A, possible deficiencies in calcium and other trace elements, such as Silica.
  • Pitted nail texture can be caused by psoriasis or a deficiency of folic acid and iron, particularly important to take note of if you’re looking at pre-conceptual care.
  • Blue nail beds is usually an indication of lower than normal oxygen in the blood stream – caused by chronic lung problems or heart issues.

So, here is your action plan for beautiful nails and a general improvement in your health and vitality too:-

  • If you have a fungal infection, early intervention is key. Massage the following oil treatment into your nail beds and under the nail tips daily. 10ml Argan Oil, 5ml Jojoba, 5ml Macadamia Nut Oil, 10 drops Tea Tree essential oil and 5 drops Myrrh. Take BioCare Bio-Acidophilus Forte capsules for 1 month. Talk to BioCare advisors if this doesn’t shift it – they may also recommend vitamin C, D and Mycopryl – to help reduce fungus/candida.
  • Eat fresh fish regularly – an excellent source of protein and highly digestible.
  • Eat 6 portions of fresh vegetables daily – including avocado 2/3 times a week.
  • Increase your intake of zinc and essential fatty acids.
  • Eat more seaweed (go to your local health food shop) as it’s rich in iodine (for your thyroid) and zinc!
  • Take hemp seed oil or rolled seeds – very rich in essential fatty acids.
  • BioCare do an excellent Hair and Nail Complex that provides all the trace minerals that can help prevent brittle hair and nails (except Silica).

For general nail care and as part of your daily skin care regime – try massaging the following rich hand cream right down into the cuticles at the base of your nails. This blend includes essential fatty acid and nutrient rich oils, plus circulatory boosting essential oils which are great for peripheral circulation: 50ml Moisturising Cream, 5ml Argan Oil, 5ml Jojoba, 5ml Hemp Seed Oil and 5ml Macadamia Nut Oil. Then blend in 4 drops Benzoin essential oil, 4 Ginger, 4 Patchouli, 6 Sandalwood and 6 Geranium.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

Blog Disclaimer

stretch marksStretch marks are caused by skin tearing in the deep fibres due to over-stretching when there are periods of rapid weight gain, or during pregnancy. The scars show up as white or pink lines. They do fade with age and some forms of laser treatment are said to help remove the scarring.

Prevention, of course, is always better than cure! Make sure you have a diet rich in zinc – for renewal and repair. Turkey, oysters, eggs, almonds and peas are particularly rich in zinc. Vitamin C is important for so many things – from skin healing and boosting the complexion through to cancer prevention – so include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Essential fatty acids are also important too – so keep up those levels of oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds. Hydration is always a key factor with almost every metabolic process, and skin regeneration is no exception to the rule!

Aromatherapy oils can be key, both in assisting an improvement in the scarring, and preventing it in the first place.

To help prevent stretch marks forming during pregnancy – known as “Striae gravidarum” – massage belly, breasts and thighs (the most common areas to be affected) with a rich base oil mix for the first 3 months, without essential oils. Try 5ml Avocado oil, 5ml Rosehip Seed oil, 5ml Argan oil and 85ml Apricot Kernel oil. Then after the third month, if there are no problems, use the same base oil quantities with the following essential oils: 2 drops Neroli, 6 Frankincense, 6 Geranium and 10 Lavender.

If your skin already has a tendency towards dryness, or is easily marked, add 10ml of warmed Cocoa Butter to your blend and shake well before use. Always massage the blend in after a bath or shower when absorption of the oils and nutrients will be at its height.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

Blog Disclaimer

St Johns WortSt John’s Wort Oil (Hypericum perfortatum) is not strictly a base oil, but an infused oil, that is as much used by Medical Herbalists as it is by Aromatherapists. (Calendula and Carrot Oil are two other popular infused oils).

St John’s Wort is a perennial herb that typically grows wild – although it can be easily cultivated and grows prolifically once established. The infused oil is a lovely warm red colour – the ovate leaves being dotted with tiny red oil glands, which infuse the oil with the same colour.

The main properties of the oil are:

Anti-inflammatory:

Both for the skin on the external surface, and for nerve pain under the skin such as fibrositis and sciatica. It can help ease the inflammation of arthritis and rheumatism and is particularly useful for eczema and psoriasis.when combined at 50:50 dilution with Calendula Oil.

Eczema: try regular massage with 20ml Macadamia Nut Oil, 5ml Calendula Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort Oil, 2 drops Yarrow essential oil, 2 German Chamomile and 6 Lavender.

Astringent:

Useful to help ease sunburn and bruises.

Sunburn: try 20ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, 5ml St John’s Wort Oil, 5ml Calendula Oil, 2 drops German Chamomile essential oil and 15 drops Lavender.

Antispasmodic:

It can be helpful for muscle spasm, strain and pain.

Muscular spasm/pain: 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort Oil, 3 drops Black Spruce essential oil, 3 Plai, 1 Black Pepper and 8 Lavender.

Safety note: St John’s Wort is phototoxic- so should not be used immediately before direct exposure to sun.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

Blog Disclaimer

Black Spruce cropBlack Spruce essential oil (Picea mariana) has an exceptionally deep, resinous, rich aroma, with slightly smoky hints and a refreshingly cleansing aroma. It is distilled from the needles and twigs of the Spruce tree – that is native to North America and Canada. Black Spruce has been used for thousands of years – traditionally for respiratory complaints and rheumatic/arthritic conditions. Native Americans also smeared the resin liberally on their skin to help protect them from insect bites.

Note: Fresh essential oil of the Black Spruce tree is very safe and non-irritant/sensitising to use, however if the oil is older – it can become so. It is safest kept in the fridge where it can be used for up to a year – otherwise it is best used for vaporising only after 6 months.

The main uses of this oil are:

Emotionally:

Like many of the resinous essences, Black Spruce is calming, soothing, and helpful for stress, tension and anxiety, particularly when stress levels are persistently high. Try regular massage with 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort Oil, plus 4 drops Sweet Orange, 3 drops Black Spruce and 8 drops Lavender.

Spiritually:

This oil helps ground the energies to aid a state of calm, balanced inner peace. Vaporise 3 drops Black Spruce with 2 Frankincense and 5 Sweet Orange.

Physically:

For muscular aches and pains: Try an aromatic bath with 15 drops Moisturising Bath Milk plus 2 drops Black Spruce, 2 drops Vetivert and 6 drops Lavender.

For helping prevent asthma attacks: Vaporise 3 drops Black Spruce, 3 Vetivert and 5 Marjoram.

For helping ease coughs, colds and congestion: Try regular inhalations with 2 drops Plai, 3 Black Spruce and 4 drops Tea Tree.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

Blog Disclaimer

PainPain is something that all of us suffer from at some stage or another, and it can be a very useful communication tool! Yes – it’s uncomfortable by its very nature, but it’s our body’s way of signalling important factors that it needs us to listen to and preferably learn from. Obviously this is especially relevant if it’s long term, recurrent chronic pain – rather than labour pain, or discomfort from accident/injury.

I spend a great deal of my time in clinic, going through detailed medical history and lifestyle consultations to help people get to a fundamental understanding of what their symptoms mean, what their body is trying to tell them. Many get to the point where they’ve had all the health checks and everything has come back clear. Still their body is not happy! Once you’ve started to explore the root causes of the issues each person is experiencing – then you can work on a plan of action together. I always believe people recover – or improve their quality of life, if they can be involved in being part of their own solution.

Many people would like to try different forms of Natural Medicine to help resolve pain and discomfort, but they are not sure what therapy/therapies might be most relevant to their needs.

So, what do these pain signals mean and which therapies can you try? Often – it’s remarkably simple, but identifying the cause/s is the key to helping your body help itself:

Headache – possible causes, solutions and therapies to try:

  • Dehydration (drink more water)
  • Neck misalignment (Osteopathy)
  • A reaction to food your body doesn’t like – food intolerance/allergy (Applied Kinesiology)
  • Nutritional deficiencies – especially B Vitamins, Iron and Magnesium (Nutritional therapist)
  • A reaction to alcohol/excess caffeine
  • Liver congestion (Detox)
  • Thyroid issues (Medical test)
  • Muscular tension – especially in the back, neck/shoulders (Aromatherapy massage)
  • Eye strain (Optician)
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Anxiety/emotional tension. (Aromatherapy, CBT, Hypnotherapy/TFT)

Back Pain - possible causes, solutions and therapies to try:

  • Spinal misalignment (Osteopathy)
  • Muscular tension (Aromatherapy/Acupuncture/Reiki)
  • Poor posture (Alexander Technique/increased exercise regime)
  • Injury (Depends on the type of injury!)
  • Anxiety/emotional tension (Aromatherapy, CBT, Hypnotherapy/TFT, Reiki)
  • Muscle Spasm (Aromatherapy Bath/Acupuncture)
  • Arthritis (Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture/Aromatherapy/Nutritional Therapy)
  • Nerve damage/inflammation (Acupuncture/Tens Machine/Aromatherapy)

Digestive Pain – possible causes, solutions and therapies to try:

  • Recurrent constipation (Dietary change – Probiotics/Nutritional therapy/Relaxation therapies such as Aromatherapy/ Chinese Medicine/Western Herbal Medicine)
  • Recurrent diarrhoea (Dietary change – Probiotics/Nutritional therapy/Relaxation therapies such as Aromatherapy/Chinese Medicine/Western Herbal Medicine)
  • Period problems (Acupuncture/Chinese/Western Herbal Medicine)
  • Stress/tension/anxiety (Relaxation therapies such as Aromatherapy, Hypnotherapy, Reiki, Reflexology)
  • IBS “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” (Dietary change – Probiotics/Nutritional Therapy/Slippery Elm/Relaxation Therapies such as Aromatherapy – if stress related – which is usually the case)
  • Trapped wind – eat more slowly –  could be allergy/food intolerance issues (Nutritional Medicine)

Pain and inflammation almost always goes hand in hand. Inflammation is caused by injury or acidity – and always causes degeneration and or pain. Almost all ageing and degenerative disease is caused by acid levels increasing – leading to the breakdown of cellular activity or the very cell structure itself, as well as our normal, healthy metabolic processes.

Whilst many therapies – including aromatherapy – can present effective therapeutic options – the fundamental key to reducing pain and inflammation is almost always to reduce acidity in your body. Our normal healthy pH levels internally are around pH 7. So what causes an increase in these pH levels – and why is it so common?

Acidity levels typically increase due to the following:

  • High levels of stress
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Poor diet (high levels of refined foods)
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • High blood pressure
  • Alcohol
  • Anxiety/fear/shock/distress
  • Dehydration
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Lack of exercise
  • Candida albicans
  • Certain nutritional deficiencies.
  • Certain forms of medication

So – how can we create a lifestyle that helps us reduce those acid levels?

Here’s the typical type of plan – that forms the basis of most people’s “Plan Of Action” – to help regeneration, revitalisation and the reduction of pain and inflammation. Obviously this basic plan would then be orientated around each individual’s specific conditions.

  • Rehydration – the quickest way to reduce the concentration of acidity if you don’t drink enough – or drink too much alcohol /caffeine – try 1.5 litres of warm water plus freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Herb teas- such as Peppermint, Chamomile, Fennel and Nettle will help reduce inflammation and increase detoxification.
  • If your digestive system is inflamed, a few weeks – 1 month on Slippery Elm – which naturally and gently lines the gut – taken 20 mins before eating (BioCare’s excellent “Slippery Elm Complex” is in capsule form and easier to take than the powder) A dose of Pro-biotics is often indicated too – to help repopulate the intestinal flora that may be out of balance following antibiotics, high stress or a poor diet.
  • Relaxation therapies – especially aromatherapy – can help ease the acidity levels by calming the body and mind. Oils that soothe the senses and reduce inflammation are indicated – such as Lavender, Neroli, Yarrow, German and Roman Chamomile, Peppermint, Fennel, Marjoram, Clary Sage, Plai, Black Spruce and Frankincense. Try regular massage and aromatherapy baths with the inclusion of Dead Sea Salt, and Moisturising Cream with the appropriate oils for specific complaints.
  • Exercise – and not always fast and furious! Many of those who suffer from pain and inflammation need to access exercise regimes that are about increasing flexibility and the capacity to relax. These could include swimming/aqua aerobics, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga and meditation.
  • A gentle detox diet – with more “Clean Eating” and less congestive sludge! The body thrives on food that it can digest easily and that provides the energy and nutrients that are easy to access. For most of us – this is whole food – a diet low in carbohydrates and sugars – and high in fresh vegetables, fruit and clean proteins – such as lean meat (game is excellent), fish, nuts and seeds.

Specific treatment programmes can then also be included in the plan – according to what type of pain and inflammation you are experiencing. A check with your GP is always advisable in the beginning, but then for long term chronic conditions, medication/surgery should be an absolutely last resort – after natural, more holistic approaches have been tried first – as you will often manage to resolve the issues proactively, with a little help from nature’s treasure trove!

If you do need natural pain killers beyond Essential Oils, Massage, Reiki, Reflexology, Acupuncture, Herbs and Tens Machines – there is a relatively new range of natural painkillers sold by nutritional companies. One such supplement is called “Nurocyte” – produced by “Nutrigold” – an effective painkiller based on natural hop alpha acid extract. Most natural pain killers may take a little longer to work – but can still provide good pain control – without the same side-effects of many drug based medications.

Certain nutrient based supplements can also be helpful as a painkillers, especially if there’s a deficiency – Magnesium can be one of them – but seek advice of a Nutritional Therapist first, as it often needs to be taken in conjunction with Calcium in order to create the right action.

Safety note: Always remember to check the contra-indications of herb/nutrient based supplements as well as drug based medication.

Recommended aromatherapy recipes:

Headaches (stress):
Take 3 drops Bach Flower Rescue Remedy
Drink 2 glasses of warm water with fresh lemon juice.
Massage the scalp with your finger tips to encourage blood supply to the surface.
Massage back of neck, temples and jawline with 50ml Moisturising Cream, 2 drops Neroli, 1 Peppermint, 3 Plai and 15 Lavender.

Muscular pain from stress related tension:
Warm aromatic bath with 1 cup Dead Sea Salt plus 15ml Moisturising Bath Milk with 2 drops Neroli, 4 Marjoram, 2 Plai and 2 Roman Chamomile. Following bath, massage affected area with 20ml Sweet Almond Oil (warm oil before using ) plus 3 drops Frankincense, 3 Black Spruce, 1 Roman Chamomile and 5 Lavender.

Muscular pain/stiffness from physical exertion:
Following a shower in which you alternate the temperatures to boost the circulation, use massage oil with 25ml Sweet Almond Oil and 5ml Argan Oil, plus 3 drops Rosemary, 3 Black Spruce, 5 Marjoram and 5 Lavender.

Arthritic pain (Osteo-arthritis):
Following a shower with alternating temperatures, or a cool compress, massage this gel into affected joints: 20ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, 5ml Argan Oil, 5ml Rosehip Seed Oil, 2 drops Yarrow, 2 Plai, 1 Peppermint, 4 Black Spruce and 15 Lavender.

Period pain (Lower back/abdominal aches and pains):
Try gentle stretching exercise and a warm shower or bath with 15ml Bath & Shower Gel, 3 drops Marjoram, 3 Clary Sage and 3 Geranium. Make up the following massage blend: 15ml Grapeseed Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort Oil, 2 drops Plai, 4 Clary Sage and 4 Marjoram. Massage in clockwise rotations around abdomen and into the lower back and upper buttock areas.
Drink Raspberry Leaf Tea or take herbal capsules.

IBS Pain (Abdomen)
Take Slippery Elm Complex (BioCare) 20 mins before eating if stomach is inflamed (i.e. during a period of sensitivity) and drink Peppermint Tea immediately after a meal. Consider a month’s course of Bio-acidophilus Forte (BioCare) to help re-balance intestinal flora. If constipation is recurrent (typically in between spates of diarrhoea ) take 1-2 pieces of liquorice daily to help maintain regular bowel movements. When pain occurs, try a warm hot water bottle on abdomen, or a warm Lavender compress (1 litre hot water, 20 drops Lavender – place muslin in bowl, squeeze out excess water and place on lower abdomen. Reapply once muslin cools down). Massage tummy in clockwise rotations with warm oil: 20ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml Argan Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort Oil plus 1 drops Plai, 5 Marjoram, 5 Lavender, 4 Sweet Orange and 2 Peppermint.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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RavensaraIt’s hard to believe that autumn is now upon us. The children are back at school, students are returning to university and most people are now busy back at work after the summer break. So, how can we cope with trying to keep all of the balls in the air, balancing family life with work commitments, without becoming overwhelmed? While there is an array of essential oils noted for being calming, relaxing and alleviating emotional tension, I agree with Schnaubelt (1995), who suggests that Ravensara aromatica is useful for both mental and physical purposes, and I choose it over other oils for both mental and physical tension.

Ravensara is part of the Lauraceae family. It’s native to Madagascar, and the oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves and twigs. According to Caddy (1997) the essential oil is composed of monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, oxides, esters, and alcohols. As you may be aware esters are anti-inflammatory and possess calming and uplifting properties which makes them balancing especially to the nervous system. Monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes have slightly analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties respectively, alcohols are said to have anti-viral, anti-bactericidal, stimulating and immune-stimulant properties, whilst oxides are mucolytic. It is worth pointing out that there are at least 18% of unidentified chemical constituents in the oil (Caddy, 1997); it is, however, regarded a safe essential oil, being non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitising, although some do suggest that it should not be used in pregnancy. The oil is said to have a slightly medicinal, slightly sweet with a fruity hint aroma and ranges from being clear in colour to having a tinge of yellow.

It is claimed that the oil, having antiseptic, antiviral and expectorant properties, can be used to boost the immune system and be a preventative measure against colds and viral infections. We know that stress, whether physical, emotional or mental can lower our immune system, so Ravensara aromatica is definitely a good choice for the home care kit from this perspective alone.

So, how can we use it for optimum results? This essential oil is stimulating and energising, so I would suggest using it in a burner (with an electric source rather than candle for safety reasons) in the work environment – hopefully inhaling the oil will increase productivity and reduce mental stress levels generally! In my opinion the oil has a very pleasant aroma, and I have used it successfully and with good feedback from both male and female clients alike. At home, I would recommend using the oil in the morning after showering. Simply blend up to five drops into 10ml of carrier oil and apply it to your skin. Ravensara aromatica blends particularly well with Bergamot, Black Pepper, Clary Sage, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lavender, Marjoram, Rosemary and Sandalwood. You could blend the oil with up to two of these oils thereby creating a synergistic blend that helps to both boost your immune system and alleviate mental tension.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Ravensara aromatica. I would definitely recommend buying a bottle if you don’t already have one in your kit. Next month I’m going to talk about how essential oils and carrier oils can be used in the run-up to Christmas.

Christine Fisk
Consultant Aromatherapist

References:
Caddy, R. (1997) Aromatherapy, Essential Oils in Colour, Caddy Classic Profiles. Surrey: Amberwood Publishing Ltd
Schnaubelt, K. (1995) Advanced Aromatherapy, Canada, Healing Art Press

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facial steamingInhalations are typically recommended as an excellent way to relieve congestion and stimulate the immune system. This most effective way of getting essential oils into the bloodstream can however be used much more extensively. Whilst essential oils are highly valued for their extraordinary medicinal and antiseptic properties when it comes to congested infections, they are also extremely effective as mood enhancers, antidepressants, and relaxants. It is my suggestion therefore that inhalations should be used much more consistently to elevate the mood and to help you wind down at the end of a stressful or challenging day.

Obviously you can add essential oils to your bath, footbath, moisturising cream or you can vaporise them in your bedroom – all of which are useful methods when it comes to lifting your emotions. Inhalations however offer an extraordinarily efficient and quick way of absorbing the essential oils into your bloodstream, at the same time as stimulating the olfactory system – which is why they are so useful as an emotional tonic.

By breathing in the therapeutic steam during an inhalation, the essential oil is absorbed directly into the blood stream via the blood rich lining of the lungs. The warming nature of the steam is often extremely comforting when emotions are low, and the fact that you are breathing in steam can also encourage breathing rate to lengthen – some people breathe too quickly when stressed which then creates a CO2 and O2 imbalance which adds further to the problem.

Another useful aspect of inhalations is, of course, for facial steaming. The action of the heat and the oils themselves can help stimulate the pores to release blockages (spots/blackheads) and reduce excess oil. Steam facials can also give normal skin a really great complexion boost, particularly before a big night out, and especially if cold water is splashed on the face afterwards. The warm encourages the blood flow to the surface – the cold water after the heat then further stimulates the circulation – to give a wonderful healthy glow. The only main contra-indication here is for those suffering from broken veins.

To help you get the most out of steam inhalations I’ve put together a range of useful blends for you to try:

Steam Inhalation for Colds & Coughs:
Take a bowl of hot water, add 4 drops Tea Tree, 1 Eucalyptus and 2 Thyme. Lean over bowl, place a towel over the head and inhale, breathing normally through the nose and mouth. Remember to have a box of tissues handy. 5 – 10 minutes duration is perfect.

Steam Inhalation for Excess Catarrhal Congestion:
As above – but use 4 drops Tea Tree, 2 Lemon and 4 Frankincense.

Steam Facial For Oily Skin (Blackheads):
As above, but use 4 drops Lavender, 3 Cypress and 3 Juniper. Splash skin with cold water when finished. For very oily/congested skin conditions gently exfoliate before the steam facial – this will remove the top layer of congestion and aid deep pore cleansing.

Steam Facial For Combination Skin (Spots):
As above, but using 4 drops Geranium, 3 Tea Tree and 2 Cypress. Pop a drop of Tea Tree onto a cotton bud and dab on to the tip of spots before you start – this will help to draw out the infection. Avoid if your skin is sensitive.

Steam Inhalation for Anxiety:
Follow the method above but remember to select your favourite mood enhancing essential oils – try 5 drops Bergamot, 2 Neroli and 2 Benzoin.

Steam Inhalations for Stress/Depression:
As above, but try 3 Ylang Ylang, 4 Geranium and 2 Rose.

Whatever you are using them for – remember that splashing the face with cold water afterwards helps to close up the pores that have been encouraged to open up by the steam. Always use your hot water with care – inhalations should never be used around small children, for instance. Remember the water in your bowl should be scalding hot in order for the steam to rise – so place your bowl on a mat or newspaper to avoid marking your table.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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