Important information for Base Formula Blog users

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.

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De-stress at home the Icelandic way!

BLON3During a recent trip to Iceland for a family wedding, I was reminded how healthy the Icelandic lifestyle is – in so many ways! There’s the clean, unpolluted air, the wonderful fresh seafood, low population levels and a general sense of space and freedom, combined with strong community spirit.

The Geothermic waters are the greatest joy for me. Icelanders will often go for a swim and a steam in their local geothermic waters, finishing off with a soak in the “hot pots”. There are usually 3 temperatures; warm, hot and scalding – all rich in mineral salts and offering an ideal opportunity for easy, sociable conversation. Many people go to their local baths at the end of a working day, in a way that we would go to the pub – to de-stress, unwind and catch up with each other. What a healthy option in comparison!

One of the most special moments on this trip was a visit to the Blue Lagoon – so notorious as it’s blue silica-rich waters are sited in the middle of black lava fields – giving an amazing visual impact. The steam rises steep into the sky all around the lava – creating a tremendous flagship for those who want that iconic geothermic experience.

One of the best treats imaginable is a massage in the steaming waters. The Blue Lagoon has created a separate side lagoon where some of the best massage therapists I have ever come across work. In Iceland, massage therapists train for four and a half years – and this results in very high quality treatments indeed. This, combined with the massage taking place in the warm waters themselves, makes it a very unique and deeply restorative experience. The massage is conducted in the water, as you float on a foam mat just below the waters surface, gazing peacefully up at the stars, steam, blue skies or snowflakes! Pure bliss!!

So, I started to wonder how we could re-create a similar experience at home? We use essential oils to create an aromatic bath, and aromatherapy bath oil blends to soothe and smooth the skin – so how about blends for massage in the water? The warmth of the bath water encourages relaxation and absorption of the essential oils – hence making underwater massage a deeply effective, relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Self massage at home can be a really useful addition to your aromatherapy repertoire – especially for those who are reasonably flexible and on a tight budget! So, let’s create the atmosphere. Try playing a CD with the sounds of the sea or rain, to give you the background sense of being in nature. Then light candles for a gentle glow.

Creating your aromatherapy blends for in-water massage:

Combine 10ml Melon Seed Oil (nice and light) and 5ml Jojoba Oil (nourishing and smoothing) as your bath massage base. Then add one of the following essential oil blends:

Work the massage oil into your feet first. Then massage your legs in an upward motion – always encouraging the blood upwards towards the heart. Work on the top band of muscles on your shoulders – the trapezius – using the opposite hand. Work down your arms in the same manner, paying close attention to any areas of tension. Finish by massaging your abdomen, using a gentle clockwise rotation to mimic the peristaltic action of the gut. Complete your massage by placing one hand on top of the other over your solar plexus and taking some long, slow, deep breaths.

NOTE: Remember not to have the water too hot as this is not conducive to deep relaxation, especially before bed. Using oils in the bath does make it more slippery so be please be careful when you get out, and give the bath a good clean afterwards!

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Posted in Aromatherapy Massage, Natural Health & Beauty Tagged with: , , ,

Base oil of the month – Melon Seed

watermelonMelon Seed oil is produced from the seeds of the watermelon which is thought to have originated over 5000 years ago in the Kalahari Desert of Africa. The oil is particularly common in West Africa where it is known as Ootanga or Kalahari Oil. The melon is smaller and rounder when it grows wild, but larger and more oval when grown commercially. Its seeds are dried and pressed to produce an extremely light gentle base oil, which is rich in omega oils, containing 10% stearic acid, 11% palmitic acid, 15 % oleic acid and 63 % linoleic acid.

Due to its light and gentle actions, Melon Seed Oil is often used in soaps, hair care and baby products. Its rich content of essential fatty acids makes it perfect for mature skins, helping to feed the skin and restore its natural elasticity. Melon Seed Oil is noncomedogenic (non-pore blocking) and can help to balance sebum production, which means it’s also useful for oily and blemish prone skin.

Aromatherapy recipes with Melon Seed Oil:

Moisturising Bath Oil

Mix 60ml Luxury Bath Oil, 10ml Melon Seed Oil, 6 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil, 6 Lavender, 4 Geranium, 2 Neroli and 2 Rose. Add 10ml to the bath after the water has run.

Body Oil For Mature Skin

Mix 60ml Jojoba Oil, 20ml Melon Seed Oil, 5ml Avocado Oil, 2ml Red Carrot Oil, 2 drops Vetiver essential oil, 6 Patchouli, 8 Geranium and 10 Lavender. Massage into skin regularly, especially after a bath or shower.

Facial Oil For Mature/Oily Skin

Mix 40ml Jojoba Oil, 20ml Melon Seed Oil, 2ml Argan Oil, 2ml Red Carrot Oil, 4 drops Neroli essential oil, 4 Rose, 4 Sandalwood, 6 Geranium and 2 Vetiver.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Posted in Base oil of the month, Make Your Own Recipes, Natural Health & Beauty Tagged with: , , ,

Essential oil of the month – Vetiver

vetiver1Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) essential oil, also known as “Vetivert”, is a rather thick, dark amber oil. It has an earthy, resinous and woody aroma, not dissimilar to a slightly smoky, lemony version of Patchouli or Myrrh.

Vetiver essential oil is steam distilled from the roots and rhizome of a tall, dense, fragrant grass which is native to India. This grass has a massive root mass and is often grown to help prevent soil erosion. It is also used for making fans, mats, screens and thatch.

Vetiver essential oil is earthy and grounding and is known in Sri Lanka as the ‘oil of tranquillity’.

Its main actions are:

  • For mature skin, or skin with acne, dermatitis, or eczema. For these conditions it blends well with Lavender, Bergamot, Neroli, Patchouli and Sandalwood.
  • For the nervous system. Its calming, relaxing action is indicated for stress, nervous tension, anxiety, insecurity, insomnia and depression. Here is works well alongside Lavender, Rose, Sandalwood, Geranium, Bergamot and Ylang Ylang.
  • Musculoskeletal. For joint and muscle pain it combines well with Ginger, Chamomile, Plai, Black Pepper, Lavender and Lemongrass.
  • Immunity. To boost the immune response, particularly when immunity has dropped due to stress/anxiety/shock. Blends well with Lavender, Palmarosa and Thyme.

Aromatherapy recipes using Vetiver essential oil:

Vaporising blend for the bedroom to aid deep sleep

4 drops Lavender essential oil, 3 Sweet Orange, 2 Neroli and 2 Vetiver.

Arthritis cream

60ml Moisturising Lotion, 5ml Argan oil, 5ml Borage oil, 10 drops Lavender essential oil, 6 Plai, 4 German Chamomile, 4 Camphor and 3 Vetiver. Stir well and massage regularly into affected joints.

Moisturising lotion for mature skin

80ml Moisturising Lotion, 5ml Avocado oil, 2ml Red Carrot oil, 10 drops Lavender essential oil, 10 Geranium, 8 Frankincense, 4 Vetiver and 4 Neroli.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Posted in Essential Oils of the Month, Make Your Own Recipes, Natural Health & Beauty Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Anti-ageing aromatherapy skincare

Aging and youth concept, beauty treatment, portrait of beautifulThere are so many creams, lotions and potions available for skin that is showing signs of ageing (wrinkles, fine lines or character lines as I like to call them!). Almost all of the products however on the market make false or hugely exaggerated claims, and contain ingredients that include chemicals and various petro-chemical derivatives. I’m sure that very few people would continue to use these products if they actually realised what they contained. Unfortunately the ingredients lists include long and mystifying words, which many people don’t understand – even if they care to look at the list in the first place.

If you’re looking for natural skincare, then aromatherapy is a real treasure trove when it comes to caring for ageing skin. Prevention is far better than cure, and these wonderful, 100% natural oils can help to ensure that your skin:-

  • is well nourished
  • retains its natural moisture
  • is protected from environmental damage (sun, wind etc)

Throughout history, certain essential oils and vegetable base oils have been intrinsically inter-connected with beauty, skin care, health and wellbeing. They have also been used in many religious ceremonies and spiritual practises.
Ointments for the skin have been discovered in the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, demonstrating how highly prized their actions and effects have been throughout the eons of time.

So, how do essential oils and base oils benefit our skin, and the “million dollar question”, why are they so effective when it comes to caring for mature and ageing skin?

Aromatherapy oils have a variety of skin care benefits, including:

  • stimulating skin cell regeneration
  • balancing sebum output (natural oil produced by skin)
  • helping “lock in” hydration
  • helping stimulate dead skin cell removal
  • lubrication and moisturising
  • anti-inflammatory action where skin is inflamed
  • astringent action, helping to close pores
  • antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic

They can also help to maintain our complexion by improving our psychological and physical wellbeing when used holistically.

Some of the most important essential oils for ageing skin are:

Lavender, Benzoin, Frankincense, Neroli, Rose, Jasmine, Patchouli, Roman Chamomile, Vetiver, Geranium, Sandalwood and Carrot Seed Oil.

In addition to the above, we also need to consider the powerfully nourishing actions of a wonderful variety of rich, light, lubricating and emollient base/vegetable/carrier oils, that provide so much more than a mere “base” for the delivery of our essential oils. The type or combination of these base oils should be chosen as carefully for your skin type as the oils that are diluted in them!

Some of the most important base oils for mature skin are:

Argan, Avocado, Borage, Camellia, Coconut, Evening Primrose, Hazelnut, Hemp Seed, Jojoba, Lime Blossom, Macadamia Nut, Marigold, Melon Seed, Peach Kernel, Red Carrot Oil, Rosehip, Sesame, Walnut and Wheatgerm.

Whilst aromatherapy can be a huge help, remember that your complexion will also be greatly influenced by lifestyle issues, such as those listed below. Whatever you put on your external skin cells, how you look after your overall wellbeing has the greatest impact of all. Your skin is in effect your largest organ – and will reflect your health in general and the state of your gut balance in particular. The following are all important to improve the condition of your skin:-

  • good hydration levels
  • positive nutrition with a diet high in fresh vegetables, fruit, essential fatty acids, complex proteins and a good general balance and variety
  • dietary supplements may be helpful – particularly for those over the age of 40, or those with high stress levels, and a poor medical history
  • plenty of sleep – to allow your skin cells to repair and renew
  • regular exercise
  • regular stress relief if tension levels are high – aromatherapy massage may be one of the best options!
  • avoidance of toxins – such as excessive intake of tea, coffee, alcohol, refined sugars, synthetic sweeteners, refined foods etc.

Anti-ageing aromatherapy recipes:

Nourishing face mask for mature skin

To literally ‘feed’ your face, stimulate your circulation and boost your complexion mix together the following ingredients:

2 tbsp plain live full fat yogurt
½ mashed avocado
1 tsp runny honey
1 tsp ground almonds
2 drops each of Rose, Neroli and Frankincense essential oil

Apply to the face and neck (avoiding eye area). Leave on for 15 minutes and rinse off with cold water. Pat dry and moisturise as normal.

Rejuvenating facial massage oil

5ml Jojoba Oil
5ml Macadamia Nut Oil
5ml Walnut Oil
2 drops each of Vetiver, Rose and Neroli essential oil
3 drops of Carrot Seed essential oil

Rich night cream:

80mls Moisturising Cream
2ml Red Carrot Oil
5ml Melon Seed Oil
5ml Argan Oil
8 drops each of Frankincense and Geranium essential oil
4 drops of Vetiver and Neroli essential oil

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Posted in Make Your Own Recipes, Natural Health & Beauty Tagged with: , , ,

Base oil of the month – Hazelnut

Hazelnuts2Hazelnut Oil (Corylus avellana) is another wonderfully nutritious base oil that has been used for hair and beauty for over 3000 years. Rich in various vitamins, minerals and Essential Fatty Acids, it is particularly useful for its antioxidant Vitamin E and Linoleic Acid.

Hazelnut Oil has, as you would expect, a pleasing, light nutty aroma. It is highly absorbent, light and non greasy, and a wonderful emollient that helps prevent moisture loss throughout the day. Its antibacterial, astringent action helps prevent excess sebum secretion, which makes it useful for acne prone skin and other oily skin conditions. It can also be useful for sensitive skin (although obviously not for those with nut allergies) and makes and ideal addition to a facial oil base.

Hazelnut Oil has a good reputation as a sun filter, and for this reason it is often included in sunscreen products.

Aromatherapy recipes using Hazelnut Oil

Conditioner for coloured/treated hair:
Hazelnut Oil makes a wonderful pre–shampoo hair conditioner, helping to retain hair condition when it has a tendency to loose colour and become course and dry. Mix 20ml Hazelnut Oil, 5 drops Lavender essential oil, 4 Ylang Ylang and 4 Geranium. Massage into damp hair before shampooing. Leave on for 20 minutes then shampoo and condition as normal.

Facial oil for mature sun-damaged skin:
Mix 10ml Hazelnut Oil and 10ml Jojoba Oil, then add 15 drops Red Carrot Oil, 2 drops Neroli essential oil, 2 Rose and 2 Geranium. Use nightly.

Bath oil for dry skin:
Combine 50ml Luxury Bath Oil, 10ml Hazelnut Oil, 10 drops Geranium essential oil, 5 Patchouli, 5 Sandalwood and 3 Neroli. Shake well and add 1-2 tablespoons once the bath water is run. Gently agitate the water to disperse the oil.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Posted in Make Your Own Recipes, Natural Health & Beauty Tagged with: , , , , ,

Essential oil of the month – Bergamot

bergamotBergamot essential oil is often called “Nature’s Prozac” due to its balancing, anti-depressant effect. Apart from its marked uplifting and harmonising effect on the emotions, Bergamot is also a powerful anti-viral, antiseptic and antibacterial agent. It is very useful for post viral “blues” following flu or colds, and has a particular affinity for the respiratory tract and the genito-urinary system. It is also beneficial in the aromatherapy treatment of skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis, and as a digestive aid along with most of the citrus oils.

In addition to its powerful therapeutic actions it is also one of the most popular unisex fragrances, and blends well with a huge variety of other essential oils. It was a major ingredient in one of the first recipes for the original “Eau de Cologne”.

A real “must have” essential oil for your aromatherapy collection! Remember it is one of the photo-toxic essential oils though and therefore should not be used on the skin prior to exposure to the sun!

Aromatherapy recipes using Bergamot essential oil:

Massage oil for eczema (for use on adults):
80ml Sweet Almond Oil, 10ml Hazelnut Oil, 5ml Avocado Oil, 5 Red Carrot Oil, 10 drops Lavender, 10 Bergamot and 4 German Chamomile. Shake well before use and apply regularly after a bath or shower. Patch test prior to overall use.

Uplifting vaporising blend:
5 drops Bergamot, 3 Geranium, 2 Benzoin.

Relaxing bath oil for stress, anxiety and sadness:
80ml Luxury Bath Oil, 15 drops Bergamot, 10 Lavender, 8 Ylang Ylang, 8 Geranium and 4 Neroli. Shake well before use and add 5-10ml per bath.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Posted in Make Your Own Recipes, Natural Health & Beauty Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Aromatherapy treats for Mother’s Day

Happy young woman relaxing in bathtubMother’s Day is fast approaching – that special time of year when we can really show our Mothers just how much we appreciate all the hard work and care they show us throughout the year!

Typically, there is lots of hype and commercialism surrounding these type of these celebrations – so we thought it would be a great idea to help you personalise your giving – and to pamper your Mum with some luxurious homemade aromatherapy gifts that will not only encourage her to take some precious time out, but will also help to boost her health and wellbeing!

It’s great if you know which essential oils your Mum likes best, but if not just think about the types of oils that would benefit her the most! Does your lovely Mum need calm, relaxing aromatherapy oils, stimulating, uplifting blends, or nourishing, moisturising products that will be great for her skin. One of the joys of aromatherapy is that is really is so versatile. We’ve given you a range of ideas below to help you create your very own ‘personalised’ Mother’s Day gifts. Feel free to use these tried and tested recipes or get creative and develop your own…

Aromatherapy Foot Bath
After a long day on your feet there’s little better sensation than popping your tired feet in a warm foot bath. Use a Foot Spa if you have one a rectangular washing up bowl.

For the evening (before bed):
Half fill the foot spa or bowl with warm water, add 3 tablespoons of Dead Sea Salt, 10ml Bath Milk, 5 drops Lavender essential oil, 2 Roman Chamomile, 2 Benzoin and 2 Lemon. Then, all you need to do is get your Mum to sit down and pop in her feet! She will be in pure bliss!!

For a daytime energy boost:
Use the same quantity of Dead Sea Salt and Bath Milk but add 1 drop Peppermint essential oil, 2 Rosemary, 2 Plai and 4 Geranium.

Nourishing Foot Cream
Try this deliciously rich and intensely moisturising blend: 100ml Moisturising Lotion, 5ml Red Carrot Oil, 5ml Jojoba Oil, 15 drops Bergamot essential oil, 20 Lavender, 10 Cypress, 5 Spearmint and 5 Tea Tree. Stir thoroughly and add to 2 x 50ml jars, with beautiful hand made labels. That way – when she raves about your blend – you can whip out that second pot!

Soothing Hand Cream:
Hands that do dishes? Pamper your Mother’s dry skin with this beautifully scented, smooth, rich hand cream. Mix 60ml Moisturising Cream, (organic option available too), 5ml Neem Oil, 5ml Hazelnut Oil and 5ml Avocado Oil. Then add 10 drops Patchouli essential oil, 10 Lavender, 8 Geranium, 8 Bergamot and 5 Neroli.

Aromatherapy Bath Bliss
A moisturising bath oil with relaxing, mood enhancing essential oils is hard to beat. If your Mother’s stress levels are high, or she finds it difficult to sleep, she’ll love this recipe. Mix 100ml of Luxury Bath Oil with 4 drops Valerian, 4 Roman Chamomile, 10 Sweet Orange, 10 Lavender and 7 Neroli. Simply gorgeous!

Shower Power
If a real “wake-up formula” is required – here it is. Mix 100ml SLS free Bath & Shower Gel, with 10 drops Lime essential oil, 10 Bergamot, 10 Geranium and 3 Peppermint – for a real zingy, citrus buzz!!! Shake well before use!

Beautifying Facial Oil
So after a blissful soak in the bath why not finish off with a beautifying aromatherapy facial oil to boost your Mum’s complexion whilst she sleeps!  Combine 10ml Jojoba Oil, 5ml Hazelnut Oil, 5ml Apricot Kernel Oil, then add 5 drops Neroli essential oil, 3 Rose and 2 Benzoin. Massage into mature/dry skin 20 minutes before bed. Dab off any excess oil after 15 minutes. Pure skin magic and a divine way to end the day!

Vaporising Magic
As an extra thoughtful touch while your Mum’s soaking her feet or relaxing in the bath, light some candles and diffuse this refreshing, revitalising and balancing aromatherapy blend. If you’re using an oil burner, add 20ml of water, 4 drops Rose, 4 Sandalwood and 5 Bergamot.

Mellow Mood Spritz
Create a house that smells as good as it looks once you’ve cleaned it all up whilst your Mum was out! Mix 100ml Orange Flower Hydrolat, 10 drops Sweet Orange, 10 Bergamot, 5 Neroli and 3 Benzoin. Add to a spray bottle and shake well before use. Spritz around the house so your Mum can enjoy its relaxing, uplifting and harmonising scent.

Aromatic Chocolate
If your Mum has a favourite chocolate – preferably dark – try this simple trick: A week before Mother’s Day, unwrap the chocolate (do not eat!!) and put in a tupperware box. Drip 2 drops each of Sweet Orange and Ylang Ylang essential oil onto 4 balls of cotton wool. Place these balls into each corner of the box – but do not allow them to touch the chocolate. Store in a cool dark place for 1 week, then wrap the chocolate in tissue paper which has had the same treatment. The scent is glorious and the chocolate infused with essential oil is extra delicious.

Rose Turkish Delight
For “yummy mummies” who love Turkish Delight – try infusing them with Rose essential oil using the same technique as above – use 2 drops of Rose and Lemon essential oil per cotton ball.

Happy Mother’s Day!!

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Posted in Make Your Own Recipes, Natural Health & Beauty Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Supercharge your sleep

insomnia2A good night’s sleep is essential for our health and wellbeing! Most of us however, will have experienced some form of sleep problems or insomnia at some stage or another. There is little worse than not being able to sleep when you want to, and sometimes the harder you try to “drop off”, the harder it gets! If this sounds familiar read on for our comprehensive guide on how to supercharge your sleep the natural way!

First of all, the causes need to be identified – as there is rarely one reason – but a collection of factors that come together to cause issues with sleep.

Here are some of the classic reasons:

  • Too much caffeine (tea, coffee/energy drinks)
  • Too much chocolate (also a stimulant)
  • Too much alcohol (feels like a sedative but is actually a stimulant)
  • Too many liquids too late in the day (many of us realise we haven’t drunk enough during the day and try to make up for it later on!)
  • Nutritional deficiencies (especially B vitamins and magnesium)
  • Too much adrenal and cortisol in the blood stream
  • Not enough exercise during the day
  • Too much exercise too late in the day
  • Mental agitation
  • Physical Tension
  • Not enough “wind down time”
  • Eating too late
  • Eating too early (and too little)
  • Side-effects of medication
  • Late night TV (too stimulating)
  • Anger/ resentment
  • Shock
  • Allergies
  • Over-tiredness
  • Depression
  • SAD Syndrome

So, being clear which reasons are the likeliest causes is important – knowledge is power! Having identified which of these could be the main causes, here’s how to tackle them:-

Too much caffeine
You might think that you only have a few coffees a day, and you don’t drink them after 4pm in the afternoon, but remember everyone’s tolerances and reactions to caffeine varies hugely. The amount you consume can creep up on you during the day. Did you know that a strong cup of tea can contain as much caffeine as coffee, and that the caffeine in some fizzy/energy drinks can also be very high? Try and decrease the amount you normally ingest and see if it helps – it usually does! If your normal intake is quite high, remember to decrease it slowly as the body’s reactions can be quite severe i.e. headaches, shakes etc.

Too much chocolate
Do you have a real craving for chocolate? If so you may have a few nutritional deficiencies and some blood sugar issues. Look at a low GI diet (Glycaemic Index) and talk to BioCare or a Nutritional Therapist about Magnesium and Chromium. Remember that chocolate is a stimulant and might be interfering with your sleep pattern. Try to reduce your intake and look at healthier other options that will release sugar more slowly – such as unsulphured dried apricots or fresh fruit.

Too much alcohol
Ironic isn’t it- we often have a drink to unwind and relax after a hard day – but it doesn’t always have the effect we’re hoping for! If you’re having trouble sleeping and your stress levels are high, try reducing your alcohol intake to weekends only – and see if you sleep better during the week. You’ll then be clearer on how it’s effecting you. It tends to be a quick way of reducing excess weight too.

Too many liquids too late in the day
This is a classic one. We’re trying to look after ourselves better – get to the end of the day, and realise that we haven’t had our 1.5 litres of water. It doesn’t tend to be a good idea to try and fit the whole lot in the last few hours of the day though – as severe sleep loss through needing to get up 5 times in the night may be worse than temporary dehydration!

Nutritional deficiencies
Even with a healthy diet, some of us commit ourselves in so many different directions that we simply use up certain nutrients far more quickly than we can access them from our food. The reality in the modern world is also that much of the food we buy as “fresh” has in fact been in storage for days or even weeks. Try and buy locally produced, seasonal food – which will tend to be fresher and more nutritious. If your stress levels are high, it would be a good idea to check your B vitamin intake, and Magnesium levels (and trace minerals) as these can be associated with poor quality sleep.

Too much adrenal and cortisol in the blood stream
If your stress levels are high, it is very important that you have an adequate “wind down” period before bed, so that you can allow your system to balance itself out again before you go to sleep. Going straight from “fast forward” to “stop”, without your body having time to adjust, will often mean that you will lie there waiting for sleep that won’t come! If you have been physically static all day, it is great (as part of your wind-down period) to go for a walk – to help your body release the “fight or flight” hormones in your blood stream. Other gentle exercises that can be helpful can include Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Yoga. Ideally avoid types of exercises that are “fast and furious” – as they can be over-stimulating at the end of the day.

Not enough exercise during the day
If your lifestyle is too sedentary, it may be difficult for you to sleep, even if your stress levels are not too high. Our systems need a balance of physical and mental stimulation to remain in balance, so if your sleep pattern is disturbed, trying a new exercise regime may well have a profoundly restorative effect. You can also try regular massage – with circulatory stimulant essential oils during the first part of the day, or relaxant oils in the later part of the day – to passively exercise your muscles and help you to relax and unwind towards the evening:

Am: 25ml Grapeseed Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort, 3 drops Rosemary, 4 Geranium, 4 Bergamot and 2 Plai.
Pm: 25ml Grapeseed Oil, 5 drops Lavender, 5 Bergamot, 4 Marjoram and 2 Neroli.

Too much exercise too late in the day
As we’ve mentioned, exercising too late in the day can be too stimulating and can create a release of stress hormones – especially if you are pushing yourself through tiredness. If this is really the only time available, try a warm aromatherapy bath before bed, to help your body wind down and relax. The exercise regimes that are about stretching and flexibility are still a better idea than more vigorous forms. Swimming and aqua aerobics can also be fine, as they are gentle on the mind and body.

Mental agitation

If you are mentally agitated due to worries or concerns before bed, try winding down by writing a diary. Use it as a “dumping ground”, and help yourself to “disengage” from the worries of the day. Always end on an “up” note to help you think positively. Having an aromatherapy bath or vaporising relaxing essential oils in your bedroom can also be a great help – inducing a sense of peacefulness and lifting the spirits. Try vaporising 2 drops Neroli essential oil, 2 Roman Chamomile and 6 Lavender, or bathe with 15ml Bath Milk, 3 drops Frankincense, 2 Neroli and 2 Roman Chamomile. Herb teas can be beneficial too – try drinking Valerian or Chamomile tea before bed, or Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime which has a Spearmint flavour that is both relaxing and refreshing at the same time.

Tension
If you suffer from muscular tension towards the end of the day, gentle stretching exercises can help to release and relax tension. A warm aromatherapy bath can also be one of the best and most enjoyably effective options. Try: 15ml Bath Milk, 3 drops Clary Sage, 3 Marjoram and 4 Lavender. If muscular tension is a regular feature, try an aromatherapy massage once a week for a month. This will really give your therapist a chance to get deep into those muscle fibres to release built up tension. For home massage try 25ml Grapeseed Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort, 3 Clary Sage, 3 Marjoram and 8 Lavender.

Not enough “Wind down time”
Whether you’re self-employed or just work long hours, it is easier to over-work in this day and age than ever before. 24 hour connectivity means we can push ourselves to our absolute limits. The type of technology we have at our disposal means that, unless we are really self-disciplined, we can be answering phone calls or emails, even when we do finally get away. I used to treat a business man who would answer his phone when on the beach with his children! This means that our minds just simply do not get a chance to “switch off”, rest and recuperate. Not only does this render us incapable of relaxing when we finally try to – but the health risks of the type of electro-magnetic energy that these units emit is not yet fully understood – the technology has simply not been around for long enough for us to know. Yes, most of us are under increased financial pressure, but no amount of money can bring back our health once it is undermined for long enough. We need to learn to put back what we take out, so taking enough “time out” is vital. Difficulty in sleeping could be an early warning signal to indicate that more time for “you and yours” is needed! To help you switch off at night try vaporising 2 drops Neroli, 2 Roman Chamomile and 6 Sweet Orange in the bedroom.

Eating too late
A classic reason for poor quality of sleep! You’ve had no breakfast, little time for lunch and you’re starving hungry when you finally get home after a long, hard day. Your food takes 2-3 hours to digest. If it lies in your gut overnight, as your digestion is under pressure when you are lying down, it can lead to fermentation, discomfort and a slowing down of your metabolic rate over time. So, eat at least 3 hours before bed and chew food thoroughly before you swallow. If you have to eat later, go for very light dishes, such as white fish with steamed vegetables, chicken stir fry or thick homemade soup.

Eating too early (and too little)
Eating your main meal in the middle of the day is great if you can manage it, but not missing out on breakfast and supper is important too. First of all, in order to access all the nutrients you require for good health and wellbeing in general – a certain amount of nutrition needs to be assimilated on a daily basis. Poor quality of sleep can also arise from waking early through hunger, as well as going to bed too full! If you’ve eaten a large meal earlier in the day try a fresh soup in the evening, remember this is easy to digest as it is already in a semi-liquid state. In Chinese medicine it is said that warm food is nourishing for the “Chi”, i.e. good for your energy. It is also comforting towards the end of a long day.

Side-effects of medication
Many forms of medication, especially fast acting pain killers and cold/flu remedies, have caffeine in them, which many people don’t realise. This is particularly ironic when you consider that the one thing that you really need when your immunity is low – is decent sleep! Read the labels on all over the counter medicines – and remember the natural approach. Very often a good regular dose of Vitamin C powder and aromatherapy inhalations will help alleviate the cold/flu symptoms without needing to resort to those allopathic medicines.

Late night TV (and electronic devices)
With current technology, many of us work late and are glued to our computer screen until late at night. The rest of us might be watching TV late into the evening, surfing the web, or reading on a Kindle, all of which stimulate our brains in a way that can keep us awake when we want to go to sleep. The nature of the material we are watching can also have an impact – watching a horror film, or an action packed adventure movie just before bed, can be a recipe for wakefulness.

Anger/ resentment
It is very difficult to have a good night’s sleep if you go to bed fuming, as it’s a very burning, inflammatory type of emotion that tends to stimulate the release of stress hormones. So, talk about it if you can, to help yourself calm down. If that’s not possible, write your feelings down in that diary of yours! An aromatic bath can help, with oils to soothe those raw emotions. Vaporising oils in your bedroom can further soothe that savage breast. Regular massage can also help to ease strong, burning emotions. Try Grapeseed Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort, 2 drops Rose, 2 Roman Chamomile, 5 Sandalwood and 5 Bergamot. Finally, remember anger can be transmuted fear, what is it that you’re frightened of?

Shock
If you’ve had a shock to the system, it can really disrupt your sleep pattern. The incident can play around and around in your mind, “hot wiring” your thought processes and making restful sleep seem rather a long way away. Taking Arnica (a homeopathic remedy for bruising and shock) can be really helpful as can Bach Flower Rescue Remedy. You can also try inhaling Neroli essential oil from a tissue immediately after the shock, and massaging 5% Neroli Light into your pulse points and temples. Aromatherapy baths can also help to relax the mind. If sleep and emotional disturbance continue beyond the first week after the initial shock, try Thought Field Therapy (TFT), which is excellent at re-wiring the neural networks in the brain, and alleviating the emotional reactions.

Allergies
Recurrent sleeping problems, especially if accompanied by digestive issues and chronic fatigue, can be related to food intolerances or actual allergies to things such as gluten, dairy, and synthetic additives i.e. colourings, preservatives and flavourings. If your allergic reactions have more of a respiratory nature, or are skin-based, you could be reacting to the detergent that you wash your clothes in, or the toiletry products you are using – such as your shampoo, conditioner, or deodorant. An “Applied Kinesiologist” can help you identify which factors are causing you problems, and even help de-sensitise your body. It’s important to note down all the symptoms that you experience before your consultation.

One final note in relation to allergies and sleeping problems. It is a very good idea to hoover your mattress weekly – especially if it is an old one. Most mattresses will have microscopic bed mites in their fibres, and it is their faecal matter that we can react to when it gets excessive. It gets breathed in and can cause some people to react, sometimes quite severely. A good quality mattress cover and pillow cases are advisable. You can also purchase an infra-red wand to pass over the mattress before hoovering it – which is said to kill the mites (not to be confused with bed bugs). Another option is to make an aromatherapy blend and spray on the mattress regularly. Leave to dry and air before making the bed.

Over-tiredness
Ironically, over-tiredness can create sleeping problems! If you get completely exhausted you can actually become so over-stimulated that it becomes difficult to sleep deeply. One of the indications of this is wakefulness (waking up easily throughout the night or waking up prematurely). In order to help re-balance your system specific steps need to be taken to help prevent complete exhaustion from setting in. Again, regular aromatherapy baths and massage can help re-balance the system, but if your sleeping pattern is completely disrupted, it might be useful to consider additional constitutional help. Herbal medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine can be worth consideration.

Depression
One of the first signs of depression, apart from the emotional elements, can be a deeply disrupted sleep pattern. This can then set up a vicious circle, where chronic tiredness contributes to the emotional state. Make use of uplifting, anti-depressant essential oils such as Melissa, Rose, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Neroli, Sandalwood, Bergamot, Frankincense, Benzoin, Patchouli, Clary Sage and Jasmine. Chose the ones that you are drawn to the most, and use them regularly for massage, vaporising and in aromatic baths. You can also take Valerian in the evening to aid sleep, and St John’s Wort in the morning as a natural mood enhancer. TFT and Hypnotherapy can also be effective therapies, as can CBT. Always see your GP when suffering from depression – as it is important to have someone over seeing your health-care. Although many herbs and certain anti-depressant medications cannot be taken together – many other natural medicines can be used in combination with orthodox approaches. No matter how focused on Natural Medicine you may be – sometimes a course of anti-depressants or sleeping pills can be a life-saver, and it always pays to have a balanced view.

Sad Syndrome – Seasonal Affective Disorder
This is now a great deal more recognised than it was previously – and can cause depression and sleeping issues. Try getting a full spectrum “light box” for the office or for use at home. 3 hours a day is usually enough to help your pineal gland stimulate the hormone/neuro-chemical balance you require. Vitamin D drops can also help – especially if you go outside very little in the winter months – when this condition tends to strike.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Keeping love in the air after Valentine’s Day

romanceHistorically, numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine, and February 14 is celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day in various Christian denominations.  Valentine’s Day customs relating to romance developed in England during the 18th century when the tradition of courtly love flourished. Valentine’s Day has now evolved into an occasion in which lovers express their love for each other by sending cards and gifts such as flowers or chocolate!

Rather than focus solely on Valentine’s Day, which is, after all, just one day of the year, I thought it would be more useful to look at ways in which essential oils may be used to promote healthy and positive relationships between couples throughout the year.

Many factors can affect relationships such as lack of confidence caused, maybe, by poor self-image or self-esteem, or stress caused by work, money or health issues.  While aromatherapy cannot necessarily resolve all of these problems, it can certainly help couples cope with them on a day to day basis.  For example, an aromatic massage can help to relieve tension and anxiety, and there are many workshops available for couples to learn how to provide non-sexual massage on each other that helps relax both mind and body.  A soothing blend comprising of two drops of Clary Sage essential oil (Salvia sclarea), four drops of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and one drop of Sandalwood (Santalum album) in 14ml of Apricot Kernel Oil (Prunus armeniaca) provides a relaxing blend, which when applied with a combination of soothing effleurage and petrissage movements can help reduce worry and encourage closeness between the couple.

Lack of communication is often cited as a factor in the break-down of relationships.  The use of gentle massage combined with aromatic aromatherapy oils can sometimes be all that is needed to help couples to communicate and express their feelings positively rather than bottling up negative thoughts and letting resentment over-flow.  A suitable blend for opening up channels of communication is one drop of Neroli essential oil (Citrus aurantium amara), four drops of Geranium (Pelargonium graveolen) and two drops of Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha).

For those suffering from poor body image, perhaps due to illness or other problems, Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) is reputed to give a sense of confidence and an inner sense of beauty.  A couple of drops can easily be added to a suitable carrier and used during bathing or for massage.  One of my most favourite essential oils is Rose Otto (Rosa damascena).  Whilst Rose Otto is more expensive than Rose Absolute, it is my preferred oil due to the extraction process used – steam distillation opposed to solvent extraction.  Rose Otto has such a beautiful aroma, that inhaling it can definitely inspire feelings of confidence and self-worth.  I would recommend adding this particular essential oil to base creams or lotions and applying it both morning and night.

We are all so busy throughout the year, juggling lots of different roles, that it is hardly surprising that ‘life’ gets in the way of making time for the special person in our lives.  By using oils to bridge the gap, whether by having an ‘aromantic’ bath ready for your partner on their return from the office, or making time to give each other a luxurious massage once a month, the oils will help keep your romance alive!

Christine Fisk
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Essential oil of the month – German Chamomile

Macro shot of wild camomiles over whiteGerman Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a common annual herb that has been the bedrock of our traditional medicine chest for many centuries.

The essential oil is steam distilled from the plant’s daisy-like flowers, and has a deep, inky-blue colour – which is derived from the constituent element ‘chamazulene’ which is formed during the distillation process. Chamazulene gives German Chamomile its powerful anti-inflammatory properties – making it one of the best essential oils (alongside Yarrow) for treating inflammation. The oil also has valuable antispasmodic, analgesic, antiseptic and anti-allergenic properties and a calming influence on nervous related disorders such as anxiety, nervous tension and headaches.

German Chamomile can be used effectively in compresses as well as in massage oils and creams, and can be even more effective when combined with drinking Chamomile tea (the tea is as soothing for raw nerves as the essential oil is for inflamed muscles, joints and skin!)

Always think of German Chamomile essential oil when dealing with dry/inflamed skin that is sensitive – as well as painful, inflamed joints.

Aromatherapy recipes using German Chamomile

Facial oil for dry, sun damaged skin
50ml Apricot Kernel Oil, 8ml Jojoba, 2ml Red Carrot Oil, 2 drops German Chamomile essential oil, 2 Neroli, 2 Rose and 10 Lavender. Mix well and apply at night.

Click here for more German Chamomile skincare recipes for eczema and dermatitis.

Massage gel for inflamed joints (i.e. arthritis):
100ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, 20 drops Lavender essential oil, 10 Marjoram, 4 German Chamomile and 2 Peppermint. Massage in regularly.

Puffy sore eye lids (following crying or chronic exhaustion)
Make a cup of Chamomile tea. Take the tea bags out and lightly squeeze out the excess liquid. Place them on closed eyelids for 10 minutes. Preferably drink the tea too!

Warm compress for Abscesses/Boils
Place hot water in a bowl and add 2 drops Tea Tree essential oil and 2 drops German Chamomile. Place a square of muslin in the water, then remove and squeeze out, before placing on the affected area. Repeat 3-4 times, blot dry and then apply 1 drop of neat Tea Tree oil.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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Posted in Essential Oils of the Month, Make Your Own Recipes, Natural Health & Beauty Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
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