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THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ESSENTIAL OILS The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health & Well-Being Julia Lawless Dedication To my mother, Kerttu CONTENTS Preface How to Use This Book PART I: AN INTRODUCTION TO AROMATICS 1. Historical Roots Natural Plant Origins Ancient Civilizations Treasures from the East Alchemy The Scientific Revolution 2. Aromatherapy and Herbalism The Birth of Aromatherapy Herbal Medicine Therapeutic Guidelines Safety Precautions 3. The Body-Actions and Applications How Essential Oils Work The Skin The Circulation, Muscles and Joints The Respiratory System The Digestive System The Genito-urinary and Endocrine Systems The Immune System The Nervous System The Mind 4. How to use Essential Oils at Home Massage Skin Oils and Lotions Hot and Cold Compresses Hair Care Flower Waters Baths Vaporization Steam Inhalation Douche Neat Application Internal Use 5. Creative Blending Therapeutic and Aesthetic Properties Correct Proportions Synergies Fragrant Harmony Personal Perfumes 6. A Guide to Aromatic Materials Habitat Chemistry Methods of Extraction Natural versus ‘Natural Identical’ PART II: THE OILS A Ajowan Allspice Almond, Bitter Ambrette Seed Amyris Angelica Anise, Star Aniseed Arnica Asafetida B Balm, Lemon Balsam, Canadian Balsam, Copaiba Balsam, Peru Balsam, Tolu Basil, Exotic Basil, French Bay Laurel Bay, West Indian Benzoin Bergamot Birch, Sweet Birch, White Boldo Leaf Borneol Boronia Broom, Spanish Buchu C Cabreuva Cade Cajeput Calamintha Calamus Camphor Cananga Caraway Cardomon Carrot Seed Cascarilla Bark Cassia Cassie Cedarwood, Atlas Cedarwood, Texas Cedarwood, Virginian Celery Seed Chamomile, German Chamomile, Maroc Chamomile, Roman Chervil Cinnamon Citronella Clove Coriander Costus Cubebs Cumin Cypress D Deertongue Dill E Elecampane Elemi Eucalyptus, Blue Gum Eucalyptus, Lemon-Scented Eucalyptus, Broad-leaved; Peppermint F Fennel Fir Needle, Silver Frankincense G Galangal Galbanum Gardenia Garlic Geranium Ginger Grapefruit Guaiacwood H Helichrysum Hops Horseradish Hyacinth Hyssop J Jaborandi Jasmine Juniper L Labdanum Lavandin Lavender, Spike Lavender, True Lemon Lemongrass Lime Linaloe Linden Litsea Cubeba Lovage M Mandarin Marigold Marjoram, Sweet Mastic Melilotus Mimosa Mint, Cornmint Mint, Peppermint Mint, Spearmint Mugwort Mustard Myrrh Myrtle N Narcissus Niaouli Nutmeg O Oakmoss Onion Opopanax Orange, Bitter Orange Blossom Orange, Sweet Oregano, Common Oregano, Spanish Orris P Palmarosa Parsley Patchouli Pennyroyal Pepper, Black Petitgrain Pine, Dwarf Pine, Longleaf Pine, Scotch R Rose, Cabbage Rose, Damask Rosemary Rosewood Rue S Sage, Clary Sage, Common Sage, Spanish Sandalwood Santolina Sassafras Savine Savory, Summer Savory, Winter Schinus Molle Snakeroot Spikenard Spruce, Hemlock Styrax, Levant T Tagetes Tansy Tarragon Tea Tree Thuja Thyme, Common Tonka Tuberose Turmeric Turpentine V Valerian Vanilla Verbena, Lemon Vetiver Violet W Wintergreen Wormseed Wormwood Y Yarrow Ylang Ylang References Bibliography Useful Addresses General Glossary Therapeutic Index Botanical Classification Botanical Index Acknowledgements About the Author Copyright About the Publisher PREFACE My own interest in essential oils and herbal remedies derives from the maternal side of my family who came from Finland, where home ‘simples’ retained popularity long after they had vanished from most parts of Britain. My Finnish grandmother knew a great deal about herbs and wild plants which she passed on to my mother, as she recalls: Mama’s most important herb was parsley, which along with dill, marjoram, hops and others, were dried in bunches in the autumn, dangling at the ends of short lengths of cotton, all strung on a long length of thin rope stretching right across the kitchen stove. As scents are very evocative for remembering old things, I remember it so well – the strong and heady smell emanating from these herbs when they were hung up, and the stove was warm. Later, as a biochemist, my mother became involved with the research of essential oils and plants, and helped inspire in me a fascination for herbs and the use of natural remedies. Without her early enthusiasm and guidance, I’m sure this book would never have been written. In 1992 the first edition of this book was published in the UK. Since then it has been translated into many languages as well being released in several different formats, including an illustrated edition. With this new edition, I am very glad to have the opportunity to update my original work and add a few words to this preface. In the twenty-year period since the original publication of The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, the use of essential oils, together with the practice of aromatherapy in the West has undergone a radical transformation. At the beginning of the 1990s, aromatherapy was still considered a fringe practice and the use of essential oils in the home was by no means widespread. However, as scientific trials and clinical research have continued to confirm the potentiality of essential oils, they have become increasingly respected within the medical arena. This has been accompanied by a steady increase of public interest in holistic therapies and a sociological trend towards embracing all things ‘natural’ over the past two decades in Europe and the United States. Nowadays, aromatherapy treatments are widely available and often offered in hospitals, while essential oils can be purchased in every town. This change in attitude has bought so many benefits, but it is worth also considering the dangers that have emerged with the commercialization of aromatherapy. Although essential oils are all wholly natural substances, they can be subject to adulteration, so it is important to always buy them from a reputable supplier (see page 198). It is also vital to check that any specific safety guidelines are followed with care at home. It is my hope that this new edition brings fresh life to the multifaceted and multicultural study of essential oils and to the field of contemporary aromatherapy. How to Use This Book The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils is divided into two parts: Part I is a general introduction to aromatics, showing their changing role throughout history, from the ritual part they played in ancient civilizations, through medieval alchemy, to their modern day applications in aromatherapy, herbalism and perfumery. Part II is a systematic survey of over 160 essential oils shown in alphabetical order according to the common name of the plants from which they are derived. Detailed information on each oil includes its botanical origins, herbal/folk tradition, odour characteristics, principal constituents and safety data, as well as its home and commercial uses. This book can be approached in several ways: 1. It can be employed as a concise reference guide to a wide range of aromatic plants and oils, in the same way as a traditional herbal. 2. It can be used a self-help manual, showing how to use aromatherapy oils at home for the treatment of common complaints and to promote well-being. 3. It can be read from cover to cover as a comprehensive textbook on essential oils, shown in all their different aspects. 1. When using the book as a reference guide to essential oils, the name of the plant or oil may be found in the Botanical Index at the back of the book, where it is listed under: a) its common name: for example, frankincense; b) its Latin or botanical term: Boswellia carteri; c) its essential oil trade name: olibanum; d) or by its folk names: gum thus. Other varieties, such as Indian frankincense (Boswellia serrata), may be found in the Botanical Classification section under their common family name ‘Burseraceae’, along with related species such as elemi, linaloe, myrrh and opopanax. Less common essential oils, such as blackcurrant (which is used mainly by the food industry), do not appear in the main body of the book, but are included in the Botanical Classification section under their common family name, in this case ‘Grossulariaceae’. 2. When using the book as a self-help manual on aromatherapy, it is best to consult the Therapeutic Index at the end of the book, where common complaints are grouped according to different parts of the body: Skin Care Circulation, Muscles and Joints Respiratory System Digestive System Genito-urinary and Endocrine Systems Immune System Nervous System If for example, we have been working long hours at a desk and have developed a painful cramp in our neck, we should turn to the section on Circulation, Muscles and Joints where we find the heading ‘Muscular Cramp and Stiffness’. Of the essential oils which are listed, those shown in italics are generally considered to be the most useful and/or readily available, in this case allspice, lavender, marjoram, rosemary and black pepper. The choice of which oil to use depends on what is to hand, and on assessing the quality of each oil by consulting their entry in Part II of the book. Special attention should be paid to the Safety Data on each oil: both allspice and black pepper are known to be skin irritants if used in high concentration; rosemary and marjoram should be avoided during pregnancy; rosemary should not be used by epileptics at all. On the basis of our assessment, we may choose to use lavender, marjoram and a little black pepper which would make an excellent blend. Some of the principles behind blending oils can be found in Chapter 5, Creative Blending. The various methods of application are indicated by the letters M, massage; C, compress; B, bath etc. Turn to Chapter 4, How to Use Essential Oils at Home, where you will find instructions on how to make up a massage oil or compress, and how many drops of oil to use in a bath. Further information on how essential oils work in specific cases can be found in Chapter 3, The Body – Actions and Applications. 3. Used as a comprehensive textbook, The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils provides a wealth of information about the essential oils themselves in all their various aspects, including their perfumery and flavouring applications. It shows the development of aromatics through history and the relationship between essential oils and other herbal products. It defines different kinds of aromatic materials and their methods of extraction, giving up-to-date areas of production. In addition, it includes information on their chemistry, pharmacology and safety levels. The ‘Actions’ ascribed to each plant refer either to the properties of the whole herb, or to parts of it, or to the essential oil. Difficult technical terms, mainly of a botanical or medical nature, are explained in the General Glossary at the end of the book. However, since the therapeutic guidelines presented in the text are aimed primarily at the lay person without medical qualifications, the section dealing with the aromatherapy application of essential oils at home is limited to the treatment of common complaints only. Although there is a great deal of research being carried out at present into the potential uses of essential oils in the treatment of diseases such as cancer, AIDS and psychological disorders, these discussions fall beyond the scope of this book. References to the medical and folk use of particular plants in herbal medicine and their actions are intended to provide background information only, and are not intended as a guide for self-treatment. PART I AN INTRODUCTION TO AROMATICS 1. HISTORICAL ROOTS Natural Plant Origins When we peel an orange, walk through a rose garden or rub a sprig of lavender between our fingers, we are all aware of the special scent of that plant. But what exactly is it that we can smell? Generally speaking, it is essential oils which give spices and herbs their specific scent and flavour, flowers and fruit their perfume. The essential oil in the orange peel is not difficult to identify; it is found in such profusion that it actually squirts out when we peel it. The minute droplets of oil which are contained in tiny pockets or glandular cells in the outer peel are very volatile, that is, they easily evaporate, infusing the air with their characteristic aroma. But not all plants contain essential or volatile oils in such profusion. The aromatic content in the flowers of the rose is so very small that it takes one ton of petals to produce 300g of rose oil. It is not fully understood why some plants contain essential oils and others not. It is clear that the aromatic quality of the oils plays a role in the attraction or repulsion of certain insects or animals. It has also been suggested that they play an important part in the transpiration and life processes of the plant itself, and as a protection against disease. They have been described as the ‘hormone’ or ‘life-blood’ of a plant, due to their highly concentrated and essential nature. Aromatic oils can be found in all the various parts of a plant, including the seeds, bark, root, leaves, flowers, wood, balsam and resin. The bitter orange tree, for example, yields orange oil from the fruit peel, petitgrain from the leaves and twigs, and neroli oil from the orange blossoms. The clove tree produces different types of essential oil from its buds, stalks and leaves, whereas the Scotch pine yields distinct oils from its needles, wood and resin. The wide range of aromatic materials obtained from natural sources and the art of their extraction and use has developed slowly over the course of time, but its origins reach back to the very heart of the earliest civilizations. Ancient Civilizations Aromatic plants and oils have been used for thousands of years, as incense, perfumes and cosmetics and for their medical and culinary applications. Their ritual use constituted an integral part of the tradition in most early cultures, where their religious and therapeutic roles became inextricably intertwined. This type of practice is still in evidence: for example, in the East, sprigs of juniper are burnt in Tibetan temples as a form of purification; in the West, frankincense is used during the Roman Catholic mass. In the ancient civilizations, perfumes were used as an expression of the animist and cosmic conceptions, responding above all to the exigencies of a cult … associated at first with theophanies and incantations, the perfumes made by fumigation, libation and ablution, grew directly out of the ritual, and became an element in the art of therapy.1 The Vedic literature of India dating from around 2000 BC, lists over 700 substances including cinnamon, spikenard, ginger, myrrh, coriander and sandalwood. But aromatics were considered to be more than just perfumes; in the Indo-Aryan tongue, ‘atar’ means smoke, wind, odour and essence, and the Rig Veda codifies their use for both liturgical and therapeutic purposes. The manner in which it is written reflects a spiritual and philosophical outlook, in which humanity is seen as a part of nature, and the handling of herbs as a sacred task: ‘Simples, you who have existed for so long, even before the Gods were born, I want to understand your seven hundred secrets! … Come, you wise plants, heal this patient for me’.2 Their understanding of plant lore developed into the traditional Indian or Ayurvedic system of medicine, which has enjoyed an unbroken transmission up to the present day. The Chinese also have an ancient herbal tradition which accompanies the practice of acupuncture, the earliest records being in the Yellow Emperor’s Book of Internal Medicine dating from more than 2000 years BC. Among the remedies are several aromatics such as opium and ginger which, apart from their therapeutic applications, are known to have been utilized for religious purposes since the earliest times, as in the Li-ki and Tcheou-Li ceremonies. Borneo camphor is still used extensively in China today for ritual purposes. But perhaps the most famous and richest associations concerning the first aromatic materials are those surrounding the ancient Egyptian civilization. Papyrus manuscripts dating back to the reign of Khufu, around 2800 BC, record the use of many medicinal herbs, while another papyrus written about 2000 BC speaks of ‘fine oils and choice perfumes, and the incense of temples, whereby every god is gladdened’.3 Aromatic gums and oils such as cedar and myrrh were employed in the embalming process, the remains of which are still detectable thousands of years later, along with traces of scented unguents and oils such as styrax and frankincense contained in a number of ornate jars and cosmetic pots found in the tombs. The complete iconography covering the process of preparation for such oils, balsams and fermented liqueurs was preserved in stone inscriptions by the people of the Nile valley. The Egyptians were, in fact, experts of cosmetology and renowned for their herbal preparations and ointments. One such remedy was known as ‘kyphi’; a mixture of sixteen different ingredients which could be used as an incense, a perfume or taken internally as a medicine. It was said to be antiseptic, balsamic, soothing and an antidote to poison which, according to Plutarch, could lull one to sleep, allay anxieties and brighten dreams. Treasures from the East Natural aromatics and perfume materials constituted one of the earliest trade items of the ancient world, being rare and highly prized. When the Jewish people began their exodus from Egypt to Israel around 1240 BC, they took with them many precious gums and oils together with knowledge of their use. On their journey, according to the Book of Exodus, the Lord transmitted to Moses the formula for a special anointing oil, which included myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassia and olive oil among its ingredients. This holy oil was used to consecrate Aaron and his sons into priesthood, which continued from generation to generation. Frankincense and myrrh, as treasures from the East, were offered to Jesus at his birth. The Phoenician merchants also exported their scented oils and gums to the Arabian peninsula and gradually throughout the Mediterranean region, particularly Greece and Rome. They introduced the West to the riches of the Orient: they brought camphor from China, cinnamon from India, gums from Arabia and rose from Syria, always ensuring that they kept their trading routes a closely guarded secret. The Greeks especially learnt a great deal from the Egyptians; Herodotus and Democrates, who visited Egypt during the fifth century BC, were later to transmit what they had learnt about perfumery and natural therapeutics. Herodotus was the first to record the method of distillation of turpentine, in about 425 BC, as well as furnishing the first information about perfumes and numerous other details regarding odorous materials. Dioscorides made a detailed study of the sources and uses of plants and aromatics employed by the Greeks and Romans which he compiled into a five volume materia medica, known as the Herbarius. Hippocrates who was born in Greece about 460 BC and universally revered as the ‘father of medicine’, also prescribed perfumed fumigations and fomentations; indeed ‘from Greek medical practice there is derived the term ‘iatralypte’, from the physician who cured by the use of aromatic unctions’.4 One of the most famous of these Greek preparations, made from myrrh, cinnamon and cassia, was called ‘megaleion’ after its creator Megallus. Like the Egyptian ‘kyphi’, it could be used both as a perfume and as a remedy for skin inflammation and battle wounds. The Romans were even more lavish in their use of perfumes and aromatic oils than the Greeks. They used three kinds of perfumes: ‘ladysmata’, solid unguents; ‘stymmata’, scented oils; and ‘diapasmata’, powdered perfumes. They were used to fragrance their hair, their bodies, their clothes and beds; large amounts of scented oil were used for massage after bathing. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the advent of Christianity, many of the Roman physicians fled to Constantinople taking the books of Galen, Hippocrates and Dioscorides with them. These great Graeco-Roman works were translated into Persian, Arabic and other languages, and at the end of the Byzantine Empire, their knowledge passed on to the Arab world. Europe, meanwhile, entered the so-called Dark Ages. Alchemy Between the seventh and thirteenth centuries the Arabs produced many great men of science, among them Avicenna (AD 980‒1037). This highly gifted physician and scholar wrote over a hundred books in his lifetime, one of which was devoted entirely to the flower most cherished by Islam, the rose. Among his discoveries, he has been credited with the invention of the refrigerated coil, a breakthrough in the art of distillation, which he used to produce pure essential oils and aromatic water. However, in 1975 Dr Paolo Rovesti led an archaeological expedition to Pakistan to investigate the ancient Indus Valley civilization. There, in the museum of Taxila at the foot of the Himalayas, he found a perfectly preserved distillation apparatus made of terracotta. The presence of perfume containers also exhibited in the museum dating from the same period, about 3000 BC, confirmed its use for the preparation of aromatic oils. This discovery suggests that the Arabs simply revived or improved upon a process that had been known for over 4000 years! Rose water became one of the most popular scents and came to the West at the time of the Crusades, along with other exotic essences, and the method of distillation. By the thirteenth century, the ‘perfumes of Arabia’ were famous throughout Europe. During the Middle Ages, floors were strewn with aromatic plants and little herbal bouquets were carried as a protection against plague and other infectious diseases. Gradually the Europeans, lacking the gum-yielding trees of the Orient, began to experiment with their own native herbs such as lavender, sage and rosemary. By the sixteenth century lavender water and essential oils known as ‘chymical oils’ could be bought from the apothecary, and, following the invention of printing, the period 1470 to 1670 saw the publication of many herbals such as the Grete Herball published in 1526, some of which included illustrations of the retorts and stills used for the extraction of volatile oils. In the hands of the philosophers, the art of distillation was employed in the practice of alchemy, the hermetic pursuit dedicated to the transformation of base metals into gold, the gross into the subtle. It was primarily a religious quest in which the various stages of the distillation process were equated with stages of an inner psychic transmutation, ‘dissolution and coagulation’: separation (black, lead), extraction (white, quicksilver), fusion (red, sulphur) and finally sublimation (gold or ‘lapis’). In the same way that aromatic material could be distilled to produce a pure and potent essence, so could the human emotions be refined and concentrated to reveal their valuable fruit, or true nature. In this context, volatile oils can be equated with the purified human psyche or ‘quintessence’ of the alchemists, being an emanation of matter and manifestation of spirit, mediator between the two realms. Alchemy was the bridge across which the rich symbolism of the ancient world – Arab, Greek, Gnostic – was transported into our own era … thus symbolism fell from the rarefied heights into the melting-pot, and began to be tested in a continuous, dynamic interaction with the findings of chemistry.5 The Scientific Revolution Throughout the Renaissance period, aromatic materials filled the pharmacopoeias which for many centuries remained the main protection against epidemics. Over the next few centuries the medicinal properties and applications of increasing numbers of new essential oils were analysed and recorded by the pharmacists. The list included both well-established aromatics such as cedar, cinnamon, frankincense, juniper, rose, rosemary, lavender and sage, but also essences like artemisia, cajeput, chervil, orange flower, valerian and pine. The perfumery and distillation industries attracted illustrious names of the day and in the northern countries of Europe, especially at Grasse in France, flourishing commercial enterprises sprang up. By the end of the seventeenth century, the profession of perfumery broke away from the allied fields, and a distinction was made between perfumes and the aromatics that had become the domain of the apothecary. Alchemy gave way to technical chemistry, and with it went the interest in the inter-relatedness of matter and spirit, and the interdependence of medicine and psychology. There developed the idea of combating speculation with logic and deductive reason. With the scientific revolution of the early nineteenth century, chemists were able to identify for the first time the various constituents of the oils, and give them specific names such as ‘geraniol’, ‘citronellol’ and ‘cineol’. In the Yearbook of Pharmacy and Transactions of the British Pharmaceutical Conference in 1907, we find for example: A pilea of undetermined botanical species has yielded a white essential oil with an odour of turpentine … A small amount of pinene was detected but its other constituents have not yet been identified. This oil is of interest as being the first instance of an essential oil derived from the family Uricaceae.6 It is ironic that this enthusiastic research laid the ground for the development of the oils’ synthetic counterparts, and the growth of the modern drug industry. Herbal medicine and aromatic remedies lost their credibility as methods of treatment went out of the hands of the individual and into those of professionals. By the middle of the twentieth century, the role of essential oils had been reduced almost entirely to their employment in perfumes, cosmetics and foodstuffs. 2. AROMATHERAPY AND HERBALISM The Birth of Aromatherapy The term ‘aromatherapy’ was first coined in 1928 by Gattefossé, a French chemist working in his family’s perfumier business. He became fascinated with the therapeutic possibilities of the oils after discovering by accident that lavender was able to rapidly heal a severe burn on his hand and help prevent scarring. He also found that many of the essential oils were more effective in their totality than their synthetic substitutes or their isolated active ingredients. As early as 1904 Cuthbert Hall had shown that the antiseptic power of eucalyptus oil in its natural form was stronger than its isolated main active constituent, ‘eucalyptol’ or ‘cineol’. Another French doctor and scientist, Dr Jean Valnet, used essential oils as part of his programme by which he was able to successfully treat specific medical and psychiatric disorders, the results of which were published in 1964 as Aromatherapie. The work of Valnet was studied by Madame Marguerite Maury who applied his research to her beauty therapy, in which she aimed to revitalize her clients by creating a ‘strictly personal aromatic complex which she adapted to the subject’s temperament and particular health problems. Hence, going far beyond any simple aesthetic objective, perfumed essences when correctly selected, represent many medicinal agents.’7 In some respects, the word ‘aromatherapy’ can be misleading because it suggests that it is a form of healing which works exclusively through our sense of smell, and on the emotions. This is not the case for, apart from its scent, each essential oil has an individual combination of constituents which interacts with the body’s chemistry in a direct manner, which then in turn affects certain organs or systems as a whole. For example, when the oils are used externally in the form of a massage treatment, they are easily absorbed via the skin and transported throughout the body. This can be demonstrated by rubbing a clove of garlic on the soles of the feet; the volatile oil content will be taken into the blood and the odour will appear on the breath a little while later. It is interesting to note that different essential oils are absorbed through the skin at varying rates, for example: Turpentine: 20 mins. Eucalyptus and thyme: 20–40 mins. Anise, bergamot and lemon: 40–60 mins. Citronella, pine, lavender and geranium: 60–80 mins. Coriander, rue and peppermint: 100–120 mins. It is therefore important to recognize that essential oils have three distinct modes of action with regard to how they inter-relate with the human body: pharmacological, physiological and psychological. The pharmacological effect is concerned with the chemical changes which take place when an essential oil enters the bloodstream and reacts with the hormones and enzymes etc; the physiological mode is concerned with the way in which an essential oil affects the systems of the body, whether they are sedated or stimulated, etc; the psychological effect takes place when an essence is inhaled, and an individual responds to its odour. With relation to the first two points, aromatherapy has a great deal in common with the tradition of medical herbalism or phytotherapy – in other words, it is not simply the aroma which is important but also the chemical interaction between the oils and the body, and the physical changes which are brought about. Herbal Medicine The practice of aromatherapy could be seen as part of the larger field of herbal medicine, since the essential oil is only one of many ways in which a plant can be prepared as a remedy. Since all essential oils are derived directly from plants, it can be valuable to see them within a botanical context rather than as isolated products. In some ways the use of aromatic oils for therapeutic purposes benefits from being placed within a herbal context not only because it gives us further insight into their characteristics, but because the two forms of therapy are not synonymous, but complementary. Although most plants which yield essential oils are also used in medical herbalism, it is important to distinguish the therapeutic qualities of a particular oil from those of the herb taken as a whole or prepared in another manner. German chamomile, for example, is used extensively in the form of a herbal preparation such as an infusion, tincture or decoction, apart from being utilized for its volatile oil. Chamazulene, a major constituent of the oil, helps to account for the herb’s age-old reputation as a general relaxant and soothing skin care remedy, due to its pain-relieving, antispasmodic, wound-healing and anti-inflammatory activities. For the treatment of nervous conditions, insomnia and dermal irritation or disease, the essential oil is both useful and effective. But although the aromatic principle of the plant plays a central role in its overall character, the herb also contains a bitter component (anthemic acid), tannins (tannic acid), mucilage and a glycoside among other things. The overall effect of the herb is the result of the action of all its pharmacologically active constituents which in the case of chamomile or Matricaria includes the astringency of the tannins and the stimulation of the bitters. The volatile oil is, of course, less concentrated in the form of an infusion, tincture or decoction, the potency of the oil is reduced (and inherently the safety margin increased), thus making the herbal preparation more suited to internal use. Similarly with peppermint. Whilst the oil is eminently suited to the treatment of respiratory conditions as an inhalant, due in particular to its antispasmodic and antiseptic actions, for the longer term treatment of digestive disorders it is better to use extracts from the whole herb, where the action of the volatile oil is supported by the presence of bitters and tannins. In addition, in herbal medicine, the effect of one herb is usually supported and backed up by combining it with others. Neither is it correct to assume that the essential oil is always the most active or therapeutically useful part of a plant. For example, although meadowsweet contains an essential oil outstanding in its antiseptic strength (according to Cavel,8 3.3cc of meadowsweet essence renders infertile 1000cc of microbic cultures in sewage, compared to 5.6cc of phenol per 1000cc), it also possesses several other valuable components, notably salicylic glycosides which are characterized by their excellent pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory qualities. Indeed, the familiar drug aspirin, being derived from salicylic acid, is named after this herb, its old country name being ‘spiraea’. The kernels of the (bitter and sweet) almond tree are used to produce a fixed oil commonly known as sweet almond oil, which has a great many cosmetic uses. The kernels from the bitter almond tree, which are used to produce the essential oil which gives marzipan its characteristic taste, also contain cyanide, the well-known poison, in its unrefined form. This shows that there can be a great difference in the properties of a plant, even the same part of a plant, depending upon how it has been prepared. Therapeutic Guidelines As a general rule which is in line with the present-day aromatherapy ‘code of practice’, it is best to use essential oils as external remedies only. This is mainly due to the high concentration of the oils and the potential irritation or damage that they can cause to the mucous membranes and delicate stomach lining in undiluted form. There even seems to be some kind of natural order in this scheme, in that volatile oils mix readily with oils and ointments suited to external application, which are absorbed readily through the skin and vaporize easily for inhalation. When inhaled, they can affect an individual’s mood or feelings, and at the same time cause physiological changes in the body. Indeed, in a Japanese experiment carried out in 1963, it was found that the effects of essential oils on the digestive system were likely to be stronger if they were inhaled than if they were ingested. Herbs, on the other hand, yield up many of their qualities to water and alcohol which are appropriate for internal use but, lacking the concentrated aromatic element, they do not have the same subtle effects on the mind and emotions. These are only superficial guidelines, for there are always exceptions to the rule. Plantain, for example, is an excellent wound-healing herb valuable for external use, although it does not contain any essential oil. Nor can we ignore the fact that a great many aromatic oils are used for flavouring our food and beverages and are consumed daily in minute amounts. Peppermint oil, for example, is used in a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, confectionery and prepared savoury foods, although the highest average use does not exceed 0.104 per cent. The mint oils, which include spearmint and cornmint, are also used extensively by the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries in products such as toothpaste, cough and cold remedies, and as fragrance components in soaps, creams, lotions, as well as colognes and perfumes. In addition, cornmint is frequently used as the starting material for the production of ‘menthol’ for use in the drug industry. It can be seen that the use of essential oils covers a wide and varied spectrum. On the one hand they share the holistic qualities of natural plant remedies, although it is true that some herbalists view essential oils in much the same light as they regard synthetic drugs, being a ‘part’ of the whole, rather than the entire herb. On the other hand, they play an active role in the modern pharmaceutical industry, either in their entirety or in the form of isolated constituents such as ‘phenol’ or ‘menthol’. It is not the aim of this book to glorify natural remedies (some of which are in fact highly toxic) at the expense of scientific progress, nor to uphold the principles of our present-day drug-orientated culture, but simply to provide information about the oils themselves in their multifaceted nature. Safety Precautions Safety Data: Always check with specific SAFETY DATA before using a new oil, especially with regard to toxicity levels, phototoxicity, dermal irritation and sensitization. Contra-indications: Take note of any contra-indications when using particular oils. For example, fennel, hyssop and sage should be avoided by epileptics; clary sage should not be used while drinking alcohol; hops should not be used by anyone suffering from depression. High Blood Pressure: Avoid the following oils in cases of high blood pressure: hyssop, rosemary, sage (all types) and thyme. Homoeopathy: Homoeopathic treatment is not compatible with the following oils: black pepper, camphor, eucalyptus and the mint oils. Pregnancy: During pregnancy use essential oils in half the usual stated amount. Take note of those oils which are contra-indicated in pregnancy. Babies and Children: Use with care, in accordance with age. Babies (0–12 months) – use 1 drop of lavender, rose, chamomile or mandarin diluted in 1 tsp base oil for massage or bathing. Infants (1–5 years) – use 2–3 drops of ‘safe’ essential oils (non-toxic and non irritant to the skin), diluted in 1 tsp base oil for massage or bathing. Children (6–12 years) – use as for adults but in half the stated amount. Teenagers (over 12 years) – use as directed for adults. 3. THE BODY–ACTIONS AND APPLICATIONS How Essential Oils Work The therapeutic potential of essential oils, like other plant-derived remedies, has yet to be fully realized. Although numerous medical herbs have been utilized since antiquity, many of which have been exploited to provide the biologically active compounds which form the basis for most of our modern drugs (such as quinine and cocaine), there is still a great deal to be learnt about their precise pharmacology. This is particularly true of aromatic oils, which by their very nature have such a concentrated yet multifaceted make-up. In addition, ‘only a small proportion of the world flora has been examined for pharmacologically active compounds, but with the ever-increasing danger of plants becoming extinct, there is a real risk that many important plant sources may be lost’.9 Modern research has largely confirmed the traditionally held beliefs regarding the therapeutic uses of particular plants, although with time the terminology has changed. A herb such as basil, at one time described as a ‘protection against evil’, or ‘good for the heart’ whose scent ‘taketh away sorrowfulness’, may in modern usage be described as an excellent prophylactic, nerve tonic and antidepressant. Like herbal remedies, an essential oil can cover a wide field of activities; indeed the same herb or oil (such as lemon balm) can stimulate certain systems of the body while sedating or relaxing others. In order to gain a clearer understanding of the way essential oils work, and some of their particular areas of activity, it may be helpful to take an overall view of the systems of the human body. The Skin Skin problems are often the surface manifestation of a deeper condition, such as a build-up of toxins in the blood, hormonal imbalance or nervous and emotional difficulties. In this area the versatility of essential oils is particularly valuable because they are able to combat such complaints on a variety of levels. Since essential oils are soluble in oil and alcohol and impart their scent to water, they provide the ideal ingredient for cosmetics and general skin care as well as for the treatment of specific diseases. Within this context the following activities are of particular benefit: Antiseptics for cuts, insect bites, spots, etc; for example, thyme, sage, eucalyptus, tea tree, clove, lavender and lemon. Anti-inflammatory oils for eczema, infected wounds, bumps, bruises, etc; for example, German and Roman chamomile, lavender and yarrow. Fungicidal oils for athletes foot, candida, ringworm, etc; for example, lavender, tea tree, myrrh, patchouli and sweet marjoram. Granulation stimulating or cicatrising(healing) agents for burns, cuts, scars, stretch marks, etc; for example, lavender, chamomile, rose, neroli, frankincense and geranium. Deodorants for excessive perspiration, cleaning wounds, etc; for example, bergamot, lavender, thyme, juniper, cypress, Spanish sage, lemongrass. Insect repellents and parasiticides for lice, fleas, scabies, ticks, mosquitos, ants, moths, etc; for example, spike lavender, garlic, geranium, citronella, eucalyptus, clove, camphor, Atlas cedarwood. The Circulation, Muscles and Joints Essential oils are easily absorbed via the skin and mucosa into the bloodstream, affecting the nature of the circulation as a whole. Oils with a rubefacient or warming effect not only cause a better local blood circulation, but also influence the inner organs. They bring a warmth and glow to the surface of the skin and can provide considerable pain relief through their analgesic or numbing effect. Such oils can relieve local inflammation by setting free mediators in the body which in turn cause the blood vessels to expand, so the blood is able to move more quickly and the swelling is reduced. Some oils like hyssop tend to have a balancing or regulating effect on the circulatory system as a whole, reducing the blood pressure if it is too high or stimulating the system if it is sluggish. Hypotensives for high blood pressure, palpitations, stress, etc; for example, sweet marjoram, ylang ylang, lavender, lemon. Hypertensives for poor circulation, chilblains, listlessness, etc; for example, rosemary, spike lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme. Rubefacients for rheumatism of the joints, muscular stiffness, sciatica, lumbago, etc; for example, black pepper, juniper, rosemary, camphor, sweet marjoram. Depurative or antitoxic agents for arthritis, gout, congestion, skin eruptions, etc; for example, juniper, lemon, fennel, lovage. Lymphatic stimulants for cellulitis, obesity, water retention, etc; for example, grapefruit, lime, fennel, lemon, mandarin, white birch. Circulatory tonics and astringents for swellings, inflammations, varicose veins, etc; for example, cypress, yarrow, lemon. The Respiratory System Nose, throat and lung infections are conditions which respond very well to treatment with essential oils. Inhalation is a very effective way of utilizing their properties, for ‘although after arriving in the bronchi the main part will be exhaled directly by the lungs, they cause an increased bronchial secretion (a protective reaction) which is beneficial for many respiratory ailments’.10 By inhalation they are absorbed into the blood circulation even faster than by oral application. In addition, most essential oils which are absorbed from the stomach are then excreted via the lungs, only a small part in the urine. Expectorants for catarrh, sinusitis, coughs, bronchitis, etc; for example, eucalyptus, pine, thyme, myrrh, sandalwood, fennel. Antispasmodics for colic, asthma, dry cough, whooping cough, etc; for example, hyssop, cypress, Atlas cedarwood, bergamot, chamomile, cajeput. Balsamic agents for colds, chills, congestion, etc; for example, benzoin, frankincense, Tolu balsam, Peru balsam, myrrh. Antiseptics for ’flu, colds, sore throat, tonsillitis, gingivitis, etc; for example, thyme, sage, eucalyptus, hyssop, pine, cajeput, tea tree, borneol. The Digestive System Although it is not recommended that essential oils be taken orally, they can by external application effect certain changes in the digestive processes. However, whereas herbal medicine has many remedies at its disposal for a wide variety of stomach, gall bladder and liver complaints, such as dandelion, marshmallow, chamomile and meadowsweet, much of their effectiveness is based on a combination of aromatic components, together with bitters, tannins and mucilage, which are absent in the volatile oil alone. The external application of essential oils in problems of the digestive system though effective, is consequently somewhat limited compared to the internal use of herbal remedies. Antispasmodics for spasm, pain, indigestion, etc; for example, chamomile, caraway, fennel, orange, peppermint, lemon balm, aniseed, cinnamon. Carminatives and stomachics for flatulent dyspepsia, aerophagia, nausea, etc; for example, angelica, basil, fennel, chamomile, peppermint, mandarin. Cholagogues for increasing the flow of bile and stimulating the gall bladder; for example, caraway, lavender, peppermint and borneol. Hepatics for liver congestion, jaundice, etc; for example, lemon, lime, rosemary, peppermint. Aperitifs for loss of appetite, anorexia, etc; for example, aniseed, angelica, orange, ginger, garlic. The Genito-urinary and Endocrine Systems Like the digestive system, the reproductive organs can be affected by absorption via the skin into the bloodstream, as well as through hormonal changes. Some essential oils such as rose and jasmine have an affinity for the reproductive system having a general strengthening effect as well as helping to combat specific complaints like menstrual problems, genital infections and sexual difficulties. Other oils contain plant hormones which mimic the corresponding human hormones; oils such as hops, sage and fennel have been found to contain a form of oestrogen that influences the menstrual cycle, lactation and secondary sexual characteristics. Oestrogen also helps maintain a healthy circulation, good muscle and skin tone and strong bones in both men and women. Other essential oils are known to influence the levels of hormone secretion of other glands, including the thyroid gland (which governs growth and metabolism), the adrenal medulla (which deals with stress reactions) and the adrenal cortex (which governs several processes including the production of oestrogen and androgen, the male sex hormone). Antispasmodics for menstrual cramp (dysmenorrhoea), labour pains, etc; for example, sweet marjoram, chamomile, clary sage, jasmine, lavender. Emmenagogues for scanty periods, lack of periods (amenorrhoea), etc; for example, chamomile, fennel, hyssop, juniper, sweet marjoram, peppermint. Uterine tonics and regulators for pregnancy, excess menstruation (menorrhagia), PMT, etc; for example, clary sage, jasmine, rose, myrrh, frankincense, lemon balm. Antiseptic and bactericidal agents for leucorrhoea, vaginal pruritis, thrush, etc; for example, bergamot, chamomile, myrrh, rose, tea tree. Galactagogues for increasing milk flow; for example, fennel, jasmine, anise, lemongrass (sage, mint and parsley reduce it). Aphrodisiacs for impotence and frigidity, etc; for example, black pepper, cardomon, clary sage, neroli, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, patchouli, ylang ylang. Anaphrodisiacs for reducing sexual desire; for example, sweet marjoram, camphor. Adrenal stimulants for anxiety, stress-related conditions, etc; for example, basil, geranium, rosemary, borneol, sage, pine, savory. With regard to the kidneys, bladder and urinary system in general, it is difficult to bring about results simply by using essential oils. According to recent research, ‘the diuretic effects of essential oils are virtually non-existent’.12 In addition, the traditional diuretic agents such as juniper, lovage and parsley seed are considered unsuitable as essential oils for internal use due to toxicity levels and possible kidney damage; herb teas of fennel, dandelion or chamomile provide a milder alternative. Bathing and using a douche can help control urinary infections, especially when they are associated with nervous or stress-related symptoms. Urinary antiseptics for cystitis, urethritis, etc; for example, bergamot, chamomile, tea tree, sandalwood. The Immune System Virtually all essential oils have bactericidal properties and by promoting the production of white blood cells, they can help prevent and treat infectious illness. It is these properties that gave aromatic herbs and oils such high repute with regard to infections such as malaria and typhoid in the tropics and epidemics of plague in the Middle Ages. ‘People who use essential oils all the time … mostly have a high level of resistance to illness, catching fewer colds, etc, than average and recovering quickly if they do.’11 Bactericidal and antiviral agents (prophylactics) for protection against colds, ’flu, etc; for example, tea tree, cajeput, niaouli, basil, lavender, eucalyptus, bergamot, camphor, clove, rosemary. Febrifuge agents for reducing fever and temperature, etc; for example, angelica, basil, peppermint, thyme, sage, lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree. Sudorifics and diaphoretics for promoting sweating, eliminating toxins, etc; for example, rosemary, thyme, hyssop, chamomile. The Nervous System Recent research shows that the properties of many oils correspond to the traditionally held views: chamomile, bergamot, sandalwood, lavender and sweet marjoram were found to have a sedative effect on the central nervous system; jasmine, peppermint, basil, clove and ylang ylang were found to have a stimulating effect. Neroli was found to be stimulating and lemon to be sedating, contrary to popular belief. Some oils are known to be ‘adaptogens’, that is, they have a balancing or normalizing effect on the systems of the body: geranium and rosewood were either sedative or stimulating according to each situation and individual. Words like ‘relaxing’ and ‘uplifting’ often have more to do with odour description and emotional response rather than physiological effect – although the two are related. Consequently, oils such as bergamot, lemon balm or lemon can be sedating to the nervous system, but reviving to the ‘spirit’. Conversely, oils such as jasmine, ylang ylang and neroli can be nerve stimulants yet soothing and relaxing on a more subtle emotional level. Sedatives for nervous tension, stress, insomnia, etc; for example, chamomile, bergamot, sandalwood, lavender, sweet marjoram, lemon balm, hops, valerian, lemon. Stimulants for convalescence, lack of strength, nervous fatigue, etc; for example, basil, jasmine, peppermint, ylang ylang, neroli, angelica, rosemary. Nerve tonics (nervines) for strengthening the nervous system as a whole; for example, chamomile, clary sage, juniper, lavender, marjoram, rosemary. The Mind This area is perhaps the most discussed and least understood area of activity regarding essential oils. There is no doubt that throughout history aromatic oils have been used for their power to influence the emotions and states of mind: this is the basis for their employment as incense for religious and ritualistic purposes. It is already known that two olfactory nerve tracts run right into the limbic system (the part of the brain concerned with memory and emotion), which means that scents can evoke an immediate and powerful response which defies rational analysis. Recent research at Warwick University, England, and Toho University, Japan, has aimed to put these traditionally held beliefs and applications into a scientific context. They came up with two types of reaction to odours which they called a ‘hard-wired’ response or a ‘soft-wired’ response: the first type is ingrained from before birth and is purely instinctual; the second is learned or acquired later on. The first type may be, for example, the scent of the mother’s skin or a sexual signal; the second might be the fragrance of honeysuckle, reminiscent of a childhood garden. But to what extent is the effect of a particular oil dependent upon its chemical or physiological make-up, and to what extent does it rely upon a belief or an association? In dealing with the psychological or emotional responses to the scent of a particular oil, this kind of classification becomes much more difficult: surely here it is more appropriate to consider the temperament of each individual within a given context, rather than predict a set reaction. At the Psychology of Perfumery Conference 1991, it was generally agreed that ‘while pharmacological effects may be very similar from one person to another, psychological effects are bound to be different.’13 The effect of an odour on a human being was dependent on a variety of factors which include: 1. how the odour was applied, 2. how much was applied, 3. the circumstances in which it was applied, 4. the person to whom it was applied (age, sex, personality type), 5. what mood they were in to start with, 6. what previous associations they may have with the odour, 7. anosmia, or inability to smell (certain scents). We must, therefore, seek odoriferous substances which present affinities with the human being we intend to treat, those which will compensate for his deficiencies and those which will make his faculties blossom. It was by searching for this remedy that we encountered the individual prescription (IP), which on all points represents the identity of the individual.14 When we begin to consider individual needs, essential oils start to demonstrate the versatility of their nature. The rose is a good example; a flower which has been associated with beauty, love, and spiritual depth in folklore and religious texts (especially Sufi) but which also has a long tradition of usage for physical conditions such as skin problems, regulating the female cycle, promoting the circulation, purifying the blood and as a heart tonic. When we smell the fragrance of the rose, it carries all these rich associations with it, affecting our mind and body simultaneously, where the effect is moulded by personal experience. ‘The general trend of modern thought is strictly dualistic; psychic and somatic happenings are treated as mutually exclusive rather than inclusive.’15 Trying to disentangle spirit from matter leads nowhere; as David Hoffman says, ‘Mind and Matter are mutually enfolded projections of a higher reality which is neither matter nor consciousness.’16 4. HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS AT HOME Essential oils can be used simply and effectively at home in a variety of ways, both for their scent and for their cosmetic and medicinal qualities. They can be used as perfumes and to revive pot pourris; they can be added to the bath and used to make individual beauty preparations. They can also be employed in the treatment of minor first aid cases and to help prevent and relieve many common complaints such as headaches, colds, period pains and aching muscles (see Therapeutic Index p. 199). They should always be stored in a cool place in dark bottles to protect them from photo-oxidation with as little contact with air as possible, and kept out of reach of children. Some home uses for many essential oils can be found in the main body of the book, but the following list suggests a few possible uses for individual essences and shows some of the ways in which they can be applied. Massage This is the method favoured by professional aromatherapists, who usually carry out a full body massage. Specific essential oils are chosen to suit the condition and temperament of the patient, and blended with a base oil, such as sweet almond oil or grapeseed oil. The essential oil content in a blend should usually be between 1 per cent and 3 per cent depending on the type of disorder. As a general rule, physical ailments like rheumatism or indigestion demand a stronger concentration than the more emotional or nervous conditions. A rough guideline is to say that 20 drops of essential oil is equivalent to one millilitre, so to make a blend it is possible to use the following proportions: Essential oil Base oil 20 to 60 drops 100ml 7 to 25 drops 25ml 3 to 5 drops 1 tsp Massage is a relaxing and nourishing experience in itself, not least because of the unspoken communication based on touch, but it also ensures that the oils are effectively absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. For general well-being it is beneficial to practise self-massage on specific areas of the body, especially concentrating on the feet and hands. It is also useful to rub those particular parts of the body that are causing discomfort; for example, peppermint (in dilution) can be rubbed on the stomach in a clockwise direction to ease indigestion; marjoram can help to relax the neck and shoulders if they are stiff. Skin Oils and Lotions The essential oils are prepared in much the same manner as they would be for a massage, except that the base oil should include the more nourishing oils such as jojoba, avocado or apricot kernel oil. The emphasis here is on treating the skin itself and dealing with particular problems. A gentle circular movement of the fingers is often enough for the oils to be absorbed; it is important not to drag on the skin, especially in the delicate areas of the neck and around the eyes. Rose and neroli are good for dry or mature complexions; geranium, bergamot and lemon can help combat acne and greasy skin. A few drops of essential oil can also be mixed into a bland cream or lotion, or added to a basic face mask, which might include oatmeal, honey or clay together with the pulp of various fruits. In some conditions, such as cold sores (herpes) and athlete’s foot, it is better to use an alcohol-based lotion rather than an oil or cream. This can be made by adding 6 drops of essential oil to 5ml of isopropyl alcohol or vodka. This mixture can be further diluted in a litre of boiled and cooled water for treating open cuts or sores, such as those caused by chickenpox or genital herpes. Hot and Cold Compresses This is a very effective way of using essential oils to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. A hot compress can be made by filling a bowl with very hot water, then adding 4 or 5 drops of essential oil. Dip a folded piece of cotton cloth, cotton wool or a flannel into the bowl, squeeze out the excess water and place the cloth on the affected area until it has cooled to blood heat, then repeat. Hot compresses are particularly useful for backache, rheumatism and arthritis, abscesses, earache and toothache. Cold compresses are made in a similar way, using ice cold rather than hot water. This type of compress is useful for headaches (apply to forehead or back of neck), sprains, strains and other hot, swollen conditions. Hair Care The hair can also be enhanced by the use of a few drops of essential oils in the final hair rinse or added straight to a mild shampoo. An alcohol-based scalp rub can also be made by adding 5ml of an essential oil to 100ml of vodka – this method can be used to condition the hair or to get rid of unwanted parasites such as lice and fleas. An excellent conditioning treatment for different types of hair can be made by adding about 3 per cent (or 60 drops) of an essential oil to a nourishing base oil such as olive oil with jojoba or sweet almond oil, massaging it into the scalp, then wrapping the hair in warm towels for an hour or two. Oils such as rosemary, West Indian bay and chamomile all help to condition and encourage healthy hair growth; lavender can be used to repel lice and fleas; bergamot and tea tree can help control dandruff. Flower Waters It is possible to make toilet or flower water at home by adding about 20 to 30 drops of essential oil to a 100ml bottle of spring or de-ionized water, leaving it for a few days in the dark and then filtering it using a coffee filter paper. Although essential oils do not dissolve in water they do impart their scent to it as well as their properties. This method can be very helpful in the prevention and treatment of skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis and eczema, and to generally tone and cleanse the complexion. Almost any oil can be used, but the more traditional ones include rose, orange blossom, lavender and petitgrain; alternatively, blended flower waters can be made to suit specific complexions. Baths One of the easiest and most pleasurable ways of using essential oils is to add 5 to 10 drops of oil to the bath water when the tub is full. Aromatic bathing has traditionally been used as an enjoyable and sensual experience, especially by the Romans, but also to treat a wide range of complaints, including irritating skin conditions, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism and arthritis. An essence such as ylang ylang can be enjoyed as a euphoric aromatic experience in itself; chamomile or lavender can help to relieve stress-related complaints such as anxiety or insomnia; rosemary or pine can help soothe aching limbs. Take care to avoid those oils which may be irritating to the skin. Vaporization A delightful way to scent a room, free of the dust or smoke that can be caused by incense, is to use an oil burner, or aromatic diffuser. Alternatively, a few drops of oil can be placed on a light bulb ring or added to a small bowl of water placed on a radiator. Specific oils can be chosen to create different atmospheres: frankincense and cedarwood have been used traditionally in a ritual context, to create a peaceful and relaxed mood. Vaporized oils such as citronella or lemongrass also provide an excellent way of keeping insects at bay or clearing the air of unwanted smells like cigarette smoke. At one time, the leaves of juniper and rosemary were burnt to help control epidemics and purify the air. Such oils can help keep the enviroment free of germs and inhibit the development of infections like the common cold or ’flu. An oil such as myrtle or eucalyptus can be used in the bedroom at night to help clear breathing difficulties or children’s coughs. A few drops may also be put on the pillow or onto a handkerchief for use throughout the day. Always ensure that the oil burner is in a safe place and out of reach of children or pets. Steam Inhalation This method is especially suited to sinus, throat and chest infections. Add about 5 drops of an oil such as peppermint or thyme to a bowl of hot water, cover the head and bowl with a towel and breathe deeply for a minute – then repeat. Sitting in a steaming hot bath is another way of inhaling a certain amount of essential oil, but obviously it is not so concentrated. This type of application can also act as a kind of facial sauna: oils like lemon or tea tree can help to unclog the pores and clear the complexion. Douche This can be useful to help combat common genito-urinary infections such as thrush, cystitis or pruritis. In the case of candida or thrush, add between 5 and 10 drops of tea tree to a litre of warm water and shake well. This mixture can either be used in a sitz bath, bidet or put into an enema/douche pot, which can be bought from some chemists. Certain oils such as lavender and cypress can also aid the healing process after childbirth. Neat Application Generally speaking, essential oils are not applied to the skin in an undiluted form. However, there are some exceptions to the rule: lavender, for example, can be applied undiluted to burns, cuts and insect bites, tea tree to spots, and lemon to warts. Certain essential oils such as sandalwood, jasmine or rose make excellent perfumes, dabbed neat on the skin. Beware of those oils which are known to be phototoxic (discolour the skin when exposed to direct sunlight) such as bergamot; irritants such as red thyme; or skin sensitizers such as cinnamon bark. It can also be interesting to make an individual fragrance by blending a selection of oils – see Chapter 5. Certain oils may also be used to perfume linen and clothes or rejuvenate pot pourris: patchouli has been used for centuries in India to scent cloth. Internal Use Due to the high concentration of essential oils (and the high toxicity of a handful of essences) it is not recommended that they be taken at home in this manner. The International Federation of Aromatherapists also advises against this method of application. However, since essential oils are readily absorbed through the skin, they can affect the internal organs and systems of the body by external use. In a condition such as arthritis, for example, which indicates a build up of toxins in the joints, the use of dietary measures and herbal remedies can be greatly enhanced by the external application of oils such as juniper and white birch which help to purify the system as well as reduce pain and inflammation at the site of the swelling. ESSENTIAL OILS SHOULD NOT BE USED AT HOME TO TREAT SERIOUS MEDICAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS. 5. CREATIVE BLENDING Therapeutic and Aesthetic Properties Essential oils are blended principally for two reasons: for their medical effects or to create a perfume. When we are using pure essential oils, these are not two different categories but rather two ends of a scale. At one end of the scale we are dealing with the therapeutic action on a purely physical condition such as backache – at the other end, with an emotional or aesthetic response to a particular odour. But, of course, the individual who is suffering from lumbago also has a psychic or emotional disposition of which they may or may not be aware, which will naturally respond in a more subtle way to a particular blend of oils. Similarly, when we create a personal perfume which expresses the unique personality of an individual through fragrance, it has a generally remedial effect on the person as a whole. Therefore, when we are blending oils, even if it is principally for their medicinal properties, it is always worth keeping the fragrance in mind. It is more pleasing to use a remedy that smells attractive to the individual concerned. Some scents can be quite incompatible – a predominantly floral blend, for example, would be unacceptable to the majority of men. How to choose the oils and combine them is very much a matter of personal choice, but there are some useful guidelines to keep in mind. Correct Proportions For therapeutic purposes, essential oils are usually diluted before being applied to the skin. To make a massage or body oil the essential oil or oils should first be mixed with a light base oil such as grapeseed or sweet almond oil. (See also Chapter 4. How to Use Essential Oils at Home.) Other oils that could be used for the base include sunflower, hazelnut, safflower, peanut, soya or corn oil – mineral oils, however, are best avoided. The more nourishing and generally thicker oils which include jojoba, avocado, peach or apricot kernel, borage, olive, sesame, evening primrose and also some infused oils such as calendula or St Johns wort can also be included (up to about 10 per cent) in the treatment of specific conditions. A small quantity of wheatgerm oil (about 5 per cent) added to the blend will help to preserve it. The essential oil content in a blend should usually be between 1 per cent and 3 per cent depending on the type of disorder; as a general rule, physical ailments demand a stronger concentration than the more emotional or nervous conditions. Some oils, such as the high quality florals including rose and jasmine, have more diffusive power than most other essences – this means that a very small percentage is all that is needed to have a powerful effect, or to influence the character of an entire blend. Synergies The proportions of each essential oil in a blend can also be vital to the effectiveness of the remedy as a whole (many aromatherapy books contain exact recipes for specific disorders). Some oils blended together have a mutually enhancing effect upon one another, so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: for example, the anti-inflammatory action of chamomile is supported by being mixed with lavender. When the blended oils are working harmoniously together, then the combination is called a ‘synergy’. ‘In order to create a good synergy, you must take into account not only the symptom to be treated but also the underlying cause of the disorder, the biological terrain, and the psychological or emotional factors involved.’17 This is very much the conclusion that Madame Maury reached when she prescribed an IP (or Individual Prescription) for her patients, in which the blended essences were matched not only to their physical requirements, but also to their circumstances and temperament. In general, oils of the same botanical family blend well together. Also those which share common constituents usually mix well, such as the camphoraceous oils containing a good percentage of cineol, which includes all the members of the Myrtaceae group (eucalyptus, tea tree, cajeput, myrtle, etc.) but also many herbs including spike lavender, rosemary and Spanish sage. Most floral fragrances blend well together, as do the woods, balsams, citrus oils and spices, etc. Rosewood and linaloe combine well together, although they belong to different botanical families, since they both contain a high proportion of linalol and linalyl acetate. Some oils such as rose, jasmine, oakmoss and lavender seem to enhance just about any blend, and can be found (mainly in an adulterated form) amongst the ingredients of most commercial perfumes – ‘no perfume without rose’. Some combinations, on the other hand, have an inhibiting power over one another. Essences with a predominance of aldehydes (such as citronella oil containing citronellal), those with mainly ketones (such as sage containing thujone) and those with high amounts of phenols (such as clove oil containing eugenol), when combined with each other tend to ‘pull’ in different directions. However, knowing the precise chemical make-up of each oil is not necessary for creating a good synergy; it is also a matter of getting to know the ‘character’ of each essential oil and trusting the intuition. Fragrant Harmony In the nineteenth century, a Frenchman called Piesse instigated a new approach to perfumery work by classifying odours according to the notes in a musical scale. He transposed the idea of musical harmony into the realm of fragrances where the corresponding notes to each scent formed perfectly balanced chords or harmonics when they were combined together. The purist vision of Piesse has long since been discarded but continues to provide inspiration in perfumery work today since the oils are still divided into ‘top’, ‘middle’ and ‘base’ notes. The top note has a fresh, light quality which is immediately apparent, due to the fast evaporation rate. The middle note is the heart of the fragrance, which usually forms the bulk of the blend, whose scent emerges some time after the first impression. The base note is a rich, heavy scent that emerges slowly and lingers. It also acts as a fixative to stop the lighter oils from dispersing too quickly. Ylang ylang is said to be a well-balanced perfume oil in its own right. It could be described as having a very powerful sweet floral top note, a creamy-rich middle note, and a soft floral, slightly spicy base note. For the sake of simplicity, each essential oil is also classified in this way according to its dominant character – although there are many different opinions on the matter! The following list provides nothing more than a general idea: Top notes tea tree, eucalyptus, mandarin, lemon, basil Middle notes geranium, lavender, marjoram, rosewood, rosemary Base notes patchouli, rose, jasmine, benzoin, frankincense, myrrh A well-balanced perfume is said to contain elements from each of these different categories, the quantities of each determining whether it is a heavy oriental-type scent or a light floral aroma. Although this theory is used primarily in fragrance work, the same principles can also be applied to aromatherapy and personalized remedies. Personal Perfumes Creating a perfume or an individual fragrance is like painting a picture or making a meal: it needs the correct balance of colours or flavours, neither too sparse nor too crowded; it also generally has a theme. A perfume should have a focus around which other fragrances unite. For example, if we want to create an oriental fragrance or a heart-warming, elevating type of blend, then woody or musky oils and balsams will play a central role. The exotic perfume ‘Shalimar’ by Guerlain contains a predominance of such oils, containing among its ingredients Peru balsam, benzoin, opopanax, vanilla, patchouli, rose, jasmine, orris and vetiver as well as rosewood, lemon, bergamot and mandarin. Home perfumes need not be so complex: rose and benzoin (base notes), rosewood (middle note) and bergamot (top note) would together make a pleasing combination with an uplifting, warming quality. Rosewood is an oil which can be used to round off sharp edges, as well as providing a good bridge between citrus and floral or woody-balsamic notes. The overall character of a perfume also benefits from unusual or diverse combinations which can help to give personality to an otherwise ‘flat’ fragrance. A floral fragrance with a hint of spice such as clove or cinnamon can add depth and interest, but the percentage of such additions is critical because they can easily upset the balance. A skilled perfumier can identify some 30,000 different odours, but to begin with it is best to become familiar with a few common oils and develop from there. By initially keeping to a maximum of three or four oils per blend it is possible to keep in touch with their individual scents and qualities, then slowly build up a personal vocabulary of odours. Most commercial perfumes are diluted in alcohol; a typical eau de cologne contains no more than 3–5 per cent aromatic material, usually synthetic. Home-made perfumes are best made up simply of pure essences, which last longer and may be used neat on the skin or in the bath, etc. Personal experimentation is the only way to really find out what works, for the unique quality of essential oils is that they possess an array of therapeutic possibilities complemented by a vast spectrum of fragrances which can be mixed in endless combinations! In the words of John Steele: Creative blending is an aesthetic alchemical process … learning to ‘listen through the nose’. To listen is to be receptive, to be empty. Every drop shifts the orchestration of olfactory vibrations, the ‘song of the blend’. A blend is not made at once, rather it evolves, it organically grows and interacts not only with the essential oils, but also with the blender. 18 6. A GUIDE TO AROMATIC MATERIALS Habitat Over thirty families of plants, with some ninety species, represent the main oil-producing group. The majority of spices (allspice, cardomon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, etc.) originate in tropical countries; conversely, the majority of herbs grow in temperate climates (bay, cumin, dill, marjoram, fennel, lavender, rosemary, thyme, etc.). The same plant grown in a different region and under different conditions can produce essential oils of widely diverse characteristics, which are known as ‘chemotypes’. Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), for example, produces several chemotypes depending on the conditions of its growth and dominant constituent, notably the citral or linalol types, the thuyanol type, and the thymol or carvacrol type. It is therefore important not only to know the botanical name of the plant from which an oil has been produced, but also its place of origin and main constituents. One of the main ways of defining the qualities of a particular oil and checking its purity is to ascertain the specific blend of components and look at its chemical character. Chemistry In general, essential oils consist of chemical compounds which have hydrogen, carbon and oxygen as their building blocks. These can be subdivided into two groups: the hydrocarbons which are made up almost exclusively of terpenes (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and diterpenes); and the oxygenated compounds, mainly esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols and oxides; acids, lactones, sulphur and nitrogen compounds are sometimes also present. Terpenes Common terpene hydrocarbons include limonene (antiviral, found in 90 per cent of citrus oils) and pinene (antiseptic, found in high proportions in pine and turpentine oils); also camphene, cadinene, caryophyllene, cedrene, dipentene, phellandrene, terpinene, sabinene, and myrcene among others. Some sesquiterpenes, such as chamazulene and farnesol (both found in chamomile oil), have been the object of great interest recently due to their outstanding anti-inflammatory and bactericidal properties. Esters Probably the most widespread group found in essential oils, which includes linalyl acetate (found in bergamot, clary sage and lavender), and geranyl acetate (found in sweet marjoram). They are characteristically fungicidal and sedative, often having a fruity aroma. Other esters include bornyl acetate, eugenyl acetate and lavendulyl acetate. Aldehydes Citral, citronellal and neral are important aldehydes found notably in lemon-scented oils such as melissa, lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon-scented eucalyptus, citronella etc. Aldehydes in general have a sedative effect; citral has been found to have specifically antiseptic properties. Other aldehydes include benzaldehyde, cinnamic aldehyde, cuminic aldehyde and perillaldehyde. Ketones Some of the most common toxic constituents are ketones, such as thujone found in mugwort, tansy, sage and wormwood; and pulegone found in pennyroyal and buchu – but this does not mean that all ketones are dangerous. Non-toxic ketones include jasmone found in jasmine, and fenchone in fennel oil. Generally considered to ease congestion and aid the flow of mucus, ketones are often found in plants which are used for upper respiratory complaints, such as hyssop and sage. Other ketones include camphor, carvone, menthone, methyl nonyl ketone and pinocamphone. Alcohols One of the most useful groups of compounds, tending to have good antiseptic and antiviral properties with an uplifting quality; they are also generally non-toxic. Some of the most common terpene alcohols include linalol (found in rosewood, linaloe and lavender), citronellol (found in rose, lemon eucalyptus and geranium) and geraniol (found in palmarosa); also borneol, menthol, nerol, terpineol, farnesol, vetiverol, benzyl alcohol and cedrol among others. Phenols These tend to have a bactericidal and strongly stimulating effect, but can be skin irritants. Common phenols include eugenol (found in clove and West Indian bay), thymol (found in thyme), carvacrol (found in oregano and savory); also methyl eugenol, methyl chavicol, anethole, safrole, myristicin and apiol among others. Oxides By far the most important oxide is cineol (or eucalyptol) which stands virtually in a class of its own. It has an expectorant effect, well known as the principal constituent of eucalyptus oil. It is also found in a wide range of other oils, especially those of a camphoraceous nature such as rosemary, bay laurel, tea tree and cajeput. Other oxides include linalol oxide found in hyssop (decumbent variety), ascaridol, bisabolol oxide and bisabolone oxide. Methods of Extraction In general, the term ‘essential oil’ is rather loosely applied to all aromatic products or extracts derived from natural sources, including concretes, resinoids and absolutes which contain a mixture of volatile and non-volatile components, such as wax or resin. This is not strictly accurate, since they are only partially composed of essential oils and are obtained by different methods of production, which include the use of solvents or more recently, carbon dioxide extraction. However, it is always the essential oil content in a given product that accounts for its aromatic quality. Some plant materials, especially flowers, are subject to deterioration and should be processed as soon as possible after harvesting; others, including seeds and roots, are either stored or transported for extraction, often to Europe or America. The method of extraction which is employed depends on the quality of the material which is being used, and the type of aromatic product that is required. Essential Oils An essential oil is extracted from the plant material by two main methods: by simple expression or pressure, as is the case with most of the citrus oils including lemon and bergamot, or by steam, water or dry distillation. The majority of oils such as lavender, myrrh, sandalwood and cinnamon are produced by steam distillation. This process only isolates the volatile and water-insoluble parts of a plant – many other (often valuable) constituents, such as tannins, mucilage and bitters are consequently excluded from the essential oil. Sometimes the resulting oil is redistilled or rectified to get rid of any remaining non-volatile matter; some essential oils are redistilled at different temperatures to obtain certain constituents and exclude others – as with camphor which is split into three fractions, white, yellow and brown. Essential oils are usually liquid, but can also be solid (orris) or semi-solid according to temperature (rose). They dissolve in pure alcohol, fats and oils but not in water and, unlike the so-called ‘fixed’ plant oils (such as olive oil), they evaporate when exposed to air leaving no oily residue behind. Concretes Concretes are prepared almost exclusively from raw materials of vegetable origin, such as the bark, flower, leaf, herb or root. The aromatic plant material is subjected to extraction by hydrocarbon-type solvents, rather than distillation or expression. This is necessary when the essential oil is adversely affected by hot water and steam, as is the case with jasmine; it also produces a more true-to-nature fragrance. Some plants, such as lavender and clary sage, are either steam distilled to produce an essential oil or used to produce a concrete by solvent extraction. The remaining residue is usually solid and of a waxy non-crystalline consistency. Most concretes contain about 50 per cent wax, 50 per cent volatile oil, such as jasmine; in rare cases, as with ylang ylang, the concrete is liquid and contains about 80 per cent essential oil, 20 per cent wax. The advantage of concretes is that they are more stable and concentrated than pure essential oils. Resinoids Resinoids are prepared from natural resinous material by extraction with a hydrocarbon solvent, such as petroleum ether or hexane. In contradistinction to concretes, the resinoids are prepared from dead organic material, whereas concretes are derived from previously live tissue. Typical resinous materials are balsams (Peru balsam or benzoin), resins (mastic and amber), oleoresins (copaiba balsam and turpentine) and oleo gum resins (frankincense and myrrh). Resinoids can be viscous liquids, semi-solid or solid, but are usually homogeneous masses of non-crystalline character. Occasionally the alcohol-soluble fraction of a resinoid is called an absolute. Some resinous materials like frankincense and myrrh are used either to make an essential oil by steam distillation or a resin absolute by alcohol extraction directly from the crude oleo gum resin. Benzoin, on the other hand, is insufficiently volatile to produce an essential oil by distillation: liquid benzoin is often simply a benzoin resinoid dissolved in a suitable solvent or plasticizing diluent. Like concretes, resinoids are employed in perfumery as fixatives to prolong the effect of the fragrance. Absolutes An absolute is obtained from the concrete by a second process of solvent extraction, using pure alcohol (ethanol) in which the unwanted wax is only slightly soluble. An absolute is usually subjected to repeated treatment with alcohol; even so, as is the case with orange flower absolute, a small proportion of the wax remains. Absolutes can be further processed by molecular distillation which removes every last trace of non-volatile matter. The alcohol is recovered by evaporation which requires a gentle vacuum towards the end of the process. Some absolutes, however, will still retain traces of ethyl alcohol, at about 2 per cent or less, and are not recommended for therapeutic work because of these impurities. Absolutes are usually highly concentrated viscous liquids, but they can in some cases be solid or semi-solid (clary sage absolute). In recent years, much research has been devoted to the extraction of essential oils and aromatic materials using liquid carbon dioxide; oils produced in this manner are of excellent odour quality and are entirely free of unwanted solvent residues or non-volatile matter. Pomades True pomades are the products of a process known as enfleurage, which is virtually obsolete today. This was once the principal method for obtaining aromatic materials from flowers that continued to produce perfume long after they were cut. A glass plate was covered in a thin coating of specially prepared and odourless fat, called a chassis. The freshly cut flowers, such as jasmine or tuberose, were individually laid in the fat which became saturated with their volatile oils. The chassis would be frequently renewed with fresh material throughout the harvest. Eventually the fragrance-saturated fat, known as pomade, would be treated by extraction with alcohol to produce the pure absolute or perfume. Natural versus ‘Nature Identical’ Many perfumes or oils, once obtained from flowers such as carnation, gardenia and lilac, are nowadays produced almost entirely synthetically. In the pharmaceutical industry these chemically constructed products are called ‘nature identical’. The perfumery and flavouring industries require continuity in their products and naturally occurring substances are always subject to change, due to seasonal conditions. However, the so-called ‘nature identical’ products and the naturally occurring essential oils are of an entirely different character, which is reflected in their relative costs – the synthetic types being much cheaper to produce than the genuine ones. Many aromatic oils, such as lavender or geranium, contain a relatively small number of major constituents, several minor constituents and also a very large number of trace elements. To reconstruct such a complex combination of components including all the trace elements, would be virtually impossible. Most ‘nature identical’ oils are said to be only about 96 per cent pure or accurate, yet it is the remaining 4 per cent, the trace elements, that often really define a particular fragrance. Such is the case with galbanum oil where the pyrazines, present at rather less than 0.1 per cent, are responsible for the powerful green odour of the oil. It is also the specific combination of constituents in a real essential oil, including the trace elements, which give it value therapeutically. The reason for this might be that these minute amounts of trace elements have a synergistic or controlling effect on the main ones. For example, there are over 300 different constituents in rose, some of which have not yet been identified, which is why synthetic rose oil is unconvincing. ‘Nature identical’ oils cannot be used therapeutically as substitutes for the naturally occurring aromatic materials, not only because the subtle balance of constituents is lost but also because they lack the vital ‘life force’ of oils of natural origin. PART II THE OILS A AJOWAN Trachyspermum copticum FAMILY Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) SYNONYMS T. ammi, Ammi copticum, Carum ajowan, C. copticum, Ptychotis ajowan, ajuan, omum. GENERAL DESCRIPTION An annual herb with a greyish-brown seed, which resembles parsley in appearance. DISTRIBUTION Chiefly India, also Afghanistan, Egypt, the West Indies and the Seychelle Islands. OTHER SPECIES See Botanical Classification section. HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION The seeds are used extensively in curry powders and as a general household remedy for intestinal problems. The tincture, essential oil and ‘thymol’ are used in Indian medicine, particularly for cholera. ACTIONS Powerful antiseptic and germicide, carminative. EXTRACTION Essential oil by steam distillation from the seed. CHARACTERISTICS A yellow-orange or reddish liquid with a herbaceous-spicy medicinal odour, much like thyme. PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS Thymol, pinene, cymene, dipentene, terpinene and carvacrol, among others. SAFETY DATA Possible mucous membrane and dermal irritant. Due to high thymol level, should be avoided in pregnancy. Toxicity levels are unknown. AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE Not recommended. OTHER USES It has been used extensively for the isolation of thymol, but this has largely been replaced by synthetic thymol. ALLSPICE Pimenta dioica FAMILY Myrtaceae SYNONYMS P. officinalis, pimento, pimenta, Jamaica pepper. GENERAL DESCRIPTION An evergreen tree which reaches about 10 metres high and begins to produce fruit in its third year. Each fruit contains two kidney-shaped green seeds which turn glossy black upon ripening. DISTRIBUTION Indigenous to the West Indies and South America, it is cultivated extensively in Jamaica, Cuba and, to a lesser degree, in Central America. Imported berries are distilled in Europe and America. OTHER SPECIES Four other varieties of pimento are found in Venezuela, Guyana and the West Indies which are used locally as spices. HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION Used for flatulent indigestion and externally for neuralgic or rheumatic pain. Pimento water is used as a vehicle for medicines which ease dyspepsia and constipation since it helps prevent griping pains. It is used extensively as a domestic spice – allspice is so called because it tastes like a combination of cloves, juniper berries, cinnamon and pepper. ACTIONS Anaesthetic, analgesic, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, carminative, muscle relaxant, rubefacient, stimulant, tonic. EXTRACTION Essential oil by steam distillation from 1. the leaves, and 2. the fruit. The green unripe berries contain more oil than the ripe berries, but the largest percentage of oil is contained in the shell of the fruit. An oleoresin from the berries is also produced in small quantities. CHARACTERISTICS 1. Pimenta leaf oil is a yellowish-red or brownish liquid with a powerful sweet-spicy scent, similar to cloves. 2. Pimenta berry oil is a pale yellow liquid with a sweet warm balsamic-spicy bodynote (middle note) and fresh, clean top note. It blends well with ginger, geranium, lavender, opopanax, labdanum, ylang ylang, patchouli, neroli, oriental and spicy bases. PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS Mainly eugenol, less in the fruit (60–80 per cent) than in the leaves (up to 96 per cent), also methyl eugenol, cineol, phellandrene and caryophyllene among others. SAFETY DATA Eugenol irritates the mucous membranes, and has been found to cause dermal irritation. Pimenta leaf and berry oil should therefore be used with care in low dilutions only. AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE CIRCULATION, MUSCLES AND JOINTS: Arthritis, fatigue, muscle cramp, rheumatism, stiffness etc. ‘Used in tiny amounts … in a massage oil for chest infections, for severe muscle spasm to restore mobility quickly, or where extreme cold is experienced.’1 RESPIRATORY SYSTEM: Chills, congested coughs, bronchitis. DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Cramp, flatulence, indigestion, nausea. NERVOUS SYSTEM: Depression, nervous exhaustion, neuralgia, tension and stress. OTHER USES Used in aromatic carminative medicines; as a fragrance component in cosmetics and perfumes, especially soaps, aftershaves, spicy and oriental fragrances. Both leaf and berry oil are used extensively for flavouring foods, especially savoury and frozen foods, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks. ALMOND, BITTER Prunus dulcis var. amara FAMILY Rosaceae SYNONYMS P. amygdalus var. amara, Amygdalus communis var. amara, A. dulcis, P. communis. GENERAL DESCRIPTION The almond tree grows to a height of about 7 metres and is popular as a garden tree due to its pinky-white blossom. It is botanically classified as a drupe. DISTRIBUTION Native to Western Asia and North Africa, it is now extensively cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region, Israel and California. OTHER SPECIES There are two main types of almond tree – bitter and sweet. The sweet almond does not produce any essential oil. HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION A ‘fixed’ oil commonly known as ‘sweet almond oil’ is made by pressing the kernels from both the sweet and bitter almond trees. Unlike the essential oil, this fixed oil does not contain any benzaldehyde or prussic acid, and has many medical and cosmetic uses. It is used as a laxative, for bronchitis, coughs, heartburn and for disorders of the kidneys, bladder and biliary ducts. It helps relieve muscular aches and pains, softens the skin and premotes a clear complexion. ACTIONS Anaesthetic, antispasmodic, narcotic, vermifuge (FFPA). EXTRACTION Essential oil by steam distillation from the kernels. The nuts are first pressed and macerated in warm water for 12 to 24 hours before the oil is extracted. It is during this process that the prussic acid is formed; it is not present in the raw seed. Most commercial bitter almond oil is rectified to remove all prussic acid, i.e. free from prussic acid (FFPA). CHARACTERISTICS Light colourless liquid with a characteristic ‘marzipan’ scent (FFPA). PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS Benzaldehyde (95 per cent), prussic acid (3 per cent). SAFETY DATA Prussic acid, also known as hydrocyanic acid or cyanide, is a well-known poison. Benzaldehyde is also moderately toxic. AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE None. ‘Should not be used in therapy either internally or externally.’2 OTHER USES Bitter almond oil is no longer used for internal medication. Rectified bitter almond oil is used for flavouring foods, mainly confectionery; the most common uses are ‘almond essence’ and marzipan. The oil (FFPA) is increasingly being replaced by synthetic benzaldehyde in food flavourings. AMBRETTE SEED Abelmoschus moschatus FAMILY Malvaceae SYNONYMS Hibiscus abelmoschus, musk seed, Egyptian alcee, target-leaved hibiscus, muskmallow. GENERAL DESCRIPTION An evergreen shrub about 1.5 metres high, bearing large single yellow flowers with a purple centre. The capsules, in the form of five-cornered pyramids, contain the greyish-brown kidney-shaped seeds which have a musky odour. DISTRIBUTION Indigenous to India; widely cultivated in tropical countries including Indonesia, Africa, Egypt, China, Madagascar, and the West Indies. Distillation of the oil is generally carried out in Europe and America. OTHER SPECIES A variety, H. esculentus, is grown largely in Istanbul as a demulcent. Another variety is also found in Martinique, the seeds of which have a more delicate scent. HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION Generally used as a stimulant and to ease indigestion, cramp and nervous dyspepsia. In Chinese medicine it is used to treat headache; in Egypt the seeds are used to sweeten the breath and are made into an emulsion with milk to be used for itch. The Arabs use the seeds to mix with coffee. Widely used as a domestic spice in the East. ACTIONS Antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, carminative, nervine, stimulant, stomachic. EXTRACTION Essential oil by steam distillation of the seeds. Liquid ambrette seed oil should be allowed to age for several months before it is used. A concrete and absolute are also produced by solvent extraction. CHARACTERISTICS A pale yellowy-red liquid with a rich, sweet floral-musky odour, very tenacious. It blends well with rose, neroli, sandalwood, clary sage, cypress, patchouli, oriental and ‘sophisticated’ bases. PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS Ambrettolide, ambrettolic acid, palmitic acid and farnesol. SAFETY DATA Available information indicates the oil to be non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing. AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE CIRCULATION, MUSCLES AND JOINTS: Cramp, fatigue, muscular aches and pains, poor circulation. NERVOUS SYSTEM: Anxiety, depression, nervous tension and stress-related conditions. OTHER USES Employed by the cosmetic and perfumery industries in oriental-type scents and for the adulteration of musk; also used as a musk substitute. Used for flavouring alcoholic and soft drinks as well as some foodstuffs, especially confectionery. AMYRIS Amyris balsamifera FAMILY Rutaceae SYNONYMS Schimmelia oleifera, West Indian sandalwood, West Indian rosewood. GENERAL DESCRIPTION A small bushy tree with compound leaves and white flowers which grows wild in thickets all over the island of Haiti. DISTRIBUTION Mainly Haiti, it has now been introduced to tropical zones all over the world, e.g. Jamaica, South and Central America. OTHER SPECIES Not to be confused with East Indian or Mysore sandalwood (Santalum album), to which it bears no relation. HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION The locals call it ‘candle wood’ because of its high oil content; it burns like a candle. It is used as a torch by fishermen and traders. It also makes excellent furniture wood. ACTIONS Antiseptic, balsamic, sedative. EXTRACTION Essential oil by steam distillation from the broken-up wood and branches. Best if the wood is seasoned first. It provides a very plentiful yield. CHARACTERISTICS A pale yellow, slightly viscous liquid with a musty, faintly woody scent, quickly fading away. It blends well with lavandin, citronella, oakmoss, sassafras, cedarwood and other wood oils. PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS Caryophyllene, cadinene and cadinol. SAFETY DATA Generally non-irritant; no other information available at present. AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE Perfume. OTHER USES As a cheap substitute for East Indian sandalwood in perfumes and cosmetics, although it does not have the same rich tenacity; chiefly employed as a fixative in soaps. Limited application in flavouring work, especially liqueurs. ANGELICA Angelica archangelica FAMILY Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) SYNONYMS A. officinalis, European angelica, garden angelica. GENERAL DESCRIPTION A large hairy plant with ferny leaves and umbels of white flowers. It has a strong aromatic scent and a large rhizome. DISTRIBUTION Native to Europe and Siberia, cultivated mainly in Belgium, Hungary and Germany. OTHER SPECIES There are over thirty different types of angelica but this is the most commonly used medicinally. See Botanical Classification section. HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION This herb has been praised for its virtues since antiquity. It strengthens the heart, stimulates the circulation and the immune system in general. It has been used for centuries in Europe for bronchial ailments, colds, coughs, indigestion, wind and to stimulate the appetite. As a urinary antiseptic it is helpful in cystitis and is also used for rheumatic inflammation. The Chinese employ at least ten kinds of angelica, well known for promoting fertility, fortifying the spirit and for treating female disorders generally; it has a reputation second only to ginseng. It is current in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a specific for bronchitis associated with vascular deficiency. Candied Angelica stalks are popular in France and Spain. ACTIONS Antispasmodic, carminative, depurative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, nervine, stimulant, stomachic, tonic. Reported to have bactericidal and fungicidal properties. EXTRACTION Essential oil produced by steam distillation from the 1. roots and rhizomes, and, 2. fruit or seed. An absolute is also produced on a small scale, from the roots. CHARACTERISTICS 1. A colourless or pale yellow oil which turns yellowy-brown with age, with a rich herbaceous-earthy bodynote. 2. The seed oil is a colourless liquid with a fresher, spicy top note. It blends well with patchouli, opopanax, costus, clary sage, oakmoss, vetiver and with citrus oils. PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS Root and seed oil contain phellandrene, pinene, limonene, linalol and borneol; rich in coumarins including osthol, angelicin, bergapten and imperatorin; also contains plant acids. SAFETY DATA Both root and seed oil are non-toxic and non-irritant. The root oil (not the seed oil) is phototoxic, probably due to higher levels of bergapten. Not to be used during pregnancy or by diabetics. AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE SKIN CARE: Dull and congested skin, irritated conditions, psoriasis. CIRCULATION MUSCLES AND JOINTS: Accumulation of toxins, arthritis, gout, rheumatism, water retention. RESPIRATORY SYSTEM: Bronchitis, coughs. DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Anaemia, anorexia, flatulence, indigestion. NERVOUS SYSTEM: Fatigue, migraine, nervous tension and stress-related disorders. IMMUNE SYSTEM: Colds. OTHER USES Highly valued as a fragrance component in soaps, lotions and perfumes especially colognes, oriental and heavy chyprès fragrances. It is employed in some cosmetics for its soothing effect on skin complaints. Used extensively as a flavouring agent in most food categories, and in alcoholic and soft drinks, especially liqueurs. ANISE, STAR Illicium verum FAMILY Illiciaceae SYNONYMS Chinese anise, illicium, Chinese star anise. GENERAL DESCRIPTION Evergreen tree up to 12 metres high with a tall, slender white trunk. It bears fruit which consist of five to thirteen seed-bearing follicles attached to a central axis in the shape of a star. DISTRIBUTION Native to south east China, also Vietnam, India and Japan. Mainly produced in China. OTHER SPECIES Several other related species, e.g. Japanese star anise which is highly poisonous! HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION Used in Chinese medicine for over 1300 years for its stimulating effect on the digestive system and for respiratory disorders such as bronchitis and unproductive coughs. In the East generally, it