Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, and the Use of Herbs and Healing Plants

Posted on: July 6th, 2009 by
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Hippocrates (460 B.C. – 377 B.C), the Greek healer and physician, is known by most people who are interested in plants and who use them to heal. Long before aromatherapy essential oils were in common usage, many people used the actual plant to heal. Hippocrates is accredited with changing the way medicine was viewed and used healing plants as part of his hippocratic theory.
Hippocrates used ginger as ‘ warming’ herb to soothe ‘cold’ conditions and he used members of the mint family to ‘cool’ ‘warming’ conditions; much of what is written about Hippocrates is subject to different verifications/interpretations but he did contribute much to medicine as we know it today.
Read Medicinal Plants and Herbs Used by Hippocrates to learn more…

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Chemistry of Essential Oils

Posted on: July 3rd, 2009 by
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…….is complicated! So, I wrote an introductory article on the subject at suite101 today. Chemistry of essential oils fascinates me and is is something which I intend to study more indepth in the near future. Many people do not simply realize what one little essential oil bottle can hold!
For further information check out Chemistry of Essential Oils
I will be sharing some valuable resources for the chemistry of essential oils in the near future too…

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Coconut Oil

Posted on: June 29th, 2009 by
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Coconut oil is often thought of exotic and is found in many cosmetic bases and products; however, despite usually being a fractionated oil for aromatherapy use, coconut oil does have some therapeutic use in massage, mainly as a carrier oil, either for use on its on or with the addition of essential oils. It is good for softening the skin and soothing it too. It has been used in Ayuverdic medicine for hair loss, burns and heart problems.
Coconut oil comes from the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera), a palm tree which is found growing wild on tropical coastlines and beaches in many countries. It is the fruit of the coconut tree which is of value for therapeutic practice, although the leaves and trunk of the coconut tree do have other values too.
Some interesting facts about coconut oil -
- Coconut oil is often found in hair products as it moisturizes dry hair
- Coconut oil is used by women, for their hair, in tropical countries from an early age and seems to prevent both baldness and graying!
- Coconut oil aids tanning, and should be used with care by those with sensitive skin, as the sun’s rays are not blocked by coconut oil.
For more information on coconut oil read the uses of the coconut tree

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The Use of Palmarosa Essential Oil To Adulterate Rose

Posted on: June 24th, 2009 by
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Palmarosa is perhaps not a very well know essential oil – but the oil it is used to adulterate is! Rose oil is commonly adulterated by Palmarosa due to its similar scent. However Palmarosa essential oil does have many properties and uses in aromatherapy in its own right and shouldn’t be dismissed as just as ‘adulterator’. Read my latest suite article – Palmarosa essential oil - to learn more…

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How To Use Essential Oils Safely

Posted on: June 23rd, 2009 by
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Essential oils are safe to use – if you understand them! Many people make the mistake of thinking they are just ‘nice smells’ like perfume and do not realize the power one little bottle may hold. Apart from taking the time to study, either through books or through a course, there a few basic concepts to using essential oils safely. These include:
- never use essential oils neat, that is directly onto the skin, unless you have had significant training and knowledge in the neat application of essential oils; even then, some essential oils should still never be used neat.
- be aware that some essential oils are phototoxic, so be careful when going out in the sun – see phototoxic essential oils for further information.
- always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil.
- store essential oils in a dark colored glass bottle, such as amber or cobalt blue, to avoid interference from light and possible changes in the chemical components of the essential oil.
- store essential oils in a cool, dark place to preserve the shelf life of the essential oil. Some oils, such as the citrus oils, don’t have a long natural, shelf life but others, such as Patchouli, are said to mature with age, but still need to be stored correctly.
- when using essential oils with children, the elderly, pregnant women or other vulnerable groups, dilute the essential oils in a carrier oil more than usual. Some essential oils should not be used in pregnancy or with babies and children, so know your oil before using.
- take a ‘case history’, if the essential oil use is not for yourself. Even if you are not a qualified aromatherapist, asking a few questions about the person’s medical history, allergies and other health concerns might prevent misuse of the essential oil. For example, some essential oils are contraindicated for use with heart problems and high blood pressure.
- keep essential oils out of the reach of children and pets; they can be harmful in the wrong hands (or paws!)
- finally, always label your essential oil blend with its contents! Not only does this indicate what’s in the bottle but may avoid possible misuse by someone who comes across it!
Some of these points may sound logical but if you want to use essential oils safely it doesn’t hurt to state the obvious and avoid a potential mishap! There are probably many more hazardous chemicals and cleaning agents around your home but it should be remembered that essential oils are, after all, little bottles of chemicals….albeit, ‘good’ ones if used correctly!

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What is a Carrier Oil?

Posted on: June 19th, 2009 by
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Many people do not realize that essential oils are normally diluted in a carrier oil, due to the potency of an essential oil neat. It is common practice in the UK and the USA to use essential oils in an essential oil mix of a carrier oil. In France, essential oils are often used neat and administered in various ways, including by mouth, rectum or vagina but it is not common to do so (and not without considerable experience and knowledge) in the UK and the USA.

Therefore, the most common method of using essential oils in the UK and the USA is through the addition of a carrier oil. Carrier oils may take the following forms:

- vegetable oil (although not to be confused with those oils used for culinary purposes. NEVER substitute one for the other!)
- bubble bath
- shampoo
-milk
-honey
-water (although essential oils are not water soluble, so some aromatherapists don’t use this method)
- white lotion base (cleansing milk, moisurizing base, body lotion, foot cream).

There are many forms of vegetable oils but, for aromatherapy use, vegetable oils should be cold pressed. Vegetable oils hold therapeutic properties too, in addition to the properties held by essential oils, so hot pressed vegetable oils will not maintain the same properties as a cold pressed vegetable oil. Examples of vegetable oils include:

- sweet almond oil
- apricot kernel oil
- jojoba oil
- sunflower oil
- walnut
- evening primrose

and many more, some of which I will profile in my aromatherapy blog later.

Carrier oils have to be effectively combined with essential oils to make a synergistic essential oil blend; creating an effective essential oil blend takes practice and experimentation. However, it is quite simple to make simple essential oil blends for yourself of bubble bath, shampoo, lotions and oils if you take the time to study and practice!

If you want to read more on using carrier oils in essential oil blends, read my suite101 article – using carrier oils in aromatherapy blends. Also refer to the following books for a more comprehensive definition of what a carrier oil is, and, is not:

Price, Len 1999 Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy Massage UK:Riverhead
Price, Shirley 2000 Aromatherapy Workbook UK:Thorsons

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