The Aromatic Alchemist: transformation through essential oils
~Kimberley, Certified Aromatherapist~
Hey that’s me up there in block text. I trained as an aromatherapist back in the day when I was searching for a career that I could take with me on the road. I’m still travelling, engaging in bespoke aromatherapy consults and I remain eternally fascinated by the world of essential oils. My recent trip to Nova Scotia inspired this post about lavender.
Lavender grows freely in mainly places, including our current feature destination of Nova Scotia. There are different types of lavender with the following ones being common to aromatherapy:
true – lavandula angustifolia; the most commonly used lavender for aromatherapy applications (medicinal and culinary)
spike – lavandula latifolia; differs in scent to true lavender and produces a high oil yield
hybrid – a cross between spike and true lavender and commonly called lavandin; available yield makes it popular in commercial use.
Seafoam is a company whose products are featured below. They are located in Seafoam, Nova Scotia and host an annual Lavender festival. Skin care products and edible items (i.e. culinary lavender and food made with it such as chocolate, oatcakes and tea) are for sale on their website and at the Seaport Farmers’ Market in Halifax. Some select stores may also carry Seafoam goodies.
Lavender’s healing properties helped ‘invent’ modern day aromatherapy.
René Maurice Gattefossé, a chemist by trade, is considered the ‘father of aromatherapy‘. Gattefossé burnt his hand in an accident while working in the lab and then treated it with lavender oil. He felt immediate relief from the pain and found that the skin healed quickly and without scarring. He took note of these effects and did further research into the healing properties of lavender and other essential oils. He experimented on soldiers during World War I and eventually coined the term aromathérapie or aromatherapy in English.
Although plants have been used since ancient times in health and healing the modern-day use of aromatherapy as a complementary healing practice seems to derive from Gattefossé’s ‘discovery‘.
Lavender was used in smelling salts to help revive ladies who fainted. It contains camphor a potent smelling organic chemical with healing properties and one of the main ingredients in Tiger balm.
The picture below was taken in the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia. It shows a lady making a lavender wand, waved under the nose to distract from unpleasant aromas. In an 18th century French settlement, which this site attempts to recreate, not many people bathed so there was a prevalent stench in the air.
Lavender comes from the Latin word lavare meaning ‘to wash’.
- neutralizes toxic substances
- promotes growth of new cells
- adaptogen (dose dependent i.e. can be sedative or stimulating depending on individual and amount used)
- cholagogue i.e. bile production. Bile is needed to break down fat-important for counter acting indulgences in high fat local cuisine.
Methods of application/use
Can be used neat on the skin (i.e. without dilution in a carrier oil) or in a lotion, soap, shampoo, perfume, massage oil
Place a drop on a cotton pad, kleenex, pillow and inhale. Use in a diffuser, steam inhalation or spray.
- In a 30 mL bottle, mix a couple drops of lavender with clean water. Spritz on face as a toner, to counteract dry air on the plane or as a calming mist. The spray can also be used on bedding to help deter insects.
- Use 1 drop of lavender oil on a fan or piece of paper. When you fan yourself experience a pleasant aroma while the lavender helps your lungs clear toxic substances from your body.
- Use in a liquid soap to help thoroughly clean your body.
- Use in shampoo to clean your hair or use on dry hair to freshen it when hair washing is not available.
- Add a drop to your laundry or add a drop to your luggage to keep it fresh and help combat bacteria.
- Use under your pillow to help you sleep better. (Be forewarned! Good quality essential oils can stain textiles. Place lavender on kleenex, fold up the kleenex and insert into pillowcase to avoid being charged damages for soiling the sheets.)
- And my personal favourite…place 1 drop in the palm of your hands and rub over your clothing to help neutralize the smell of the ubiquitous cigarette smoke found in the Middle East. This works like a charm! Instant laundry.
- hair care
- athletes’ foot
- itching from insect bites and stings
- jetlag: insomnia, exhaustion, fatigue
- culture shock: depression, stress, apprehension, anxiety
- nausea, motion sickness
- immunity: colds/flu, cough, headache
- skin care: sunstroke, heat rash, burns, eczema
- muscle cramps (from carrying heavy luggage)
Generally lavender is safe to use on most people though some may have allergies or an aversion to it. Avoid use on:
- Pregnant woman in the first trimester
- People with low blood pressure-use may cause you to feel drowsy.
- Exercise caution if using with children, the elderly and people with epilepsy.
A good quality oil as well as organic versions of it are generally available at a reasonable price. (I’ve managed to purchase a 5mL bottle of exquisite lavender for an average price of $12-15CAD*.) The best lavender comes from France and Bulgaria and a 5 mL bottle used sparingly should last at least one year.
*CAD = currency code for Canadian dollars
Cooksley, V. (1996). Aromatherapy – A Lifetime Guide to Healing with Essential Oils. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Wildwood, C. (1996). The Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy. Rochester VT: Healing Arts Press.
*All material is provided for educational purposes only. The reader should consult with the appropriate medical professionals on any matters concerning their health and well-being.*