Friday, January 8, 2010

the fragrant soul

He is happiest who hath power to gather wisdom from a flower. Mary Howitt (1825)

Aromatherapy.  The word brings to mind scent and healing.  It is an ancient practice, a science and an art.  Naturally distilled essences are extracted from plants and used for one's physical, mental and emotional well-being.  Called essential oils, they are said to possess healing properties for the mind, body and spirit.  Tiny droplets contained in fruit, leaves, bark, stems, roots and flowers are responsible for each botanical's individual smell.  In many cultures, healing with plants and their essential oils was a part of the everyday life.  Aromatics were used for ceremonies, art, beauty and medicinal purposes.  Incense was the original perfume.  It was believed that burning incense was a link to one's ancestors and a way to connect with universal energy.
The Egyptians were among the first to experiment with aromatherapy.  Incense was burned at all times in their temples, to inspire inner transformation and heighten the spiritual experience.  Herbal and floral essences were used to anoint the skin and were utilized in the bath for health, physical attractiveness and protection.  The historic Vedic texts of India specifically ascribe various therapeutic and medicinal powers to aromatic plants.  The practice of perfumery was frequently mentioned in early Sanskrit literature.  The use of botanicals can be found in China as far back as the Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1100 B.C.)  Centuries later in Japan, Samurai warriors used incense to scent their helmets and armor in preparation for battle.  The Greeks attributed divine origin to sweet smells.  Gods supposedly dropped down to earth on clouds that were scented, in robes soaked with fragrant essences.  The bathhouses of both Greece and Rome used essential oils for massage, bathing and overall health purposes.
Aromatherapy's modern renaissance began in the 1920s, when Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist and perfumer, was experimenting with fragrance in his lab and burned his hand.  He plunged it into the liquid closes to him, a tub of lavender oil; his hand healed quickly and without a scar! From then on, he dedicated his life to researching the therapeutic value of essential oils, thus coining the term aromatherapy. 
Whether inhaled or absorbed through the skin, each essential oil carries its own benefit to which the body and mind will respond.  When different oils from the same therapeutic category are blended, they can create a synergy.  This means that the individual oils will usually complement each other when combined, enhancing the treatment.  Essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin by themselves, for they will irritate it.  Carrier oils are necessary to transport the substances.  Unprocessed, organic and cold-pressed oils are preferable; they are pressed from the seed, nut or fruit, with no chemical solvents added to them.  Best for the bath is sulfated castor oil.  It is the only carrier oil that is dispersible in water and will not leave a residue.
The power of smell is immeasurable.  A scent can work on a subconscious level to balance, harmonize, calm, relax, energize or stimulate.  Aromatherapy connects us with our memories and links us to nature, while activating our bodies' own healing energies.

Sleepytime Soak
for the sweetest of dreams

Ancient cultures massaged chamomile oil into their skin to alleviate aches and pain, relieve muscle soreness and cool fever.  Its subtle action is said to eliminate anxiety, stabilize stress levels and calm the spirit.


1/2 cup Dead sea salts
4 drops chamomile essential oil
2 drops marjoram essential oil
2 drops ylang-ylang essential oil
1 drop basil essential oil
2 chamomile tea bags

Boil two cups of water to make some chamomile tea, leaving tea bags in the cup until you are ready to bathe.  Mix bath salt and oils in a bowl and pour into a full warm or hot bath.  Disperse well, blending with your hands.

The Mood

Set a tranquil tone.  Light blue candles; they soothe, relax and create serenity.  Burn some sandalwood incense.  Dim the lights.  Play uplifting music, such as Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons' or Andrea Bocelli.   Place warm drained chamomile tea bags over your closed eyes and sip from your cup.  Think of the ocean at low tide, remnants of slow waves at your feet.  Now drift...

Only Hearts Immersion
to deepen feelings

Medieval Europeans believed lavendar to be the herb of love.  It promotes deep relaxation and has a balancing effect on the skin.


3 drops lavender essential oil
3 drops ylang-ylang essential oil
2 drops coriander essential oil
1 drop neroli essential oil
2 teaspoons sulfated castor oil

In a bowl, mix essential oils with castor oil; add to hot water and swish.  Bathe for 20-30 minutes.

The Mood

This bath brings to mind Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty.  Her sacred candle color is pink; light just one candle.  Stare into the candle and think of who or what needs more care of the heart. This is my favorite.

your own environmental fragrant and essential oils

1 drop on a love letter

1 drop on a lace hankie

2 drops on a small cloth thrown into the dryer to scent your laundry

3 drops on a light bulb for perfumed air

6 drops mixed into 1 ounce of unscented cream for fragrant skin

12 drops mixed into 1 ounce of vegetable oil for a sensual massage
lavendar and ylang ylang is perfect

Remember to take time to stop and smell the roses.  Indulge your senses.  Peace. xo

thanks to Susan Hayden author of The Enchanted Bath