Tis the season for trips to the beach, picnics in the park, and enjoying the great outdoors. There is also a price to be paid for our summertime frolics. Too much fun in the sun can cause sunburn; too many barbecues can upset the stomach; and pesky flying insects abound.
Aromatherapy is the fun and holistic use of plant essential oils to treat and balance the body, mind and spirit. These oils are a natural way to minimize the effects of our Houston summer. A few ways that E/O are helpful are in skin care, cooling off, pesky critters, indigestion and the general malaise of the constant heat. I’ll first introduce you to the oils you can use for some summer complaints. Later in the article I’ll talk about specifics for applying the oils to your body.
Skin Care – Sunburn is a common problem for outdoor enthusiasts. Lavender oil is by far the most versatile essential oil in an aromatherapist’s first aid kit. It is also the best oil to use for any problem with the skin such as burns, irritations or insect bites. It is one of the few oils which can be used directly on the skin, or neat. For serious burns you can create a blend of oils by adding to the lavender a few drops of blue chamomile oil for it’s soothing effect (it’s expensive, but well worth the investment). Geranium oil is a cell regenerator and a few drops makes a nice addition to your blend. It is a good idea to hydrate the body first with cool water, and apply the essential oils in a moisturizer. I usually blend my oils together in the palm of my hand, add the moisturizer and smooth over my body. This treatment can be repeated up to four times a day, depending on the seriousness of the burn.
Insect bites and repellent – Mosquitoes are a nuisance through much of the year in our fair city. I find a drop or two of lavender oil on the bite with a gentle caress will ease the itching and discomfort. For flea or chigger bites I add blue chamomile to create a blend and apply neat.
Repelling mosquitoes is more difficult. There are two oils which can be used to ward of the frisky pests-citronella and garlic. The challenge here is not to offend your neighbors. I put 20 drops of citronella oil and 20 drops of emulsifier in a 4 oz spray bottle and add water. Shake well before spraying. This solution has worked well for me in the jungles of Mexico and the Amazon (the natives there are not so finicky about aroma as the natives of Montrose). The garlic solution is more potent. Current research recommends 1% garlic oil as a repellent (this solution also kills 100% of larvae with in 24 hours, even in standing water). Of course you smell like a pizzeria, but the industrial chemical alternatives aren’t much more attractive.
Cooling Off – One of the lovely effects of peppermint oil is its cooling of the skin. A cool bath with a few drops of peppermint oil creates a welcome change to the hot and sticky weather. A word of caution, peppermint oil is stimulating. Applications in the evening may inhibit a good nights rest. That’s why I suggest a few drops in a bath as opposed to the traditional 20 drops of oil per bath.
The constant heat can generate headaches. A simple treatment is to use peppermint oil, either a drop, neat on each temple or in cool compress over the forehead. If using a compress be careful of the eyes as peppermint oil can cause stinging.
Indigestion – All the holiday picnics with their barbecues, sauces, potato chips and homemade ice cream can take their toll on the digestive system. A simple remedy is to put one drop of peppermint oil on the tip of the tongue. The flavor will explode in the mouth. This is the only internal Aromatherapy treatment I recommend. Essential oils are highly concentrated and dangerous for internal use. Please respect the use of these oils. A blend of peppermint, lavender and marjoram oils massaged into the stomach area will alleviate some of the discomforts of over-indulgence.
Summertime Malaise – The oppressive heat can drain our physical strength, agitate tempers or plain just give us those summertime blues. A group of essential oils called the euphorics are a great way to beat the heat. These oils work through the limbic system to release endorphins, which generate a sense of well being. I work with grapefruit and bergamot oils (less expensive) as well as rose, jasmine and melissa (these are rare and precious and expensive). When coupled with the water of a bath these oils work to balance the emotions and comfort the soul.
Here are some simple terms for using aromatherapy in your home:
Neat means using the essential oil directly on the skin. Many of the oils are too strong for straight applications to the body. Use essential oils neat only when directed.
An emulsifier means a solution which allows the essential oil to dissolve thoroughly so it can be added to water. A cup of warm, whole milk is a natural emulsifier or they can be purchased at any health-food market. In the bath this ensures that the oils distribute evenly on the surface of the water to envelope your body as you submerge into the tub.
A compress is a cloth soaked in cool or warm water.
A carrier is any oil, lotion or base that is used to blend the essential oils together.
Here are some simple rules for creating your own home remedies:
I use high quality oils for treatments. These recipes are designed for the potency of this grade of essential oils. I use oils from Source -Vital and Aroma Vera. Many other brands of oils available in health-food stores and boutiques are of a lesser quality. I suggest you spend the extra money to ensure quality and potency for your essential oil blends.
For a massage oil or lotion you can use 20 drops of essential oil per 1 oz of carrier. For severe sunburn you can use up to 50 drops of essential oil per 1 oz of carrier oil.
For a bath you can add 20 drops of essential oil to an emulsifier.
These simple guidelines can help you to use the most potent form of plant energy we have for treating the human condition. Remember to handle all essential oils with respect and they can, in turn, contribute health, balance and well being to your life. For more information about aromatherapy I use the books Aromatherapy An A-Z, by Patricia Davis and The Aromatherapy Workbook by Marcel Lavabre.
* Blue Chamomile-2
* Valerian Root-1
* Linden Blossom-2
* Cedarwood Himalayan-10
May the summer treat you with pleasure and gentleness.
About the author
Alan Davidson is the co-author of Healing the Heart of the World with Prince Charles, Carolyn Myss, John Gray, and Neal Donald Walsch. Alan, a Registered Massage Therapist since 1988, is the owner and director of Essential Touch Therapies in Houston, Texas. He has a B.S. from University of Houston, Downtown, with an emphasis on psychology, sociology, philosophy, and religion. Alan is fascinated with the intersection of bodywork, psychology, ritual, and spiritual practice. Having taught massage, meditation, yoga, and human transformation since 1990 he is currently on the teaching staff at NiaMoves Studio. Alan wholeheartedly believes, ‘Life is for the fun of it!’ Alan can be reached at http://www.throughyourbody.com
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