Growing wellness. Healing with HeART.

Growing Wellness. Healing with HeART.
Exploring Aromatherapy, Earth Medicine, and the creative process of Art Journaling as paths to healing and wholeness.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils - The Basics

Aromatherapy is an ancient holistic health practice. Holistic healing differs from our usual "Western Medicine" model where we say "I have a headache I'll take an aspirin". With a holistic approach like aromatherapy, we say "I have a headache; what is going on with me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually right now?", and by dealing with the whole person we can help support the body in healing the cause rather than just the symptoms.
A Professional Aromatherapist will look at you as a whole person and make an essential oil blend specific to your needs. He or she will consider health history, pre-existing conditions, medications, as well as symptoms in order to create a blend to safely support your body in healing.

Essential Oils are very powerful and concentrated plant essences derived from various parts of plants including leaves, flowers, or roots. These organic compounds work on all levels of the body; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, through both their scent and the reactions that their chemical composition stimulate in the body.  

Essential Oils are very potent and must not be used directly on the skin, nor should they be used internally unless prescribed by a doctor.  When used on the body, essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil...anything you use for cooking is fine. When we are diluting essential oils for general purposes and for a healthy adult, we want a 2% dilution, which is about 10-12 drops of essential oil in 30 ml of carrier oil.  For children, seniors, or sensitive individuals, we need to lower that dilution by at least half.  

As with any products for our health, there are precautions for using essential oils.  Each essential oil has a unique chemical profile and as such, its own precautions or contraindications for use.  In general, if you have allergies (including foods and cosmetics), high or low blood pressure, or conditions such as heart disease or epilepsy you must be very careful when choosing oils.  Also, most oils should not be used during pregnancy.  It is also important not to use any one essential oil too much, as we can become sensitized to it!

Aromatherapists spend a lot of time studying and practicing blending for a variety of people with differing needs, and this is where the science and art of their practice come together.

There are a number of different ways we can use essential oils. 
  • In a diffuser or electronic nebulizer (add water to the bowl and drop in a few drops of your undiluted essential oil). 
  • On a tissue, cotton ball, or Q-tip, 1-2 drops. 
  • In a personal inhaler
  • In a body product such as soaps, creams, body lotions, shampoos and perfumes.
  • In the bath - 3 - 8 drops (dilute in 1 tsp - 1Tbsp of carrier oil first)  For more information on aromatherapy baths, see my Bathtime Bliss blog post
  • In the shower - 1 - 2 drops on the shower cabinet floor. 
  • Steam inhalation - 2 - 3 drops added to bowl of water.
  • Added to compresses and poultices
  • Carpet fresheners and/or air fresheners
  • Potpourri
The key to using Essential Oils and incorporating Aromatherapy into daily life is to choose oils that are safe for you to use and that are suited to your specific needs...which is where a Professional Aromatherapist can help!  For more information, see Nature's Heart website.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Bathtime Bliss with Essential Oils

Adding essential oils to a bath is an ancient ritual that is still popular today.  This method is an easy way to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy: not only are you soaking in the essential oils, you are breathing in their aroma, which adds to the healing as well as the relaxing experience.  By choosing and using the oils appropriately, we can create a beautiful aromatic bath time experience.

Creating a safe Aromatherapy bath is a bit more involved than just dropping the oils into the bath water, though.  Essential Oils don't mix with water.  Adding your essential oils directly to your bath means that they will float on the top of your bath water and go directly onto your skin when you step in, increasing the risk of irritation.
To avoid this, we need to add the essential oils to either salts, milk, or a carrier oil before they go into the bath.  To dilute your essential oils before adding them to your bath, try one of these methods:

  •  add 5 drops of essential oil to 1/2 cup of salts (Epsom salts, sea salts, or a combination)*
  • add 5 drops of essential oil to 1 Tbsp of carrier oil.  Sesame oil is a natural emulsifier and disperses the oil very well.
  • add 5 drops of essential oil to 1/2 cup of milk*
All of these methods will ensure that your essential oils are nicely dispersed through out your bathwater and will not end up directly on your skin.  

It is also important to choose essential oils for your bath very carefully:  
  • Avoid any of the spice oils such as Black Pepper, Peppermint, Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano, Thyme.
  • Avoid phototoxic citrus oils such as Lemon, Lime, and especially Bergamot.
  • Avoid irritating oils like Lemongrass.  

Oils that are gentle and recommended for using in a bath are:
  • Florals like Lavender, Rose, Geranium.   
  • Frankincense, Sandalwood, Clary Sage, Spruce, Juniper, Eucalyptus. 
Be careful with the heavy floral oils like Rose and Jasmine as they can become overpowering very quickly.  Using 2-3 drops of these in the bath is ideal.

Overuse of essential oils in the bath can cause irritation, so use oils that are mild and non-irritating, and remember that 'less is more'. 

Creating an at-home Aromatherapy spa experience is a delightful way to end a busy day or to spend quiet time.  By choosing appropriate essential oils and using them carefully, you can easily create a safe and wonderful bathing experience.  Enjoy!

*UPDATE* August 2017
New research has shown that adding essential oils to salt, milk, or other water-soluble substances, does not adequately dilute or disperse the oils in the bath.  Based on this, the new recommendation is to dilute the essential oils in a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut or sweet almond oil, or add the essential oil to a foaming product such as castille soap, shower gel, or shampoo.  These options allow for the best dispersion of essential oil, thus minimizing the desk of irritation.  More information on this can be found here.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Trust (aka "The Adventures of a Control Freak")

For so many of us the idea of letting go is terrifying.  That fear of not being in control can be paralyzing.  Managing every possible eventuality and having a plan for things that may never manifest is exhausting, but the alternative feels like chaos, so how could that be better?

Image from "Grace Cards" by Cheryl Richardson

We all hear that we need to trust; trust the Universe or our God; trust the process; and trust and let things unfold as they are meant to.  I have had the chance to learn and practice this through my Art Journaling.  Playing with my journal and layering paper, paint, and ink is a form of active meditation for me and provides a space for me to breathe and just be.  It also provides many lessons on letting go and trusting the process.  Invariably, any plan I may have had for a journal page will evolve into something completely new, and I have learned to accept and even embrace this.  My Art Journaling practice has taught me to trust, and has shown me that letting go doesn't have to be terrifying.

Transferring this letting go into my every day life has been a slow and incremental process.  I have gradually learned to let go of my need to control everything, and to learn to trust again: trust not only the Universe, but to place my trust in others, and most importantly in myself.  Placing trust in others requires a certain amount of vulnerability, something that does not come naturally, and that takes courage.  Trusting oneself can be even more difficult.  We all have an innate wisdom, but learning to listen to and act upon that intuition takes practice and a strong belief in self.  My self-trust is still emerging and is something that I will always need to work with.  What I have learned through all of this is that in letting go of the expectation of a specific desired outcome, beautiful things can happen.  And, contrary to what I once believed, life continues, and the world looks a much brighter place!  Trust.  Just trust.

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Serenity is elusive.  Even its definition varies with each person's perception. 

The word serenity is derived from the Latin serenus, meaning clear, cloudless, and untroubled; and is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled". 

My personal experience with this word began a year ago at a Mindfulness retreat. This retreat was a huge leap out of my comfort zone and through the process of the weekend's workshops and much personal introspection, I realized that serenity was an essential element of my life and something I needed to seek out.  This understanding sparked months of personal growth and healing. 

Serenity to me is peace, but more than that.  It is a sense of balance and equanimity; being grounded and centred and having a purposeful focus.  After sitting with this word for a few weeks, I realized that my word for the coming year had found me.  A year later, I now know that this is a not word for a year, but a word for my life; a kind of divine quest.

Art Journal page celebrating my word for the year.

A year after this retreat, I am drawn back; this time to facilitate.  Funny how one word can lead to so much!

What does serenity mean to you?

For more information about this year's retreat, check here:!amazing-womens-retreat/c19b9