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.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Storing Essential Oils

As the cool weather surrounds us, we seem to turn more towards using essential oils in our homes, and questions often arise as to how to store these precious (and often expensive) oils.  

In order to maximize the life of your essential oils, they need to be stored much like wine; away from light and heat. When you buy essential oils they should be in dark glass bottles to protect their chemical constituents and we want to keep them in these bottles.  Store your oils in a dark place, out of direct sunlight, and not in the bathroom where the heat of the shower could affect your oil's quality.  A cupboard or a shelf in your bedroom closet is ideal.  

Most essential oils that are stored properly can last a year or two, depending on how often they are opened and how much air is in the bottle. If you have a large but half-full bottle of essential oil, it would be wise to pour the oil into smaller bottles to minimize the air content in the bottle; less contact with air helps the oil to last longer.  

Essential oils rich in monoterpenes, such as citrus and evergreen oils, can oxidize quickly and are best stored in the refrigerator to maximize their longevity.  They should be used within a year, so it is best to buy these oils in small quantities. Interestingly, some of the heavier essential oils like patchouli and sandalwood actually improve with age!  

You can tell that your essential oil is past its best if the colour or scent changes, or if the oil thickens. If you notice a change in your essential oil and think it had gone bad, it is still useful for cleaning purposes. For example, Pine and Lemon essential oils are not advised to be used on the skin once they have oxidized, but they still retain their germ-fighting properties and smell fresh enough to use for cleaning!  (Remember that when cleaning you should always wear gloves, even if using natural products like essential oils.)

The best way to keep your essential oils fresh is to use them!  Using your oils and keeping them stored appropriately will maximize both your investment, and your enjoyment!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Joy of Self Care

At this very busy time of year, it is easy to be overwhelmed with our to-do lists and put our own needs after those of others.  Is this wise?  I am reminded of my flight attendant training and the safety demonstrations we gave that said "put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others".  The wisdom of self-care...we know this, yet it is still so hard to put this knowledge into practice.  What if we found a way to re-define our perception of self-care and allowed ourselves to embrace the joy of taking care of ourselves while we look after those we love?

After a very difficult few months, I have struggled with trying to 'do it all' and to 'be all the things' know, that mother who is on top of all her child's academic and emotional needs and can schedule driving lessons and appointments with ease; the wife who creates a clean and uncluttered home for her husband to come home to, complete with a meal cooked from scratch; the daughter who supports her grieving family by being available for appointments or just to be together. We all have our own unique variation of this "being all the things"; but where does that leave us?  In my case, it left me exhausted, overwhelmed, angry, and sad. I finally reached my limit yesterday and took a day to stay home, and while I did clean up the house, I also gave myself permission to play in my art journal and have a bath!  Did I feel guilty?  Absolutely! And then, while soaking away the stress and letting the mental chatter of my to-do list flow down the drain, I was struck by a sense of peace, and even joy.  I had put myself first; listened to my body and my needs, and I felt revived and hopeful.  But what does this apparently selfish act mean for everyone around me?  A new and revitalized me, willing to face the season with renewed spirit!  I had been reminded that taking care of myself meant I was better equipped to help those I love: I'd found the *joy* of self-care.

If you are feeling the seasonal stress, why not schedule some time for yourself and see if you too can find the joy in self-care!


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Inviting Joy... and fabulous Apple "Nachos"!

Yesterday was my birthday.  Being a milestone, we decided to mark the occasion by doing something I hadn't done as an adult, and have a party. This idea brought with it excitement, but also trepidation, and feelings of unworthiness.  Although I imagined an intimate gathering of close friends, I was faced with the fear that *nobody* would come...why would anyone want to come to *my* party, after all?  Instead of giving into this and planning the gathering from a place of fear, I tried something new and decided to "invite joy" and  plan from a place of celebration in which everyone could share.   The fabulous birthday Tea Party was born! I got out the bone china teacups and saucers, chose the tea, ordered tiny treats (befitting a tea party), supervised the making of cucumber sandwiches (he didn't need any supervision!), and even made a new treat, that I called "Apple Nachos", for the first time.  (Recipe to follow).  

It worked!  The day was perfect.  The tea was enjoyed, the treats were eaten, many laughs were shared, and precious memories made. It was the intimate gathering that I had dreamed of.  

The lesson here?  Try something new!  Go outside of that comfort zone and see what magic happens!  Invite joy.

Fabulous Apple "Nachos"

2 large apples, quartered and thinly sliced (I used Honeycrisp)
toasted almonds
dried cranberries
dairy-free chocolate chips

Raw vegan caramel sauce
For the sauce:
1 cup dates (soaked in hot water for about 20 minutes)
2 tsp almond butter (or any nut or seed butter)
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
dash of salt
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, adding more water if needed to achieve the desired consistency.  
To assemble the "nachos":
Thinly slice the apples and soak in a mixture of water and lemon juice to discourage browning, pat dry. Layer apple slices onto a plate or platter.  Melt the chocolate chips (you could add a bit of coconut oil to thin the chocolate more) until it is runny. Drizzle the chocolate over the apples. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the apples.  Top with the almonds, cranberries and coconut (or whatever toppings you like)!
This recipe is my own twist, and is inspired by the caramel filling in Angela Liddon's  Oh She Glows Cookbook, (Penguin Canada Books, Toronto, 2014).

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Autumnal Aromatherapy

Wishing you a Happy Autumn!
The Equinox in September marks the beginning of our Fall season where I live, and in the ancient Pagan calendar this time of "Mabon" represents the perfect balance of light and darkness.  Personally, I always feel this balance as a pull between the playfulness of Summer and the introspection of Winter, and find myself drawn to more inner reflection. 

According to Joni Keim and Ruah Bull in their book Daily Aromatherapy: Transforming the Seasons of Your Life with Essential Oils, (North Atlantic Books, 2008), 
"Autumn is the season of the soul that signals a time to reflect upon your life and assess the health and wellbeing of your body, mind, heart, and spirit.  It is a time for insights and using good judgement regarding your relationships, how you take care of yourself, how you spend your time, and what you have accomplished...  It is also a time to acknowledge and be grateful for the many blessings in your life, and to be generous of spirit.  In all of this, healing takes place." (p.153)

For me, this inward focus also extends to our home.  As the rains and winds of our West Coast Canadian season move upon us, I find myself bringing out my diffuser and essential oils to enhance our indoor space. At this time of year I am naturally drawn to warm and comforting essential oils, as well as many of the evergreen tree oils.  Likewise, Joni Keim and Ruah Bull suggest the essential oils of Spruce (self reflection); Fir (self-understanding); Bay Laurel (good judgement); and Clary Sage (intuition).  A nice way to use these oils, particularly today to mark the change of season, would be to make a blend of 1 drop Fir, 1 drop Spruce, and 2 drops Bay Laurel and either put it into a diffuser, or place on a tissue to inhale.  This blend could then be used as part of a meditation and affirmation to acknowledge the season and your own personal journey. If you have a seasonal ritual, this would also be an excellent blend to accompany your work. Have fun and play with the proportions and oils to suit your own taste...remember that this is intended for diffuser or inhalation from a tissue only as Evergreen oils can be irritating to the skin and are not recommended for baths or use on the body (unless blended and well diluted- consult a professional for information on this).

Other beneficial Essential oils for Fall include:
Palmarosa (self-accceptance), Roman Chamomile (forgiveness), Cardamom (generosity), Cypress (personal growth), Rose (love), Jasmine (gratitude). 

I often mark the change of season by creating a unique blend, and each Autumn I play with various combinations and create a new favourite for seasonal emotional support.  Is exploring scent a way that you mark the change in season? 

 "Aromatherapy Insight cards"by Jennifer Jefferies

Wishing you the comfort and balance of this glorious Fall season!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Sunshine and Citrus don't always mix

The warm weather is here!  
There are ways that using essential oils can increase our enjoyment of the summer, however with the warm weather comes some cautions for using essential oils safely.

While the best practices of safe usage involving dilution and external use only always apply,  phototoxicity is an additional concern in the summer months. This may seem like the ideal time to enjoy the light refreshing scent of the Citrus oils, but these oils are particularly dangerous to use in the sunshine.  Most Citrus oils are phototoxic; meaning that applying them to the skin and then exposing that skin to sunlight (or UV lamps) can result in blistering burns which can lead to permanent skin damage.  The chemical constituents known as 'furanocoumarins' are responsible for this phototoxic reaction and these compounds occur in nearly all expressed Citrus oils.  The worst offender is Bergamot, and it is this oil that lead to studies beginning in the 1950's which determined the chemicals responsible for these painful reactions.  

Happily, we don't have to completely avoid using all Citrus oils on our skin in the summer! We do have some alternatives, the most common being steam distilled Lime and Lemon essential oils, and a fractionated grade of Bergamot know as "Bergamot FCF" (furanocoumarin-free); this is the only Bergamot that I use, and while I am told the the scent is not as nice as the natural Bergamot, the safety is more important to me.  Remembering to properly dilute essential oils is also key to having a safe experience. 

Another way to enjoy these refreshing oils and manage the risk is by using them in the diffuser and not on our body.  Remember that if you are in doubt, it is best to avoid the oil!  Consulting a qualified Professional Aromatherapist is also a good idea when considering safety issues such as this. 

Phototoxic Essential Oils 
Lemon (Expressed)
Lime (Expressed)
Mandarin Leaf
Bitter Orange

Possible Phototoxic Oils

Non-Phototoxic Oils
Bergamot FCF
Lemon (distilled)
Lime (distilled)
Sweet Orange

Source: Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, Essential Oil Safety, (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014),p.87 

Essential Oils are wonderful, and when we respect their power and use them with appropriate care, they can greatly enhance our lives.  

Wishing you a relaxing, fun, and safe summer! 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Essential Oils and the Flu

It is that time of year again, and the Flu is roaring through my community.  I have been hearing a lot about people using Essential Oils to help.  I do not promote or recommend the internal use of Essential Oils because it is beyond the scope of my Aromatherapy practice.  What I would suggest is using dried herbs in the form of a tea or tincture for internal use and saving your essential oils for using externally to soothe your body.  Seeking the guidance of a Professional Herbalist or Naturopath is a great way to get the information you need to choose and use medicinal herbs that are appropriate for you.

In looking at Aromatherapy for helping to ease Flu symptoms, it is important to know what you are using.  Essential oils are extremely powerful and many have contra-indications, particularly for those on medication or with pre-existing medical conditions like high blood pressure.  If you are not sure if an essential oil is safe for you to use, it is always a good idea to check with a professional Aromatherapist.

So, if you aren't drinking your essential oils, what are you supposed to do with them?
Inhalation is a powerful method of application and the simplest and oldest way to do this is to put a few drops into a bowl of boiling water, lean over the steam and put a towel over your head to trap the vapours.  My favourite essential oils for this are Thyme, which is highly anti-viral and anti-bacterial; Eucalyptus for loosening nasal and chest congestion; Peppermint, which also eases congestion; Lavender, which has anti-viral properties, but is also very good at calming and soothing your emotions.  Using one or a combination of these oils can help to ease your suffering.  Remember that you can have too much of a good thing, so only use a few drops of oil per bowl of water!

Essential Oils can also be useful if applied in a carrier oil to ease body aches.  Oils such as Lavender, Peppermint, Ginger are all very soothing when applied topically.  These should be diluted to no more than 2% dilution (no more than 12 drops of Essential Oil in 30ml of carrier oil).

Where Essential Oils can be of greatest benefit is in prevention!  Diffusing germ-killing oils like Cinnamon, Clove, Tea Tree, or Eucalyptus in the home can help to clean the air of bugs that may be lingering.  This is especially important when someone in the home is sick, as it can help prevent the spread of the illness.   Diffusing essential oils in combination with the recommended frequent hand-washing and cleaning frequently touched surfaces can greatly improve the odds of keeping the family healthy.

If you are interested in learning more about Aromatherapy, look here for our upcoming workshop!

Wishing you wellness.