“An Article on Artemisia” was written by our very own Mary Ann Petersen, Eugene native and Licensed Acupuncturist at Absolute Wellness Center. It was originally published in Spring 2016 by the Willamette Valley’s Take Root Magazine.
At first sniff, aromatherapy smells good. If you take a deeper breath, inhale more information, there is more to it than what meets the nose.
Hippocrates said, “the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.” Before it was called aromatherapy, Egyptians and Romans used essential oils. Essential oils are a branch of herbal medicine. They are highly concentrated, distilled substances from plants. For example, there are about 60 roses in one drop of rose oil.
Essential oil is a volatile oil extracted from the leaves, fruit, flowers, or roots of a plant. In addition to creating pleasing scents, they can be used medicinally to kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The Egyptians perfected the blending of oils and other aromatics to preserve the dead.
During a lab accident in the 1920s, a burn led to a spontaneous plunge into a tub of lavender oil. French cosmetic chemist Rene-maurice Gattefosse burned his arm while creating perfume. The lavender was the closest, cold liquid nearby, so he immediately submerged his arm in it. His pain level swiftly dropped, and the wound healed quickly, with no scarring. The event had such an effect on him, that he started doing research about the medicinal and healing properties of essential oils. He coined the term, aromatherapy. During World War II, French surgeon, Jean Valnet, used botanical aromatics as a front-line treatment for wounded soldiers. They were primarily used as antiseptics for wound care.
Today, an essential oil practitioner could use up to 300 different oils. However, the average household would do well with about 10. Christine Guerts, of Mountain Rose Herbs (mountainroseherbs.com), is a certified aromatherapist. She suggests the following oils to keep on hand: lavender, rosemary or eucalyptus, tea tree, sweet orange or lemon, atlas cedarwood, peppermint, geranium, cinnamon leaf or bark, lemongrass, and fir needle or scotch pine.
Try these at home
Here are some simple recipes. In general, you can add essential oils to lotions, bath water, compresses, carrier oils (explained under the massage recipe), and in the air, as a mist or steam.
Bath soak for relaxation:
Add five or six drops of lavender oil as your bath is filling.
Get in. Soak and absorb the luxury.
Room spray for uplifting mood:
1 oz. water
5 drops sweet orange
5 drops lemon
2 drops nutmeg
Combine ingredients in 1 oz. glass bottle with mister. Shake before each use. Spray generously.
1 oz. carrier oil. For example, sweet almond, jojoba, or sunflower. This forms the main body of the massage oil, which is used to carry the scent, and easily glide onto the skin.
3 drops lavender
2 drops cedarwood
1 drop eucalyptus or rosemary
Combine in a glass bottle with a screw or pump top. Apply to a stressed out friend.
Animals and aromatherapy
How do scents work with animals? They are critical to survival. With humans, we aren’t so sure. However, perfume and cologne companies are producing endless signature scents for humans to attract mates!
Pheromones are chemical signals distributed through scent. Pheromones send messages. Pheromone is based on the Greek word pherein (to transport) and hormone (to stimulate). Within the animal world, they are important elements for establishing territory, finding a mate, marking a path on a trail, increasing mother-baby bonding, and telling another animal to back off.
Aromatherapy is used in veterinary medicine. Reducing anxiety for dogs and cats is usually the focus. Feliway is one such product for cats. It is a synthetic copy of feline facial pheromones. Cats use these to mark territory. Sometimes cats scratch or spray when stressed out, often in a new environment. This product is used to reduce this behavior. For dogs, there is a synthetic copy of the pheromone released by a mother dog from the mammary area after the birth of puppies. It is called Adaptil. This pheromone’s message is one of comfort and safety. The desired overall effect with both of these products is to induce a sense of calm.
One good way to redirect your cat from scratching furniture is to apply 1-2 drops of valerian oil to a chunk of wood. For example, grab a spare piece of firewood and arrange it artistically among your furniture layout. Your cat will focus its wildness and scratching prowess on this organic addition to the room. Do not apply concentrated oils directly onto your cat. They need to be diluted to be safe for cats.
Insects are tuned into pheromones too. Ants dislike peppermint. Put 1-2 drops around wherever they are entering your house to repel them. They even avoid peppermint plants. Mice don’t like peppermint either.
Back to basics, what about fleas? Guerts, of Mountain Rose Herbs said, “lemongrass and citronella are both good options for repelling fleas. I tend to lean towards lemongrass, combava petitgrain or eucalyptus lemon. All of these oils contain citronella. Other oils to include in a treatment would be peppermint, lavender, cedarwood, or scotch pine. You can safely use essential oils with dogs, but you should never apply them to cats, as they are hard on their livers.”
Speaking of fleas, what about the Bubonic plague?
In Medieval Europe, during the black plague, there was a concoction made from vinegar and herbs called, the Four Thieves vinegar. There are many stories as to who used it, and why. One tells of its use for the nefarious purpose of protecting thieves robbing the sick or dead. The story goes that when wearing the oil, they didn’t get sick even if mingling among the infected. One theory for this working is that the concoction contained ingredients that repelled fleas. The flea is what carried the plague bacillus, yersina pestis.
Take a note from Hippocrates; treat yourself and those around you with care and luxury every day. Cultivate healthy habits at home with natural ingredients. Put together a mist, or bath soak, or massage oil. The materials are reasonably priced and they will go a long way. Look for essential oils that are social and fair trade certified, and grown and processed organically.
Health promotion from fresh plants
The produce section at the grocery store is another place you can graze and find great things to bring a wellness spa into your space. Try out this ginger tea bath. You only need three things: ¼ cup fresh grated ginger, 1 lemon, 2 cups water.
Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add grated ginger. Steep for 15 minutes. Add the juice of one lemon. Mix together well. Pour this mixture into a warm bath and soak for 10-15 minutes. Double this recipe if you plan to fill the tub to the rim.
This soak is invigorating during cold weather. The smell alone is uplifting.
Mary Ann Petersen, LAc practices at Absolute Wellness Center in Eugene, OR as part of a multi-disciplinary practice offering sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, and massage. To learn more, give us a call at 541-484-5777.