Friday, August 14, 2009

Like Fine Wines
by Melissa Farris

The word “aromatherapy” was originally coined by the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé in 1920. In an unforeseen laboratory accident, Gattefossé set his arm on fire and immediately thrust it into the nearest vat of cold liquid, which happened to be lavender oil. Instantly, he felt soothing pain relief and watched as the burn continued to heal quickly, with no inflammation or scarring. The profound healing benefits led him to a lifetime of research in a field that he termed “aromatherapy.”

As a clinical herbalist and aromatherapist, I have seen the profound healing effects of essential oils in my 15 years of practice. Therapeutic-grade essential oils can work to heal common ailments where other medications fail. Essential oil blends can be used to treat many conditions, without the side effects that synthetic chemicals may cause. They work quickly and effectively to soothe pain and inflammation.

A pocket-sized first aid kit
Lavender oil is considered to be the panacea of aromatherapy. Because it is used for so many different kinds of ailments, it makes a perfect pocket-sized first aid kit. Pure, therapeutic-grade, organic lavender oil can be used to treat burns, sunburns, cuts, scrapes, insect bites and acne, amongst many other applications. It provides fast, soothing relief upon contact. And lavender’s sweet smell is only a secondary benefit! So, the next time you burn yourself on the stove, get bitten by a nasty bug, or accidentally cut yourself, consider using lavender to heal your wound.

The Latin root of “lavender,” lavare, means “to clean” or “wash oneself”. Historically used to fight the plague and other pestilence, this powerful essential oil is also gentle enough to be applied “neat”, or undiluted, directly on the skin. Keeping a bottle of lavender in your home pharmacy, car or workplace is a must.

There are dozens of essential oils that can be used for many treatments as well as lavender. Some favorites of mine are Peppermint for nausea, headaches and mental clarity; Helichrysum italicum for bruising, swelling, sprains and strains (a great post-workout treatment); Roman chamomile for its anti-spasmotic action: Blue Chamomile for its anti-inflamitory effects: and Tea Tree for its strong anti-microbial effects on pimples, athlete’s foot and dandruff.

The importance of organic
Plants make essential oils to protect themselves from pests, bacteria and environmental stress. By carefully distilling plants such as lavender (it takes about one ton of lavender plants to produce only four liters of essential oil!), we can use their healing oils for our own ailments. But if you spray a plant like lavender with pesticides and herbicides, the lavender will not produce its own natural healing chemicals, because the pesticides are doing that job for the plant.

It is also common to find adulterated essential oils in the market place. Adulterated or synthetic oils can cause short –term side effects such as rashes, buring or other irriations.

When an essential oils is labeled organic, this certification ensures that the plants were farmed, harvested, distilled and distributed accourding to organic methods.

So it is very important that we choose organic essential oils when we are using them for their therapeutic qualities. I suggest reputable health-food stores and cooperatives. Ask the folks who work there if the essential oils they offer are certified organic, and if the essential oil company sources their oils directly from the distilleries where they were made. You will find that essential oils are like fine wines. It may take a while for your nose to recognize a great lavender or roman chamomile. But have patience, because learning to care for yourself with natural healing and beauty products is a self-empowering gift. And most importantly, have fun!

Melissa Farris is the owner of and formulator for Veriditas Botanicals, LLC in Minneapolis, MN. Melissa has been an international educator and working closely with cooperative and indepentant distillers for over a decade. Veriditas imports therapeutic-grade, organic essential oils directly from sustainable producers worldwide.
Check out Melissa Farris's essential oils currently available on Wedge Worldwide!