The Shift Network Blog

[Update] 3 Essential Oils For Health, Happiness & Healing This Summer
David Crow, L.Ac.
By David Crow, L.Ac.
Author, Acupuncturist and Herbalist
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Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine hold many secrets which can vastly improve the quality of our lives...

And now, modern aromatherapy is also tapping into the power of essential oils for skin regeneration, increased energy, uplifting the spirit and so much more.

Because I received such positive response to the post on the essential oils for wellbeing in spring (included below, along with my winter article), I wanted to share with you a seasonal update which features oils for health, happiness and healing during the summer months....


1.  Vetiver: Fragrance of the Soil

All creatures are born of the earth, and nourished by its rich flavors. “I am the fragrance of the soil,” Lord Krishna proclaims in the Bhagavat Gita, reminding us of the life-giving power within the most humble of the elements. Silently enjoying a secret banquet, every plant absorbs the essences of the soil into its body, transforming them into a myriad of foods and medicines for the benefit of other beings. Yet none capture the subtle complexities of the earth’s mysterious fragrances as completely as vetiver grass, known in India as khus....

Vetiver is a grass that grows up to 6-feet high. It’s deeply penetrating roots and thousands of fibrous rootlets reach out to drink in the aromatic molecules from the surrounding soil, which in turn become the multi-layered perfume notes of its amber essential oil.

Sweet and heavy, with rich undertones reminiscent of precious woods and marshlands, the oil has widely varied olfactory characteristics depending on the type of earth it grows in.

Ayurvedic medicine describes vetiver oil as cooling to pitta (anti-inflammatory), yet pacifying to vata (calming and comforting to the mind).

A traditional method of using the root is to apply it as a paste, which reduces fevers and cools the body.

In modern aromatherapy, vetiver is a safe, gentle and easy to use essential oil, which you can apply directly to the skin or mix in a carrier oil, cream or other bas. It is used in cosmetic products for its skin-regenerating powers, which makes it helpful for counteracting aging of your skin and preventing stretch marks after pregnancy. Additionally, it's a compassionately soothing ingredient in liniments if you experience rheumatic pains and arthritis.

Used in massage and bath oils, you'll find its relaxing effects spread through your skin and muscles into the deeper levels of your nervous system, helping to counteract nervousness, stress and exhaustion; it is one of the best oils for uplifting your spirit during times of stress. The relaxing fragrance of the roots also stabilizes concentration and works as a rejuvenating tonic.

Vetiver is beloved to perfumers, esteemed by traditional physicians, and appreciated by people who need its healing virtues. It is also a great friend to farmers, who use it as mulch for improving the fertility of the soil; animals, too, are pleased with finding the sweet grass in their meal. It gives livelihood to nomadic tribal people, and it is a treasure to alchemists who distill its rich essence.

Vetiver is only a simple grass, yet its multitude of benefits and its earthy aroma remind us that we need not look far to find the earth’s life-giving powers.


2.  Neroli: Sweet Sunshine

Neroli is the fragrance of orange trees blossoming under the Moroccan and Tunisian sun. Generation after generation of skilled distillers have slowly extracted the essential oil from the tender flowers, creating one of the world’s finest and most sought after perfumes, desired by queens and empresses, sheiks and maharajas.

Every spring, the delectable fragrance of Citrus aurantium blossoms rises inside their stills in North Africa’s temperate mountains; it is an aroma that will bring joy to all, especially those who have the pleasure of savoring the first few drops that appear in the collecting beaker. Hundreds of pounds of the precious floral treasure, a small mountain of botanical gold, will yield only a tiny vial of exquisite oil.

Neroli was the euphoric aphrodisiac fragrance sprinkled in the bedchambers of Arabian princesses of old, and the scent that wafted from scarves of European noble ladies. To this day, it excites and inspires the master perfumers, who use its delicious sweetness in their expensive aromatic creations.

Neroli is a medicine which your soul may crave when besieged by stress, anxiety, worry or depression. Like scented liquid sunlight, the yellow drops of citrus joy can uplift your mind from gloomy moods, rescue your heart from realms of sadness and grief, and strengthen your spirit when enduring hardships.

Inhaling a few drops of neroli from your palms has a fortifying effect on the brain and nervous system, while simultaneously pacifying the irritation of sensory over-stimulation.

The effects of neroli on emotional wellbeing can be compared to the nourishing, soothing and revitalizing effects of Mediterranean sunshine. Use a few drops as a single note perfume, or add to a body oil or cream base. For those who cannot escape their troubles and flee to a Greek isle or an Italian villa, enveloping oneself in neroli’s blessed aura is the next best thing.


3.  Clary Sage: Peaceful Rejuvenation

From the quiet of the high mountains and Mediterranean hillsides comes a plant with beautiful lavender-pink flowers resembling heart-shaped swans, offering its aromatic oil as an antidote to the suffering of emotional stress and physical fatigue. Clary sage essential oil is a colorless to pale yellow liquid with a unique aroma. Sweet and herbaceous, it is soft with a bitter-sweet undertone.

It has a tenacious persistence that perfumers describe as tobacco-like, balsamic, or tea-like. It's also compared to the aroma of rockrose and Moroccan chamomile. Clary sage has a very characteristic and unmistakable aroma, yet it would be difficult for someone other than a "trained nose” to accurately describe its multilayered wine-like complexities.

And you'll likely find it to be the aroma of contentment if you want to wake up clear-eyed after a night of refreshing sleep and healing dreams.

Clary sage loves to grow in the bright open sunshine, yet in its compassion it works to heal the depths of our unconscious minds. Passing beyond the barriers of habitual thoughts which may keep you tossing and turning when you should be slumbering, its mysterious fragrance wafts from the pillow into the hidden recesses of your brain, promoting deep sleep.

Even though colorful dreams may fill your "inner night sky," you'll wake refreshed, with your energy rejuvenated.

If you are one of the many people who are finding themselves increasingly sensitive and easily overwhelmed by stressful circumstances, sprinkle a few drops of clary oil in your bath and on your pillow before sleep; it is a renowned tonic which can increase your physical and psychological strength. By relaxing tension and supporting vitality, it can also boost your confidence, lift fatigue, calm your anxiety and panic, and help overcome depression. Additionally, it's one of the most famous remedies for reducing menopausal heat.

What could be more precious in this age of mental unrest than an essence which produces euphoric elevation of the spirit while simultaneously bringing tranquil balance to the emotions?



PS - Enjoy the information I shared with you above? If so, please download my free hour-long audio on The Next Levels of Using Essential Oils for Healing



And if you missed my essential oil recommendations for spring (or winter), check them out here as their many benefits extend far beyond a specific season….



Discover 3 Essential Oils to Boost Your Emotional Wellbeing in Spring
 

Over 11,000 people were drawn to an article I shared on the “3 Uses of Medicinal Plants for Renewal of Your Body, Mind & Spirit” during the winter months (which you can find below)….

Because it resonated with so many, I wanted to give you a seasonal update with essential oils I recommend for boosting your emotional wellbeing in spring.

(And you can find the full-length original post below, which has insights that can be beneficial year-round.)

Many of you likely know about the pleasures and benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy.

Lavender is the world’s most popular oil, renowned for its relaxing and mood-lifting properties, eucalyptus oil has been famous for decades for its respiratory decongesting effects during colds and flus, and tea tree is the most researched oil for its antimicrobial powers.

Few people, however, are aware of the internal dimensions hidden within the fragrance of the popular oils....

What are the stories these oils tell about where they come from, their role in traditional cultures, and the benefits they bring to the people who harvest and distill the aromatic plants?

What symbolism do they hold, what do they say about the fragile biosphere of the Earth, and what is the language of the sun, moon and soil that they speak?

Let’s start with lavender….


1.  Lavender Essential Oil

If you are fortunate, you might have a true wild lavender oil from the mountains above Provence, France, not the cultivated lavender of the lowlands. Savor its aroma, and you will find that it has a unique spicy note; could this be the intense summer sun on the dry and rocky mountain slopes? And what of its sweetness: Could that be the soft fog and spring rains that fall on the plants before they flower?

But the most important quality we might find, if we look deeply enough with our sense of smell, is the complex bouquet of notes that speak about this flower’s wild nature, its untamed spirit. This is the mother of all the lavender plants now in cultivation, the last repository of this species’ genetic diversity — reflected in the fact that its flowers are not just lavender, but many shades of blues and yellows and other colors. We can easily imagine then, how much more therapeutic this oil will be, speaking directly to our body and soul in a way that the domesticated lavender of the field cannot.

Slowly inhale the aroma from a few drops of your favorite lavender oil; you will find that even if it is not the exotic wild mountain variety, it will still promote emotional balance. The more slowly you breathe it, the more noticeable its balancing effects will be.

A few drops applied directly to the palms and inhaled, a few drops on a bath, a few drops on the pillow before bed… these are all excellent ways to enjoy and explore the subtle messages of healing this flower sends us.


2.  Frankincense Essential Oil

And what of frankincense oil, which is now so popular because of its great healing powers? Within its complex and varied aromas lie mysteries of the ages, for this tree’s resin has perfumed temples, mosques, pagodas, churches, caves and other sacred places for millennium.

Delve into the layers of its aroma and you might begin to hear the countless prayers that have been uttered as its smoke rose to the heavens; frankincense could easily be said to be the heart of our collective memories, the fragrance of humanity’s spiritual aspirations and endeavors.

There is a good reason that the sweet pine-like aroma of frankincense has always been considered to be the finest offering to Divinity...

Modern science now confirms that its compounds affect our consciousness in ways that lift us out of depression and calm our spirit, thereby bringing us closer to our inner divinity.

Use frankincense essential oil in the same way as lavender, or put a small piece of resin on a coal as done since time immemorial. When we use this wonderful sacrament, we should always do so with reverence and appreciation, as it may soon no longer be with us; sadly, this gnarled desert tree, so central to all the world’s major religions, is vanishing from the Earth, carried away by the forces of climate change, over-harvesting driven by poverty, and simply being loved to extinction.

Knowing this, breathe its fragrance into your heart; I know of no better way to give thanks than to listen inwardly to the silent language of these ancient sentinels of the sands.


3. Rosemary Essential Oil

What lavender is to an agitated heart and frankincense to the spirit, rosemary is to the weary mind. It speaks to us in unmistakable camphoraceous notes, revealing its rugged constitution and love of hot Mediterranean summers. How could this plant’s energizing solar essence not lift us from physical fatigue and mental depression, especially if we are chilled by a long winter or feeling the cold stiffness of increasing age?

Rosemary is gaining scientific recognition as a great remedy for forgetfulness, an aromatic species that strengthens the brain, sharpens concentration and deepens memory, but any village grandmother could have told us that, centuries ago. Like the others, rosemary oil can be safely inhaled from a few drops rubbed on the palms or used in a diffuser; notice how it immediately enlivens our mental faculties and clears the breathing with its herbaceous vitality.

Use essential oils wisely, as they are very potent substances. They have great healing powers, but they can also harm us. Use only the smallest amounts, and never take them internally without medical guidance.

Most importantly, listen carefully to the aromatic languages they speak, because that is how they talk to our bodies, minds and spirits....

 



I hope you enjoyed the summer and spring updates above. And if you're interested in the suggested uses of medicinal plants during winter I mentioned (perhaps it's winter in your part of the world), I want to share it with you here because it contains recommendations which could be beneficial any time of the year….
 



3 Uses of Medicinal Plants for Renewal of
Your Body, Mind & Spirit in Winter


This season, would you like to increase your immunity, elevate your mood and successfully set your intentions for the year ahead?

If so, I want to share with you some sacred and effective uses of medicinal plants and herbs for renewal and rejuvenation during the winter months.

The first way supports the renewal of your health and immunity, helping you to ward off the illnesses that thrive when people huddle together indoors.

The second way fosters renewal of your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being; this is particularly important when we are facing long cold and dark days, as well as the stressors that are often associated with the holidays.

And finally, I’ll show you the ways medicinal plants can not only help you experience more enjoyment of seasonal activities and festivities, but also be very beneficial for letting go of addictions and renewing your intentions for the new year.

So, if you want to rejuvenate your:
 

  • Health, energy & vitality

  • Emotional, physical & spiritual well-being

  • Resolve to let go of bad habits & addictions

  • Intentions for creating a more fulfilling year

  • And feelings of peace & joy this season
     

...I have the following suggestions for you:
 

3 Sacred Ways to Use Medicinal Plants & Herbs for Renewal
 


1.  Improve Your Immunity

One of the very well-known uses of plants during the holiday season in the Christian tradition is the use of the Christmas tree (which is actually an old pagan practice).

It's interesting to note that “tree worship” is the oldest known form of spirituality in the world. So when people bring the Christmas tree into the house, it's a remnant of many kinds of ceremonies and rituals honoring trees throughout the ages.

A very simple application of this is the use of essential oils from the conifer trees — including the many species of spruce, pine, fir and juniper. If we look at the therapeutic benefits of using these oils (such as in a diffuser), we see that they strengthen our immunity and have significant antimicrobial powers.

You can also put a couple of drops directly on your palms and inhale, as they're very nice for clearing the sinuses and good for respiratory infections.

Another option is to gather fresh conifer branches — and bring the immune system of the forest into your home.

If you have access to them, this can be really refreshing during the holiday season, when people tend to spend a lot of time inside together (which is also why there are so many colds and flus).

It’s interesting to know that conifers produce the essential oils for their own immunity, and when we take a walk in the woods, what we smell is really the collective immune system of the forest.
 


Since a forest is an interconnected community of trees, one could say that its oils are the fragrance of “community immunity.”

And when we use these essential oils, their molecules are literally the distilled immune system of the trees we are inhaling.

Additionally, using conifer branches in the sauna or sweat lodge, as is done in traditional cultures, can have a very nice effect on your consciousness, as the oils can be mentally stimulating and uplifting.

In Ayurvedic medicine, we would say that the fragrance of conifer trees increases the flow of prana — the life force in the respiratory and nervous systems.

Increasing the flow of prana is particularly important during the long, dark months when the prana tends to decrease and become depressed. Increasing prana not only benefits our body, but also has an uplifting effect on the mind and the spirit.


Here is some additional information on a couple specific conifer trees that I recommend utilizing, particularly in winter:
 

Cedar

Cedar is used ceremonially in Native American tradition. The dried leaves are sprinkled on the rocks in the sweat lodge, and used with prayer in peyote ceremonies.

When the cedar leaf is burned during the ceremony, it has antimicrobial purification effects, but it also is very uplifting to the spirit. Cedar is a very familiar sacred fragrance in spiritual traditions of North America.


Juniper

Another one that you may not be as familiar with is juniper, which is used in the same ceremonial way — the dry leaflets sprinkled on coals. It’s one of most commonly used aromatic trees for incense purposes, but is used more in the Himalayas. Like the others, juniper is used for purification…

This includes purification of airborne pathogens; as a very strong antimicrobial, it cleanses the atmosphere of potentially contagious microbes. Additionally, juniper is used for spiritual purification, which can be directly translated into mental and emotional well-being. For example, in the Tibetan tradition, it’s used for clearing mental negativity (like depression and anxiety).



2.  Renew Your Mind & Spirit
 

Another important aspect of renewal has to do with remembering the joy of the winter season. During the holidays, a lot of people suffer from depression and anxiety for a variety of reasons — from family issues to financial concerns to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

One of the groups of plants that can be used to help you generally feel better are the floral essential oils as well as the herbs that help with anxiety and depression.


Flower Essential Oils:

If you are experiencing depression, I suggest using floral essential oils, because the fragrance of the flowers has a very positive effect on the mood and spirit, especially in the cold and darkness of winter.

The floral essential oils can be used in a diffuser for aromatherapy, and 2-4 drops are safe to put in your bath or a carrier oil for massage. Additionally, you could use some on your pillow, or wear directly on your skin as a “single note” type of perfume.

A few of the oils that are very nice and easily available are lavender and geranium.... and I also suggest you explore these more exotic ones:
 

Rose

Rose oil is perfect for lifting the mind and the spirit. It’s a specific remedy against depression and sadness, and can be used to remember the joy of the winter season.


Neroli

Neroli, the orange blossom flower, is distilled in the springtime, so we could consider it “distilled sunlight.” The use of the neroli oil as a perfume, in a diffuser or body oil, is also very effective for Seasonal Affective Disorder, to refresh the mind and lift the spirits.
 



Herbs:

Many of the herbs that are good for your nervous system are also good for various types of anxiety and depression. However, a couple of herbs that are particularly beneficial for lifting your mind and spirit during the winter season are:


Tulsi, Holy Basil

This is an herb that strengthens digestion, the nervous system and immunity. It increases the flow of the prana, which is especially important for the brain and mood, and increases our devotion for spiritual practices.


St. John’s Wort & Lemon Balm Combination

A dropperful of the tincture of St. John's wort put into a tea of lemon balm is a nice combination for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Lemon balm is mild but effective for supporting the brain and nervous system, and it's very beneficial for memory and concentration. (Note: If you are on medications, St. John’s wort should not be used without professional guidance.)

 


3.  Let Go of Addictions & Start Fresh


Toward the end of the year, another aspect of renewal is letting go of addictions — and medicinal plants and herbs can help people with this. Whether you stop smoking or give up alcohol, sugar or caffeine, you’ll want to feel as comfortable as possible as you go through withdrawal symptoms.

There are many kinds of herbs that are very helpful for making these transitions and renewing your efforts with lifestyle changes, however, some of the most important and effective herbs are those that help relax the nervous system.

These herbs do not have to be extremely potent or exotic: Simple common species can have a profound effect. For example, chamomile or lavender tea can relieve many symptoms of withdrawal. The tincture of milky oat seed can also be very helpful, as it strengthens the nervous system.
 

Renew Your Intentions

Now, I’ll explore one of the most important uses of medicinal plants for renewal in the winter season — the use of “sacred scents”....

The sacred scents are actually used all year round in ceremony all over the world, and they include species like frankincense and myrrh from the Middle East, palo santo from South America, and agarwood and sandalwood from Asia.

These are all wonderful to use in simple rituals for the home, but, I want to share a little bit more about two of these that I recommend for rituals for the new year:

Frankincense

Frankincense has always been viewed as sacred to the gods because of its pleasing sweet fragrance, and the finest grades reserved for divine worship. It’s used in Arab homes to perfume clothes and purify the atmosphere, and in traditional festivities such as weddings and religious celebrations. Cones of the resin are also burned as candles outdoors at night to keep away wild animals and evil spirits.

The medicinal and spiritual uses of frankincense are so numerous that it can accurately be described as a panacea — used for everything from simple colds to chronic degenerative conditions.

Fumigation with frankincense smoke has been used in various cultures to treat a wide range of psychological and emotional disorders.

In modern aromatherapy, one of the primary uses of the resin and oil is to promote calmness and a relaxed state of mind, and is therefore beneficial for use in meditation and sacred ceremonies.

The most important of the sacred scents for renewing our intentions and visualizing the new year would be agarwood. Agarwood is used extensively in Asia, especially in the Buddhist and Taoist traditions. It’s also a major ingredient of many incense formulas.Agarwood is known as the “wish-fulfilling gem”....

And legend says, if we use agarwood with prayer and meditation, it causes “spiritual synchronicity”which helps us manifest our purpose in life.

One of the most interesting encounters I have had with it happened while studying with the King of Nepal’s alchemist in Kathmandu. “Use agarwood wisely, with a reverent mind,” he instructed me, “for it has great powers to manifest our thoughts and desires.” Many believe it brings love, good fortune and prosperity to those who use it with care.

It’s available both as oil and wood, and is generally very expensive. For our renewal purposes, you can use a small amount of the wood as incense; you only need a little pinch of the wood on an incense burner. If it’s heated gently, rather than burned, it emits a very beautiful fragrance — which is actually very psychoactive. It also has a profoundly relaxing effect on the nervous system, and helps to support a meditative mood.

Many people, over a long period of time have reported that if you use agarwood with meditation and prayer to set your intentions — visualizing a specific outcome of what you would like manifest — some kind of magic happens.


What I’ve shared with you above are just a few of the many sacred ways you can use medicinal plants for renewal, ritual and purification. I hope they help bring you much health, happiness and greater fulfillment all year long.