Welcome back to Part 3 of my Health & Fitness blog series: Oily Tips & Tricks to Help You Reach Your Goals! I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey with you and have really appreciated all the supportive feedback I have gotten from family and friends. It’s such a wonderful feeling to know that my journey has helped inspire so many others and I can only hope to continue to motivate and inspire as I move into 2017 with bigger and better fitness goals in mind. But today I want to share with you a little bit about how my oily obsession has helped me meet my goals this year! So read on!
For the Athlete on the Go: Active & Fit Kit
Perfect to throw in your gym bag or for the student athlete, the Active & Fit Kit was created by Young Living ambassadors and athletes to help you rev up your workout by combining the power of Cool Azul Sports Gel, plus Deep Relief, Peppermint Vitality, Copaiba, R.C., and Thieves essential oil blends. This kit is designed with convenience in mind with a carabiner for easy attachment to any gym bag, an exterior pocket that perfectly fits a Slique Bar, and an interior pocket sized just right for a tube of NingXia NITRO. As an added bonus, this kit will include three roller fitments to complement each topical essential oil. The Active & Fit Kit supports every fitness regimen, from elite competition to daily workouts.
This was on my wishlist for several months after it was released in 2016 and I’m super excited to have it as part of my on-the-go gym bag! I use this kit several times a week. I’ve added and changed a few things so below I’ll tell you how and why I use each of the oils in my Active & Fit Kit!
Copaiba (with roller fitment) – Copaiba is one of those oils that I tend to forget about because its less commonly used or talked about but it has so many awesome uses! Copaiba is distilled from resin harvested from the tree that grows native in South America. In addition to all it’s amazing oral and digestive health benefits, Copaiba also helps support the body’s natural response to injury and irritation. It is a key ingredient in Young Living’s best-selling roll-on blends Breathe Again and Deep Relief. I mentioned in Part 2 of my blog series about my knees showing signs of wear and tear from my increased physical activity this year, hence why I take a Glucosamin Chondroitin supplement each morning. But for added benefit, I like to roll on a little Copaiba essential oil on and around my knee joints to help give them a little support before I start my exercise routine. I find this especially beneficial before I go for a run!
R.C. (with roller fitment) – R.C. is a powerhouse blend of 10 essential oils, including Cypress, Spruce, Myrtle, Marjoram, Pine, Lavender, Peppermint and three species of Eucalyptus designed to support healthy respiratory function. I like to apply R.C. to my chest before physical activity, especially running, to help open the airways and ensure that my respiratory system operating at its best during exercise! I’ve noticed a big difference when running with R.C. vs the days I forget to apply it. Especially during transitional months when the sniffles are so common!
Thieves – Thieves is probably Young Living’s best known blend, so named after the Legend of the 4 Thieves who used to rob from plague victims during the 5th century but never got sick. Thieves is a blend of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils. I apply Thieves to the bottoms of my feet before I exercise or go run. Not only does this help support my immune system it also keeps my sweaty feet from stinking up my gym shoes! lol I chose not to put my roller fitment attachment on my Thieves because I tend to diffuse this a lot at work to keep the germs away when I have clients in and out of my office all day. I have to refill my Thieves for the diffuser so often that I have had to resort to pulling it out of my Active & Fit kit at times so it’s easier to keep it off so I can use it both ways.
Peppermint Vitality – Did you know there is actually a ton of research suggesting that Peppermint essential oil can enhance athletic performance by supporting your respiratory and circulatory systems so you can go faster and farther? Just cracking open and smelling that bottle of peppermint oil can reduce perceived effort, improve your mood and boost your brainpower!!! A recent study by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that adding Peppermint essential oil to athlete’s drinks improved their performance, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory functioning. In addition, the test subjects were able to increase their performance by 51% as well as increased their time until exhaustion by 25%!!! Young Living’s Active & Fit Kit comes with a bottle of Peppermint Vitality for just this reason! Same high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils but labeled as a dietary supplement! I love adding a drop or two of Peppermint Vitality to my water before exercise to give me a little extra pep in my step!
Deep Relief – The ONLY way you can get a 5 ml bottle of Deep Relief is with the Active & Fit Kit. It’s the same amazing blend of Peppermint, Lemon, Balsam Canada, Clove, Copaiba, Wintergreen, Helichrysum, Vetiver and Dorado Azul in a coconut oil carrier that you get in the 10 ml Deep Relief roll-on but in a dropper bottle. I actually find it easier to use the roll-on for my purposes, which is for targeted relief on sore muscles or aching joints after workouts so I replaced my 5 ml bottle with the 10 ml roll-on for daily use. However, I’m hoarding my 5 ml bottle for other purposes like making my own DIY Bath Salts or Massage Lotion!
Cool Azul Sports Gel – Cool Azul Sports Gel is an aloe based gel with a cooling blend of Peppermint, Wintergreen, Sage, Copaiba, Oregano, Niaouli, Lavender, Blue Cypress, Elemi, Willow, Caraway, Dorado Azul and Vetiver essential oils with Menthol and Camphor as well as Arnica and Chamomile flower extracts making it the perfect choice to use before or after physical activity. Rub and massage generously onto skin targeting sore or overworked muscles. I’ve actually pulled muscles in my back a couple times over the last several months (picking up my toddler and washing the dogs, not exercising, believe it or not) and I applied Cool Azul to my lower back before bed! By morning it always feels so much better! But make sure to wash hands after use, especially my gentleman readers, if you catch my drift!
Fitness, Inspired by Oola
Another of my favorite oils that I’ve actually added to my Active & Fit Kit so I have it on-the-go with me at all times is the Fitness, Inspired by Oola blend. Young Living teamed up with the Oola Guys, creators of Oola to develop 7 essential oil blends inspired by the 7 F’s of Oola (fitness, finance, family, field, faith, friends, and fun). I could do a whole class on Oola and essential oils but today I want to share with you the Fitness essential oil blend. Fitness, Inspired by Oola is a blend of Cypress, Copaiba, Basil, Cistus, Marjoram, Peppermint, Clary Sage, Idaho Blue Spruce, Balsam Canada, Nutmeg and Black Pepper in a Coconut oil carrier designed to help uplift, energize and give you the inspiration to take your workout to the next level! I like to apply a couple drops to my Solar Plexus and repeat the Oola Fitness Affirmation “I am fit, healthy, disciplined and strong” before my workout. It’s also lovely to diffuse in your home gym or living room while you work up a sweat!
Learn more about the 7 F’s and Oola Balance here from the Oola Guys http://www.oolalife.com
Runner’s Magic Recipe
This little gem has been a life saver!!! It’s a recipe I’ll be sharing during my 2017 New Year New You: Essential Oils for New Years Fitness Resolutions class but I’ll give you a little sneak peak! Shin Splints, often thought of as a runner’s injury plague more than just the marathon racer. Nearly every athlete will get shin splints at some point in their career and also quite common among dancers. But even just running to catch the bus or increasing your activity level as you try to get in shape can lead to shin splints. But what are they? Shin Splints can actually be caused by several things from flat feet to inflammation and irritation in the mucles surrounding the shin bones from being overworked to stress fractures in the tibia or fibula! I added this roller bottle to my Active & Fit Kit and use it after running or plyometric (think jump training) workouts when my shins and calves tend to ache the most!
Roll directly onto affected area for relief from shin splints or other discomfort from overactive workouts.
Sore muscles? There’s an oil (well several actually!) for that! The Active & Fit Kit comes with both Cool Azul Sports Gel as well as Deep Relief (see above) both of which are awesome at targeted relief. But one of my all time favorite ways to soothe my muscles after a strenuous workout is to take a relaxing bath! PanAway is one of my favorite oils to add to my post-workout bath. It is a cooling blend of Peppermint, Wintergreen, Clove, and Helichrysum designed to provide relief from normal aches and pains. You can also add to Young Living’s Ortho Sport or Ortho Ease massage oils to soothe sore muscles after a workout! Here is one of my favorite, simple DIY post-workout bath salts recipes!
Simple DIY Post-Workout Bath Salts Recipe
Mix ingredients and store in 8 oz glass jar. Throw handful in tub before sinking in and relaxing! Trust me, your muscles will thank you!
Make sure to check out my 2017 New Year New You online essential oils for fitness class for a DIY Massage Lotion recipe and even more ideas for post-workout relief!
So there you have it. The 3rd and final installment of my 2016 Health & Fitness blog series: Oily Tips & Tricks to Help You Reach Your Goals! Be on the look out for an invite to my 2017: New Year New You online class about using essential oils to help meet your health and fitness goals! In the class I will be covering a holistic approach to meeting weight management and fitness goals using Young Living essential oils and supplements. This post was just a precursor to all the information I will be sharing in that class! So if you have health and fitness resolutions for the New Year you don’t want to miss it!!! If you’re not my friend on Facebook, or aren’t one of my usual suspects, and want an invite, comment below with your email and/or Facebook name or PM me on Facebook and I’ll be sure to add you to the guest list!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my journey! In case you missed it, make sure to check out the other installments of my 2016 Health & Fitness blog series Part 1: Intro to my Diet and Exercise Routine and Part 2: My Supplement and Protein Shake Reviews.
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, certified trainer or nutritionist. I am merely an average girl just like you who got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I have been asked about what I’ve been doing to have the results I have been blessed with so wanted to share the love! Please consult with your medical professional to ensure that you are healthy enough for increased activity levels and/or a nutritionist to ensure that any dietary needs you may have are being met by whatever nutritional program you choose.
If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you may remember my previous post on my Quest for the Holy Grail of DIY Deodorants. Turns out, what I thought was the holy grail failed to live up to my expectations in the long-run. It was great in the beginning but then the unthinkable happened, I was approached at work and informed that there had been a complaint about my body odor. Seriously, the most embarassing thing to have ever happened to me in my adult life. Try as I might, I still to this day cannot figure out who would have been close enough to actually smell me. But I digress. Either way, a change had to be made so I headed to some of my crunchy granola online groups to see if anyone had any suggestions.
In one of my previous deo posts I shared about my failed attempt at using Milk of Magnesia as a deodorant alternative. You may be wondering how on Earth MoM would work to decrease body stank. The active ingredient, magnesium hydroxide, is alkaline it helps balance the acidity of the sweat and sebum (skin’s natural oils) mixture thereby preventing odor from this buildup. When I turned to my support group for answers, several of the women pointed out that they had also had failed attempts until they learned the magic trick. See, MoM works best when it has dehydrated a bit. Someone, somewhere along the way discovered that the thicker, creamier paste that started to crust around the top of their MoM container was more effective than the liquid itself. Who knew? The trick they suggested was actually pouring it out onto a baking sheet and letting it dehydrate for 24 hours or so to let it thicken up. (More information about this trick from Buddhaful Brit) So, I thought “What the hell? I’ll give it a shot!” But I was a bit skeptical that MoM by itself would be effective enough. I wanted to make sure it had some drying power and that it smelled good too. So I set to researching options.
Since I have a sensitivity to baking soda I considered adding Arrowroot powder. This would be effective I’m sure but I’d heard a lot of people say that they had good luck with corn starch. I had a container of J&J Natural baby powder that is basically just corn starch with some Vitamin E and Aloe added. I don’t use baby powder on my child so it was never going to get used and I thought it might make a suitable alternative and that the added Vitamin E and Aloe might help soothe the skin as well.
But I wasn’t done yet. Y’all know me, I had to throw in some essential oils! I had good luck using Rosemary neat so figured I’d add it to my recipe and I had been learning about the deodorizing benefits of Geranium and Cypress essential oils in my aromatherapy class so I set to researching different oils and selected 5 to add to my recipe. These are the ones I chose:
Geranium – Geranium not only has a pleasing fragrance, it also has properties that help combat odor-causing bacteria on the body. Geranium essential oil is wonderful to add to your collection for a number of skin conditions as it helps cleanse oily skin and soothes dry, cracked or irritated skin.
Rosemary – Another great oil that provides a refreshing and cooling sensation to your deodorant blend while helping to protect against odor causing bacteria.
Cedarwood – Cedarwood helps provide a nice, earthy balance to this blend while also preventing body odor.
Lavender – Like Geranium, Lavender has a lovely fragrance and many deodorizing, skin-soothing, and healing properties that make it a wonderful oil to add to your homemade deodorant and skin care recipes.
Cypress – Cypress helps reduce excessive sweating and prevents body odor. It has a somewhat woody fragrance that pairs well with Geranium and is suitable for men or women.
Other oils I researched that you may want to add to your homemade deodorants:
Lemon – Often added to homemade deodorants and body washes, along with other citrus oils (like Bergamot), due to its refreshing aroma. It’s cleansing properties help prevent odor causing bacteria growth. Citrus oils pair well with Geranium. *Note: Many citrus oils can cause photosensitivity so be mindful if you are sunbathing as you don’t want to burn your pits. Grapefruit is a wonderful alternative as it does not cause photosensitivity but still contains many of the same properties as Lemon and Bergamot essential oil.
Tea Tree – A beneficial oil to keep in your oily first aid kit as well because of its ability to help cleanse wounds, promote healing, and prevent the harboring of bacteria which can cause odor and infection.
Lemongrass – Another oil well renowned for its ability to help prevent the growth of odor causing bacteria. This oil has a strong but refreshing fragrance that provides a nice complement to many of the other oils listed or can be used on its own. Note: Lemongrass is a “hot” oil so make sure not to use this oil “neat” on the skin.
Patchouli – An acquired fragrance but Patchouli is a strong smelling oil that has long been famed for its ability to help reduce and masque the scent of unpleasant body odor.
**Feel free to research other oils that have antibacterial, antifungal or astringent properties as any of these would make great additions to your homemade deodorant blends! I really like the Essential Oils Pocket and Desk Reference Guides by Life Science Publishing as well as Dr. Scott Johnson’s Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy for references and resources when researching essential oils and their properties.
I’m pleased to report that my experiment was a TREMENDOUS Success! I have been using it for awhile, long enough to completely run out of my first batch and I also shared a sample with a very athletic friend of mine who has been on the quest for the holy grail of deodorant for a long time as well. We have both put this recipe to the test! It has not only stood up to the challenge that she has presented it while hiking and rock climbing but it has stood up to the heat and humidity of 100º+ heat index of Alabama summers! I do cleanse with baby wipes and reapply my deodorant after my lunch time walks in the heat of the summer but when it was cooler outside this wasn’t necessary. And I’m super stoked that no one has complained again! I even walk with my co-workers and have had feedback that my office smells lovely from client’s that have come in for afternoon sessions.
So, without further ado, here it is:
DIY Milk of Magnesia Deodorant
(for sensitive skin)
- 1 bottle of plain, unflavored Milk of Magnesia
- ¼ cup Cornstarch (I like the J&J cornstarch baby powder with Aloe and Vit E added)
- 5 drops each of: Geranium, Rosemary, Cedarwood, Lavender, and Cypress essential oils
1. Pour entire bottle of Milk of Magnesia out into a baking sheet (with sides) and allow to dehydrate, usually 24-36 hours, until it forms a creamy paste. If you live in a humid environment, it may take a little longer. If it starts to harden or crack around the edges just a tad it’s perfect! When you mix it all together it will be like the consistency of cream cheese icing that has started to melt.
2. Add in ¼ cup of Cornstarch and mix well (before you allow your mixture to dehydrate). While you can skip this step, I chose to add the Cornstarch to help absorb some of the liquid from sweating and to keep my pits drier. If you swore by an antiperspirant but don’t want to use aluminum, you probably want to add something like Cornstarch or Arrowroot to help provide a sense of dryness to your homemade deodorant. This is an especially good alternative if you are sensitive to Baking Soda in homemade deodorant recipes.
3. After your mixture has dehydrated and is ready, add 5 drops each of your essential oils. I like Geranium, Rosemary, Cedarwood, Lavender, and Cypress. Stir until your oils are mixed well throughout your mixture. You do not want to add the oils before you let your mixture set out because they will evaporate and lose their potency.
4. Transfer to a small glass jar. I found this recipe made a bit more than I could fit in my 4 oz jelly jar but I like this size for ease of application. I now transfer the remainder to a 2 oz tin that I carry with me to work or when traveling.
Instructions for Use:
1. Apply underarms using your fingers (I find this works better than using a cotton round) and allow to dry while you are getting ready.
2. If you are especially prone to body odor, make sure you shower or scrub your pits with your soap/body wash of choice before applying. You can also use Apple Cider Vinegar to help balance the pH of your pits. I spray a bit on a cotton round and apply under my arms. Allow to dry before applying your homemade deodorant. I haven’t had to use this method since I started using this deodorant recipe, however!
So, there you have it! Did you make this recipe? What did you think? I love to hear feedback from my readers! Please comment below to share your results or other homemade natural deodorant recipes!
Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor. Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.
Been ages since I wrote anything, I’m sorry for that. Sadly I’ve overcommitted myself with my full-time job, aromatherapy class, oily biz and commitments at home to my hubby and daughter. But I learned something new today so thought I’d pop on and share this little tidbit with you, my lovely readers!
Who here HATES Yellow Jackets as much as I do!?! 😱🐝 These little demons are my nemesis when mowing grass. Got me 3 times before I could get away this morning. 😭😭😭 But I learned something new today, Purification essential oil blend is AMAZING at taking the sting out. A drop, neat, on each location and I was ready to get back to taking on the yard jungle! ❤️🌱🍋💧
So next time you or your little* gets stung by something, grab the Purification! You won’t be sorry!
*Make sure to dilute appropriately when applying essential oils to children.
Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor. Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.
The Ternary Concept
When you start to dive into the world of Aromatherapy it is very likely that you will often see the same reference books recommended time and time again by aromatherapists. One of these books, often cited by French and English aromatherapists alike, is L’aromatherapie exactement by Pierre Franchomme and Daniel Pénoël. Oddly enough, this book has never been translated to English so if you’re lucky enough to read French you can reference this book yourself. I, however, can barely speak American bastardized English, let alone read French or any other language. I am lucky enough though to be taking a French Aromatherapy certification course at East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies taught by Cathy Skipper and Jade Shutes who have shared with their students some of what this book has to offer.
One of the teachings of Pierre Franchomme and Daniel Pénoël that Cathy Skipper often references is “The Ternary Concept.” Ternary basically just means divided into three parts. Thus, the Ternary Concept divides essential oils into three aspects: Energetic, Molecular, and Electrical.
The Energetic, or Informational, Aspect of the Ternary Concept pertains to the information about an essential oil that we can perceive through our five senses, with a particular emphasis on our sense of smell. For example, when you open up a bottle of Lavender essential oil and inhale it’s aroma, what do you sense? Most people experience a sense of calm, or peaceful relaxation. This would be an example of the energetic aspect of Lavender. But the other senses are also important. What you taste when you eat the plant or ingest its essential oil and the visual characteristics or structure of the plant also gives us information about the possible application and its therapeutic uses. Cathy Skipper emphasizes the energetic over the informational aspect because essential oils are so powerful that just a sniff can activate our senses, influence our psycho-emotional state and/or spiritual states, even align our chakras all while still having a profound impact on our overall health and well being.
The Molecular, or Substance Aspect refers to the chemical constituents that make up an essential oil. Remember from my Chemistry post where we discussed hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds? Every batch of essential oils will vary slightly but the overall molecular makeup of the oil should be similar from batch to batch. You can find out the exact molecular makeup of your batch by reviewing the Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) report. Many essential oil suppliers offer this information on their webpage. Others, like Young Living, view this information as proprietary. However, if you are fortunate enough to visit one of Young Living’s farms you can view their GC/MS reports in person. But reading and interpreting a GC/MS report is actually a pretty specialized skill, one which I don’t have. If you’re like me and it just gets overwhelming looking at all those chemical constituents and teeny tiny percentages you are in luck, because most essential oil reference books (like the Essential Oils Desk and Pocket References by Life Science Publishing and Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy by Dr. Scott Johnson) provide you with a handy breakdown of the most common compounds found in each of the single essential oils with a range of acceptable percentages. It is these chemical constituents that give the essential oil its therapeutic properties (e.g., sesquiterpenes tend to have anti-inflammatory and sedative qualities). By studying the therapeutic properties of each of the constituents commonly found in essential oils and examining the chemical makeup of specific oils, we can then make educated assumptions about the ways in which each oil can help support the different body’s systems and our overall health and well being.
The third aspect of Franchomme and Pénoël’s Ternary Concept is the Electrical Aspect. The Electrical Aspect of an essential oil is determined by taking the oil and placing it in a refined aerosol generator. During this process, the essential oil’s components are broken down into very fine particles that tend to have either a positive or negative charge. What they found is that the chemical compounds that have a positive charge tend to be warming, stimulating, and more humid than drying. They tend to be good general tonics (providing a feeling of vigor or well being) and help provide overall support to the immune system. In contrast, negatively charged compounds tend to be more cooling, calming or sedative, and more dry than humid. They tend to be good for “conditions of excess” (e.g., excess heat in the body) and help calm the nervous system.
My Interpretation of the Referential Chart
The Referential Chart
The Referential Chart is Franchomme and Pénoël’s graphical representation of The Ternary Concept and helps merge each of the three aspects addressed above into an easily understandable picture. The chart can be divided several ways:
Top & Bottom: Those molecules that fall above the middle line in the top half of the graph are more negatively charged and tend to be calming to the body’s systems, somewhat sedative in nature, and grounding or relaxing. Those molecules that fall below the middle line are more positively charged and tend to be stimulating to the body’s systems and good general tonics.
Left & Right: Those molecules that fall on the left half of the graph are more polar and tend to be humidifying and more soluble in water those on the right. Those molecules that fall on the right half of the graph are nonpolar, tend to be more drying and are not as water-soluble, preferring instead to be drawn to the body’s lipids or fats.
Cathy Skipper and Jade Shutes added Hippocrates Four Temperaments and Yin & Yang of traditional Chinese Medicine to the graph (I overlaid the Yin & Yang for an easier visual representation of where the molecules would fall with regards to Yin and Yang energy). So if you’re unfamiliar, here’s a crash course in what those mean:
Hippocrates Four Temperaments:
The Greek physician Hippocrates postulated that there were four main temperaments based on the medical model of humorism (that the four main bodily fluids – blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm – impact personality and behaviors). He thought that certain emotions or moods were based on an excess, or lack of, bodily fluids and believed that there was a physiological basis for certain human behaviors. Hippocrates classified these as either hot/cold or wet/dry based on the four elements. Ideally, there is a state of balance between each of these four temperaments.
Sanguine – Sanguine temperaments are associated with the element of Air and tend to be more social, lively, talkative, carefree, etc. They tend to be imaginative, artistic and creative, make friends easily, and have lots of ideas. Usually they tend to be somewhat flighty and may struggle with task completion and tend to run late or be forgetful.
Choleric – Choleric temperaments are associated with the element of Fire and tend to be extroverted and egocentric. They may be impulsive, easily excitable, restless and energetic, passionate or even somewhat aggressive. Usually they tend to be very task-oriented, like to plan, tend to be solution focused, and often take on leadership roles in order to get the job done.
Melancholic – Melancholic temperaments are associated with the element of Earth and tend to be more introverted, serious, cautious or even suspicious at times. They may be filled with angst and tend to dwell on tragedy and cruelty in the world. These individuals are often moody and may be prone to depressive and anxious tendencies. Usually they are more solitary and prefer to keep to themselves.
Phlegmatic – Phlegmatic temperaments are associated with the element of Water and tend to be calm, thoughtful, and caring in nature. They often seek peace and contentment within themselves and tend to be reliable and consistent in their routine.
What to know what your temperament is? Check out this Personality Quiz to find out!
Yin & Yang in Chinese Medicine:
Yin – Yin is associated with female energy, is more passive, and a negative principle in nature. It is affiliated with the moon, the direction North, and is the shaded portion of the Yin & Yang symbol.
Yang – Yang is associated with male energy, is more active, and a positive principle in nature. It is affiliated with the sun, the direction South, and is the white portion of the Yin & Yang symbol
Four Aspects of the Yin and Yang Relationship:
1. Yin & Yang are opposites but neither is fully positive or negative. Their relationship is relative and must be understood on a continuum of energy. So, for example, “water is Yin relative to steam but Yang relative to ice” and like water this state is fluid and an ever changing balance.
2. Yin & Yang are dependent upon one another and neither can exist without the other. Nothing is totally Yin or totally Yang. Just as there is no night without day.
3. Yin & Yang are in a constant state of flux, seeking balance. When Yin and Yang are out of balance they affect one another.
4. Yin & Yang can change into the other but only when the time is right. Just as spring can only come when winter is finished.
So, taking all this into account, the Referential Graph can also be viewed in terms of its quadrants:
Upper Right Quadrant: Molecules in this quadrant tend to be associated with the Melancholic temperament. This quadrant represents the Earth element. Earth is grounding, relaxing and calming. Esters dominate the upper right quadrant and as such tend to be calming to the nervous system. This quadrant is represented by the Fall/Autumn season and tends to be mostly Yin in energy.
Lower Right Quadrant: Molecules in the lower right quadrant tend to be associated with the Choleric temperament. This quadrant represents the element of Fire and is molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by a dry, fiery heat. Monoterpenes dominate the lower right quadrant which tend to be heating and stimulating. This quadrant is represented by the Summer season and tends to be more Yang in energy.
Lower Left Quadrant: Molecules in the lower left quadrant tend to be associated with the Sanguine temperament. This quadrant represents the element of Air and molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by a more explosive heat, fire fueled by air. Monoterpenols dominate this quadrant but share it with phenylpropanoids and phenols, all of which tend to be stimulating to the immune system. This quadrant is represented by the Spring season and tends to be mostly Yang in energy.
Upper Left Quadrant: Molecules in the upper left quadrant tend to be associated with the Phlegmatic temperament. This quadrant represents the element of Water and molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by humidity or dampness. Aldehydes and ketones share this quadrant and tend to be mucolytic, influencing and promoting movement within the body’s mucous. This quadrant is represented by the season of Winter and tends to be more Yin than Yang.
The lines represent balance between the quadrants and molecules that fall along the lines tend to be balancing, harmonizing compounds. For example, sesquiterpenes are dry and lipophilic molecules but can either be cooling and/or heating, stimulating and/or relaxing and as much Yin as Yang in energy. Sesquiterpenols and sesquiterpene lactones have similar properties but are more hydrophilic and water soluble than sesquiterpenes. In contrast, Oxides are balanced between wet and dry but tend to be more warming and stimulating.
Ultimately you want to achieve a state of homeostasis or balance, more of a neutral energy than either hot/cold or wet/dry. Both Yin and Yang. The Referential Chart is used to help determine what molecules would help bring balance to an individual when choosing essential oil remedies in French aromatic medicine. For example, if a person tended to be very hot, or dry, one might incorporate an oil(s) rich in aldehydes and/or ketones into the mixture to help bring a humid, cooling quality to the remedy. I tend to be more of a Sanguine personality and equally balanced in Choleric and Phlegmatic characteristics so oils rich in Esters and Sesquiterpenes and/or those that are more cooling, relaxing/grounding, or dry would tend to be more balancing for my personality or temperament. I find this interesting because I’ve always been drawn to the Earth element and oils rich in esters (like Black Spruce, Frankincense, Lavender, and Neroli) and sesquiterpenes (like Cedar, Myrrh, and Patchouli) have always really resonated with me. In contrast, someone who tended to be more lymphatic, maybe pale or even clammy would fall within the upper left quadrant. These individuals would tend to have slower constitutions and would be balanced by oils rich in monoterpenes, or those with a drier, warming effect.
Cathy Skipper points out that the Referential Chart is really just a basic outline and one that is flexible and can easily be looked at from different perspectives to help formulate essential oil remedies. I’ve really enjoyed taking the time to really sit with this chart but have really only started to grasp these concepts. I’m hoping that as I move forward with the different essential oils in the class I’ll gain a better understanding of how I can use this chart in my own practice. So hopefully this helps you better understand what to do with all the information from my last post on essential oil chemistry and how it all relates to picking the best essential oils to help support your specific areas of need. As I move forward with sharing profiles of the essential oils I’ll be studying I’ll relate these oils to the referential graph so you can see how they all start to fit in.
So, where does your temperament fall in the graph? Which oils tend to resonate with you? Are they the ones that the graph suggests would be balancing for your temperament? I’d love to hear how it relates to you!
- Reference material provided by East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies as part of their French Aromatherapy certification class
- Hippocrates’ Four Temperaments from Wikipedia
- Yin & Yang in Chinese Medicine from Sacred Lotus
I am by no means a Chemistry major. Chemical formulas and math make my head spin but as I’ve found myself falling more and more in love with the amazing benefits of essential oils I’ve started to wonder how, and why, a few tiny little drops can have such a profound impact on one’s health and well being. If you’ve paid any attention when ordering your essential oils you’ve probably noticed a couple things: 1) they all have funny Latin names that you can barely pronounce (if they don’t you need to seriously reconsider your supplier) and 2) the descriptions of the oils often reference “constituents” or “compounds” like d-limonene, α-pinene, methol, camphor, etc. But what does all this actually mean?
What’s in a name?
Can you guess what essential oil Lavandula angustifolia is? If you guessed Lavender, you’re correct! A reputable essential oil company will always list the Latin, or botanical, name of their essential oil because using common names can result in much confusion. Do you know how many varieties there are of Lavender? There are at least 5 different kinds of Lavender that are common to find in essential oils: Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), Lavandula officianalis (French Lavender), Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender), Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender), Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin, a hybrid of Lavender and Spike Lavender). And while they all sound the same they each have unique chemical makeups and are valuable for different therapeutic properties. For example, you may have heard that Lavender essential oil is good to use to help soothe burns and promote healing. And you’d be correct… if you used 100% pure Lavandula angustifolia. However, pure essential oils take time and cost money to steam distill and many unscrupulous essential oil companies will use a hybrid called Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) which is a much cheaper alternative. But Lavandin has a different chemical makeup than English Lavender and while beneficial for many things, like respiratory support and muscle aches and pains, Lavandin is not as good for your skin and due to different properties (a high camphor content) can actually make some burns worse.
If its been awhile since you’ve taken biology, then all these big long names probably read like Greek (well, Latin actually). So here’s a breakdown of what these names actually mean:
The Latin binomial (e.g., Lavandula angustifolia) distinguishes a plant from all other plants by listing the genus and species. The genus (e.g., Lavandula) refers to a group of plants that are all similar in botanical structure. That’s why all five of the Lavender varieties listed above have the same first name. The Genus is always italicized and capitalized. The species name (e.g., angustifolia) identifies the exact plant within the genus. This distinguishes this plant from others based on the specific characteristics of the plant, which may include the leaf or flower structure, reproduction, or other identifiable characteristics. Species names are always italicized and in lower case.
Some plants are actually hybrids, or cultivars. Hybrids are plants that have been cross fertilized between two different varieties within a species (e.g., Lavandula x intermedia) whereas cultivars are plants that have been cultivated to have certain desirable characteristics, such as appearance, aroma, or even taste. Both hybrids and cultivars are designated by the use of a multiplication sign (x) in the Latin name.
And to take this one step further, some plants actually produce different chemotypes. A chemotype occurs when a specific genus and species of plant produces a chemical in a higher concentration than usual. This may occur due to changes in geographical location, altitude, weather, pests, plant competition, or other environmental interactions. A chemotype is not a different genus or species but rather an anomaly in the chemical composition of the plant.
The two most common chemotypes in essential oils are Rosemarinus offficinalis (Rosemary) and Thymus vulgaris (Thyme). A chemotype is identified by the letters ct. Let’s discuss Rosemary in more detail to help you better understand. Rosemary has three main chemotypes: camphor, cineole, and verbenone. Rosemarinus officinalis ct camphor is higher in ketones and helps support the circulatory system and may aid in relief from muscle aches and pains, making it an ideal addition to massage oils and blends. Rosemarinus officinalis ct 1,8-cineole is higher in oxides and helps support the respiratory system by breaking up mucous and helping to minimize swelling in the lungs and nasal passages. Whereas Rosemarinus officinalis ct verbenone is high in both ketones and monoterpenes which helps support cell regeneration. It is less stimulating that the other two varieties making it the best choice for skin and hair benefits.
However, not all essential oils have different chemotypes and not all chemotypes are always available from your essential oil supplier. Unfortunately Young Living does not list chemotypes on their oils. Some chemotypes are well known, like Rosemary, which is Rosemarinus officinalis ct 1,8-cineole, which is identified in the Essential Oils Pocket Reference (EOPR) guide published by Life Science Publishing (authored by Young Living’s founder Gary Young). Others, like Thyme, are not identified. When I reached out to Young Living to inquire about this it was explained to me that the Seed to Seal guarantee ensures the ideal growing conditions to produce the desired characteristics in the plants which the oils are distilled from. However, the EOPR identifies the variety of Thyme used to distill Young Living’s Thyme essential oil as “Red Thyme.” Thus, the chemotype of Young Living’s Thyme is actually Thymus vulgaris ct thymol. So with a little legwork, the chemotypes can still be identified. I do wish, for the sake of aromatherapy students and those essential oil enthusiasts who are especially interested, that Young Living would consider including this information on their labels however.
So, how do essential oils actually work? To fully understand where they get their therapeutic and healing properties from you must first have a basic understanding of the underlying chemistry of essential oils.
100% pure essential oils are volatile compounds that are derived through either distillation or cold-pressed expression from plant material. In this case, volatile means that the chemical compounds will evaporate quickly when exposed to air. Some unscrupulous companies will use high heat and/or add chemical solvents to speed up this process and thus increase their profit margin which can impact the quantity, and quality, of the therapeutic constituents that come through the distillation or expression process. That is why it is so important that you choose an essential oil company you can trust!
During the distillation process steam, or water, rises up through the plant material which breaks it down into its chemical constituents. These volatile compounds rise upwards, as a vapor, through the distillation machine into a condenser which then cools the compounds back into a liquid form. Here, the essential oils separate from the water and can be collected from the surface of the liquid mixture. During expression, the plant material is pressed between two plates and the juices and compounds are collected with a sponge or other device that is then used to separate the essential oils from the water. Expression, or cold-pressing, is used almost exclusively for citrus oils, but some carrier oils (like olive or coconut oil) are also collected via cold-pressing or expression.
So, what exactly are these volatile compounds in essential oils made of?
In general, the key components of pure essential oils can be broken down into 2 categories of volatile constituents: hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds. Hydrocarbons are simply organic compounds made entirely of hydrogen and carbon. These hydrocarbons are made up almost exclusively of terpenes: monoterpenes, sequiterpenes, and diterpenes. Oxygenated compounds, also called terpenoids, occur when oxygen molecules are added to these hydrocarbon units. The oxygenated compounds found in essential oils are usually alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, phenylpropanoids and ethers, oxides, lactones and coumarins. I will discuss each of these in more detail below.
Before we begin discussing each of these compounds you must first understand that I will be discussing the benefits of these compounds at the cellular level that have been taught to me during my aromatherapy certification classes. I will also be listing examples of essential oils that are rich in these compounds. I am NOT implying that the essential oils listed will have the therapeutic uses of the compounds listed, I am merely giving examples. At a later date I will be discussing many of the essential oils I’m learning about during my aromatherapy certification in their own profile blog posts where we will discuss their uses and how they can support various bodily systems and promote general health and wellness.
Terpenes are hydrocarbon molecules found in plants that play a role in protecting the plant from pests, pathogens, and competing plants. There are over 40,000 known terpene compounds. Terpenes are classified according to the number of isoprene units that their molecules contain. An isoprene unit is merely a grouping of 5 carbon atoms. Monoterpenes contain two isoprene units, sequiterpenes contain three isoprene units, and diterpenes contain four isoprene units.
Monoterpenes – “The Mamas”
Monoterpenes are the most abundant of the volatile compounds and are found in nearly all essential oils. A friend and fellow aromatherapy student, Rosy Crescitelli, calls monoterpenes “the Mamas” because they tend to coordinate, organize, and unify the bodily systems. Monoterpenes are highly volatile compounds, meaning they evaporate quickly and their aromas are considered “top notes” because they are the first to hit your nose when you smell a plant or essential oil. Monoterpenes tend to be warming but not “hot,” stimulating but not overwhelming, and general tonics. At the cellular level, monoterpenes can be antimicrobial (destroys or resists pathogens), antioxidants (help prevent cell damage from free radicals), analgesics (help relieves or reduce pain), expectorants (aids in the removal of phlegm), decongestants (reduces or relieves nasal congestion), dermal/skin penetration enhancers (getting in deep for sore muscles, tendons and ligaments) and are energizing/uplifting. Monoterpenes help inhibit the accumulation of toxins, especially in the liver and kidneys. Overall, they help provide support to the lymphatic and respiratory systems. Monoterpenes can have a drying or dehydrating effect on the skin and mucous membranes.
Monoterpenes tend to have names that end in “-ene.” Examples of common monoterpenes found in essential oils include: d-limonene, mycrene, α-pinene, β-pinene, delta-3-carene, α-terpinene, etc.
Essential oils rich in monoterpenes include: citrus oils, conifers (e.g., black spruce, cedar, cypress, pine, etc.), angelica, black pepper, elemi, fennel, frankincense, juniper berry, myrtle, nutmeg, rosemary, tea tree, thyme, and valerian.
Safety concerns: α-pinene, β-pinene, and delta-3-carene may cause upper respiratory irritation. Essential oils containing these constituents in high concentrations should only be used with caution with individuals who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions with airway resistance. In addition, monoterpenes in general can be dehydrating to the skin. It is recommended to avoid use on the face and heavily dilute when using monoterpene rich essential oils in any skincare products.
Sesquiterpenes – “The Grandparents”
Sesquiterpenes are heavier, thicker, and less volatile than monoterpenes and tend to appear towards the end of the distillation process. Sesquiterpenes commonly occur in roots, resins, and woods and are more aromatic than monoterpenes. They are nicknamed “the Grandparents” because they tend to be wise, responsible chaperones that see a job through to the end. Sesquiterpenes tend to be more balanced than monoterpenes and can be warming and/or cooling and stimulating and/or relaxing. At the cellular level, sesquiterpenes can be anti-allergenic (reduces the symptoms of an allergy), anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation), antiseptic (destroys or prevents the growth of microbes), analgesic, and sedative in nature. In general, sesquiterpenes stimulate the immune system, support the venous and lymphatic systems, lowers blood pressure, and may stimulate the liver and the pancreas. They also are commonly referred to as amplifiers, magnifiers, or enhancers because they increase the half-life (how long the therapeutic properties of the essential oil affects the body) of other essential oils.
Like monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes tend to have names that end in “-ene.” Examples of common sesquiterpenes found in essential oils include: chamazulene, bisabolene, guaiazulene, α-caryophyllene, β-caryophyllene, etc.
Essential oils rich in sesquiterpenes include: black pepper, cedar, German chamomile, clary sage, clove, copaiba, ginger, helichrysum, myrrh, spikenard, patchouli, and vetiver.
Safety concerns: Sesquiterpenes tend to be very gentle with no known safety concerns or contraindications.
Diterpenes – “The Few”
Diterpenes are much thicker and heavier than monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes making it more difficult for them to make it through the distillation process, thus they have earned the nickname “the Few.” Because of their molecular weight they tend to have similar properties to sesquiterpines. They are also considered expectorants and laxatives with some anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. In general diterpenes help support the endocrine system (e.g., hormonal, thyroid, and adrenal support) as well as the liver and kidneys.
Diterpenes also tend to have names that end in “-ene.” Examples are α-camphorene, hishorene and cembrene.
There are only six essential oils in which diterpenes can be found. They are: clary sage (7%), white camphor (1-2%), pine, cistus, jasmine, and cypress (all <1%).
Terpenoids/Oxygenated Compounds – “The Stars”
As mentioned above, terpenoids are oxygenated compounds that occur when oxygen molecules combine with hydrocarbons or terpenes. Terpenoids that occur in essential oils can be classified as alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, phenylpropanoids and ethers, oxides, lactones and coumarins. They are considered “the Stars” because they give the oil it’s characteristics and personality.
Alcohols in essential oils are compounds that contain a hydroxyl (-OH) attached to one of the terpene groups (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, or diterpenes). Considered to be the most therapeutically beneficial compounds in essential oils. Alcohol rich essential oils are generally considered to be nontoxic, safe for use with children and the elderly, and often used in skin care products.
Alcohols tend to have names that end in “-ol.”
Monoterpene Alcohols/Monoterpenols – tend to be warming, stimulating, and general tonics. Monoterpenols are considered to be sedatives, calming to the nervous system, and support the immune system. At the cellular level monoterpenols can be antifungal, antiviral, and anti-bacterial in nature. They tend to bring balance and serenity to the individual, reduce stress, and help strengthen the individual’s terrain, making them good for longer treatments and chronic illnesses.
Examples of monoterpenols found in essential oils include: borneol, lavandulol, nerol, citronellol, linalol, terpinen-4-ol, geraniol, menthol, α-terpineol, etc.
Essential oils rich in monoterpenols include: bergamot, basil, citronella, clary sage, coriander, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, palmarosa, peppermint, petitgrain, rose, tea tree, thyme, and ylang ylang.
Safety concerns: Menthol rich essential oils (like Peppermint) should not be used internally or on or near the face of infants or small children as it can cause respiratory distress. In addition, individuals with gastroesophageal reflux or hiatal hernias should be cautioned when using menthol rich essential oils internally as they may decrease esophageal sphincter pressure. Sensitive individuals may experience heartburn when taking peppermint internally.
Sesquiterpene Alcohols/Sesquiterpenols – tend to be slightly warming, calming yet stimulating, and promote balance. At the cellular level sesquiterpenols can be anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal. In addition, they tend to have an estrogenic quality and can act as hormone system regulators as well as provide support for the respiratory, circulatory, and lymphatic systems.
Examples of sesquiterpenols found in essential oils include: α-bisabolol, daucol, α-santalol, β-santalol, carotol, farnesol, cedrol, patchoulol, zingiberol, etc.
Essential oils rich in sesquiterpenols include: carrot seed, cedar, clary sage, German chamomile, patchouli, sandalwood, and valerian.
Diterpene Alcohols/Diterpenols – rarely come through the distillation process. They have a similar structure to human steroid hormones and tend to have a balancing, harmonizing effect on the endocrine system. The most common diterpenol is sclareol found in clary sage. At the cellular level, sclareol can be anti-inflammatory and has shown some possibility at being anticarcinogenic in nature (may inhibit the development of cancer).
Esters are the product of chemical reactions between organic acids and alcohols. Esters are characterized by intensely fruity aromas and are widely used by the perfume industry to create soft, floral fragrances. They tend to be cooling and relaxing to the nervous system. Esters regulate, balance and harmonize the individual organism. At the cellular level, esters are great antispasmodics (relieves smooth/skeletal muscle spasms) and can also be anti-inflammatory, calming, analgesic, anxiolytic (relieves anxiety), and can help regulate cardiac rhythm and can have a hypotensive action (lowers blood pressure). Esters have been found to be helpful in treating depression, anxiety and can help dissolve fears when applied to the solar plexus.
Esters tend to have names that end in “-ate” or “-ester.” Examples are methyl salicylate, bornyl acetate, geranyl acetate, linalyl acetate, isobutyl angelate, methyl benzoate, lavandulyl acetate, eugenyl acetate, etc.
Essential oils rich in esters include: bergamot, black spruce, Roman chamomile, cardamom, clary sage, coriander, frankincense, laurel, lavender, neroli, petitgrain, valerian, wintergreen, and ylang ylang.
Safety concerns: Methyl salicylate is an aspirin-like compound found in high concentrations in wintergreen essential oil. Upon ingestion, methyl salicylate converts to salicylic acid. In small doses, salicylic acid is analgesic, fever reducing, and anti-inflammatory however used over time and in high concentrations can cause poisoning. One tsp (which is the equivalent of drinking a 5 ml bottle) of wintergreen essential oil is approximately 7000 mg of salicylate or the equivalent of 21.7 adult aspirin. Ingestion of as little as 4 ml in a child can be fatal (this is why Young Living has childproof caps on Wintergreen and PanAway essential oils). Because of its liquid, concentrated form and lipid soluability, methyl salicylate poses the threat of severe, rapid-onset salicylate poisoning and internal usage should be avoided. Individuals taking blood thinners (e.g., warfarin) or salicylate-based medication should avoid using essential oils containing high concentrations of methyl salicylate.
Aldehydes are closely related to ketones but differ slightly in their chemical structure. Aldehydes have very powerful aromas, usually slightly fruity, and are widely used in the perfume industry (usually to create synthetic fragrances). Both aldehydes and ketones are used in industrial production as food, fragrance, medical, and agricultural chemicals. They are perhaps most well known in the food industry to create artificial and/or natural additives to food (e.g., vanillin from vanilla). Aldehydes tend to be cooling, calming and relaxing to the nervous system, have a sedative effect and can be helpful in reducing temperature. At the cellular level, aldehydes can be anti-inflammatory, antiseptic when diffused into the air, antifungal, and antiviral. Aldehydes are known to help support the lymphatic and nervous systems. They can help calm fears and relieve emotional distress by activating the solar plexus. They are also known aphrodisiacs and may help with sleep related issues.
Aldehydes tend to have names that end in “-al.” Examples are citronellal, citral, geranial, neral, etc.
Essential oils rich in aldehydes include: cassia, cinnamon bark, citronella, eucalyptus radiata, geranium, ginger, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, lime, melissa, orange and verbena.
Safety notes: Aldehydes oxidize easily and when combined with oxygen can form acids called carboxylic acids which are known skin irritants and sensitizers. Many aldehydes can be skin and mucous membrane irritants and should be diluted for topical use or as airborne antiseptics.
Ketones are similar to aldehydes in structure but less reactive and not prone to oxidation. Ketones tend to be cooling, relaxing to the nervous system and are have powerful wound healing properties. At the cellular level, ketones can be mucolytic (dissolves or breaks down mucous), lipolytic (breaks down fat), antiviral (especially on herpes and neurotropic viruses), and antiparasitic. In general, ketones can help modulate the immune system in small doses.
Ketones tend to have names that end in “-one,” except for camphor. Examples are camphor, cryptone, methone, thujone, verbenone, etc.
Essential oils rich in ketones include: dill, fennel, hyssop, peppermint, rosemary, sage, spearmint, and thyme.
Safety notes: Essential oils with high concentrations of camphor should be avoided with infants and small children. Some ketones may be neurotoxic at high enough doses. Essential oils with ketone toxicity that present safety concerns are rue, mugwort, wormwood, thuja, pennyroyal, and sage (which should never be ingested). All of these oils are contraindicated during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Young Living does not carry any of these oils, except sage.
Phenols – “The Teenagers”
Phenols, like alcohols, have a hydroxyl (-OH) component. Unlike alcohols it is attached to the carbon molecule of a benzene, or aromatic, ring. Phenols are really strong constituents and can stimulate both the nervous and immune system. In French aromatherapy, these compounds are understood to help support healthy intestinal flora. However, they’ve earned the nickname “the Teenagers” because they can be irritating, especially to the skin and mucous membranes. Phenols tend to be warming (“hot” oils), stimulating and act as general tonics. At the cellular level phenols can be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, and airborne microbials. In general, phenols can help support the respiratory and digestive systems in addition to being immunostimulants.
Like alcohols, phenols tend to have names that end in “-ol.” There are only 3 main phenols commonly found within essential oils: carvacrol, thymol, and eugenol.
Essential oils rich in phenols include: oregeno, mountain savory, marjoram, thyme, and clove
Safety notes: In general, phenols tend to be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes therefor any essential oils rich in phenols should only be used diluted with a carrier, for both internal and topical use. Internal use of carvacrol rich essential oils should be avoided in those on medication to manage blood glucose for diabetes. Eugenol may contribute to liver toxicity and long-term use should be avoided. In general individuals on anticoagulant drugs or with bleeding disorders should only use essential oils rich in phenols with caution.
Phenylpropanoids & Ethers
Phenylpropanoid compounds are rare in essential oils but noteworthy because they have strong antimicrobial action and pleasing aromas and flavors. Phenylpropanoids tend to be warming, stimulating and tonic in action. At the cellular level, phenylpropanoids can be analgesic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antihistamine in nature. In general, they help support the immune system.
Phenylpropanoids tend to have names that end in “-ole” or “-ol,” with the exception of cinnamic aldehyde. They can be separated into two main groups, the phenylpropanoids, which include cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol, and the ethers, which include anethole, methyl chavicol (estragole), and methyl eugenol.
Essential oils rich in phenylpropanoids include: fennel, basil, cinnamon bark, Laurus nobilis (also known as bay laurel), myrtle, clary sage, and melissa.
Safety notes: Internal consumption of cinnamic aldehyde should only be used with caution in individuals taking medications to control blood glucose for diabetes. Eugenol can be irritating to those with sensitive skin and oral use is cautioned in those taking MAOIs, SSRI.s, pethidine, and indirect symnpathomimetics. Use of both cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol is cautioned in individuals on anticoagulant medication or with bleeding disorders. Methyl eugenol can contribute to liver toxicity through prolonged use. Newborns are at a higher risk to the effects of methyl eugenol than adults, therefore use of essential oils high in methyl eugenol should be avoided with newborns and small children.
Oxides are some of the strongest aromatic compounds found in essential oils. The main oxide compound found in essential oils is 1,8-cineole (also known as eucalyptol) which of often referred to as “the respiratory tract’s best friend” because of it’s ability to act as an expectorant and decongestant at the cellular level. Other potential benefits of oxides include analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties.
Oxides tend to have names that end in “-ole” or “-oxide.” Examples of oxides include bisabolol oxide A, bisabolol oxide B, rose oxide and sclareol oxide.
Essential oils rich in oxides include: eucalyptus, tea tree, Laurus nobilis, rosmary, German chamomile, rose, and clary sage.
Safety notes: There has been great debate over the safety of eucalyptus essential oil with children and there are a lot of blogs and online sources that say you should never use it with children under 6, or 10, years old. The debate stems from concerns that 1,8-cineole can interfere with respiration in infants and small children when used throughinstillation (which means direct introduction of the essential oil into the nose through the use of an atomizer, inhaler or drops). Using essential oils rich in 1,8-cineole on or near the face of infants and small children is not recommended. However, this does not mean that you should never use eucalpytus, or other 1,8-cineole rich oils, with your children. Used cautiously and diluted on the VitaFlex points on the feet or diffused these oils can be used safely.
Lactones & Coumarins
Last but not least are the lactones and coumarins. Lactones are a special kind of ester and tend to be found in expressed (e.g., citrus) or absolute (e.g., jasmine) oils but can also be found in small quantities in many other essential oils. Lactones will never be the principle constituent in any oil but their strong properties will enhance the therapeutic effects of the oils they can be found in. They tend to have similar therapeutic properties to ketones and can act as decongestant and expectorant at the cellular level and help support the liver and immune system. Examples of lactones include aesculetine (peppermint), bergaptene (fennel), bergamottin (lemon), butanolide (lavender), citropten (petitgrain), furanogermacrene (myrrh), herniarin (German chamomile), limettine (lime), psoralen (bergamot), and scopoletin (Roman chamomile). There’s a specific kind of sesquiterpene lactone, called helenalin, that is found primarily in arnica oil and accounts for it’s renowned anti-inflammatory effects.
Coumarins, are a special kind of lactone which tend to have a grassy, “green” smell (like freshly cut grass or alfalfa hay) and are also reponsible for the flavor and aroma of coconut. Coumarins have strong therapeutic properties and tend to be calming to the nervous system and help support the immune system. At the cellular level they can be great antispasmodics and anticonvulsants which can be helpful in those with nervous tics and disorders.
Safety notes: Furanocoumarins are a coumarin derivative that tend to be photosensitizers, meaning they can result in sunburn or serious blistering when exposed to UV light. Furanocoumarin examples include angelicin, found in angelica essential oil, and bergapten, found in expressed citrus oils like bergamot, lime, lemon, grapefruit, and tangerine.
So, there you have it. A crash course in the chemistry of essential oils in laymen’s terms. Hopefully I did a good job explaining these concepts in terms that anyone can understand. This should help lay the foundation as I move forward with my French Aromatherapy blog series and start introducing specific oil profiles. Keep in mind as I mentioned in my disclaimer above that just because I’ve listed examples of essential oils rich in these chemical constituents does NOT meant that these oils will affect an individual in these ways at the cellular level. I will be discussing how specific essential oils help support various bodily systems and can be used to promote general health and wellness in future blog pots.
Questions or comments? I’d love to hear them!
- Reference material provided by East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies as part of their French Aromatherapy certification class
- Rosy Garcia Crescitelli, a fellow aromatherapy student. You can follow her on Periscope @Rosy_Cresy or on Vimeo. She is attending the Institute of Spiritual Healing for her certificate in clinical aromatherapy (as well as getting her French Aromatherapy certification from the same program I am) and some of the “nicknames” I listed are coined by her ISH instructors Barbara Salange and Linda Smith. If you are looking for a trusted aromatherapy education that approaches the healing power of essential oils from a Christian perspective you may want to look into this program. As I understand it, however, this program does not subscribe to the French model of aromatherapy (ingestion).
- Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple by David Stewart – excerpts available online through Google Books
- More information on distillation and expression methods and processes from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
I’ve struggled with acne since going off hormonal birth control a couple years ago and it’s wreaked havoc on my self-esteem. Since then I’ve been on the quest for the perfect skin care regimen to help keep my acne under control. In fact, searching for the perfect facial cleanser was what led me down the crunchy rabbit hole and I’ve been all in ever since! Over the years I have tried many different natural approaches to skin care including Oil Cleansing (OCM), cleaning my face with honey, African black soap, castile soap, and water only. Most cleansing methods strip my face of its natural oil and while this may sound like a good thing it’s really not. See, if you strip the skin of its natural, protective oils then it over produces sebum to compensate which can clog pores even more. So these days I tend to use water only to clean my face, a Lemon Sugar Scrub to exfoliate every week or so, my Melrose and Witch Hazel astringent (find that recipe here in my blog post When You Vacation with an OIL Addict!) and a spot treatment for those particularly obnoxious pimples. Historically I’ve just used Tea Tree oil as my spot treatment and while it works well on day to day pimples it doesn’t tackle the tough ones as much as I’d like. I had used Burt’s Bees Herbal Blemish Stick in the past and was pretty happy with it overall. I’d always wanted to make my own DIY version and had finally built up my oil collection enough I thought I’d give it a go. So let’s check out the ingredients in the Burt’s Bees roll-on and why they are good for acne.
Doctor Burt’s Herbal Blemish Stick ingredients:
SD Alcohol 40-B – This is basically denatured alcohol. It bothers me that this is the first ingredient on the list because that means that it is the ingredient of highest concentration in the product. There’s nothing really wrong with this ingredient but honestly it doesn’t really add much to the recipe either. I tend to avoid alcohol because it has a drying effect on the skin and can strip the skin of it’s natural oils.
Calendula extract – Calendula is more commonly known as Marigold. It is often used in skin care products because of it’s ability to calm the skin. Calendula may help reduce redness and helps cleanse the skin of pore clogging gunk and reduce acne breakouts.
Borage extract – Borage, or Starflower, is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean region. It’s remarkably effective at soothing irritated or damaged skin and can help calm skin by reducing swelling and redness. Borage is high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is a fatty acid that is beneficial in maintaining healthy skin. Borage oil or extract are excellent ingredients to add to DIY skin care recipes help reduce the appearance of acne scarring or redness and irritation from skin conditions like rosacea or eczema.
Yarrow extract – Yarrow is actually a common weed that grows native in the Northern Hemisphere. It is an ancient herbal medicine, often referred to as Soldier’s herb and Nosebleed grass, known to staunch bleeding and reduce pain. It’s also renowned for it’s ability to bring down a fever and help clear the sinuses! As far as skin care is concerned, yarrow is great for oily skin to help balance the oil, draw out blackheads, and tighten your pores! Do yourself a favor and google the medicinal uses of Yarrow. Its an amazing herb to add to your herbal first aid kit!
Parsley extract – Parsley extract is excellent for helping cleanse and purify the skin which helps reduce acne breakouts. In addition, parsley also contains high amounts of Vitamin C, chlorophyll and Vitamin K which are good for reducing dark circles and puffiness under your eyes.
Willowbark extract – Willow bark is usually harvested from white willow trees and is highly valued as a skin care ingredient because it is a natural source of salicylic acid (yup, the same stuff that is in over the counter acne products like Neutragena’s acne line, Clearasil, and Clean & Clear!). In addition to helping reduce breakouts, willow bark extract also helps promote youthful, radiant skin by minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains antioxidants that help fight free radicals and promote skin rejuvenation!
Lemon oil – Lemon essential oil helps balance overactive oil glands in the skin and encourages exfoliation of dead skin cells, both of which can clog pores and lead to breakouts.
Fennel oil – Fennel essential oil encourages skin cell repair and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It helps balance oil production without over drying the skin.
Water – used to dilute the mixture. However, water can also promote the growth of bacteria in DIY products so I tend to not use it, or use distilled water if I do add to my products.
Tea Tree oil – Tea tree oil has been my go to for acne spot treatment for years. It is renowned for it’s ability to not only dry out pimples but reduce acne breakouts when used regularly.
Juniper oil – Juniper essential oil helps cleanse and promotes healing by stimulate blood circulation. It helps remove toxins and purifies the skin. Overuse can increase redness, however.
Eucalyptus oil – Eucalyptus essential oil helps cleanse the skin and unclog pores. In addition, it helps reduce inflammation that may result from acne breakouts.
Zit Zapper: A spot treatment for Acne-Prone Skin
Combine the following ingredients in a 3 ml roll-on:
- 5 drops Tea Tree
- 5 drops Lemon
- 5 drops Lavender (I added Lavender because of it’s ability to help calm and soothe irritated skin, especially since I didn’t have an calendula extract in my recipe. In addition, Lavender essential oil also helps regulate oil production and promotes healing. I tend to pick at my acne so it’s always nice to add healing oils to my skincare regimen.)
- 4 drops Ginger (I chose to add Ginger because it removes toxins and stimulates circulation. In addition, it promotes a youthful, radiant complexion by helping rejuvenate the skin and improving skin’s elasticity.)
- 3 drops Fennel
- 3 drops Juniper
- 3 drops Eucalyptus Globulus (because this is the Eucalyptus I had on hand, but Eucalyptus Radiata might actually be a better choice because it tends to be lighter and more gentle than Globulus, making it the preferred chemotype for skincare)
- top off with White Willow Bark extract (I bought mine from Mountain Rose Herbs)
Next time I might actually make my own Calendula and Borage extract to add as well. If I do that I’ll probably use a larger, 4 or 5 ml, roll on. Both Calendula and Borage (as well as White Willow Bark) can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs if you are interested in making it your own. Extracts aren’t difficult to make at all. Check out Humblebee and Me’s post below for a recipe that includes Calendula extract and Borage oil.
*Note: This is a strong mixture and is only intended to be used as a spot treatment, not all over your face. If you have sensitive skin, do a patch test first. You may want to reduce the amount of essential oils or dilute with something like Calendula extract or Borage oil.
Inspired by Burt’s Bee’s Herbal Blemish Stick and Humblebee and Me’s Indigo Acne Blaster
Perhaps you’ve been following me for awhile and remember my DIY Facial Serum from back in August of last year. I still stand by that facial serum as a good starting point for anyone wanting to make their own skin care products. It’s wonderfully moisturizing and I used it for months. However, as my daughter started eating more solids and decreased the amount of breastmilk she was demanding day to day my hormones started returning back to “normal” (which is anything but) and my face started breaking out like a teenager’s again (sad face). My DIY Facial Serum uses fractionated coconut oil as a base which feels lovely on the skin but does have a high comedogenic rating (meaning it can cause acne breakouts). Coconut oil rates a 4, meaning it has a “fairly high” chance of clogging pores. So naturally I wanted to reduce anything that would contribute to my breakouts. For awhile I switched to jojoba oil, which has a comedogenic rating of 2, or “moderately low” chance. I was pretty pleased with this combo for awhile.
Recently, however, I was hearing a lot of buzz about Rosehip Seed Oil for skincare. Rosehip seed oil is chalk full of vitamins, essential fatty acids and antioxidants that help hydrate the skin, relieves dry, itchy skin, reduces dark circles and minimizes the appearance of scaring. Plus, it’s lightweight and non greasy, making it an ideal carrier oil for facial serums. And it has an even lower comedogenic rating that jojoba (1 = “low”) so I figured I’d give it a shot.
See how other carrier oils measure up with regards to comedogenic ratings here from Beneficial Botanicals.
I’d also been really curious about a new-to-me essential oil blend, White Angelica. White Angelica is Young Living’s proprietary blend of Bergamot, Myrrh, Geranium, Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood, Rosewood, Ylang Ylang, Spruce, Hyssop, Melissa, and Rose in a Sweet Almond oil carrier. While there are tons of amazing uses for White Angelica, including emotional healing, meditation, and Raindrop massage, all of these oils have amazing skin care properties and many are quite expensive (and as a result not members of my growing collection yet). Let’s look at each of these oils individually.
Bergamot – Bergamot is a tropical citrus fruit with a lovely fragrance. It is well known for it’s cleansing and immune enhancing properties. In addition, it helps reduce the appearance of scars or age spots on the skin resulting in a more even skin tone.
Myrrh – Myrrh comes from a dried resin extracted from the Commiphora myrrha tree, which is in the same family as the Frankincense tree. It has a long history of medicinal use, highly valued for its wound healing properties, as well as an ingredient in incense and holy oil for ritual and religious ceremonies. As far as skin care benefits, Myrrh promotes healing and helps soothe minor skin irritations like chapped or cracked skin and acne. It helps sustain healthy looking skin and promotes a more youthful, radiant appearance by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Geranium – Geranium essential oil has a long history as a beneficial ingredient in skin care. Even the ancient Egyptians used Geranium oil to help promote beautiful, radiant skin. It helps defy the effects of aging by improving muscle tone and minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, Geranium essential oil helps reduce inflammation and has been used to help soothe acne and other skin irritations by promoting cell growth and healing.
Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood – Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood is renowned for it’s healing properties. It helps cleanse and protect the skin from infection resulting from acne, sores, or other wounds and is often added to skin care and beauty products for it’s ability to help tighten skin tone and minimize the appearance of scars and age spots.
Rosewood – Rosewood oil is extracted from the Aniba rosaeodora, an evergreen tree indigenous to Peru and Brazil. It is a member of the Laurel family of plants like bay, camphor, cassia, and cinnamon. Rosewood oil has a warm, woodsy yet spicy, floral fragrance that has been used in the perfume industry since the 1900’s. In addition to it’s alluring fragrance, Rosewood oil helps fight the signs of aging by regenerating skin cell growth and minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps balance sebum production thereby helping to reduce acne breakouts.
Ylang Ylang – Ylang Ylang is steam distilled from the signature yellow flowers of the ylang ylang tree native to the South Pacific Islands. As you may imagine, it has a delicate yet romantic floral fragrance. In addition, Ylang Ylang essential oil has amazing skin benefits. It helps promote the appearance of healthy skin and hair by balancing sebum production, soothing skin irritations, cleansing the skin and promotes healing, and reducing redness and inflammation.
Spruce – Spruce essential oil is distilled from the needles of the Spruce tree and helps cleanse and purify the skin thereby helping to maintain the appearance of healthy looking skin.
Hyssop – Hyssop is a sacred oil referenced in many ancient texts, including the Bible, for it’s restorative health benefits. Hyssop not only helps support healthy respiratory and digestive systems but also to help relieve pain and promote a sense of calm. As for skin care benefits, Hyssop essential oil helps soothe skin irritations and reduce the appearance of scars and age spots.
Melissa – Melissa, or more commonly known as Lemon Balm, is a plant in the mint family. The essential oil is distilled from the tiny buds and seeds of the plant. It takes somewhere between 3 and 7 tons of plant material to yield 1 pound of essential oil which makes it one of the more pricey oils. It is a gentle oil known for it’s ability to help soothe irritation and rejuvenate the skin.
and last but not least, Rose – Rose, ah how I covet thee… Rose essential oil is probably the most expensive essential oil that Young Living sells because of the sheer volume of rose petals required to make a small 5 ml bottle. But it is highly prized for many reasons, the least of which is its ability to moisturize, calm and soothe red or irritated skin. Research suggests that it may also help reduce acne breakouts and regenerate skin cell growth! It’s a must-have for anti-aging DIY beauty products!
So, even though I can’t afford to add oils like Myrrh, Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood, Melissa, or Rose to my collection just yet, I’m thrilled to have them in a nice affordable (only $28 Wholesale) little blend like White Angelica! So naturally, I wanted to find a way to incorporate this into my New & Improved DIY Facial Serum! Without further ado, here’s the recipe:
New & Improved DIY Facial Serum
Combine the following in a 2 oz container:
- 35 drops White Angelica
- 15 drops Frankincense
- 10 drops Lavender
- top off with Rosehip Seed Oil (I order mine from Mountain Rose Herbs)
So there you have it! My new favorite skin care recipes! Have you tried these recipes or have other recipes you would like to share? I’d love to hear about them! Comment below.
Want more information on natural ways to help rid your skin of acne? Check out this post by Thank Your Skin on How To Get Rid of Acne: The Ultimate Guide: 21 Easy Things You Can Do Today To Get Rid of Acne Fast and Naturally! I have to admit, I learned a few things I will be incorporating into my diet and skincare regimen! They also do some pretty awesome product reviews over there to help you find the best skincare products and makeup for acne-prone skin! So head on over and show them some oily love! 😉
I only use Young Living’s 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils because of their commitment to quality and Seed to Seal guarantee.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products and techniques mentioned here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.