For the Love of Lavender; Aromatherapy & Skincare Uses

Lavender flowers grow in clusters, painting nature's canvas with bright purple hues that dance in the summer's breeze, hypnotizing all who get enticed by lavender's euphoric aroma. The sweet, blissful scent of true lavender is known to invoke a calming and balancing feeling, relaxing the senses of those who smell it and making it today's most well-recognized essential oil scents.

Historically, lavender flowers have been used for their aromatic and therapeutic properties for thousands of years. Lavender has  been used to enhance culinary dishes, in teas, perfumes, herbal remedies, bathwater, insect repellents, burn remedies and even to combat insomnia. Ancient Egyptian civilizations used it in mummification, the Romans and Greeks scented their bathwater with it, and some sources suggest Cleopatra may have used it as a love tonic to seduce Marc Anthony and Julius Caesar.
 

Uses of Lavender:

Lavender was an essential ingredient  in perfume formulations since the beginnings of the perfume industry and continues to be a key ingredient in both perfumes and natural products today. Lavender is mainly used for its aromatic, antiseptic, burn-healing and calming properties.
 

Sources:
If you happen to have an interest in gardening, lavender is beautiful, easy to grow, and wonderful to have around because of its versatile uses.  If not, lavender is very accessible and you can easily buy organic lavender flowers and lavender essential oil online.*

The uses of lavender are many. No matter what you use lavender for, you are guaranteed to saturate the air with the blissful, sweet and calming scent of lavender that your heart will thank you for.

Aromatherapy Uses:
The main aromatherapy properties of lavender are attributed to its balancing affects on the nervous system. It is used to assist with tension headaches and insomnia.

  • You can benefit from lavender's therapeutic aromatherapy properties by using lavender essential oil in a diffuser (always use pure, therapeutic grade lavender) 
  • You can enjoy the sweet, aromatic properties of lavender by mixing dried lavender buds with a couple of drops of lavender essential oil and making sachets for your drawers and linen closets
  • You can put a couple of drops of lavender essential oil in distilled water and use it as a refreshing, mood-enhancing room spray
  • You can add lavender flowers or lavender essential oil to your bathwater for a relaxing effect

Skincare Uses:
There are many species of lavender to choose from but Lavandula angustifolia is commonly accessible and used in many skincare products. For skincare, you can benefit from the healing properties of lavender by using either a lavender hydrosol, lavender essential oil, or lavender flowers.

I.  Lavender Hydrosol (the water soluble portion that remains from the distillation of lavender flowers) is an absolutely beautiful flower water that is less potent than lavender essential oil and can be applied directly onto the skin (avoiding eye area).

  • You can apply lavender hydrosol on your skin to soothe and cool minor burns, sunburns, and rashes.
  • You can spray lavender hydrosol on a cotton pad and use it as a refreshing toner on your cleansed face
  • You can mix lavender hydrosol with your face mask instead of using regular water for an added cooling and soothing affect

II. Lavender Essential Oil (the oil portion that remains after the distillation of lavender flowers) is concentrated and potent and should never be applied directly to the skin.

  • You can take a carrier oil of choice (i.e. grapeseed oil, apricot kernel oil or almond oil) and add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil which can be used as a beautifully scented body moisturizer or massage oil

III. Lavender Flowers: Herbal Facial Steams are a natural way for cleansing facial pores. The aromatic and nourishing oils of the herbs and flowers are released by the steam and absorbed by the skin while soothing them. Lavender facial steams are great for both your mind and body and can be a great way to bring a relaxing end to your day before retiring to bed.

To make a lavender flower steam:

  • Boil 2 to 3 quarts of water in a large pot and toss a handful of lavender flowers in the boiled water
  • Cover the lid, letting the lavender flowers infuse the water for a couple of minutes Remove the pot from a heat source and place it on a heat proof surface that you can lean over
  • Leaning over the pot, drape a large towel of your head and the pot and absorb the steam. Do not sit in the steam if it is uncomfortable or too hot.  It is recommended that you rinse your face with cold water and dab with an astringent like rose water right after you finish the steam

I absolutely love working with lavender and use lavender hydrosol, lavender flowers and lavender essential oil in many of my handmade skincare and aromatherapy wellness products. I use lavender essential oil in my Harmony Dead Sea Bath Salts and my Harmony Aromatherapy Candles. 


*You can buy organic lavender flowers at:
http://www.amazon.com/Starwest-Botanicals-Organic-Lavender-Flowers/

*You can buy pure, therapeutic grade lavender at: https://www.edenbotanicals.com/lavender-bulgaria-organic.html

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A Rose by any other Name Would Smell as Sweet..

In celebration of Valentines Day, I feel it is important to take a moment to commemorate one of Nature's most treasured and romantic gifts, roses. Roses have served as universal symbols of love, beauty, purity and passion from antiquity. Their timeless beauty has gained them integral roles in poetry, art, divine ceremonies, and mythology. In some cultures, rose water has been traditionally scattered at weddings to ensure a happy marriage and has also been used to aid meditation and prayer. (Boskabady, M. H., Shafei, M. N., Saberi, Z., & Amini, S., 2011)

The undeniable beauty and alluring fragrance of roses is recognized across cultures and has inspired romantic feelings in even the hardest of hearts. Although many people may recognize the enchanting properties of a rose, many are unaware of their innate healing properties.

Roses are one of my favorite ingredients to work with because they infuse the air with a sweet, heartwarming and blissful energy whenever I am creating products. You can harness the benefits of roses in many ways including using rose essential oil, rosewater (hydrosol), rosehip oil, or rose flower petals.

The traditional medicinal uses of roses (R. damascena) has been for the treatment of abdominal and chest pain, treatment of menstrual bleeding, strengthening the heart and for digestive problems. Some North American tribes use the root of Roses to make cough syrup. (Boskabady, M. H., 2011)

Scientific research studies have also confirmed the therapeutic properties of roses (R. damascena). They have been found to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-depressant properties. The main constituents of rose essential oil that are responsible for these therapeutic activities are citronellol and geraniol.  (Mahboubi, M., 2016). 

How to Incorporate Roses into your Holistic Wellness Routine:

From an aromatherapy perspective, roses are uplifting and have anti-depressant qualities and have been used to alleviate nervous stress and tension. (Boskabady, M. H., 2011) The most effective way to experience the aromatherapy benefits of roses is by using a pure essential oil. You can create a nice body oil by placing a couple of drops of rose essential oil in a carrier oil such as grape-seed or jojoba oil. You can start with 4-5 drops of rose essential oil and increase the concentration to meet your personal preferences. Both grape-seed oil and jojoba oil have their own distinct, herbal scent so you will need to add enough essential oil to mask it.

Another way to experience the beautiful essence of roses is by using rosewater. Rosewater is made by distilling tons of rose petals and is the hydrosol (or water portion) that remains when making rose essential oil. It isn't as potent as using concentrated rose essential oil, but it still contains the beneficial properties of rose.  It is astringent and is soothing to the skin. You can use rose water directly on your skin to soothe redness.

Rose petals can be used as a poultice (mashing the fresh rose petals, mixing with olive oil and applying directly on the skin) or can be dried and drank as an herbal tea. Rose tea is used in many cultures to assist with female hormonal imbalances. It has a bitter taste.

Rosehip oil is one of my favorite herbal remedies from the rose plant. It is extracted from the bright orange bulbs (rosehips) that remain when the flower petals of a rose fall off. Rosehip oil is an amazing oil and is typically used for sun-damaged skin and premature aging. It is high in Vitamin C and can be helpful on combating fine lines and wrinkles. Rosehips have traditionally been used in sweets in some culture and can be eaten or drank as an herbal tea.  

You can find roses and/or rose essential oil in my handmade Romance Dead Sea Bath Salts and my Romance Aromatherapy Wellness Candles. If you are interested in trying some of my products, I will be showcasing them at Lavender Label in Astoria, NY this Sunday, Feb. 18th from 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm.  

For more info on this event, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Anthesisholisticwellness/

References:

1)    Boskabady, M. H., Shafei, M. N., Saberi, Z., & Amini, S. (2011). Pharmacological Effects of Rosa DamascenaIranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences14(4), 295–307.

2)    Mahboubi, M. (2016). Rosa damascena as holy ancient herb with novel applications. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine6(1), 10–16. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2015.09.005

Mother Nature the Healer

Living in the fast-paced energy of NYC, we have become accustomed to high-stress, demanding life-styles that advocate "pre-packaged" health and wellness that comes from pills and quick-fix remedies for all our emotional and physical ailments.

When we are tired we rely on stimulants like multiple cups of coffee. When we are sick we depend on pills that temporarily alleviate our symptoms. When we feel empty we seek happiness in material things outside of ourselves.

While we might argue that our quick-fix remedies might be a means of survival in the demanding environment we live in, our dependence on this lifestyle can lead to side-effects like adrenal burn out, mental exhaustion, irritability, insomnia and depression among other things.

What many of us may not know is that we can shield ourselves from the repercussions of this fast-paced lifestyle by returning to our roots and reconnecting with Mother Nature. Nature is the abundant force of energy that sustains life on earth, interconnecting all living things. Her healing benefits are bountiful and holistic; having the power to heal mind, body and soul.

Spiritually, even the simplest act of observing nature, breathing in the fresh air, and connecting to her heartfelt energy can be therapeutic. When we sit and observe nature and partake in her beauty,  we slow down the chatter in our minds, shift our awareness to the present moment and re-connect with our authentic, higher-self. 

Whether we are witnessing the unfolding of a flower bud,  the vibrant colors and symmetrical patterns on a butterfly's wings, or the blissful, intoxicating aroma of a rose, every moment of experiencing mother nature offers a sense of peaceful yet powerful,  majestic beauty. It's a beauty that does more than please our senses, it opens up our hearts, bridging the outside world with our inner-world. Connecting with nature is a form of meditation, offering us a way to find inner stillness, nurture our psyche and restore harmony and balance.

As Henry David Thoreau the naturalist and philosopher once put it, "Mother Nature, in all her infinite compassions and strengths, has remarkable powers to restore vitality. Wash yourself in the pure water of the streams, put your bare feet on the good earth, fall asleep in the arms of an ancient tree. There is good medicine to be found in nature. It is long lasting and heals the soul".

But nature does more than nurture our souls. Natural remedies that come from plants can also heal our physical ailments and illnesses. Plants embody the spirit of nature and contain a spectrum of active constituents which work synergistically to produce healing effects on the body. They offer nutritive, rejuvenating, restorative,  as well as strengthening properties for maintaining and enhancing health and wellness.

One can benefit from the myriad of healing properties of plants in many ways. You can drink them as herbal teas, soak in herbal baths, eat them, apply herbal oils and poultices on your skin, or even inhale them.

Drinking herbal teas like oat straw and lemon balm,  which act as calming nerve tonics,  can help you with anxiety, stress and sleep disorders. Drinking herbs like chamomile and peppermint which are digestive tonics can help with stomach ailments. Applying plants like nettles and calendula topically can help soothe skin irritations. Finally, inhaling the pure essential oils from plants (aromatherapy) is a potent way to directly benefit from both the physical, spiritual and psychological healing properties of plants. For example, rosemary essential oil is antibacterial and can aid in oral hygiene ailments but is also helpful for increasing mental clarity.

While plants may not be as fast-acting and immediately satisfying as taking drugs, they gently restore health and vitality to our bodies over time. As world-renowned herbalist Rosemary  Gladstar once said,   " Good health is in truth, the practice of living healthfully every day."  

Realistically, when most of us  think about health and wellness, we don't always think about our relationship with mother nature. Yet very often it is our disconnection from mother nature and our dependence on the material, fast-paced, quick-fix world that is at the root of all our mental and physical illnesses. Nature is an abundant and nurturing life-force that provides us with everything we need to naturally maintain holistic health and wellness. All we need to do is acknowledge and tap into it.