Essential oils are considered the soul or jing of the plant. They are highly concentrated aromatic compounds. The life force of the plant is extracted and distilled. We, in turn, can use essential oils to enhance our own life force. Each essential oil, derived from many pounds of flowers and plants, carries an ancient immunological intelligence that has survived for millions of years. Millions of years!!! When you use oils invoke a sense of reverence for the sacred medicine that the plants provide us.
Olfaction- the sense and act of smell- has a direct impact on our limbic system and thus on our moods and emotions. The moment we take in a scent it catalyzes a cascade of biochemical reactions. It may trigger memory recall.
Both acupuncture & essential oils (on acu-points) potentiate healing in the body-mind. Before working with an oil take time to be with it, to smell it. Notice how your body responds, how you open or close in response to the aroma. Honor what your body tells you over what a textbook may say. I recommend finding one or two oils that resonate with you. Work with them for a month or more to observe what shifts occur. Don’t be surprised if, at some point, you lose your attraction to a certain oil.
Essential oils are potent vibrational medicine. Certain oils are contraindicated for certain conditions and/or when used in concert with certain medications. Over all, though, diffusing essential oils is safe and can enhance well-being, uplift our mood, and expand perspective.
If you don’t own any oils it’s time for a field trip to MOMs or Whole Foods. Spend some time with their selection of essential oils. You may garner some looks but no worries. Go on indulging your olfactory senses right there in the aisle. Can you detect a difference between the organic oils and the non-organic oils? Do you want to linger longer with certain oils? While other oils repulse you?
I recommend the following oils for a beginner’s kit: Lavender, Eucalyptus, Sandalwood, & a citrus oil such as sweet orange, bergamot and/or grapefruit.
Where you source oils from does matter. Distillation of the plant materials into the essential oil is an ancient alchemical art. As the use of essential oils for healing resurfaces in the cultural meme there are more available. Like olive oil there are many gradations and varieties available.
When we reach for a bottle on the shelf it’s easy to forget that what you are holding is the result of a long alchemical process. The distillation of essential oils is analogous to wine making. The final product is the confluence of innumerable factors. For many seasons the plant drinks the energies of sun, moon, rain, air and earth. Just like in wine making the terroir influences the potency of the final product. The earth element is present in all oils given that earth is their medium. Using essential oils is energy or vibrational medicine. The higher the vibration of the oil, the higher the potency will be.
If you are using oils for diffusion – a few drops in the tub, a sprinkle on the pillow before nighty night, and/or in a diffuser to imbue relaxation or mental clarity- then the Aura Acacia, Whole Foods and/or MOMs brand of oils will suffice. If, however, you want to use the oil as part of a healing ritual to celebrate a special occasion, -such as your honoring your journey & life- then I recommend selecting a top shelf oil from an artisanal distiller. Here are a few of my favorites:
Flower Oils such as lavender, roman chamomile, rose, and geranium are generally more yin in nature. They tend to be cooling and have a calming, restorative effect on the body & the Shen. Shen is the spirit that resides in the heart. When the Shen is settled one feels present to the wonders in each moment. Feeling anxious, agitated, scattered, ‘spacey’ reflects a disturbance of the Shen. In general, flower oils help to settle and soothe the Shen.
Citrus & Spice Oils are generally more yang in nature. They contain more of the agni/fire principle. Thus they are warming, stimulating, & moving and are good for physical & emotional lethargy.
Citrus oils such as sweet orange, grapefruit, lime, bergamot, lemon, tangerine, mandarin bring their bright sunny nature to you. and can all but transport you to a tropical locale. The citrus oils help lift the mood, increase energy & open the chest.
The spice oils -clove, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom- are generally warming and invigorating. Do you tend towards feeling cold in the Autumn ? If so, diffuse a blend of warming oils such as clove and cardamom. I keep an old pot filled with water on the stove and add drops of eucalyptus to it in the Fall. Eucalyptus helps to keep the Lungs open and respiration clear by expelling phlegm and mucus.
Sandalwood: santalum album, Sandalwood is a beautiful oil that is derived from the wood/root of the plant. By law of signature root oils help to draw energy from the upper body back down to the roots to ground us. Sandalwood has an affinity with the Lungs making it a great oil to use in the Autumn to support the Lungs. Sandalwood is deeply calming for the shen-spirit and thereby treats insomnia, anxiety, & restlessness.
How do you respond to sandalwood? If, the aroma is resonant then apply a drop onto acu-points Lung 9 & Colon 1 prior to meditation and/or pranayama. For insomnia apply a drop onto the following acu-points: Kidney 3 & 6, Spleen 4 and Pericardium 6.
Roman Chamomile: chamaemelum nobile, has been my favorite oil for a few years now. Look at that sweet yellow face. RC has a sweet, herbaceous aroma. It varies in color from indigo blue to yellow. Roman Chamomile, like lavender, is a derived from the flowers of the plant. It has a sweet taste and is cooling in nature. Roman Chamomile has an affinity with the Spleen/Pancreas & Liver. It has anti-inflammatory properties. RC is great for soothing irritability, restlessness & insomnia.
Place a drop of Roman Chamomile on the following acu-points before bed: Liver 3 & Spleen 4
Lavender: lavandula augustifolia, is the desert island essential oil. If I could only take 1 EO with me to a desert island it would be lavender. It is the all around wonder oil. Lavender has a soft, floral aroma. It has an affinity with the Lungs, Liver & Pericardium. As a flower oil it is cooling in nature and, like sandalwood, it soothes and calms the shen-spirit. Lavender helps to quell heart palpitations, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, and restlessness. Lavender’s association with the Liver makes it a good oil for headaches, muscle spasms, tightness in the chest, irregular & scanty menses. It also has the capacity to ‘release wind heat’ which means it is helpful for conditions that include chills & fever, sinus infections, sore throat.
Vetiver: vetiveria zizanoides, is distilled from the dried root of the plant. In general root oils are grounding. They help to draw qi/energy from the upper centers down to the lower centers. Due to the grounding & calming properties of Vetiver it helps to quell anxiety, racing thoughts, heart palpitations, and hot flashes. Place a drop of Vetiver onto acu-point Kidney 1 and it’s as if you’re putting on a pair of lead shoes. It draws your energy down from the head to the torso and legs. Vetiver also nourishes and invigorates the blood. For irregular or scanty menses apply a drop of Vetiver on acu-point Spleen 4 nightly, for 30 days.