Essential Oils & Aromatherapy follow me everywhere! An aromatherapist's trip abroad.
Carole Preen FCHP FANM HonMIFA
On my trip to Cyprus in 2022 for my daughter’s wedding, I was, as usual (and much to the annoyance of my husband!), constantly drawn to plants that give us essential oils or base products in aromatherapy and so, I thought I would write up an article about those oils as part of my Cypriot experience from an aromatherapist's perspective. For me, looking at and photographing plants that give us essential oils has become a real passion, almost as much as using the oils themselves! Of course, the wedding was amazing too! The following suggestions for use are for external use only as essential oils should not be taken internally (and I have written about this in previous articles).
Frangipani (Plumeria rubra)
On arriving at our hotel, I was overjoyed to see the car park covered in Frangipani. It is such a beautiful looking flower, and the essential oil is also divine. Of course, my husband rolled his eyes as I went over to the plant explaining all about it to him! I am grateful for his eternal patience, but I afford him the same limited attention when he talks about military planes…
This is an absolute rather than an essential oil and is quite expensive due to the complicated extraction process, low yield of oil from raw plant material and associated costs. Several sources mention using Frangipani absolute as an anti-wrinkle aid and state that it revitalises the skin. Research shows that Frangipani can be used in the first stage of labour on the perineum to prevent perineal tears during delivery (Ni Gusti et al 2018). Where this oil really excels is on the emotional level and we see this in all of the flower oils. It certainly has the ability to give a sense of calmness and peace and also inspires a sense of self-worth and confidence. It is also listed as being an aphrodisiac.
As with all essential oils, you need to use the oil with caution. This one is harmful if swallowed and needs to be patch tested prior to use on the skin in dilution (we always dilute essential oils prior to skin application – they are not applied neat). Anyone with acne or blemish-prone skin may find this oil causes irritation due to the benzyl salicylate present. Benzyl salicylate has been shown to contribute to the proliferation of cells that may cause breast cancer. Those who are at risk of breast cancer should avoid products containing this skincare ingredient (CIR review 2019).
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
Next, I spotted some orange trees. I asked the gardener if he knew which type and he was so pleased at my interest and gave me the botanical name for sweet orange. As a sedative, it blends well with Lavandula angustifolia, to relax. Its anti-inflammatory action makes it useful to uplift arthritic blends, and it is a tonic to the lymphatic system too, which helps removal of uric acid surrounding arthritic joints. It is also antiseptic, bactericidal, and fungicidal as well as carminative, so good for settling the digestive system, even when emotional stress is the underlying cause (nervous stomach). Also, as a stomachic it is generally a tonic for the whole digestive system and can help stimulate the appetite. It really balances the digestive system so use it for diarrhoea and constipation (IBS). I use a lot of sweet orange in my blending and find it sweetens any blend. Its versatility means that you can add it to blends that uplift just as well as those to relax. For example, a morning lift blend can be orange, bergamot, and a little spearmint whereas in the evening for sleep, it blends well with sandalwood and lavender.
Chemically, the oil is over 90% monoterpenes, mostly limonene. Despite what you might have read in books, it is not phototoxic (Tisserand, Young 2014). It is quite a safe oil, but you might consider patch testing where a person has skin sensitisation or contact dermatitis as they could potential react. The most important factor when using orange oil and indeed any of the citrus oils is to ensure they are fresh. The citrus oils have a shelf life of around two years so check the label as old, oxidised oils will cause skin sensitisation. You might like to consider keeping your citrus essential oils refrigerated to help them stay fresher longer. I tend to use old citrus oils that cannot be used in practice around the house instead. I add them to products to wash surfaces down and even to the water in my iron, which always make that awful chore far more enjoyable!
Neroli (Citrus aurantium)
This picture was taken outside a restaurant in the evening and the flower was on its last blast, so to speak. I have always loved the fact that the orange tree can produce fruit and flowers at the same time as seen here. This is one of the most beautiful fragrances used in aromatherapy and essential oil therapy. It is deeply relaxing, with a mild hypnotic effect, so can really help switch the mind off, something that is so useful if you suffer from a mind that swirls with thoughts and images when you are trying to go to sleep. It is also an antidepressant, so useful for emotional issues when you may be feeling down and generally very calming too, having been used in clinical trials effectively even for women in labour, (Scandurra et al.) and I concur as I used neroli during the birth of my son. I have also used it in blends for digestive upsets as it is antispasmodic, and you could use it in blends therefore for respiratory issues.
Its chemistry is more complicated than orange as although it is from the same plant (the orange tree), neroli is distilled from the flower whereas orange oil is distilled from the peel, and in different ways. The difficulties in distribution and the number of flowers required to yield even small amounts of the oil is what makes neroli much more expensive; but it is worth every penny. The monoterpene linalool represents the most abundant compound in the essential oil composition (10.70 ± 0.55 %), followed by anthranilic acid, limonene, α-terpineol, and geranyl acetate (Scandurra et al. 2022). It is a very safe oil though with no cautions for application on the skin. I find that you need less of it in a blend as it is highly concentrated. It is lovely even on its own, but also nice blended with orange and the wood oils.
Pomelo (Citrus maxima/grandis)
The gardener also pointed to another fruit tree that I had actually never seen before and that was Pomelo (Citrus grandis). It is the largest of all the citrus fruits (Chen et al. 2016). According to Ngan et al. (2021), Pomelo peel contains a large amount of essential oil about 0.4-1% of the weight of the peel, this essential oil contains a mixture of volatile aromatics and has high economic value (Ngan et al 2020, Uysal et al. 2011)]. Pomelo essential oil usually contains limonene (80-88%), β-Pinene (0.8-1.2%), linalool (1.1.-0.7%), α-terpinene (0.7-1.0%) [Uysal et al. 2011, Kirbaslar et al. 2006, Prasad et al. 2016). According to studies, pomelo essential oil has many antibacterial activities against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus pidermidis, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, and Proteus vulgaris (Okunowo et al. 2013, Baik et al 2008).
The essential oil from pomelo is cold pressed from the peel to give a clear pale-yellow mobile liquid with a sweet, fresh aroma. It can also be extracted via hydrodistillation. It is native to Southeast Asia. It has antidepressant properties and it also a great anxiolytic. The most noticeable factor is its antioxidant, anti-melanogenic, anti-hypertensive, and anticoagulant properties (He et al. 2019). It is a good oil to use on the skin due to its antioxidant properties with lycopene and can be used in skin cleansing products. It can help reduce acne redness and reduce skin irritation. It also contains spermidine that can help delay the signs of aging and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Apparently, it is also good in hair products to help restore dry, coarse hair that has been damaged. It can also be used in therapy for people struggling with obesity as it is an appetite regulator. It can reduce hunger cravings, so can be used as part of an overall health plan. As it is high in limonene, it will be antibacterial and antimicrobial (Biomake essential oil website).
There are some cautions for use as it can interact with certain medications such as antidepressants and those to reduce hypertension. It is also phototoxic, so as with other similar citrus essential oils, do not expose the skin that has had pomelo essential oil applied to direct sunlight for at least 12 hours. A patch test is prudent as there have been some reports of skin sensitivity and irritation.
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)
When I went to leave a Taverna one afternoon, I noticed this Aloe vera plant. What a beauty! Now not an essential oil but a wonderful healing plant and a base that I use frequently in my natural remedies for clients and for me and my family. In fact, my friends and family have come to repeat the phrase when things go wrong, and all say “put some aloe on it! I am referring to topical application of aloe vera gel in this piece. Aloe vera has been traditionally used to treat skin injuries (burns, cuts, insect bites, and eczemas) and known for its wound healing properties.
Its main components are aloesin, aloin, and emodin, that exert their protective action mainly through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms (Sánchez.et al. 2020). You can use this on its own or add essential oils to it. As aloe vera gel is water based and essential oils do not mix in water, you need to use a base oil to bridge the gap. I usually calculate the drops of essential oils for the whole product when using an aloe base and then mix those oils in 5-10mls of jojoba first, prior to adding it to the aloe already in my dark glass jar. Stir this together quickly to create a creamy looking lotion. I always take a blend of lavender and peppermint essential oil in aloe vera on holiday as this is a wonderful after sun lotion. The also is cooling, as is the peppermint and the lavender also good for burns, as is the aloe.
Lemon (Citrus limon)
Waiting to go into an ancient monument I spied some lemon trees. I have always wondered why there is not a neroli of lemon as there is with orange, so if you know, please leave a comment. I assume it is economic as the scent from the flower is exquisite, as we have often commented upon during one of our guided aromatic tours at Kew Gardens that we do every year. Lemon is known as a powerful bactericide as noted in all the books and as a tonic. It is useful to apply on spots and boils to help against infection. It has an astringent effect on the skin, making it useful for greasy skin, so useful in blends for people with acne. It has a very uplifting, sharp scent that raises the spirits. From a chemistry and safety perspective, it is like that of orange, being mainly made up of limonene (although very slightly less) and unlike sweet orange, it is phototoxic. That means it should not be applied to the skin prior to exposure to sunlight. The general rule of thumb is that you should avoid the sun for 12 hours following application. The maximum dermal limit is recommended at 2% (Tisserand, Young 2014) If you were making up a face cream with lemon (and some books also advocate its use for anti-aging), it would need to be applied in the evening, which is not ideal when using such a stimulating aroma. I do like adding lemon to cleaning products.
Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum)
This was spotted on a hot evening in Limassol where the fragrance wafted up my nose as I walked by, and I knew to look for Jasmine. It is in the evening when its scent is most prolific and you may have noticed yourself when on holiday abroad how the beautiful, heady aroma fill the air. This is another expensive essential oil – or actually an absolute, due to its distillation and number of flowers required to make even a small amount. The method of production here is from the blossoms using solvent extraction to create what is known as a concrete, and the Jasmine absolute is then created using alcohol separation. The aroma has been used as an aphrodisiac for centuries, even mentioned in ancient Egyptian writings.
Jasmine is a wonderful oil and I always use it a lot in blending. I have specialised in pregnancy and postnatal care as well as treating back pain and jasmine is useful on both! It is a uterine tonic and can help regulate the menstrual cycle, good for people with amenorrhoea. As an analgesic, it is great for muscle pain relief too and can be used for menstrual cramps, pain in labour and general muscular aches and pains. When using it in labour where it helps strengthen contractions, it is also useful for the third stage to help expel the placenta. Its antispasmodic effects are also great when working with people with back issues. I have worked with paraplegics and jasmine oil in massage helped them control their spasms.
From a safety perspective, it should not be used in pregnancy due to its effect on uterine muscles. We do not use it on breastfeeding mothers either as it supresses the flow of milk, unless you want that action to support a women who wants to stop breast-feeding for any reason. It is theorised that the jasmine aromatic molecules may reach the hypothalamus by the olfactory route and inhibit the function of the pituitary gland. The chemistry of the oil gives the main constituents as benzyl alcohol, linalool, benzyl acetate, jasmone, and geraniol. It is therefore usually quite a safe oil to use topically in general but there is a moderate risk of skin sensitisation (Tisserand, Young 2014), so do a patch test first. You do not need to use much of this oil in a blend due to its intensity of fragrance, which in turn comes from the fact that so much plant material is required to make even 1 drop. The International Fragrance Regulatory Authority (IFRA) recommends a maximum dermal limit of 0.7%.
Considering training in aromatherapy or essential oil theory?
If you would like to train as an aromatherapist, we have a wonderful Clinical Aromatherapy and Essential oil Science Diploma delivered at Level 5. The study of aromatherapy includes the study of specialist massage techniques used in aromatherapy sessions and in the UK, that requires in-class study in order to develop your practical skills to the best of your abilities. Your clients will vote with their feet and when you are well-trained, they will keep coming back!
If massage is not for you, but you would still like to be able to treat clients with essential oils, then we have our Essential Oil Practitioner Diploma. You can treat medical conditions following a detailed consultation and prescribe bespoke essential oil products for clients. The course also advises on selling products made up in bulk to the general public and the legal requirements surrounding this. As this requires no practical skills, we can deliver it online.
If you just want to learn for personal use, why not purchase our Introduction to Essential Oils course and explore how you can benefit your well-being. You are also always welcome to join in on our Aromatic Tour at Kew Gardens each June.
If you are a massage therapist and would like to upskill to become an aromatherapist, we are developing a course now to enable you to do that. As long as it is a recognised course with anatomy, physiology, and pathology, you can do our essential oil diploma online and then attend in class to meet the CNHC core curriculum. We are aiming to do two session of 3 days at our premises, that will give you the in-class hours required.
Already an aromatherapist? Well, we also have some amazing CPD courses available to take your knowledge to the next level. You can even upgrade to a level 5 aromatherapy diploma, all from the comfort of your own home but supported by us through video chats, and as always, individualised personal feedback on your coursework.
All of our courses are easy pay as you go to make it more affordable, paid in instalments or pay as you go.
If you would like to chat to us to discuss your training needs and options, we would be delighted to speak with you or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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