Essential Oil Of The Week: Jatamansi

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This week’s essential oil, Jatamansi, has a rich history. Jatamansi oil is distilled from the roots of the perennial flowering plant of the same name that grows in the Alpine Himalayas. It has a sweet-woody scent, very earthy and damp. It reminds me a dank greenhouse. I personally think the fragrance is entrancing, but many people find it to be rather vile. It is in the same family as valerian, another fantastic herb for encouraging healthy sleep and calm nerves.

The name Jatamansi actually means “whose flesh is like a dread lock” because of the roots likeness to the matted locks of the ancient yogis and ascetics in the Himalayas. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

Jatamansi has been used as both medicine and perfume for many thousands of years. Under the name “spikenard” it appears in the Bible as the type of oil that Mary Magdalene used to anoint Jesus’ feet.

It has a long history of use in Ayurvedic and Unani medicine, particularly for its incredibly balancing action on the doshas and powerfully rejuvenating effect on the mind.

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Essential Oil Of The Week: Silver Fir

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The fragrance of the holidays has overtaken the flower shops where I work. We are receiving evergreen bundles, garlands and wreaths every day. It is lovely and so very wintery. The resinous, heady and fresh scent of pines, balsams and fir boughs is invigorating and cheery.

This got me thinking about a favorite essential oil of mine: silver fir.

Silver fir essential oil encourages deep breathing and is healing for the entire respiratory system as well as supportive of the immune system. Because it is a strong oil that can be irritating to skin if used undiluted, it is best to use take benefit from this oil through inhalation. Simply placing a drop or two in the palms of your hands, rubbing them together and then holding in front of your nose for 3 or 4 deep full breaths is an easy way to appreciate the healing effects of this oil.

This is also an ideal oil to diffuse in your home. This allows the anti-viral, anti-septic and anti-microbial actions of silver fir to cleanse the air in your home – especially beneficial during cold/flu season. Plus it will make your house smell incredible.

It is a great decongestant because the scent can easily open the lungs, heal respiratory infections and bronchitis as well as clear excess phlegm and mucus. On a more subtle energetic level, this oil offers the sensation of more “breathing room.” It encourages inspiration and creativity.

Silver fir essential oil tonifies Qi and warms the interior. One single drop or two added to a warm bath is very soothing and clarifying as well as relaxing for muscular aches and arthritis.

This oil is distilled from the cut needles of the silver fir tree (Abies alba). It is important to get high-quality, hand-harvested silver fir oil because some conifer oils are contaminated with unwanted resins, petroleum byproducts and turpentine due to chain saws and other harvesting methods.

Happy December dear readers!

Love and Blessings,

Frances

 

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Meditation To Heal A Broken Heart

Let’s be honest here. Sometimes life isn’t always rosy and sweet. There are so many horrible, sad things happening every single day.  With all the beauty and bliss, there is also great tragedy, inequity and injustice in our world.

Sadness, darkness, pain, broken hearts – there is no way to sidestep these aspects of the human experience, and one shouldn’t even try. It’s important to for there to be shadow and light. We need that depth of emotion and the perspective it provides.

I’ve found that when I’m in the midst of a hard place, I have to approach my spiritual practice and yoga discipline from a different angle, depending on what I feel I need most at a core/heart level. Sometimes I need to push push push and emerge victorious on the other side. But often I need to be still, self-reflective and “selfish.” Going deep within the energetics and emotions of practice can take me to a place of greater awareness of why I’m going through what I’m going through and how I can grow from it.

Taking time to grieve, and to feel, to really feel, is an essential step in healing.

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Essential Oil Of The Week: Helichrysum

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Helichrysum is a powerfully healing plant that you don’t hear about that often, but probably should because it is so special.

I learned about it in massage school when I had a massive cut on my knee and asked my teacher what to do about potential scarring. Ever since then, I have used this oil regularly to heal wounds and bruises, improve complexion and reduce scarring. 

Helichrysum’s common name is “Everlasting.” It is tall yellow cluster of aromatic flowers that can grow in deprived soil and sunny harsh conditions where other plants can barely survive. Energetically, that feels very indicative of this plant’s fortitude and power. It is traditionally found in Europe, especially in the Eastern regions and in the Mediterranean.

The scent of helicrysum is spicy, warm and herbal. It’s quite a unique fragrance, hard to place unless you know what it is.

Therapeutically, the essential oil of the helichrysum flowers is safe for topical usage, even undiluted. It is very healing for skin conditions such as eczema, burns, acne, radiation burns, chronic dermatitis etc.,. It is analgesic, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.  It reduces pain and can encourage the proper flow of chi and blood in the body. Topical usage is beneficial for bruise healing, broken capillaries and varicose veins. 

On the realm of the psyche and emotions, the use of this oil is most suited for moving through grief, bereavement and emotional trauma. Helicrysum can assist in healing old emotional scars, acute fear or anger and overcoming adversity. 

Energetically, helichrysum has the power to break through the deepest, most “stuck” negative feelings and can help restore feelings of compassion for others and for oneself. 

Keeping a bottle of this powerful essential oil handy to simply take a few long deep inhalations of during times of emotional stress is very soothing. I also keep a bottle of helichrysum hydrosol mist in my fridge for a cooling, skin-healing spritz now and again. 

Topically, a few drops of this oil can be applied directly on healing wounds or old scars. Another good way to benefit from the skin healing and anti-inflammatory properties of this plant is to put a few drops of this oil into a warm bath and soak it up.

Have you ever used this essential oil before? What are your favorite essential oils to work with?

 

Love and Blessings,

Frances

 

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Navigating The Bullfighting Ring: Learning to ACT And Not REACT

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If you are anything like me, somedays life can make you feel like you are a tortured hot-headed bull, being poked and aggravated by tiny preposterous matadors doing anything they can do just to get a rise out of you.

It’s challenging not to react when everyone is basically begging you to make a scene.

Although I was a temper-tantrum throwing child and a drama queen all through my adolescence, I am slowly, with much practice and many failed attempts, becoming a more relaxed and even-keeled woman. My daily yoga and meditation practices have made this possible, as has the experience of being in a stable, supportive and loving relationship. Yes, I still have my my Scorpio stinger, but I’m becoming more judicious with it.

Learning to act consciously, and not just simply react angrily, when confronted with a conflict is a skill and a practice.

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Essential Oil of the Week: Ginger

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In the culinary realm, ginger is by far one of my absolute favorite flavors. I go gaga for anything ginger – seriously, I can sit down and eat a whole box of crystalized ginger without batting an eyelash. I love ginger tea, I love ginger in my smoothies and juices and I especially love grating fresh ginger into stirfrys and salad dressings.

Despite my love of consuming all things ginger, using the essential oil of this potent healing root has been a new discovery for me. It is a fabulous way to benefit from the power of this universally respected plant. Ginger has been used for just about ever as a food, medicine and spice. It has a long history of use in Asia, was used in both Greek and Roman medicine and is an essential component of TCM healing. Ginger was even introduced in Western Europe during the Middle Ages and apparently was used to combat the Black Death because of its sweat-producing capacities. Native to India and China, it is now grown commercially in many tropical climates.

In Ayurvedic medicine, ginger is viewed as the universal medicine that can be of benefit to all constitutions. It destroys toxins, it is a strong digestive, prevents nausea, stokes the digestive fire (agni), alleviates pain, is rejuvenating and beneficial for breathing difficulties.

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Essential Oil of the Week: Ylang Ylang

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It has been too long since I’ve shared an essential oil with you. This week’s delightful one, ylang ylang, is celebrated for its ability to calm the heart, and since I shared my favorite heart-calming meditation practice with you a few days ago, it only seemed appropriate to follow up with this post. I also find ylang ylang to be a very fun word to say.

Ylang ylang is sometimes called the “poor man’s jasmine”, but I don’t think that is completely fair because it has a gorgeous dreamy fragrance all of its own. Apparently, the petals of ylang ylang flowers are strewn across the beds of newlywed couples in Indonesia for their beauty and aphrodisiac qualities. The scent of ylang ylang is feminine, sweet, heavy and sensual. It is simultaneously cooling, calming and euphoric.

Ylang Ylang essential oil is considered a “harmonizing” oil as it has been shown to reduce pulse rate while at the same time increasing alertness and arousal. It is beneficial for the circulatory system for treating high blood pressure and heart palpitations. It is used in addressing impotence, PMS and anxiety. It is soothing, increasing feelings of inner trust, peace and self-confidence.

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Ashtanga Thoughts: Every Little Bit Counts

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Confession. Today I decided to skip practice.

I haven’t slept through the night in days. We went out to a late and heavy dinner with my brother and his wife and then at 11:30pm my sister showed up to crash in our guest room before her early morning flight. Artemis was restless and wandering about the room while we tried to sleep and to top it all off, our next door neighbors started partying it up right outside our window after midnight.

Good excuses to skip practice in my book.

I opened my eyes at the 5:45 alarm and when Thad, who is in the middle of mid-terms, told me he was going to stay in bed today, I promptly decided to join him.

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My Magic Scar-Removing Oil Blend

I scar more easily than anyone I know. I scratched my leg with my fingernail a few months ago, and it scarred. It’s kind of ridiculous.

Luckily, in my study of essential oils, I’ve learned which ones I can use on my body to promote skin regeneration and healing. I’ve seen remarkable improvement in my skin and the appearance of scars by using essential oils daily. Even my worst scars and stretch marks (aah! God forbid! those nasty little reminders of what happened when I “lost” my anorexic body) have visibly decreased after consistent use with my magic oil blend.

My formula for a scar removing oil blend is not super precise and it changes a bit each time I make it, but there are a few important and necessary oils to use in order to make the most effective blend.

These are helichrysum, vetiver, lavender and carrot seed.

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Essential Oil Of The Week: Rose Geranium

dryland-herbs_rose-geranium-208x300All essential oils are pretty wonderful and magic in my opinion, but this week’s feature is one of my absolute favorites. I personally think this is the single most important essential oil for every woman to have because of its great healing properties for the skin, hormones and the reproductive system.

Rose Geranium (Pelargonium roseum) has a broad range of uses and a beautiful and complex sweet fragrance of roses and citrus. It is very cooling, anti-inflammatory and uplifting, a wonderful oil to have handy for the dog-days of summer (a hydrosol spritz is a lovely way to garner the benefits of this plant – so good for the skin!).

This astringent and antimicrobial essential oil is very balancing for the hormones and can reduce PMS symptoms as well as menopausal hot flashes. It supports the adrenal cortex to actually balance hormones. Adding a few drops of Rose Geranium into a warm bath is a wonderful way to soothe your body and relax during your cycle. It promotes healthy detoxification and gently reduces water retention in the body.

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Things I Didn’t Believe In

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One rather illuminating experience I’m having as I grow up is the process of learning that certain ideas and concepts that I was dubious about as a rebellious youngster are actually true. I guess that’s why cliches are cliches – there is a truth present that is so obvious it is thus repeated over and over and although its repetition makes it annoying, it is no less true.

I started thinking a lot about this over the weekend because I had a long solo drive to and from Aspen to work on some wedding flowers. As I drove, I put my ipod on shuffle, which meant that I ended up listening to lots of the tunes I loved when I was in high school and college (when I was collecting the majority of my music). Music always carries vivid memories and nostalgia for me.

One thought that occupied my drive was that old phrase “TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS.” This is one of those quintessential cliches that, as I age, I realize is straight up capital T truth. Over time the physical and emotional wounds that feel so permanent when they are fresh, actually do heal. Just little scars and fleeting recollections remain.

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