Edition 73: November 2014
Essential oil of the Month
Mouth-watering oil makes safe digestive
A breath of spring air after cleansing rain
SPEARMINT has always had great value as a culinary herb, but found uses medicinally and in perfumery - in early days many believed it be an aphrodisiac.
The ancient Greeks used it to scent their bath water and reputedly to heal sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea and other infectious and transmittable diseases such as syphilis, scabies, dermatitis and athlete’s foot.
The Romans spread the herb to Britain where it was popular to prevent milk curdling, treat sore gums and also to whiten teeth.
It became popular as flavouring when it was introduced to America and now is found in toothpaste, chewing gum, sweets and drinks.
Aromatherapists treat spearmint as a gentler form of peppermint, but the two oils have very different chemical make ups and very different effects.
Peppermint oil tends to be more stimulating than spearmint, which is mostly calming and relaxing. Spearmint is thus especially suitable and safe for very young children when other essential oils are too potent.
Being a natural refrigerant, spearmint cools us down, which is useful for fever and during hot weather.
Minty iced tea
In summer, add spearmint to iced tea and iced water for its sweet, minty flavor. Desserts will gain much from its inclusion, rendering them more fragrant, mouth-watering and enticing.
Spearmint contains three components - menthol, myrcene and caryophyllene - which are very antiseptic in action.
These anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties make it a useful disinfectant and it may be employed in topical applications for skin infections, wounds and ulcers; protecting them from infection and promoting more rapid healing.
On the skin it can relieve the itching of pruritus and helps with acne, dermatitis, congested skin and sore gums. It works well in a gel to cool sunburn, but must be well-diluted and blended with lavender perhaps for this purpose.
For cosmetic use, it could go in a facial soap or toner for oily skin or acne with other suitable oils.
Dab spearmint oil on insect bites to ease the itching. It is a suitable protector for both external and internal infections; internal wounds and ulcers, such as those in stomach, food pipe and intestines.
Spearmint oil is a friend of the respiratory tract and serves well as an inhalation for respiratory infections, cough, bronchitis, asthma, catarrh and sinus. It is an excellent addition in respiratory blends such as chest rubs and massage oils.
Essential of spearmint is anti-spasmodic in nature due to its carvone component. This gives it a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles, especially of the gut, reducing contraction and spasms.
Such a quality is also helpful for spasmodic coughs, aches, and abdominal aches, cramps and nervous convulsions, where it is cooling on the nerves. Use in massage for irritable bowel syndrome.
The oil has great benefits on the digestive system and relieves flatulence, constipation, vomiting and nausea and even hiccups; being a carminative it relaxes the stomach and abdominal muscles; consequently promoting the release of uncomfortable gases.
Burners and vapourisers: spearmint oil can be used for nausea, headaches, migraines, nervous conditions, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and catarrh.
Bath and massage blends: spearmint oil helps with nausea, indigestion, headaches, migraines, fatigue, menstrual pain and nervous conditions.
In creams or lotions: spearmint oil can help for itching - especially in cases of pruritus or when scabs have formed, decongesting the skin. Cooling in a lotion for sunburn
The soft, minty aroma of spearmint is useful for nausea, as well as travel and sea sickness and gentle enough to use on children as a safer alternative to peppermint, being far lower in menthol content.
An inhalation of spearmint alone or with a drop or two of lime or ginger is said to be an appetite stimulant.
It certainly is an instant cure for bad breath, a single drop at the back of the tongue will suffice, or a drop in honey.
Spearmint encourages healthy uterine function by promoting the secretion of oestrogen, which facilitates menstruation. So for female health problems such as irregularity, obstructed or heavy periods and early menopause, for example, this essential oil can be very helpful.
Many of the unpleasant symptoms accompanying menstruation such as nausea, fatigue or pain in the lower abdominal region can also be assuaged with the use of spearmint; a massage blend with ginger, chamomile and clary-sage would be just the thing. Spearmint has a reputation of easing the trials of childbirth.
Spearmint restores healthy function to all the organ systems operating in the body; stimulating hormonal secretion in general, as well as the discharge of enzymes, gastric juices and bile. It keeps the metabolism activated and boosts immune system by stimulating the nerves, brain and blood circulation.
These qualities make it a good choice for chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and lupus pains and discomforts. Use spearmint for those in convalescence, to help regain strength after long illness.
An effective insecticide, spearmint repels mosquitoes, white ants, ants, flies, moths etc, and may be used in fumigants in the home for this purpose.
In blends and creams, it can be safely applied on skin to protect against insect bites. Research has shown it effective against dust mites. Add spearmint with lemon oil to an air-freshener to disinfect, counter stuffiness and create a calm, open atmosphere.
Here is a good oil for the mentally fragile and vulnerable. Spearmint’s light-hearted aroma uplifts a tired mind and is indicated for mental fatigue and to counter melancholia and depression.
Being a Cephalic, this oil acts on the brain with a relaxing and cooling effect to helps clear headaches, migraines, nervous strain and other stress related neuro-problems. Spearmint tends to wake up rather than sedate and it also cools emotions, increasing mental alertness and memory.
Dissolve a few drops of spearmint essential oil into to a teaspoon of alcohol such as vodka and put into a spray bottle of water. Store in the fridge and use to spray your face and body to cool off in the heat .
On an etheric level, spearmint cleanses the emotional and mental bodies; this ‘energetic ionising’ lifts worries and fatigue, making us feel so much more comfortable.
Spearmint’s energy releases emotions held in the region between the solar plexus and heart chakra.
When we feel vulnerable, this region becomes blocked because of the “walls” we create to protect us life’s onslaught of suffering.
Spearmint dissolves such illusory walls that only separate us from reality and drain enormous energy just trying to build and maintain them.
Spearmint is about developing integrity, which comes about from taking responsibility for our own actions and decisions, which reinforces our own truth.
Massage this oil on the abdomen and rib cage to restore self-trust and apply pressure a few centimetres below the sternum to open up the breath of life.
Botanical name: Mentha spicata
Family: Labiatae, from mint family
The Plant: The spearmint is a hardy perennial herb that is a native of the Mediterranean area. It can reach about a meter high and has bright green lance-shaped, sharply serrated leaves that give the herb its name. Its flowers are pink or lilac-colored and quickly spreading underground runners.
The Oil: Spearmint essential oil is extracted by steam distilling the flowering tops and leaves of the plant. It varies from pale yellow to greenish in colour. The oil is produced in mid-west USA, Hungary, Spain, Yugoslavia, Russia and China. Unlike peppermint, spearmint does not contain high amounts of menthol.
Scent: Spearmint has a soft, sweet and minty aroma with warm, fruity/spicy undertones. It is similar, but sweeter and less sharp than peppermint.
Blends well with: sandalwood and verbena.
Therapeutic Properties: anaesthetic (local) anti septic, anti spasmodic, astringent, carminative, digestive, cephalic, emmenagogue, insecticide, restorative and stimulant, refrigerant, decongestant, tonic.
Indications: insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, indigestion, loss of appetite, chest pain, vomiting, cramps and related symptoms, uneasiness and restlessness.
Precautions: Spearmint is considered a non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitising oil.
Melissa transforms intensity to serenity
THE famous herbalist Paracelsus called melissa the ‘Elixir of Life’ because of its remarkable tonic effects on the body and mind, reviving the spirits.
Pliny the great Roman herbalist prescribed the herb for toothache, asthma and healing wounds.
The Hebrews called it Bal-Smin meaning ‘Chief of Oils’ from which the name Lemon balm is derived. The Romans brought the herb to Britain where it was readily adopted as a panacea. The French Carmelite nuns in the 14th Century used it in their famous cure-all tonic water, while the Elizabethans used it in their wine making.
Melissa essential oil has a very calming relaxing effect on the circulatory system and does help to lower high blood pressure.
It is considered a fine heart tonic, reputedly easing cardiac disorders, regulating an overactive heartbeat, spasms and fatigue, while also calming rapid breathing. One would use melissa for respiratory complaints of a nervous origin - such as asthma - and to alleviate coughs and bronchitis with yellowish catarrh.
Did you Know?
MELISSA is the Greek word for honeybees, which the white and pink flowers attract. The honey produced from melissa is reputedly sublime nectar.
The female reproductive system responds positively to melissa oil, regulating the menstrual cycle and tending to period pain. As a general uterine tonic women, who wish to conceive might include it in blends to assist them.
Women find melissa very helpful for coping with PMT and mood swings during menopause; blend with orange and chamomile for this purpose.
The stomach benefits from melissa’s carminative action, whereby it settles digestive upsets including nausea, vomiting, flatulence, dyspepsia and dysentery. The oil enhances the function of the liver stomach and intestines. A massage with melissa will curb heartburn and help ease constipation.
Add this oil into headache blends to ease migraines and headaches associated with colds; its cooling effect may also help fevers. The oil counters allergic reactions and would be of assistance during asthmatic attacks.
The smallest amount in shampoos, conditioners and scalp rubs will provide a very pleasant smelling remedy for falling hair, dandruff and scalp irritations.
Melissa oil has definite insect repellent properties, however there are cheaper oils that would be equally effective with their citral content. Though a dab on a bite will reduce the stinging, especially for wasp or bee stings.
Melissa oil is best suited to oily skin and skin prone to acne; it also soothes irritated conditions such as eczema and reduces swelling from allergic reactions.
When a rash breaks out, due to hives or a high histamine response to skin pressure, melissa can really help. When a muscle has been in such an ischemic state, it can become a mass of welts when lymph flow is improved, melissa keeps the lymph flowing and calms the reaction.
This oil helps stem bleeding on wounds and certain fungal infections. Use melissa well-diluted with tea tree in a wash to treat candida and yeast infections.
Include a little melissa in a clearing spray not only for its disinfectant capacity but to increase concentration levels and improve mental clarity.
If you can afford it, keep melissa for its psycho-therapeutic qualities, whereby it excels in assuaging shock grief, anger and depression.
Deeply calming; melissa will envelope you in joy, in a mood perfume it gladdens the spirit, chasing away dark thoughts and sadness.
Energetically, cool and dry, melissa oil is indicated for stagnation of chi energy, for heat in the liver and heart and for disturbance of the mind.
Some people do not respond well to pressure and become emotionally sensitive; melissa is a suitable oil indicated for such personalities, who are too easily traumatised by confrontation.
Such people suppress and retain their hurt and anger rather than expressing and releasing these damaging emotions, which tend to build up and create an oppressive and confused state of mind, full of foreboding.
Melissa will replace such dark intensity with serenity and transform distrust into innocence and in doing so, will strengthen the heart chakra; inspiring universal love and divine joy.
Botanical name: Melissa officinalis
Family: Labiatae or Lamiaceae
Common Names: Lemon Balm, balm, honey plant
The Plant: Melissa comes from the Mediterranean region. It is now common throughout Europe and France produces the most oil. This small plant grows to 60cm high and has fragrant, hairy, serrated leaves. This plant grows best in iron-rich soil, which may explain its anti-anaemic action.
The Oil: The essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves and flowering tops of the plant. True melissa oil is very expensive and one must be aware of adulterations; most commercial so-called “melissa” contain the cheaper citral sources of either lemon, lemongrass or citronella.
Genuine Melissa oil is so costly that it is fortunate that it must be diluted due to its high concentration.
Scent: Melissa is a sweet, lemony middle note with warm balsamic undertones.
Blends well with: basil, chamomile, frankincense, geranium, ginger, jasmine, juniper, lavender, marjoram, neroli, rose, ylang-ylang
Therapeutic Properties: Anti-allergic, antidepressant, antihistaminic, antispasmodic, bactericidal, carminative, cordial, digestive, febrifuge, vasodilator, hypotensive, nervine, sedative, stomachic, sudorific, tonic, uterine tonic
Precautions: Use with caution during sensitive pregnancy. May irritate sensitive skin.