Edition 24: October 2010
Essential Oil of the month
‘Go with the flow’ cypress
CYPRESS owes its title to the Greek island of the same name; where the tree was once worshipped. The tree was often associated with death and legend says that the cross of Jesus had been made of cypress.
The wood of the Cypress tree is hard, durable and red-yellow in colour. Once cut, it doesn’t grow again; but the leaves and branches take a long time to die and it was understood to be a very enduring wood by many ancient cultures.
The Egyptians made their sarcophagi from this treasured wood and the Phoenicians and Cretans used it to build ships and houses; while the Greeks used it to carve their holy statues.
It was also used as purification incense by the Tibetans and the nuts were considered a highly nutritious liver tonic by the Chinese. Cypress is often found in and around cemeteries because it lives for a very long time. The botanical name Sempervirens is derived from Greek and means “lives forever”.
Cypress was used to cure haemorrhoids by the ancient Assyrians, Greek herbalist Galen in 165AD recommended it for internal bleeding. It was also an early treatment for whooping cough.
Cypress oil is the great balancer, dispersing excess and returning the body to homeostasis. Cypress acts as a tonic to the circulatory system, having a restorative and toning effect on the veins and its valuable effect as a vasoconstrictor on varicose veins and haemorrhoids is well warranted. Indeed the essential oil of cypress is a powerful astringent, in this respect it contracts tissues; it makes the gums, skin, muscles and hair follicles contract and prevents falling of teeth and hair and loosening of skin and muscles.
Cypress is both haemostatic and styptic, meaning it can stop flow of blood or promote clotting of blood. Styptic primarily means astringent, which apart from having other properties of an astringent, also helps stoppage of blood flow by contraction of blood vessels.
Accordingly, this oil is beneficial in conditions of excess of any kind, especially fluids. This makes it useful for bleeding, nosebleeds, heavy menstruation, oedema, heavy perspiration, bronchitis, haemorrhages, fluid retention and incontinence.
Cellulitis may be treated with cypress; this is a diffuse inflammation of connective tissue with severe inflammation of dermal and subcutaneous layers of the skin; it is caused by a type of bacteria entering the skin, usually by way of a cut or abrasion.
The presence of camphene makes cypress oil an excellent antiseptic and a good application for external and internal wounds; it admirably treats congestion in the skin, reducing swelling and infection. The oil also treats cellulite, (a very different condition) the well known ‘orange peel’ appearance of skin on the upper thighs and bottom and may be applied after body brushing to help reduce it. Cypress circulates Qi-energy, detoxifying various body systems and being a diuretic, the oil increases urination, both in frequency and in quantity, removing toxins from the body.
COMMON USES CYPRESS
Burners and vapourisers: breathing difficulty, such as asthma, emphysema, whooping cough and bronchitis. It also helps to calm the mind and dispel anger.
Blended massage oil or in the bath: Arthritis, asthma, cellulite, cramps, diarrhoea, sweaty feet, rheumatism, varicose veins, heavy menstruation and menopause.
Add to a foot bath: to help control perspiration with it astringent and deodorant properties.
Lotions and creams: In a cream base, cypress oil can be used for varicose and broken veins, as well as clearing an oily and congested skin.
Cold compress: Used diluted on a cold compress for nosebleeds.
On the skin cypress also exerts its balancing action on fluids. It helps dehydrated or clammy skin, so where there is excessive loss of water or retention it tends to regulate. It likes oily skin and is very deodorising for sweaty skin, particularly the feet. So it is interesting that cypress oil also has sudorific properties; a sudorific is a substance that causes perspiration, helping the removal of toxins, excess salt and water through sweat. This cleans the skin pores and the openings of the sweat and sebum glands.
Cypress oil is a valuable respiratory tonic increasing efficiency of the lungs; it is thus useful for asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis, emphysema and influenza. It decongests the respiratory tracts and lungs, helping to remove phlegm accumulations thus making breathing easier when suffering from coughs and colds.
Cypress oil is helpful to counter many types of spasms; in the respiratory system, intestines and muscular spasms in the limbs. It also helps deal with convulsions, muscle pulls and cramps. Promoting circulation and improving lymph flow, cypress oil helps to ease arthritis and rheumatic pain. Cypress helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and is beneficial for painful or heavy periods; easing pre-menstrual tension and associated bloat and fluid retention. Hormonal imbalance, hot flushes and irritability during menopause are all helped by the balancing properties of cypress.
Cypress oil calms and soothes the nerves of talkative, irritable and stressed-out people. This clear and fresh-smelling essential oil makes an excellent room deodoriser and is helpful to use during times of major upheavals and changes in your life, as it restores calm, soothes anger and makes your life flow better.
The oil counters fears of the dark and can be used to calm night terrors. Psychologically, cypress is purifying and protecting which is why it is often added to incense.
Like the strong shape of the tree, cypress is a symbol of eternity, instilling strength and wisdom. Dedicated to Pluto the God of the underworld, cypress is associated with the base chakra and inner renewal.
Cypress comforts our grief and assuages the fears that lurk in the underworld of the psyche. It helps us negotiate painful changes, especially bereavement.
The oil’s core function is to let things flow; helping us cope with change of an inner and outer nature; after all, everything is in a constant state of flux.
Cypress liberates our energy to make directional changes when there is stagnancy, suppression and self-doubt. It allows us to ride out the storm, when turmoil threatens to sweep us away, including the dramas of others’ lives. Cypress consoles us when a relationship comes to an end, allowing us to see loss as illusory and transformational.
Releasing pent up energy and letting the natural rhythms of life flow can be a huge help during menopause, the change of life. How liberating it is to accept change with no anxiety and just let go!
Latin Name: Cupressus sempervirens
Scent: Cypress oil has a smoky, herbaceous and slightly sweet top note with woody resinous undertones and just a touch of balsam and spice.
The oil is colourless to very pale yellow in colour and watery in viscosity. Cypress oil is extracted from the needles and twigs of young branches by steam distillation.
Origin: The cypress tree is a tall, conical-shaped, evergreen tree that originated from the East and is now common in the Mediterranean region. This statuesque tree has needle like foliage, small flowers and round brown-gray cones with seed nuts inside.
Therapeutic Properties: astringent, antiseptic, antispasmodic, deodorant, decongestant, diuretic, haemostatic, hepatic, styptic, sudorific, vasoconstrictor, respiratory tonic and sedative.
Blends well with: bergamot, clary sage, lavender, juniper, pine, marjoram, sandalwood, rosemary, frankincense and all the citrus oils.
Precaution: The oil is considered non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitising but it is best to avoid it during pregnancy.
What Herb is That?
White Willow Bark
Herbal aspirin relieves pain safely
IN HUMAN history, white willow is the oldest analgesic, or painkiller, recorded in ancient Assyrian, Egyptian, and Greek medicine.
The great Greek physicians Dioscorides, Hippocrates and Galen recommended white willow to reduce pain, fevers and inflammation, as did Chinese physicians as early as 500BC. In Europe the herb had other medicinal uses such as to stop vomiting, remove warts and suppress sexual desire.
A related species of the bark was used by the Native American tribes in North America including the Cherokee, Iroquois and Eskimo peoples, to relieve headaches, fever, sore muscles, chills, rheumatism and general pain.
In the mid-1700s, white willow was used in Britain by Rev/Dr Edmund Stone as a cheaper and similar remedy to treat malaria than the difficult to procure cinchona bark; the South American source of quinine used to treat malaria effectively. The willow bark effectively relieved the Reverend’s patients of pain and fever, but not the malaria.
In 1828, European chemists extracted the constituent salicin from white willow bark and converted it to salicylic acid. Salicin was also discovered in meadowsweet soon later and at the end of the 19th Century, acetylsalicylic acid was synthetically produced and aspirin was born. Due to the cheap and easy production of aspirin, white willow eventually lost its popularity as a pain and fever reliever. Herbalists have resurrected this fine healing herb because of its lack of side effects and enduring benefits.
White willow works on most things that you would take aspirin for and is best when used over longer periods of time and can take days to improve conditions.
The salicin, which the body converts to salicylic acid, has the same effect on the body as aspirin with fewer adverse reactions than the synthetically produced acetylsalicylic acid of aspirin.
White willow works more slowly, but the effects may last for an extended period of time and has less gastronomic side effects, due to the large amounts of tannins that protect the stomach.
This high concentration of tannins may also be responsible for relieving gastrointestinal disturbances and reducing tumours of the oesophagus, stomach, colon, and rectum.
The glucoside salicin is excreted in the urine as salicylic acid and related compounds which renders the tea useful for kidney, urethra and bladder irritabilities and acts as an analgesic to those tissues.
White willow (Salix alba) is a large tree that grows in Central and Southern Europe, Asia, and North America. This tree is also known as European willow or bay willow and it prefers to root near streams and rivers and grows to 28m tall. White willow belongs to the Salicaceae family. There are more than 300 species of willow, but only a few are used medicinally, mainly white willow. The bark is the part of the willow used.
White willow's pain-quelling effect works to inhibit the production of prostaglandins, a hormone-like chemical that is produced by the body in response to injury and causes aches, pains, and inflammation. Thus, white willow is beneficial in treating acute and chronic pain and inflammation in conditions such as painful menstruation, arthritis, and neuralgia.
Low-dose aspirin has been recommended as a treatment to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke by lessening the chance of internal blood clots. Herbal experts have recommended that White willow be taken in a similar proactive capacity.
This herb may be found in dietary supplements as an adjunct for weight loss where it works in combination with other ingredients, enhancing their activity in elevating energy expenditure and promoting fat metabolism.
A decoction made from willow bark can be used internally or externally.
Combine 1 tsp chopped or powdered white willow bark with 300ml water. Bring to boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Drink 3-4 times daily.
This mixture can also be gargled to help inflamed gums and tonsils.
Cooled and applied externally, the decoction helps heal sores, burns, or cuts.
Name: White Willow Bark
Latin Name: Salix alba
Properties: Anodyne (stops pain), anti-rheumatic, antispasmodic, tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge.
Actions: Reduces fevers, relieves headaches, relieves chronic back and neck pain, reduces swelling and inflammation, helpful pain relief for rheumatoid arthritis & bursitis, good for dandruff, flu and chills, helps with neuralgia, eases pain of menstrual cramps, relieves acute muscle aches and pains.
Precautions: White willow is safer than aspirin, but it should not be given to children to lower fevers. Persons who are sensitive to aspirin should use caution when taking white willow as it may irritate their stomachs. If you are pregnant or have a chronic gastrointestinal condition such as ulcers, colitis or Crohn's disease use caution with this herb.