Tag Archives: antimicrobial essential oil

White Sage Oil Cleanses the Spirit of Negative Influences

White Sage Oil Cleanses the Spirit of Negative InfluencesThough most people are more familiar with European sage (Salvia officinalis), anyone who’s ever smelled the incense at a Native American smudging ceremony is already intimately familiar with white sage! Native American tribes in southwestern North America from California to Mexico have used white sage ceremonially, in medicine, and even as a staple food. Today, more and more people in alternative medicine and spiritual communities are realizing the potential of white sage essential oil in spiritual cleansing and increasing awareness of the sacred.

White sage is Salvia apiana, a North American sage species native to the Sierra Nevada region of California, the southwestern U.S., and northwestern Mexico. An evergreen perennial shrub, white sage has fuzzy whitish leaves that exude a strong smell when rubbed. Its small purple or white flowers are mainly pollinated by bees, and the plant’s species name, apiana, comes from this association with bees (or apiae in Latin)[2].

As a desert species, white sage needs well-drained soil and full sun to thrive, and grows mainly in dry pine forests, coastal scrub, and chaparral environments [2]. Because white sage is very drought tolerant, it quickly became a staple food for Native American tribes living in these regions: the seeds were commonly pounded into flour and then mixed with wheat grains to make biscuits and a kind of gruel [3]; the Chumash people of the American southwest eat the leaves and stems of white sage as well [2]. Sage seeds were also a popular flavoring in pinole, a kind of Aztec gruel (also consumed as a beverage) made from ground corn with herbal flavoring additives [2]. Pinole consumption was widespread in much of Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Spanish.

Medicinally, white sage seeds were sometimes used to remove small objects from the eye [3], a practice that paralleled the use of clary sage seeds in medieval Europe. Cahuilla women would also drink a tea made from white sage root to regain their strength and vitality after childbirth [3]. However, by far the greatest use of white sage in herbalism continues to be as a spiritual medicine for cleansing the mind and heart of negative influences: white sage has been used for centuries as a smudge to purify a space before ritual and magical work [3]. This humble plant has been gradually making its way into spiritual practices far outside southwestern Native American traditions, and bundles of white sage leaves are now commonly available in ritual supply and health food stores.

White sage herb and oil can both be burned for their purifying effects. People generally burn the smudging bundles in a metal or shell incense bowl, while the oil may be placed in an oil burner or diffuser. The aura of white sage is cleansing to the psyche, introducing a positive, uplifting mental energy when you feel negativity, apathy, or lack of creative drive holding you back. It is also said to induce feelings of the sacred in everyday life, making white sage oil a valuable tool for setting the mind to spiritual or ritual work.

Like its cousin sage oil, white sage essential oil is a powerful medicine that is generally not used in aromatherapy. However, some studies have suggested that white sage oil may have practical as well as energetic benefits to health: a 1991 University of Arizona study found that white sage oil has potential in-vitro antimicrobial action against three nasty bugs—Staphylococcus aureus, Candida brassicae, and Klebsiella pneumoniae [1]. The researchers noted that white sage oil is 70% 1,8 cineole by weight, a well-known antimicrobial compound also found in eucalyptus, radiata, and niaouli oil [4]. All this suggests that white sage oil is a useful oil to have in your toolkit when colds and other respiratory illnesses threaten. Due to its thujone content, it is recommended to use only small amounts of white sage oil in diffusion.

So, the next time you feel down or under the weather, try inhaling some white sage essential oil—it will put the verve back in your life mentally, physically and spiritually!


1. Dentali, Steven John. 1991. “Potential anti-infective agents from Eriodictyon angustifolium Nutt. and Salvia apiana Jeps.” The University of Arizona Campus Repository.

2. “Salvia apiana.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 6th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_apiana.

3. “White Sage – Salvia apiana Jepson”. U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Accessed April 9th, 2014. http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_saap2.pdf.

4. Butje, Andrea. “Essential Oil Chemistry – Oils High in 1,8-Cineole.” The Aromahead Blog: Aromatherapy Education and Resources. Last modified August 2nd, 2009. http://www.aromahead.com/blog/2009/08/02/essential-oil-chemistry-oils-high-in-18-cineole/.

Petitgrain Oil – Substitute for Neroli Oil

Petitgrain Oil- A Substitute for Neroli Oil with Astringent and Antispasmodic EffectsIs there anything more refreshing than the smell of fresh oranges in the morning? There’s a reason why so many people can’t do without their breakfast glass of orange juice, and essential oils distilled from citrus fruits such as bergamot, sweet orange, and petitgrain have the same awakening qualities. Perfect for direct inhalation as a sort of “scent therapy” to alleviate feelings of gloom or the winter blues, petitgrain essential oil also has antibacterial, antispasmodic, and astringent properties [1] that make it a superstar in treating ailments from your head to your toes! Read on to discover the time-tested ways petitgrain oil has been used in aromatherapy and spa treatments.

Modern petitgrain oil is distilled from the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium), which is also the source of the delicately floral neroli essential oil. Though it is sometimes used as a substitute for neroli oil in fragrances—in fact, petitgrain oil is even sometimes nicknamed “poor man’s neroli”—petitgrain oil has a woodier, more herbaceous scent that distinguishes it from its more floral relative [1]. However, both types of oil have been used in perfumes, bathwaters and colognes since the 1700s for their pleasant, floral-citrusy scent, ability to tighten and moisturize the skin, and reputed aphrodisiac effects. Today, petitgrain oil is mainly produced in Paraguay and France, with the French variety said to have a longer-lasting, more intense aroma. The name “petitgrain” also comes from the French, meaning “little grain”, a reference to the old practice of distilling petitgrain oil from the green, unripe bitter oranges when they were still the size of cherries! Nowadays, because it is more economical, most producers harvest the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree to distill petitgrain oil.

All citrus oils seem to have uplifting and cheering effects on the mood, and petitgrain essential oil is no exception. The easiest way to use petitgrain oil is simply to inhale its sharp fragrance right from the bottle for an instant dose of cheer! Just the smell of petitgrain oil is thought to refresh the mind and fight “brain fog”, confusion, mental fatigue or stress, and mild cases of the blues. In a massage or blended into a moisturizing lotion, petitgrain essential oil can decongest oily skin and scalp and help clear up skin conditions such as acne and other blemishes [2]. The oil’s antispasmodic properties can ease nervous tension, tight muscles, and even indigestion and stomach cramps by relaxing spasms in smooth muscle [3]. Finally, due to its antiseptic and antibacterial effects [4], petitgrain oil can be inhaled from a diffuser or added to bath water to fight infections, especially colds and other upper respiratory ailments.

Like its cousin neroli, petitgrain oil is generally considered non-sensitizing and non-irritating. Because it is distilled from the leaves and twigs rather than the fruit peel of the bitter orange, petitgrain oil does not contain the coumarins found in citrus peel that can cause photo-sensitization when exposed to sunlight [3].

In our opinion, it’s hard to create a bad blend with petitgrain oil—it works with many different essential oils!—but the absolute yummiest combinations we’ve discovered pair petitgrain oil with other citrus oils such as bergamot, neroli, lime and sweet orange; woody oils such as cypress and sandalwood; and floral scents such as clary sage, geranium, lavender, jasmine, and ylang ylang.


1. “Health Benefits of Petitgrain Essential Oil. Organic Facts. Accessed April 23rd, 2014. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-petit-grain-essential-oil.html.

2. Ryman, Danièle. “Petitgrain Essential Oil”. Aromatherapy Bible. Accessed April 22nd, 2014. http://www.aromatherapybible.com/petitgrain.html.

3. Martin, Ingrid. 2006. Aromatherapy for Massage Practitioners. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

4. “Petitgrain (Bigarde) Essential Oil Aromatherapy.” Annie’s Aromatherapy. Accessed April 22nd, 2014. http://www.anniesaromatherapy.com/Petitgrain.php.

Sweet Orange Oil as an Immune Stimulant and Nerve Tonic

Orange tree in groveOne of the most celebrated fruits in the world, sweet oranges account for up to 70% of all citrus species cultivated today. Sweet orange essential oil is also one of the most versatile essential oils, with an extensive list of household and medicinal uses. Produced as a byproduct of pressing orange juice, sweet orange essential oil can be used as a household detergent (especially on treated wood), hand cleanser, fragrance, and in aromatherapy. Sweet orange oil is a yellow-orange to dark orange mobile liquid with an unmistakable sweet citrusy fragrance. It blends well with lavender, myrrh, other citrus oils such as lemon and neroli, and spice oils such as clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.

The sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) is likely a hyrbid of the tangerine and pomelo, two other citrus species. Native probably to Southeast or East Asia, the sweet orange tree is a small evergreen with white flowers; the round fruit has a bright to dark orange peel. Orange cultivation may date as far back as 2500 BC in China, and there are now many varieties of orange and orange hybrid, including the blood orange, tangelo, bitter orange, navel, and Valencia orange. While historians believe the bitter orange was known in Southern Europe since the Crusades of the 1100s—where it was used for medicinal purposes—the sweet orange did not arrive in Europe until the late 15th or 16th century, through trade with the Middle East. Sweet oranges were considered a luxury item in the 1500s, and rich nobles would grow them in greenhouses called orangeries. Spanish colonists later brought the first oranges to the New World via Hispañiola and other Caribbean islands. Today, Brazil, California and Florida produce the most oranges for the worldwide produce market [1].

The simplest way to use oranges is simply to eat them fresh! People also love squeezing orange pulp to make juice, as well as grating the rind—called the zest—to flavor baked goods, liqueurs and savory dishes. In the centuries before refrigeration, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch sailors planted orange groves along their trade routes so they could harvest the vitamin C-rich fruits as a defense against scurvy. Even today, in situations where the nutritional value of food must be maximized while generating a minimum of food waste, oranges play a crucial role: though not as tasty as the pulp, submarine crews will often eat orange peels on long voyages [1].

The uses of sweet orange essential oil are almost as various as the uses of the fresh fruit. As a cleanser, sweet orange oil can be added to water and used to wash down surfaces such as kitchen and bathroom counters, sinks, and toilets, where it acts as a strong natural antiseptic [2]. Adding a small bit of orange oil or lemon oil to a wooden counter or cutting board can also revitalize wood that has been stained with food, ink or coffee residues.

Medicinally, sweet orange essential oil has both mild stimulant and sedative qualities on different organ systems: inhaled or applied via massage, it can boost sluggish digestion and be helpful in combating indigestion, flatulence, or lack of appetite, and may also stimulate the lymphatic system [3]. Conversely, sweet orange oil may also act as a mild nerve sedative, promoting calmness while also lifting the mood [4]. It has noted benefits for the skin because it supports the formation of collagen, the connective tissue within cells, and can also help the body get rid of excess fluid by acting as a mild diuretic [4]. Besides its direct antiseptic action on infections such as the common cold, sweet orange oil helps stimulate the immune system to stave off opportunistic illnesses [5].

 If you choose to work with sweet orange essential oil in a massage blend, be sure to wait at least 24 hours before exposing treated skin to sunlight to prevent a possible photosensitizing reaction. Or simply diffuse the fruity, refreshing scent of orange oil into your living room or bathroom to perk up the senses and energize the mind with every breath.


1. “Orange (fruit)”. Wikipedia. Accessed May 13th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_(fruit).

2. Dabbah, Roger, VM Edwards and WA Moats. 1970. “Anti-microbial action of citrus fruit oils on selected food-borne bacteria.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 19 (1): 27-31.

3. Morton, Julia F. 1987. “Orange: Medicinal Uses” In: Fruits of Warm Climates pp 134-142. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/orange.html#Food%20Uses.

4. “Health Benefits of Orange Essential Oil.” Organic Facts. Accessed May 13th, 2014. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/orange-essential-oil.html.

5. “Sweet Orange Essential Oil Uses”. Naturally Healthy Families. Last modified October 11th, 2011. https://naturallyhealthyfamilies.wordpress.com/tag/sweet-orange-essential-oil-uses/.

Myrtle Oil and Its Uses in Mediterranean Herbalism and Folklore

True Myrtle BushIf you’ve ever been to a formal English garden, you’ve probably seen myrtle (Myrtus communis) without even knowing it. Because of its dense foliage and springy branches, myrtle is favorite plant of topiary artists, along with holly, privet and bay laurel. A large fragrant bush native to North Africa and Southern Europe, myrtle has been a staple of herbalism and folklore in this region for millennia. In aromatherapy, myrtle essential oil is usually diffused as a general antiseptic and expectorant to clear sinus congestion [1], and used topically as a skin tonic [2]. The oil is a pale yellow to orange mobile liquid with a fresh, herbal-camphoraceous odor reminiscent of eucalyptus.

The myrtle bush grows up to 5 meters (16 feet) tall and has lance-shaped leaves, small white flowers, and dark purple berries; rarer varieties also produce pale yellow or amber berries. In Greek, Roman and Jewish traditions, myrtle symbolized renewal and love: the herb was sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love (called Venus in Roman times) and to Demeter, the goddess of the harvest. Relatedly, myrtle has remained one of the plants traditionally associated with matrimony in Europe and the Mediterranean Middle East. Since the plant was associated with virility and the masculine forces of the universe, girdles of myrtle leaves were often given to Jewish bridegrooms on their wedding nights, and the leaves and flowers still appear in wedding bouquets today [3].

An equally lively use for myrtle involves harvesting its leaves and berries and steeping them in alcohol to create a fragrant liqueur called mirto, a popular libation on the Southern Italian island of Sardinia, and also in Corsica. Mirto comes in two varieties: mirto rosso, or “red” mirto, made from the mytle plant’s dark purple berries; and mirto bianco, or “white” mirto, derived from myrtle leaves and sometimes the rarer yellow berries. The practice of making mirto may be connected to myrtle’s medicinal uses in the Mediterranean: Dioscorides, a Greek physician credited with creating the first Western compendium of herbal medicine, recommended a potion of myrtle leaves in wine for treating bladder and lung infections [2].

According to the 16th-century physician Culpeper, myrtle leaves have drying and binding properties and are suitable for treating diarrhea and dysentery [4]. They were also a primary ingredient in Angel’s Water, a 16th-century skin care tonic [1]; it was at about this time, with the invention of the greenhouse, that myrtle bushes were first sucessfully grown year-round in England for use as topiary plants.

Topiary Elephants in Tropical Park, Bangkok, Thailand

Topiary often assumes fanciful shapes, such as these topiary elephants in a tropical park near Bangkok, Thailand.

Today, myrtle is cultivated throughout the Mediterranean for its essential oil. Besides its tonic benefits for the skin, myrtle essential oil can be diffused to treat colds, congestion, and persistent coughs [1]. Myrtle essential oil is currently being researched as a potential herb to support the thyroid gland [5], and it may also be useful in tamping down an overactive thyroid. There has also been extensive research on two compounds in the stem and leaf, Myrtucommulone A and semimyrtucommulone B, demonstrating significant antioxidant properties in lab tests [5]. As a perfume, the refreshing, slightly sweet scent of myrtle blends well with herbaceous and slightly spicy oils such as bay, clary sage, clove, hyssop, lavender, rosemary and thyme.


1. “What is Myrtle Oil?” WiseGeek: Clear Answers for Common Questions. Accessed May 12th, 2014. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-myrtle-oil.htm.

2. Ryman, Danièle. “Myrtle (Myrtus communis)”. Aromatherapy Bible. Accessed May 14th, 2014. http://www.aromatherapybible.com/myrtle.html.

3. “Myrtus“. Wikipedia. Accessed May 14th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrtus#Common_myrtle.

4. Culpeper, Nicholas. 1816. Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. Published by Richard Evans; pg. 242.

5. Charles, Denys J. November 27th, 2012. Antioxidant Properties of Herbs, Spices and Other Sources. Springer.  

Cinnamon Leaf Oil is an Anti-spasmodic with Warming Properties

Cinnamon LeavesWho doesn’t love the spicy, warm fragrance of cinnamon? Whether used in cuisine or aromatherapy, cinnamon’s sweet, pungent, slightly spicy aroma is recognized worldwide. A little-known fact about cinnamon is that two varieties of the oil are used in aromatherapy: we’ve already covered the medicinal uses of cinnamon bark oil, and it is to the gentler but equally effective cinnamon leaf essential oil that we now turn.

Distilled from the leaf of the cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum verum syn. zeylanicum) [1] rather than the bark, cinnamon leaf oil is lighter in color, has a softer scent more reminiscent of cloves, and is less sweet-smelling than the bark oil. Cinnamon leaf essential oil is also more versatile in aromatherapy since it contains smaller amounts of potentially sensitizing compounds such as cinnamaldehyde.

Though the cinnamon tree is native to Indonesia, it is also cultivated in India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere for its bark and leaf. One of the oldest spice commodities, cinnamon was an important trade good between China, India, and the Mediterranean world; it was used as a temple incense in Greece, and the Egyptians used cinnamon oil in foot massages, to ease childbirth, and to stem excess bile that led to indigestion [1]. In the Middle Ages, ground cinnamon was added to mulled wines and was an important aphrodisiac in love potions, probably because of its warming effect. The word cinnamon likely comes from the Greek kinnamon, meaning tube or pipe, a reference to the tube-like appearance of cinnamon sticks [1].

In aromatherapy, cinnamon leaf is considered a tonic for the respiratory, endocrine, and nervous systems, and recent research has found that cinnamon leaf and bark oils have antimicrobial [2] and anti-inflammatory [3] actions. Research is also being done on the potential for supplements of ground cinnamon to regulate blood sugar in diabetics [4].

Though mainly used in diffusion, cinnamon leaf oil is sometimes added to hot baths or compresses in minute quantities. Cinnamon leaf oil may be diffused and inhaled to treat respiratory infections, colds, sneezing, and to alleviate feelings of weakness or low energy [5]. In a warm bath or oil blend, cinnamon leaf essential oil is often used to calm digestive spasms and imbalances in secretions that can cause nausea, diarrhea or indigestion [6]. Cinnamon leaf oil is also used to reduce pain in sore muscles and arthritic joints, to relieve chills, and to treat delayed or painful menstrual flow [5]. Though generally gentler than the bark oil, cinnamon leaf oil may still irritate sensitive skin and should be used very sparingly in any oil blend.


1. “Cinnamon”. Wikipedia. Accessed May 14th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnamon

2. Chaudhari, LK, BA Jawale, S Sharma, H Sharma, CD Kumar, and PA Kulkarni. Januaru 2012. “Antimicrobial activity of commercially available essential oils against Streptococcus mutans”. Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice 1(13): 71-4.

3. Tung, YT, PL Yen, CY Yin, ST Chang. October 2010. “Anti-inflammatory activities of essential oils and their constituents from different provenances of indigenous cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum) leaves”. Pharmaceutical Biology 48(10): 1130-36.

4. Subash, Babu P, S Prabuseenivasan, and S Ignacimuthu. January 2007. “Cinnamaldehyde–a potential antidiabetic agent”. Phytomedicine 14 (1):15-22.

5. Lawless, Julia. June 2013. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: the Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health and Well-Being. Conari Press.

6. “Glossary – Cinnamon Leaf Oil”. TrueNatural. Accessed May 16th, 2014. http://www.truenatural.com/glossary/entry/cinnamon+leaf+oil/.

Fir Needle Oil and Its Benefits for Respiratory Congestion and Coughs

Fir branch with a green coneThe common silver fir (Abies alba) is a large coniferous evergreen tree native to Europe, and is also called the European Fir or White Fir. Its clear to pale yellow essential oil is obtained by steam-distillation of the needle-shaped leaves and posesses a rich, sweet-balsamic odor reminiscent of the primeval evergreen forests where it originated. Like other balsamic and pine oils, fir needle essential oil is used in aromatherapy to treat upper respiratory infections, congestion, and related respiratory issues [1], and as a circulatory stimulant [2].

The silver fir grows between 40 and 50 meters (130 to 165 feet) tall and has glossy dark green leaves and elongated cones. Ranging as far west as the Pyrenees in Spain, east to the Carpathian mountains and down into southern Italy, the fir tree is commonly harvested for its soft wood, which is used to make packing crates, paper, and other wood-based materials. In centuries past, native Americans burned the branches and cones of a related fir species as a ritual incense to center the mind and increase awareness. Silver fir trees also used to be the preferred species for making into Christmas trees, but other species with denser foliage such as the balsam fir and blue spruce have now replaced it [3].

The leaves of Abies alba are the preferred source of fir needle essential oil, which is frequently used in making soaps, perfumes, bath products, and aromatherapy diffusion blends [3]. Extremely popular for its clear, elevating scent, fir needle oil is often diffused into the air to lift the mood, increase energy and act as an antiseptic, especially during the winter months. Fir needle oil is used in targeted aromatherapy treatments as a decongestant and expectorant for respiratory congestion [4], and as a topical rub for sore muscles, sprains, and painful joints [5]. One easy way to use fir needle essential oil to treat congestion is to dilute a few drops of the oil in a salve or lotion and massage it into the chest, back and soles of the feet: the oil’s mucolytic effects will instantly start to relieve congestion as the oil is absorbed through the skin as well as inhaled.

Fir boughs were once burned in saunas to create purifying vapors that cleansed the body of toxins. So while fir needle essential oil acts as a circulatory stimulant and detoxifier on its own [2], one way to increase its therapeutic effects is to add a few drops of the oil to a warm bath. The warm water encourages the oil’s absorption, leaving the whole body feeling toned, energized, and rejuvenated!


1. Group, Edward F. “The Health Benefits of Pine Oil”. Global Healing Center. Last modified September 10th, 2013. http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/pine-oil/.

2. “Fir Needle Essential Oil”. Ayurvedic Oils. Accessed June 18th, 2014. http://ayurvedicoils.com/tag/fir-needle-essential-oil.

3. “Abies alba”. Wikipedia. Last modified June 18th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abies_alba.

4. “Treat Cough With Fir Needle Oil”. Fir Needle Oil. Accessed June 16th, 2014. http://firneedleoil.com/cures-treatments_ahem-ahem-treat-cough-with-fir-needle-oil_37.html.

5. “Fir Needle Essential Oil”. AromaWeb. Accessed June 19th, 2014. http://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/fir-needle-oil.asp.