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The Camphor Content of Lavandin Oil Helps with Sinus and Respiratory Congestion

The Camphor Content of Lavandin Oil Helps with Sinus and Respiratory CongestionWhat the heck is lavandin oil anyway? A brand name, a catchy neologism, or a misspelling of lavender oil? None of the above! Lavandin is actually a real plant: it is a sterile cross between the world-famous true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) [1]. As a sterile cultivar of lavender, lavandin is similar in appearance, but its essential oil composition is notably dissimilar; as a result it has different though equally important uses in aromatherapy.

The Latin name for lavandin is Lavandula x intermedia; the ‘x’ represents that lavandin is a hybrid cross between two different species of lavender [2]. Like true lavender, lavandin comes in a number of different cultivated varieties, but the most common varietal used in essential oil production is the “Grosso” strain, so named for its large, prominent flower spikes. In general, lavandin can be distinguished visually from lavender by its taller height and its larger, longer flower spikes. Additional flower clusters also grow laterally up the stems of lavandin plants. Lavandin flowers can be either bluish purple (similar to lavender flowers) or purplish gray like spike lavender flowers. Because lavandin is sometimes found growing near lavender or spike lavender plants, botanists believe it may have come into being as a natural hybrid created by cross-pollination between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia in the wild [1].

Hybrid lavandin plants were first cultivated in 19th-century France for use in the essential oil industry. It quickly became an important oil in perfumery, and has been included in famous perfume blends up through the present era, including possibly the most famous commercial fragrance of them all, Chanel No. 5. In fact, Pierre Wertheimer, a perfumer known as the “perfume king” who worked closely with Chanel in creating this fragrance, even named his prize racehorse Lavandin! His dame was named Lavande, the French word for true lavender [2].

Lavandin is markedly different in the essential oil it produces: lavandin essential oil contains about 7% camphor, the same cooling compound found in the essential oil of the camphor tree Cinnamomum camphora [3]. This ratio of camphor is much higher than that in true lavender oil, giving lavandin oil a muskier, more penetrating aroma than the delicate floral scent of lavender. Lavandin is actually preferred in commercial cultivation of oils used for soaps, detergents and fragrances because it grows faster, produces a higher oil yield per pound, and is hardier than lavender: while lavender does best in higher altitude, Mediterranean climates, lavandin can thrive in a variety of altitudes and climatic conditions.

Many people perceive lavandin oil as being lower quality simply because it is cheaper to produce in volume than lavender oil, but this is a misconception. Although lavandin oil is popularly used in detergents, soaps, and other “industrial” fragrancing applications, due to its high camphor content, therapeutic-grade lavandin essential oil can also be used in aromatherapy, especially for inflammatory conditions [4]. Aromatherapists use lavandin oil in diffusion to clear nasal and respiratory congestion, clear sinuses, and as a mosquito repellent that may be more effective than lavender oil [3]. Once diluted in a carrier oil, lavandin essential oil also acts as an anti-inflammatory for sore muscles and joints: its camphor content produces a direct cooling effect on tissues and stimulates circulation to flush away inflammatory free radicals [4].

Lavandin oil is also known to be both calming and somewhat stimulating to the mental faculties. The oil is sometimes used to reduce nausea while bolstering the appetite and energy levels throughout the body [4]. However, unlike lavender oil which is therapeutic for burns, lavandin oil  should never be used to treat burns or irritated skin, because the camphor content in lavandin oil can actually irritate burned tissue [3].

When it comes to fragrancing, lavandin is simple: even though it has a muskier, more camphoraceous scent compared to lavender, the oil blends well with many of the same oils as lavender does, including clove, rosemary, thyme, sage, and citrus oils (especially bergamot and lime) [1]. Lavandin’s bolder aromatic presence can sometimes put people off this essential oil in favor of lavender, but this hybrid variety of lavender has a lot to offer in aromatherapy!


1. “Lavender vs. Lavandin”. Jersey Lavender. Last modified November 27th, 2010. http://blog.jerseylavender.co.uk/?p=260.

2. “Lavandin (horse)”. Wikipedia. Last modified May 10th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavandin_(horse).

3. Svec, Susan. “What the Heck is Lavandin?” Susan’s Natural Soap Blog. Last modified August 17th, 2009. http://susansoaps.com/blog/what-the-heck-is-lavandin/.

4. “Lavandin Oil Benefits”. Yogawiz. Accessed July 16th, 2014. http://www.yogawiz.com/aromatherapy/aromatherapy-essential-oils/lavandin-oil.html.

Use Benzoin Oil for Congestion and Lower Respiratory Conditions

Use Benzoin Oil for Congestion and Lower Respiratory ConditionsAmong the many essential oils derived from tree resins, there is a little-known product known variously as benzoin essential oil, styrax oil, or storax oil. You may have heard these terms in different places, but they all refer to the same botanical product. Benzoin essential oil is steam distilled from a resinous exudation produced by trees in the Styrax genus, and is used to make incense, food flavorings, and perfume fixatives.

The genus Styrax contains several species of trees, both deciduous and evergreen, that are native to warm and tropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere; most Styrax species are found in Southeast Asia, but some occur in South America as well [1]. With so many different species of Styrax trees out there, it’s more important than ever to know which varieties produce a useful essential oil, so you can arm yourself with that knowledge when it comes time to make a purchase. The two species in the Styrax genus from which an essential oil is produced commercially are Styrax tonkinensis (found in peninsular Southeast Asia–Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam) and Styrax benzoin (from Sumatra) [1]. This article will use the term “benzoin” interchangeably to refer to both varieties.

The resin of S. tonkinensis—also called “Siam” benzoin—is reddish yellow on the outside with a milky white interior; it contains up to 40% benzoic acid, along with benzoresinol, siaresinotannol, and vanillin, giving it a lighter, more vanilla-like scent. It is much more frequently used in perfumery and food flavoring than the “Sumatra” variety S. benzoin, which produces a reddish gray resin with a sharper, more balsamic scent due to a higher content of cinnamic acid [2]. However, both forms of benzoin essential oil have valuable fixative properties in perfumery, as well as expectorant, emollient, and calming properties when used in aromatherapy [2].

The Arabic name for benzoin is luban jawi, or literally, “frankincense from Java”; this ancient name points to the role of benzoin resin and oil in the ancient world as an incense ingredient and medicine that was equated with frankincense oil. Official records of the international trade in benzoin date from the Middle Ages, but the linguistic and archaeological evidence suggests benzoin was important in the Western world far earlier than that. The Phoenicians were importing the resin of a Styrax (probably Styrax officinalis) into Greece from the Ancient Near East before the common era, and benzoin resin has been one candidate proposed for nataf, a component of the sacred Hebrew incense recorded in the Old Testament [3]. Later on, the Orthodox Christian Church burned benzoin resin as incense along with other rich middle notes such as opoponax and labdanum; various Styraxes also show up in Heberew rituals and in the Muslim world. One interesting use of benzoin was actually as a “snake repellent”: farmers in the Middle East burned bowls of benzoin during the frankincense harvest to drive away snakes that were believed to guard the trees [3]!

Medicinal uses for benzoin included as a skin antiseptic and mild emollient for irritated skin, an expectorant agent, and an analgesic for sore joints [2]. Though usually benzoin resin was dissolved into a tincture to treat these conditions, the essential oil could also be inhaled, especially to treat bronchitis and other lower respiratory infections. The Muslim physician Avicenna (Ibn Sina) even recommended a combination of benzoin resin with other antiseptic oils as a dental amalgam to replace lost or damaged teeth [3]!

Today, aromatherapists will sometimes use benzoin essential oil in dilution to treat sore joints, chapped or dry skin, coughs, bronchitis, and stress-related conditions [4]. Benzoin has a rich grounding scent that is calming to the psyche, making it useful for alleviating anxious states of mind induced by stress; it is traditionally associated with opening the root chakra in Buddhist meditation practices [5].

Benzoin oil should always be diffused or used in dilution for topical applications, to avoid possible skin sensitization. Blending best with resinous, woody and citrus oils, benzoin oil yields an intriguing aroma that may be suitable for meditation when mixed with frankincense, myrrh, cedarwood, sandalwood, patchouli, and vetiver [5]. For a brighter, more uplifting scent with pleasant “orange” notes, combine benzoin oil with citruses such as bergamot, mandarin, tangerine, or sweet orange oil!


1. “Benzoin Resin”. Wikipedia. Accessed May 20th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzoin_resin.

2. Grieve, M. “A Modern Herbal | Benzoin”. Accessed May 20th, 2014. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/benzoi31.html.

3. “Styrax”. Wikipedia. Accessed May 21st, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Styrax.

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

5. “Styrax Benzoin Resin/Styrax Benzoin Absolute”. AromaWeb. Accessed May 22nd, 2014. http://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/benzoin-absolute.asp.

Sweet Annie Oil Soothes Inflammation in the Body

Sweet Annie Oil Soothes Inflammation in the BodyThis close relative of wormwood has been a go-to in European and Chinese herbal medicine for centuries, especially as a women’s medicine for treating dysmenorrhea and painful childbirth. Though it is related to the absinthe wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), sweet annie (Artemisia annua) contains no thujone [5], which gives it a higher safety margin for therapeutic use. Thus, sweet annie essential oil is much more broadly used in aromatherapy compared to wormwood oil.

Native to Eurasia, the sweet annie plant is a perennial herbaceous shrub with feathery green leaves and small yellow flowers. The whole plant exudes a camphor-like odor, especially when the leaves are rubbed, and sweet annie essential oil has a strong dry-woody, licorice-like scent. The oil is yellow to brownish green and blends best with sweet orange, jasmine, lavender, and oakmoss.

Also called annual wormwood, in European herbalism sweet annie was used as a tea to bring down fevers and was believed to be the antidote to many poisons. People would strew the dried foliage on the floor in their homes as a moth repellent and in the belief that the sweet odors would repel the miasmas thought reponsible for the plague and other illnesses. Like absinthe wormwood, sweet annie leaves were sometimes used as a flavoring additive in beer before Bavarian purity laws restricted the allowable ingredients in beer to barley, hops, and water.

Traditional Chinese medicine classifies sweet annie as a heat-clearing herb with cooling and drying actions; the tea is used to treat conditions believed to be brought on by too much heat and wetness in the body’s humors, such as fever, jaundice, indigestion, and dysentery [1]. One traditional treatment that has found a place in modern medicine is sweet annie’s action against malaria: artemisinin, a compound extracted from sweet annie foliage, has been demonstrated to be highly effective at killing the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum [2].

Always perform a patch test with sweet annie essential oil diluted in a carrier oil, as it can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive people. Pregnant or nursing women, or those with compromised immune systems or taking immunosuppressive drugs (for example, anti-rejection drugs) should not use sweet annie essential oil, as the oil can lower immune function [3]. In aromatherapy, sweet annie oil is used topically in small amounts to treat headaches, menstrual discomfort, fevers, and fungal skin infections such as athlete’s foot [4]. The oil also has suspected anti-viral effects, which is why some people inhale sweet annie oil from a diffuser to treat respiratory infections, as well as for congestion and nasal catarrh [3].

Like many essential oils, sweet annie oil can be blended with various essential oils that have similar effects to create a therapeutic synergy. Common blends combine sweet annie with other anti-inflammatory essential oils such as lavender and jasmine for the relief of headaches, menstrual discomfort and other conditions related to inflammation in the body. Though sweet annie tea is no longer a common medical treatment for malaria (having given way to more concentrated artemsinin extracts), the essential oil of sweet annie has recognized anti-infectious properties [3], especially when combined with anti-microbial powerhouses such as sweet orange, lemon, and other citrus oils!


1. Dharmandanda, Subhuti. “CHING-HAO and the Artemisias Used in Chinese Medicine.” Institute for Traditional Medicine. Accessed April 11th, 2014. http://www.itmonline.org/arts/chinghao.htm.

2. Cumming, JN, P Ploypradith, and GH Posner. 1997. “Anti-malarial activity of artemisinin (qinghaosu) and related trioxanes: mechanism(s) of action.” Advances in Pharmacology 37: 253-97.

3. “Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua)” Healthline: Drugs A-Z.” Accessed April 11th, 2014. http://www.healthline.com/natstandardcontent/sweet-annie.

4. “Ask Granny Earth- Artemisia annua (Sweet Annie)”. Granny Earth, Naturopath. Accessed April 9th, 2014. http://grannyearth.com/ask-granny-earth/artemisia-annua-sweet-annie/.

5. Tisserand, Robert, and Rodney Young. 1995. Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. Elseiver Health Sciences.

Lotus Oil and Its Ancient Uses in Meditation

Lotus Oil and Its Ancient Spiritual UsesPeople in the West may be familiar with the lotus as an ornamental aquatic flower, but in Asia the uses of these sacred flowers go far beyond decorating one’s backyard pond. The lotus is revered throughout East and South Asia as a symbol of non-attachment, purity, and spiritual awakening, and lotus absolute oil is commonly used as an anointing oil prior to meditation and spiritual work.

The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is an aquatic plant in the family Nelumbonaceae. Commonly mistaken for the related water lily, the lotus can be distinguished by the large yellow seedpod in the center of its blossom, which lilies lack. Known variously as blue lotus, sacred lotus, Indian lotus, and bean of India, lotuses have broad flower petals that can be blue, white or pink, with yellow stamens and seed pods that dry to green or black. Lotuses float atop the water on a pad-like round leaf, anchored to the soil of the lake or river bottom by a long stem. They thrive in ponds and slow-flowing rivers with lots of rich silty soil [1].

Because it floats above the silt and muck of the water—which represents earthly, material life—lotuses have become a potent symbol of non-attachment and spiritual purity in Buddhism and Hinduism: deities and enlightened figures such as the Buddha, Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Ganesha have been depicted sitting on or holding lotus flowers in South and East Asian religious art. Iconography and mantras intended to focus and attune the mind to the sacred often make use of lotus imagery, and its expanding, rising petals are thought to symbolize the promise of spiritual growth[1].

Almost every part of the lotus also serves an earthly use in cuisine and medicine throughout Asia. In Vietnam, lotus roots are commonly cooked or pickled with sugar, chilies and garlic to make a relish, while the seeds are dried and then popped like popcorn[1]. In China and Japan, lotus seeds are soaked in water and then mashed into a paste to flavor sweets such as mooncakes and daifuku (glutinous rice flour buns)[1]. Though rarely eaten, lotus leaves are sometimes also used as a wrap in savory dishes.

In China, Japan, and Korea, lotus flowers and stamens are dried and used like jasmine flowers to flavor green tea, or to make a herbal tisane. Lotus flower tea is used in Chinese medicine as an analgesic[2] and for its sedating[3] and antidepressant properties[4]. The seeds and seedpod have also been used medicinally to treat fevers, encourage the onset of sleep, staunch bleeding, and treat diarrhea, syphilis and hemorrhoids[5].

Lotus absolute oil is a relatively new addition to the aromatherapy world. However, it quickly found a niche as a sumptuous perfume and massage oil that is especially prized for its hypnotic and aphrodisiac effects[6]. Made from the petals using cold CO2 extraction, lotus absolute oil is a red-gold viscous liquid possessing an intense floral scent dappled with green notes. On application, its scent often deepens to a sugary musk that blends exceptionally well with other exotic oils such as sandalwood, magnolia, and cedarwood.

Because lotus oil is highly concentrated, a little goes a long way in any therapeutic application: a few drops of the oil diluted in a carrier oil (jojoba or another scentless oil work best) may be used as a massage oil to treat aches and pains, muscle tension, and as a circulatory stimulant [1]. This last action is often thought to be at the root of lotus oil’s stimulating effect on the libido in both men and women!

Using lotus oil can also be as simple as opening the bottle and inhaling it prior to engaging in meditation or another spiritual practice. Lotus oil can be placed in a diffuser to let its warm, grounding scent permeate and purify a space before spiritual work, or a small quantity of diluted lotus oil may be applied to the forehead to open one’s centers of spiritual awareness.


1.”Nelumbo nucifera.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 8th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelumbo_nucifera.

2. Liao, CH and JY Lin. December 2012. “Purification, partial characterization and anti-inflammatory characteristics of lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaert.) plumule polysaccharides.” Food Chemistry 135 (3): 1818-27.

3.Sugimoto, Y., S Furutani, A Itoh, T Tanahashi, H Nakajima, H Oshiro, S Sun, and J Yamada. December 2008. “Effects of extracts and neferine from the embryo of Nelumbo nucifera seeds on the central nervous system.” Phytomedicine 15 (12) 1117-24.

4. Sugimoto, Y., S Furutani, K Nishimura, A Itoh, T Tanahashi, H Nakajima, H Oshiro, S Sun, and J Yamada. May 2010. “Antidepressant-like effects of neferine in the forced-swimming test involve the serotonin 1A (5-HT1A) receptor in mice.” European Journal of Pharmacology 25 (1-3): 62-7.

5. “Lian Zhi – Nelumbo nucifera”. The Jade Institute. Last modified 2007. http://www.jadeinstitute.com/jade/herbal-detail-page.php?show=115&order=common_name.

6. Vahitha, SM, V Banumathi, J Anbu, Ashwini Anjana, and M. Pitchiah Kumar. October-December 2012. “Aphrodisiac activity of  Venthamarai Magarantha Chooranam (stamens of Nelumbo nucifera white variety) on healthy Wistar albino rats.” International Journal of Life Science and Pharma-Research 2(4): 44-50. http://www.ijlpr.com/admin/php/uploads/156_pdf.pdf.

Palo Santo Oil and Its Grounding and Purifying Properties

Palo Santo Oil and Its Grounding and Purifying PropertiesThe name palo santo is Spanish for “Holy Wood’; it was given by Spanish missionaries to this unassuming tree because of the wood’s abilities to induce introspective and spiritual states. All the way back to the Inca, who burned palo santo wood as a cleansing incense, the grounding properties of palo santo oil  have been well known to South American herbalism. Today, the oil’s antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and sedative properties are being hotly investigated by modern aromatherapy [1].

The palo santo tree (Bursera graveolens) is native to the Yucatan region of Mexico, Central America, and the Gran Chaco region of South America that includes Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, northern Argentina and parts of Brazil [2]. There are also a few palo santo trees on the Galapagos Islands. Part of the Burseraceae family, which includes such famous anointing oils as frankincense and myrrh, palo santo trees have twisted branches and whitish gray bark. The essential oil of palo santo is distilled from the heartwood and contains high levels of d-limonene, a-terpineol, trans-carveol, carvone, and germacrene D [4]. The aroma has been described as balsamic, earthy, and sweet with incense-like top notes.

Palo santo has a long history of use as a purifying incense used to prepare a space for ritual or spiritual work. The Inca burned the fragrant wood to banish negative energy from a space and guard against ill fortune, including evil spirits and illness. In Ecuador, the wood incense is still used to cleanse the home of “bad energy” (mala energia) and bring good luck. Palo santo wood has also been burned as a medicinal incense for various ailments: the Criollo people burned palo santo wood with the leaves of fringed rue (Ruta chapalensis) and blew it into the ears of those suffering ear infection or inflammation [2]. Another practice is fumigating cattle herds with palo santo smoke to protect the animals against vampire bats.

A herbal tea mixture containing palo santo is also prescibed in South American herbalism for treating stomachache, bowel and respiratory problems, and to improve mood, while the resin is frequently added to liniments for the treatment of rheumatism [3]. A growing use of palo santo oil is as an anointing oil in spiritual practice or meditation: a drop is massaged into the base of the neck to help center the mind and induce calm.

Palo santo oil is used in aromatherapy to treat muscle pain, inflamed joints, infections, and as a tonic for the immune and nervous systems [1]. With its earthy, grounding scent, palo santo oil can be diffused around the home or work space to create a cleansing, protective energy and to dispel negative emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, fear, stress, tension, or buried anger. Due to possible dermal irritation, palo santo oil should always be patch tested and diluted in a carrier oil before topical use.

As palo santo essential oil keeps growing in popularity, substitution and adulteration can be a problem; this is partly because the harvest of true palo santo is tightly regulated in Peru and Ecuador to protect the trees from overharvesting: by law, harvesters can only take wood from dead trees or branches that have fallen to the ground. Interestingly enough, many palo santo oil distillers believe that the dead heartwood actually yields a superior essential oil—and that the longer the tree has been dead, the more powerful the oil will be!

However, what this means for consumers is that certain unscrupulous companies will try to sell other Bursera species in place of palo santo, often under a generic name like “Holy Wood”. These substitutes are not the true palo santo oil. If you want to know that you’re getting the real, verified palo santo essential oil, make sure to only buy oils that list the genus-species, Bursera graveolens. At Essential Oil Exchange, we get our authentic palo santo oil direct from Ecuador, so you can experience the real benefits this holy wood offers to mind, body and spirit!


1. “The Healing Benefits of Palo Santo.” Natureal Mom. Accessed April 7th, 2014. http://naturealmom.com/the-healing-benefits-of-palo-santo/.

2.”Bursera graveolens.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 11th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bursera_graveolens.

3. Nakanishi, Tsutomu, Yuka Inatomi, Hiroko Murata, Kaori Shigeta, Naoki Iida, Akira Inada, Jin Murata, Miguel Angel Perez Farerra, Munekazu Iinuma, Toshiyuki Tanaka, Shogo Tajima, and Naoto Oku. February 2005. “A new and known cytotoxic aryltetralin-type lignans from stems of Burersa graveolens.” Chemical Pharmaceutical Bulletin 53(2): 229.

4. Young, D. Gary, Sue Chao, Herve Casablanca, Marie-Claude Bertrand, Danilo Minga. January 2007. “Essential Oil of Bursera graveolens (Kunth)Triana et Planch from Ecuador.” Journal of Essential Oil Research 19: 525-26.

Use Jasmine Oil to Center the Mind and Relieve Stress

Use Jasmine Oil to Center the Mind and Relieve StressOften called the “king of oils”, jasmine has been revered in South Asia and the Middle East for its divine scent, calming effect on the emotions, and wide range of medicinal applications. In these regions of the world, jasmine is a well-known women’s herb that is used to address menstrual pain or discomfort, encourage uterine contractions, and ease the pain of childbirth. When you consider the number of healing properties jasmine oil  provides to humans, the origin of the flower’s name—yasmeen, Persian for “gift of the gods”—makes a whole lot of sense.

Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) is a flowering tropical vine native to South Asia, part of the wide-ranging Jasminum genus that has members in tropical regions throughout the Old World. The jasmine plant has green vines and leaves and small white flowers. Jasmine absolute oil is the only kind of oil that can be obtained from jasmine flowers: too delicate for traditional steam distillation, the compounds in jasmine must be extracted using a cold solvent such as liquid carbon dioxide. One pound of jasmine oil requires 1,000 pounds of flowers to make—equivalent to 3.6 million fresh blossoms!

Despite its delicate, floral, tea-like scent and traditional associations with women, jasmine oil is called the “king of oils”. (Rose oil, from Rosa damascena, is considered the “queen of oils”.) In South and Southeast Asia, women use fresh jasmine blossoms as hair ornaments, and garlands of jasmine and orchids are sold in Thailand to mark religious occasions and festivals.

Use Jasmine Oil to Center the Mind and Relieve Stress

Garlands of fresh jasmine adorn a market stall in Thailand before a festival.

In China, jasmine tea has been popular for centuries: a combination of fresh jasmine flowers and dried green or oolong tea is mixed together and allowed to steep for a few hours, until the tea leaves have absorbed the volatile compounds from the flowers. After it is refired to prevent spoilage, the jasmine flowers—now dried and odorless—are either removed or left in for decoration. Jasmine was likely brought to the Middle East by Persian traders, and from there disseminated to Europe via trade with Morocco by the 17th century, where it exploded in popularity as a perfume ingredient and even became part of a signature scent favored by King Louis the XVI of France.

Jasmine oil has been used since antiquity as a sedative, nervine, analgesic and anti-inflammatory[1]. The oil is believed to ease mental and emotional stress and tension while promoting feelings of calm and groundedness. Jasmine is still used by aromatherapists today to address stress-related conditions, nervousness, and anxiety, either by massage or vapor therapy. Inhaling jasmine oil can also help discharge excess mucus or nasal catarrh, while a gentle massage with jasmine oil does wonders to address dry, irritated or inflamed skin and to diminish the appearance of scars [2] and stretch marks. With its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, jasmine oil is also useful for pain, stomachaches, muscle aches, menstrual discomfort, and as a general uterine tonic [2]. One modern-day use for jasmine oil is to assist people going through addiction treatment, since it is thought to calm the mind and center the emotions during this turbulent experience.

Jasmine is also known as the “Queen of the Night”, since the flowers open only after dusk and must be picked at night to ensure maximum fragrance. Next time you take a whiff of pure jasmine oil, imagine the moon shining on fields of this night-blooming beauty as farmers pluck the flowers one by one to begin their journey from the Far East to your aromatherapy cabinet.


1. Paarakh, Sandeep and Padmaa M. Paarakh. 2009. “Jasminum grandiflorum. Linn. (Chameli): Ethnobotany, Phytochemistry and Pharmacology – A Review”. Pharmacology Online 2: 586-595.

2. Vidyalakshmi, A. and S, Esaki Selvi. 2013. “Protease activity of floral extracts of Jasminum grandiflorum L., a wound-healing herb.” Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies 4(1): 11-15.

Yarrow Oil- A Thousand-Leafed Healer with Ancient Use as a Wound Salve

Yarrow Oil- A Thousand-Leafed Healer with Ancient Use as a Wound SalveIt may look like an inconspicuous green shrub in your garden, but yarrow (Achillea millifolium) has actually been used in medicine, cooking, and even divination for millennia in temperate regions of Europe, Asia and North America. Yarrow essential oil can range from pale green to a striking dark blue, and is most commonly used in aromatherapy today for the treatment of minor wounds, pain and inflammation [1], and as a mild stimulant [2].

Yarrow is a flowering plant in the Asteraceae family, which is also home to well-known medicinal herbs such as chamomile and echinacea. The yarrow plant has many-branched, almost feathery green leaves and sprouts umbrella-like flowers that vary in color from white to pale pink. Yarrow grows wild in grasslands and open forests, and is also sold as an ornamental cultivar by many plant nurseries.

Yarrow’s long history of use is reflected in its wide array of common names, which include millefoil, thousand-leaf, thousand-seal, and soldier’s woundwort—a reference to yarrow’s use in wound poultices on the battlefields of medieval Europe [2]. Knowledge of yarrow’s wound-healing properties was passed down from Classical Rome and Greece. In the Iliad, yarrow is given to Achilles by Chiron, the centaur who trains him in the arts of war [4]. He teaches Achilles how to use yarrow as a wound salve for the soldiers under Achilles’ command.

Like many European herbs that are little known today, yarrow was once a popular cooking and flavoring herb that was added to everything from salads to savory dishes to beer: before hops rose to prominence, a yarrow-containing herbal mixture called gruit was a very popular agent for flavoring beer [2]. Today, you can still buy liqueurs and bitters that have been flavored with yarrow.

Thousands of miles away in China, dried yarrow stalks were used to interpret readings from the I Ching, or “Book of Changes” as part of Chinese divination practice. Along with tortoiseshell, yarrow is considered a lucky herb that “makes the eyes bright” and promotes intelligence according to traditional Chinese medicine [2].

In North America, indigenous peoples have also long used yarrow as a medicinal herb for relieving the pain of headaches and earaches, as well as treating head colds and fevers [5]. The Zuni people of the American Southwest even make a juice from yarrow leaves and flowers and apply it to the skin as an anti-inflammatory [5] before participating in fire-walking or fire-eating ceremonies!

The mildly aromatic yarrow essential oil is still used in aromatherapy to treat minor cuts and abrasions, since compounds in the leaves are known to promote blood clotting [4]. With its general anti-inflammatory properties, yarrow oil is excellent for relieving the pain of injuries, headaches or muscle aches [3], and for reducing the congestion associated with cold and flu [1]. Yarrow essential oil is also astringent, hypotensive, mild stimulant, and diaphoretic, used to reduce fevers by inducing sweating [5]. The whole herb is sometimes taken as a bitter tonic to aid digestion and stimulate the production of gastric juices [1]. A massage with diluted yarrow oil may also ease painful menstruation through its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects [4].

A few precautions with yarrow oil are to avoid the oil in pregnancy and always do a patch test with yarrow oil diluted in a carrier oil before using it on the skin. Since yarrow essential oil can cause skin irritation or headache in sensitive individuals [1], especially if used in large amounts, always dilute yarrow oil before use and use it in moderation. With its dry, herbal-woody fragrance, yarrow essential oil blends well with other herbaceous or sweet-woody oils such as chamomile, cedarwood, oakmoss and verbena. What the Greeks knew about this thousand-leafed healer can be yours again when you use yarrow essential oil in aromatherapy!


1. “Yarrow Essential Oil” Aromatherapy School. Accessed April 16th, 2014. http://www.aromatherapy-school.com/essential-oils/yarrow-milfoil.html.

2. “Achillea millefolium.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 16th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achillea_millefolium.

3. Benedek, Birgit, and Brigitte Kopp. July 2007. “Achillea millefolium L. s.l. Revisited: Recent Findings Confirm the Traditional Use.” Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 157 (13-14): 312-14.

4. Applequist, Wendy L., and Daniel E. Moerman. June 2011. “(Achillea millefolium L.): A Neglected Panacea? A Review of Ethnobotany, Bioactivity, and Biomedical Research. Economic Botany 65 (2): 209-225.

5. Hutchens, Alma R. 1973. Indian Herbology of North America. Shambhala Publications.

Camphor Oil as a Topical Analgesic for Sore Muscles and Sprains

Camphor TreeSay camphor oil and many people have visions of mothballs stuffed in a musty old closet somewhere. It’s true that camphor was a prime ingredient in repellents used to protect textiles from being eaten by moths, but the smell of our distilled white camphor essential oil is much subtler, with a strong mentholic top note and just a hint of the medicinal about it. In aromatherapy, pure camphor essential oil is used as a topical analgesic for sore muscles and joints [1], a general antiseptic [2], and an expectorant that can open respiratory passages and clear congestion [1].

Native to the East Asian countries of China, Japan and Taiwan [3], the camphor tree (Cinnamonum camphora) can grow up to 100 feet (35 meters) tall and has been used for medicinal and construction purposes for hundreds of years. The pungent camphor essential oil is extracted from the chipped wood, branches and stumps of the tree and then further fractionated to yield white, yellow, and brown camphor. The yellow and brown oil fractions can contain between 10% and 80% safrole, a toxic and carcinogenic compound, so they are never used in aromatherapy.

Historically, camphor oil was employed as a treatment for plague and an embalming ingredient in ancient Persia [4]; camphor wood’s durability and insect repellent properties also made it a natural building material for Chinese temples and sailing ships. White camphor essential oil contains no safrole and is used in a variety of aromatherapy applications today. It is most well known as the primary ingredient of Chinese Tiger Balm, a salve used to treat sore muscles and sprains. The essential oil is used in dilution as a topical anaesthetic for muscle soreness and joint pain [4]. Camphor essential oil may produce skin sensitization, so it should always be diluted in a carrier oil, lotion, or salve.

Depending on the chemotype, camphor essential oil can contain high levels of the compound camphor, a cooling compound similar to the menthol in peppermint oil. Camphor has expectorant and numbing analgesic properties [5]. Linalool, another component of camphor oil [5], has been studied for its potential stress-relieving properties in rats and is a major component of lavender oil [6]. The sharp, medicinal-minty smell of camphor oil can increase feelings of alertness and sensitivity to one’s surroundings—give yourself a whiff whenever you’re feeling tired or groggy and feel your senses stand to attention.


1. “Camphor: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, and Warnings”. WebMD. Accessed May 22nd, 2014. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-709-CAMPHOR.aspx?activeIngredientId=709&activeIngredientName=CAMPHOR&source=0.

2. “Camphor-Medicinal Uses”. Wikipedia. Accessed May 22nd, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camphor#Medicinal.

3. “Cinnamomum camphora“. Wikipedia. Accessed May 22nd, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnamomum_camphora.

4. Gentry, Pamela. “Camphor Essential Oil Uses and Benefits”. Accessed May 22nd, 2014. http://www.ehow.com/way_5459333_camphor-essential-oil-uses-benefits.html.

5. Frizzo, Caren D, Ana C Santos, Natalia Paroul, Luciana A Serafini, Eduardo Dellacassa, Daniel Lorenzo, and Patrick Moyna. October 1st, 1999. “Essential Oils of Camphor Tree (Cinnamomum camphora Nees & Eberm) Cultivated in Southern Brazil”. Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology 43: 313-16.

6. Nakamura, Akio, Satoshi Fujiwara, Ichiro Matsumoto and Keiko Abe. 2009. “Stress Repression in Restrained Rats by (R)-(-)-Linalool Inhalation and Gene Expression Profiling of Their Whole Blood Cells”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57 (12): 5480-85.