Edition 35: September 2011
Essential Oil of the Month
Neroli’s exquisite flower makes haunting perfume
NEROLI’S name is said to have originated from the 17th Century Italian princess of Nerola, Anne-Marie de la Tremoille who used the oil from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree as a perfume and to scent her bathwater and gloves.
The tree itself was first cultivated in the Mediterranean by Arab conquerors around the 10th Century and neroli oil was used in perfumery and skin care for hundreds of years.
Neroli was one of the oils used to ward off the foul infectious vapours of the plague in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The prostitutes of Madrid were recognised by using this signature scent, yet ironically orange petals were often associated with marriage and purity as virgin brides wore it in their hair to allay their nervousness.
The flowers were also used as a blood cleanser and nerve tonic, while the distillation water has been used in cosmetics for many centuries. It is still one of the most widely used floral oils in modern perfumery.
The delicate orange blossoms are steam distilled to create oil that is pale yellow in colour and watery in viscosity. Another very costly absolute and concrete, neroli oil is produced by enfleurage - solvent extraction; this is a deep orange or brown gelatinous liquid with a rich, complex yet bright scent.
It takes a huge mass of orange blossoms to make very little neroli oil and it is accordingly quite expensive so care must be taken when buying it, as many adulterated oils are on the market.
A hydrosol called orange-flower water is also produced, as a by-product of the distillation process and used extensively in European and Arabian cooking.
Neroli oil is highly valued as an ingredient in skin care products due to its powerful regenerative effect on the skin, stimulating cell growth and activity.
It has the ability to relax skin cells, while it encourages the growth of new tissue. As an emollient, neroli balances moisture to better hydrate the skin, rendering the skin smoother and more radiant. It improves the skin’s elasticity and particularly likes dry or mature skin.
Neroli is described as cicatrisant and works magic on scar tissue such as stretch marks, spots left by acne, boils, pox and the like.
It is a wise choice for those who have broken capillaries and the scent itself will add glamour to all cosmetic blends. Neroli is reputed to protect the skin during x-ray treatments.
Make a mood-elevating, skin-nourishing massage blend using 10 drops of neroli oil, 10 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil, and five drops of rose essential oil into 100ml of jojoba or sweet almond oil.
The oil acts as an antiseptic, effectively killing bacterium on the skin to keep it free from infection. Although there are probably cheaper more, effective anti-infectious wound disinfectants, when applied to the face, neroli oil prevents the spread of acne and bacterial infection of certain skin conditions and it tends to calm allergies such as hives. In body lotions, neroli helps disperse cellulite and fluid retention.
A delightful deodoriser, neroli keeps body odour in check. To freshen up, use in perfume atomisers diluted in orange flower water. If you can afford it, do add a small amount to room fresheners for special occasions to create a most salubrious scented space that will also combat viral infections while elevating moods.
In fact the fundamental role of neroli oil is on the mind and psyche, where it offers anti-depressant, sedative and aphrodisiac properties.
It acts as a tonic for the nervous system, calming the mind and body, relieving anxiety, tension and melancholy.
In this way it helps relieve symptoms of shock and post-traumatic stress syndrome, bringing emotional reassurance; and it is an excellent insomnia remedy, especially when depression is the cause. Wear a 3 per cent dilution of neroli oil every day for a week on the solar plexus to counter anger, frustration and soothe emotional burnout.
Although neroli’s primary use is on the emotions and for skin and perfumery, medicinally it is of great value.
European studies have shown that neroli triggers the release of corticosteroids, calming inflammation in the body and helping stimulate the immune system.
Neroli can be a key player in so far that it decreases stress perception as well as the inflammation.
Burners and vapourisers: Neroli oil is useful for insomnia, nervous tension, headaches, depression, anxiety and shock.
Blended in massage or bath oil: It helps with insomnia, headaches, PMT, neuralgia, heart palpitations, anxiety, colitis, stomach upsets, irritable bowel and diarrhoea.
Blended into a cream or lotion: Use for dry sensitive, mature skin, helps stretch marks and broken capillaries.
Choose neroli to augment your body massage blend, to treat a variety of seemingly untreatable conditions, should you suffer from lupus pains, muscle knots and spasms, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue. An added bonus is its ability to improve liver function.
For those with chronic heart conditions, neroli is a good investment for its calming effect on the autonomic nervous system, countering stress reaction of the heart and acting as a circulatory tonic. Massage the neroli onto the sternum in such cases and certainly for one who is suffering from pneumonia or pleurisy.
Neroli essential oil promotes digestion and increases appetite. Massage some in an oil blend into the abdomen, with gentle clockwise strokes, to help release gases and help treat intestinal spasms, colitis and diarrhoea.
A good general tonic, neroli helps maintain all bodily systems in equilibrium and is useful during convalescence, to help reduce weight, treat headaches, neuralgia (nerve pain) and vertigo.
Neroli is also known to be a female tonic and its anti-spasmodic properties relieve the pain of menstrual cramps and it also treats the emotional imbalances associated with PMS and menopause.
Neroli resolves issues surrounding women’s menstruation, restoring peace and balance when there is a sense of self-criticism, as the reproductive organs and chakras are nurtured by its energy.
Use neroli on the root chakra and pubic bone for this purpose and to ground us in the feminine. Emotionally unifying, this is a sensual and a spiritual oil, helping us re-link a disconnected body and mind.
Sweet, seductive neroli is a superlative aphrodisiac that promotes arousal, increases libido and restores interest in sex. It is indicated in cases of frigidity, impotence and erectile dysfunction.
Neroli encourages self-actualisation and ultimately, self-love. Dispelling self-pity, it keeps our hearts open through all experiences, instilling security and protection as well as an intense feeling of being loved by all aspects of self. Neroli allays fear; wear it in crowded places to give you courage and dab on the wrists and behind the ears to attract people to you.
Latin name: Citrus aurantium var. Amara
Common name: Orange blossom, orange flower, neroli bigarade. Bitter Seville orange tree.
What is it? Neroli is steam-distilled from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree; a spiny evergreen that grows up to 10m, with white, waxy flowers and small dark fruits. It is native to the South-East Asia and cultivated for neroli oil in France, Tunisia, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and Spain.
Blends well with: all the citrus oils, clary sage, geranium, jasmine, frankincense, lavender, lemon, rose, ylang-ylang and sandalwood . It will add depth and heart to any blend that needs a floral that is not a top-note. Play with its sensual/sexual quality when creating heady, bold and rich perfumes, where it will act as a fixative. A traditional eau-de-cologne recipe combines neroli with lavender, lemon, rosemary and bergamot.
Scent: Neroli essential oil has a sweet, floral somewhat citrusy aroma both fresh and haunting.
Therapeutic properties: anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, anti-septic, bactericidal, cordial, carminative, cicatrisant, cytophylactic, disinfectant, anti spasmodic, deodorant, digestive, emollient, sedative and tonic.
Precautions: Neroli essential oil is a non-toxic, non-irritating essential oil. However, as with all citrus essential oils, it can cause an increased sensitivity to sunlight when applied to the skin.
What Herb is That?
Life-changing herb for change of life
DONG QUAI has been used by the Chinese for more than two thousand years; as a strengthener of the heart, lung, spleen, and liver and kidney meridians and as a tonic for the blood.
The name dong quai means “proper order” and traditional Chinese medicine understands the nature of angelica sinensis to be sweet, acrid, bitter and warm and that it can treat all diseases related to blood disorders in men and women.
Only the root of the dong quai plant, with its distinctive aromatic odour and bitter-sweet taste, is used medicinally and it is usually dried and ground to make the teas, capsules, tablets, tinctures and other combination products. It is thought that the larger the root the sweeter and better quality the medicine.
Dong quai provides balancing and normalising support for a woman's unique rhythms, cycles and body systems and is primarily known for its uses in treating menstrual problems including cramping, pain that accompanies menstruation (also called dysmenorrhea), cessation of menstruation and excessively heavy vaginal bleeding. It works well in conjunction with other Chinese herbs, particularly black cohosh, to treat PMS.
Dong quai restores hormonal balance in women because it contains phytoestrogens, (the chemicals found in plants that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.)
These help regulate estrogen levels, in two ways: by both restraining and supplementing the body’s production of estrogen as needed.
It is considered valuable in fertility treatment and can also be used to help the uterus during birth while encouraging a speeding recovery.
This herb enhances hormonal activity in both men and women and is widely used as an aphrodisiac, and as a treatment for lack of sexual desire, which is particularly useful for menopausal women.
It is widely used among Chinese women as a fortifying daily tonic, in the way that Chinese men rely on ginseng - in fact its uses extend to increasing libido in general.
Along with black cohosh, chasteberry and wild yam, dong quai is honoured as the best herb to deal with the unpleasant consequences of menopause. It is especially helpful to control hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
More specific gynaecological disorders such as uterine fibroid tumours; endometriosis, and even fibrocystic breast condition have been known to respond well to treatment with dong quai.
Superb blood tonic
The substantial amounts of Vitamin B12 (0.25 to 0.4 mcg per 100 grams of dried root) found in dong quai; deem it a superb blood tonic that can rectify innumerable blood disorders. Its rich iron content is used in treatment and prevention of anemia. Dong quai is traditionally characterised as a “warm atmospheric energy” that promotes blood circulation and indeed it is also used to stimulate circulation and purify the bloodstream of toxins.
Chinese herbalists recommend it as a heart tonic for both males and females to treat cardiovascular disorders such as high blood pressure (hypertension) or circulatory problems.
It helps to maintain regular blood flow and heartbeat and has been used to treat angina and irregular heartbeat. It prevents the accumulation of platelets in blood vessels that contribute to plaque formation or atherosclerosis.
Combined with ginseng and astragalus; dong quai decreases symptoms of chest pain and improves exercise tolerance in people with heart disease because of the resultant dilation of blood vessels.
Indeed this herb increases the activity of the central nervous system, which gives increased strength and energy.
Chinese research has revealed that the use of dong quai immediately after a stroke demonstrated a decrease in the amount of brain damage.
For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic rhinitis, post nasal drip and even allergies; the dilating effects of dong quai may be quite helpful, reducing chronic pulmonary hypertension.
Antispasmodic activity is pronounced with dong quai, which is why it brings menstrual relief by relaxing the uterine muscles and relieving associated headaches.
Dong quai contains phytochemicals that help boost white blood cell production to fight inflammation, which is most useful for rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica and shingles (Herpes zoster). In this context it is also indicated to soothe ulcers.
It may be used as a liver tonic to protect the liver and help treat hepatitis; while also acting as a mild laxative, clearing constipation.
The herb improves kidney function, promoting urination and research indicates it is effective in evening out blood sugar amounts. It is currently being studied for its ability to prevent or treat cancer.
Dong Quai exerts a sedative effect on the mind and helps to promote sleep, as it soothes nerves and helps people relax.
Name: Dong quai
Latin Names: Angelica sinensis, Radix angelicae sinensis, Angelica polymorpha.
Common Names: Chinese Angelica, Women's Ginseng.
What is it? The dong quai herb refers to the medicinal root of a biennial plant which belongs to the Apiaceae family and is one of many species of the herb genus angelica. Native to parts of China and Japan, Dong Quai is a stout and fragrant herb that is closely related to celery and can grow up to 2m tall.
Properties: Blood tonic, cardiac tonic, uterine tonic, liver tonic, mild laxative, warming and restorative, sedative, antiseptic, diuretic, diaphoretic, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, anti-thrombotic
Indicated for: PMS, menopause, cramps, increases libido. Constipation, pain, headaches. Abnormal heart rhythm, prevents accumulation of platelets in blood vessels, protects liver, promoting urination, promotes sleep, fights infection. Promotes blood circulation and lowers blood pressure.
Typical dosage: The herbal tea may be used three times a day, especially in combination with other compatible herbs, up to 500-600 milligram of powdered dong quai per day. Or 5-20 drops of tincture three times a day. The fresh root may be steamed or fried in vinegar, or the dried root may be taken in a soup.
Precautions: It is not recommended during pregnancy or nursing women or for people taking blood thinning agents. In rare cases for fair-skinned people, dong quai may increase sensitivity to ultraviolet rays.