Essential oils are sourced from around the world, however we have plenty of plants that have become very much at home right here in the UK that yield some amazing essential oils, I have decided to focus on three and tell you a little about their traditional use and how I use them in my practice.
Peppermint – Mentha piperita
Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between water mint and spearmint. Indigenous to Europe and the Middle East it now grows in many countries across the globe. It is fast growing and easy to extract the essential oil from the leaves by distillation. There is long history of mint farms in South East London, Mitchum, which was used extensively for cosmetic production, however the need to turn every acre of soil over to food production in the second world war saw the decline of the London mint fields.
Aromatically, mint is such a familiar smell, fresh, bright and invigorating. It has a cooling effect, so it’s great for hot feet at the end of a busy working day. Add two drops of the essential oil into a bowl of tepid water, large enough to place your feet in, sit for 10-15 min and you will soon feel refreshed! Mint also has an infinity with our digestive system, bringing relief to nausea and digestive discomfort. One drop of the essential oil added to 5ml of vegetable oil and massage onto the abdomen can bring about relief from digestive upset.
Roman Chamomile –Anthemis nobilis
Chamomile is native to western Europe and north Africa, but is now grown around the world in temperate climates. It probably arrived in the UK in the 16th Century and became an essential part of an herbalist’s medicine chest. It has feathery leaves, which have a sweet apply scent, and white daisy like flowers with a yellow centre. The essential oil is extracted from the flowers.
Chamomile is considered a very safe essential oil even for children and babies. It has a sedative quality and is very useful for states of inflammation, whether that be emotional or physical.
To soothe inflammation, add one drop of Roman Chamomile to 5ml of base oil and apply, (as long as the skin is not broken). It can also be used in the same way to calm emotions; massage into the solar plexus to relive anxiety or frustration.
Lavender –Lavandula angustifolia
Maybe synonymous with France, but we also grow, harvest and extract Lavender essential oil here in England, there is a wonderful Lavender farm in Kent where you can see the Lavender growing and being harvested, they also distil their own essential oil.
One of the most popular medicinal herbs since ancient times, its name is derived from the Latin lavare, meaning to wash, mostly because the ancient Greeks & Romans added it to their bath water. In the middle ages, it was used as ‘strewing herb’ and was used to fumigate homes and keep them smelling sweet. In the early 20th Century a chemist called Gattefosse plunged his arm into a vat of lavender after he burnt it in his lab, he was astounded by how quickly his burn healed with minimal scaring and set about researching the properties of Lavender oil and coined the phrase ‘aromatherapy’.
It has a very familiar aroma, sharp but floral with hints of a medicinal tone.
Lavender has been shown to be a very good sedative, many people use it effectively to help with sleep concerns. Add a couple of drops direct on to your pillow before bedtime.
It can also be used effectively as a natural antiseptic and is a good essential oil for general skin care. It must of course be added to a base oil before applying to the skin