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Knowing an essential oil.


How many therapists really know all their oils? I suspect very few. I certainly don’t or at least not in the sense that I am talking about. Therapist or not, take what is probably one of the most widely used essential oils, lavender. One can look up and learn the therapeutic properties easily, including the emotional effects of the oil but an oil is so much more than that. Look at a lavender bush through the seasons if you have one, if not there is sure to be one in a local park somewhere if you are in UK at least. 97d839

Learn about Gattefossé   who is widely described as the father of modern aromatherapy.

Most aromatherapists will quote you the story of how he plunged his arm into a vat of lavender essential oil following burning his arm during a laboratory explosion. In fact he put out the flames by rolling on grass outside and then very deliberately treated himself with the essential oil. The link above by Robert Tisserand, one of the greats in aromatherapy includes a translation of Gattefossé’s own account of the incident.

Rub the leaves with your fingers at different times of the year. you will notice that at the height of summer, especially if it has been hot, the scent is much stronger and to my mind, “more alive.” You might also notice, especially if you can access a local botanic garden such as Kew or even Cambridge, that there are many different species of lavender. (Only some are hardy and will survive the winter outdoors in much of the UK.) Notice the different colours. Next summer notice how the bees are attracted to the flowers when it is warm. See if the bees visit the flowers more in the morning or the afternoon. (This is related to nectar production as well as scent though some flowers such as evening primrose, night scented stocks and honeysuckle produce more scent at night having evolved to be pollinated by moths rather than bees.)

Notice what feelings you have as you inhale the fragrance. Try different sources of the essential oil and compare them, do they smell the same to you or different? Do you have a favourite? I certainly do for some of my oils which is why I use more than one supplier.

I chose lavender as it is an oil that many therapists do really know – many aromatherapy tours include lavender fields in France or elsewhere. It is also an oil with some UK production. The plant is widely grown in gardens in many parts of the world. It is even growing on my allotment in Trumpington, Cambridge Sadly the images of how different oils are collected and distilled are likely to remain something conjured I can only experience second hand and the scents I will only know through the oils but knowing as many oils as I can through experiencing the plants as well as the oils and book learning helps to give my practice more depth and helps my understanding as a practitioner.

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