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Knowing your Oils

How well do you know the essential oils you use? Do you just pick an oil or oils you like and put a few drops in a burner or vapouriser? Choose one of the oils you use and really think about your relationship with it.

Are there particular times you use it? What does it make you feel? What images if any come to mind when you use it. What is it’s history? What conditions is it good for? What is its physical effect on you? Do you start to salivate when you smell it? – I certainly do with the citrus oils! Do you associate the oils with any particular place or time? –  Those of us from Catholic backgrounds will know Frankincense from the burning of the resin in church. Others may know it from Buddhist temples or other sources. Some oils remind me of particular clients with whom I have used those oils a lot. How would you describe the aroma without using the name of the plant the oil comes from?

Traditionally  words used for this include  fresh, dry, green, woody, earthy, pungent, floral. But you do not need to limit yourself to these. If you have two different bottles of the same oil, can you differentiate between them? If from different suppliers, you may well be able to. Do you have a preference or are they just different?

Learn about the plant the oil comes from. Does it grow natively in  your area? If not will it grow in a pot indoors? How does the climate it grows in relate to its aroma? With Frankincense, I would say the Brazilian one as opposed to the one from the Middle East has a greener aroma to it. How do the images you get on smelling it compare to where it is grown?

All these things and more will help you to get more out of the oils you use. This exercise is especially important for me as a therapist as it helps me to better understand which oils will help my clients the most. This is true of physical conditions but even more so when using oils for psychological help.



Frankincense, Vetiver and Mindfulness

Frankincense is an oil I use a lot in my practice. It has been used for not just centuries but millennia as an aid to achieving a meditative state of mind, long before the Catholic Church started using it and of course it was one of the gifts given by the three wise men to the baby Jesus.

As an oil it is an anti inflammatory agent which helps with many skin conditions but it is for its psychological properties that I value it most in my practice.  Along with Vetiver which also has a long history of use in temples, these two oils are probably the best oils for helping those who suffer from anxiety. Along with their action of stilling the mind, they are also effective in working with depression and it is through a long time working with those with severe mental health problems that I saw in practice that what I learned while training in Aromatherapy actually worked with these two oils.

I have used these two oils in conjunction with massage for almost 30  years now and it never ceases to strike me how they help me to stay centred while working and help me do a better massage.

When I still worked in mental health, I specialised at one time in therapy with those who suffered from PTSD and also Borderline Personality disorder. Two groups with a lot of crossover between them and who both really benefit from practising mindfulness.  Massage using these oils really helped them achieve this. But you can also use them in a vapouriser for a maximum of about half an hour at a time. I tend to favour Frankincense over Vetiver for this means of delivery as some people get a headache if they breathe in too much of the aroma of Vetiver.

I have recently discovered Brazilian Frankincense which has a slightly greener aroma and is a little more cooling in its action. It shares many of the same properties and its cooling action amkes it the choice for eczema and related conditions but also good for those who struggle to hold their temper.


Clients as Experts

This is a subject I keep coming back to in my mind and thinking even when I don’t write about it. On the physical side, it is the client who knows all the little things they do to avoid feeling pain from an injury that has become chronic, sitting in a particular chair, turning in one direction rather than another  whenever possible, leading with one foot rather than another when climbing or descending stairs. (This may be different in each case.)

In the same way, the anxious client usually knows which situations they avoid and the things they say to themselves to get through difficult situations. The client with PTSD knows at least some of the likely triggers for them. They know which people to have around them to reduce the chances of being triggered and they usually though not always know what the initial event or events that led to the trauma is or are.

As a practitioner, it is my job to get as much of this information from the client as possible. This makes  it less easier to come up with a clear formulation as to how to proceed. Some  clients will happily strip off in front of me while others would be made too anxious and I would always leave the room. (My default position unless they start getting undressed before I have the chance to say I am leaving the room while they do so.

Some clients want a deep tissue massage to work out tensions in muscles whereas others need something which is much more nurturing in nature. and unless I can really empower them to find their internal expert, I won’t be able to choose the oils that are the best combination for them or do the best massage for them.


Thoughts on Advertising.

I received the following email today.

Hello! I wanted to get in touch as I am working on an advertorial page for the June issue of British Vogue Magazine and think that your company would be a perfect fit! It is a page suggesting the best places to stay, eat and visit for a weekend in Oxford and Cambridge. I would love to discuss this further with you, so if you could give me a call back. we can have a chat. Alternatively, feel free to send an email . I look forward to hearing from you! Laura Bailey

While I have no doubt that such a advertorial might bring me a few clients, I am not sure how much they would expect me to pay and suspect that it is rather more than I would consider given that my business is very small, I am a lone practitioner  rather than having several  therapists working for me and probably would find a massive increase in the number of clients I see more than I would like for a good work life balance. However I will respond just to find out how much they were thinking of.



As part of a massage treatment I nearly always work on some of the meridians of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some  of my clients believe in them, occasionally I have a client who knows about t hem before I explain what I am doing even! Most of my clients, if asked would probably say they don’t really believe in them in the sense that they don’t believe energy flows through these channels but do believe that there is a Western medical explanation that will one day be found. There is strong evidence in Western terms for the effectiveness of some of the acupuncture/acupressure  points used but no convincing explanation of how they work in Western terms.

Be that as it may, I do believe that there will one day be  an explanation  that fits the Western view of medical matters which I learned long before I was introduced to TCM, though it may not come in my lifetime.  Some of the essential oils I use, the links between TCM and the western system are less opaque. Tea Trea in the Chinese system strengthens defensive Qi.  In Western terms, it helps boost the immune system.  Other oils which in TCM clear Damp from the system,  have a diuretic effect. Again a clear correlation with  bloating and water retention being symptoms of both Damp Cold and Damp  Heat.

The time when I find this part of the massage most helpful is when the client  is either feeling very stuck with something  or if they are depressed. Both symptoms of blocked Qi in the Eastern way of looking at things. Combing this massage with oils such as Frankincense and Bergamot allow the energy to flow freely and the client to move on or have their depression eased.

However, as always when working with TCM, the idea is to help the client restore the correct balance in their energies, between Damp and Dryness,  Heat and Cold, Yin and Yang. Symptoms such as depression are a sign of a pattern of disharmony in the body and restoring this harmony is what helps.IMG_1726


Vetiver for staying/getting Grounded

Not in the teenager sense of, “You’re Grounded!” the root of this grass that grows over much of the Indian Sub-continent has a green woody (to my nose at least) aroma with predominantly, base notes present. The aroma notes  for it say, “Sweet  and warm, ri h and resinous, slightly woody and smoky.”  It is I believe the best oil of all for those who either need help in staying grounded, or whose work makes it important to stay grounded most of the time.

This is not to put any judgement on letting our minds wander through fantasies of what we might do, “if only.” There is a place for such wandering but for example, that place is not while I am seeing clients. It was one of my most used oils when I worked in a mental health adolescent unit. I use it a little less with clients now but still rate it as one of the most important essential oils in the two boxes, I carry around with me.



Treat Your Skin.

Beeswax, a natural anti infectious and anti fungal agent.

Organic Olive oil, cold pressed and unaltered. A natural product, ideal for dry skin.


Organic Essential oils. Frankincense and Geranium in the standard product but other formulations also available.

This product using wax from my own bees kept a few hundred yards from my home is the ideal thing to keep your skin in good condition. It is good for eczema but also for anyone who works using their hands. Gardeners, mechanics etc. Use it as a barrier product before gardening etc. and it will make them easier to clean afterwards.

Only &7 for a 60ml pot or £10 including postage.