Monthly Archives: November 2010

Making Scents #2

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In today’s note-making session, I was going to explore the two main ways of applying essential oils, but I realized that I would be getting ahead of myself.  It occurred to me that I had better define what an essential oil is before I go any further.

Simply, an essential oil is a highly concentrated aromatic essence of the plant from which it is derived.   When the molecules of an essential oil are released to the air,  they engage one’s olfactory receptors and are transmitted to the limbic system.  The limbic system is that structure of the brain that houses the autonomic regulators, emotions, memories and behaviors such as sleep, hunger, thirst and the sex drive.   Molecules of the essential oils can also enter the body through the skin.

This being said, I now understand why it is so important to use only 100% pure, undiluted oils devoid of any synthetic additives.   The problem though is that without a chemical analysis the consumer has no way of knowing for certain if an oil is “pure”.  The consumer must go on the word of the distributor.    So, in brief,  caveat emptor — let the buyer beware.

Based on this,  here’s what I’ve been pondering for the last couple of days: from whom shall I obtain my oils?   I’ve been roaming the internet trying to figure this out.    I’ve observed that an up-an-coming distributor of essential oils says the big, bad corporation that sells essential oils in my local natural food store is selling an inferior product.    That big corporation, in turn, says that the consumer needs to be wary of the exaggerated claims of small, up-and-coming distributors.  (I must admit that the big corporation does a much better job at being transparent about where their oils come from and how they are tested for authenticity and purity).   Furthermore, the new-age store down the street from me refused to tell me who supplies their oils which, in my mind, is a big red flag and makes me ask myself: what are they hiding?

You may be wondering what I decided.  From whom shall I buy my oils?   I’m not going to say.  You won’t find me promoting any particular distributor here.   Essential oils, like any expensive product you buy, needs to be carefully researched and evaluated, and everyone needs to make her or his own decision.

Okay, on to more interesting things.   One of the main reasons I got into working with essential oils was for stress relief.   Lavender oil is at the top of list for reducing stress and inducing calmness and balance.     I found this video where the aromatherapist blends a stress-reducing massage oil.

It is important to remember that essential oils are powerful and some are toxic so rarely should one apply an essential oil directly to the skin.    Essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil.   Also, I have learned that one should not overuse the oils.  More is not better.   If a recipe calls for 1 drop of a type of oil, you need to use 1 drop.

Here is the recipe outlined in the video:  5 teaspoons of carrier oil, 2 drops of pure lavender, 2 drops of petitgrain, and 1 drop of ylang-ylang.   I’m going to try this recipe.  I’ll be using neroli oil since I don’t have petitgrain and I have sweet almond oil to use as a carrier.    I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Thanks for letting me share my study notes with you.

The Wayward Pelican (c) 2010

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Making Scents: Getting Back into Essential Oils

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A few years ago I went through an aromatherapy phase.  I acquired a number of bottles of pure essential oils and worked with them a bit.  I made body lotions and lip balms and a lot of other “hand-made gifts” that I inflicted on friends and family.   After a while, I lost interest in this hobby, mainly because I surmised my friends were not thrilled with my handiwork and also that essential oils are a bit expensive — too expensive to be in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

Last weekend, I started going through some drawers here at home and came across my aromatherapy supplies.    Since they were all in their original dark brown bottles in a dark place, most of them were still in good shape.    I took an inventory and discarded any bottles that needed discarding and made notes of the quantities of all the remaining.   I realized that most of the oils I had fell into the “the most practical and least expensive” range.  That is, I have plenty of lemon, lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oil because they are some of the least expensive oils and you can do a lot with them.    I don’t have any rose oil, and most likely will never have any,  because it is one of the most expensive oils.  (It takes 30 roses to make 1 DROP of rose oil).

Because I am at a new place in my life with a better understanding of tools and techniques for achieving wellness of mind and body, I think my interest in essential oils has come to a better place as well.    Oils are powerful in their ability to heal the mind and body.  The use of essential oils is the oldest medical modality, predating the development of Chinese and Ayurvedic systems.      Oils are mentioned over 150 times in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, with at least 33 different types mentioned.    In the Gospel of Mark, an unnamed woman with an alabaster jar anointed Jesus with spikenard, an oil used in modern aromatherapy for its anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.

I decided that I would approach my new work with essential oils with a little more care and respect than in previous years,  so immediately I began reading literature and finding reputable web sources to educate myself about essential oils.    I came across an on-line tutorial offered through  a major reputable  distributor of pure essential oils.   At the moment I am working through the tutorial.   This tutorial will not make me a certified aromatherapist.   In fact, I have learned that it takes many years of study to become certified.   Furthermore, in Europe and Asia where aromatherapy is more well-regarded by the medical establishment, it takes almost as long to become an essential oil practitioner as it is does to become a medical doctor.

I am not a medical practitioner.  And I don’t intend to use my oils for that purpose.  I have, over the years, used my oils periodically for household uses and for stress reduction.    My hope is to expand on these personal uses as I study the oils.    I am going to post my notes and discoveries here on this blog primarily for myself, but also for anyone else who is interested.

To get things rolling, here is a youtube video I came across that addresses the proper way to store oils.

Until next time,

The Wayward Pelican (c) 2010

Iman Bayildi

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I’m not a particularly big fan of eggplant.  Most likely this is because I never knew you had to extract the bitterness from them by salting and draining before preparation.   When a friend gave me this recipe for a middle eastern eggplant dish, I was a little reluctant at first to try it,  but since I had most of the ingredients, I decided what-the-heck-I’ll-give-it-a-shot and acquired an eggplant.   

I am so glad I did.  This is without doubt the most tasty eggplant dish I’ve ever had.    I gave some to my sister and she, who has traveled quite a bit, said it reminded her of her trips to the middle east where, “they serve eggplant breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”    I served it to her as a side dish with roasted chicken and flatbread.  My friend serves it as a main dish with just a hot crusty bread to slather it on. 

I don’t know where my friend got this recipe so I can’t cite it properly, but I felt compelled to share it with you all.  Enjoy.

Iman Bayildi  

2 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise
salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves,crushed
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 14 ounce can tomatoes, chopped
3 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
pepper
2 Tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Before cooking, slash the eggplant flesh a few times, sprinkle with salt  and drain after half and hour.  Rinse and pat dry

Gently fry eggplants in a heavy pan cut side down in olive oil for 5 minutes, then drain and place in shallow ovenproof dish.  In same pan saute onions, garlic and green pepper for 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, coriander and seasonings. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the cilantro. Spoon this mixture on top of the eggplants.  Cover and bake a 375 F degrees for 30 – 35 minutes.   Makes 4 very generous servings.