The Fragrant Pharmacy
A flower remedy (or flower essence) is made by soaking the flowers in spring water in the sun and diluting the resulting extract homeopathically. Flower remedies are usually taken internally.
Aromatherapy deals with oils which are usually inhaled (smelled) or applied externally. These oils are called volatile oils, essential oils, attars, perfume oils, fragrances or simply essences. The aromas of plants (such as the delightful fragrance of flowers and the appetizing scent of spices are due to the presence of these oils. Tei Fu oil, Peppermint oil, Cinnamon oil, Clove oil, Lavender oil and Tea Tree oil are all examples of volatile or essential oils.
A volatile oil is very different from the fixed oils used in cooking (such as olive oil, peanut oil or safflower oil). Fixed oils will not evaporate, but volatile oils will. When we smell a Rose our nose is detecting minute amounts of these oils evaporating off the rose flower.
Heat causes oils to evaporate so they can be separated from the plant matter by distillation. It was the great Persian physician, Avicenna, who first discovered how to extract volatile oils. Avicenna’s teachings about health are based on the law of the four elements—air, water, fire and earth. His theory projects that one could remove the fire element from a plant through the use of fire. A process was devised for extracting and trapping the “fire” element in plants. The first oil he distilled using this process was the oil of a rose.
Many of the highest quality volatile oils are distilled in India and the Middle East using the same methods developed anciently. The plants are organically grown and gathered fresh. They are placed in baskets within round-topped structures made from adobe. Wood-burning fires are used to bring water to a boil underneath the baskets of herbs, flowers or spices. As the steam rises through the suspended plant material, it causes the volatile oils to evaporate. The steam is then collected and cooled. As the water condenses, the volatile oils float to the top and are skimmed off.
Some flowers are too delicate to extract in this manner, so they are extracted using cold brolling. In this method, a high quality fixed oil (such as a light virgin olive oil) is poured into a stone trough. The flowers are wrapped in cheesecloth and placed in the oil. A stone “log” is rolled over the cheesecloth bag several times a day to press the plant material. The next day the plant material is removed and a fresh batch is placed into the same oil. This process may be repeated for thirty days before the fixed oil is saturated with the volatile oils. This method is called enfleurage and is commonly used in France, the Middle and Near East and in India.
Allergies to Fragrances
Almost all perfume oils in Europe and the United States are extracted or diluted with chemical solvents like alcohol. According to Hakim Chishti, one of this country’s foremost authorities on aromatherapy, even one drop of alcohol will destroy some of the healing qualities of a volatile oil. L who has worked with aromatherapy for about eight years, says that alcohol and other solvents break the oils apart so they are no longer chemically “whole.” Even worse, most perfumes, cosmetics, toiletries, etc. contain synthetic fragrances.
This is why many people are allergic to perfumes and the fragrances in toiletries, soaps, etc. The pure oils do not cause these problems. In one class I conducted, a lady with terrible allergy problems left the room when we began smelling the fragrances. She was afraid they would trigger her allergies. The next day she sat in the class as we applied these fragrances therapeutically and appeared to suffer no allergic response whatsoever. Many other people who cannot stand commercial perfumes have told me that they love the fragrance of pure attars. (This makes me wonder if some of the therapeutic value of an aromatic herb is destroyed when it is extracted with alcohol.)
Medicines for the Soul
Oils are to be used externally. They are worn as perfumes and the fragrance helps to alter the mood of those who inhale it. They are ideal for emotional healing. That is probably why Avicenna considered all floral essences to be remedies for the heart—not the physical heart, but the emotional one. If you think about it, an aroma, such as the smell of fresh-baked bread, can make an almost instant change in your feelings. There have even been some studies in recent years which have demonstrated the power that scents have to alter mood.
Aromas are deeply connected with memory. Certain fragrances can vividly bring back entire experiences, including the emotions those experiences evoked.
There are twelve major emotional energy centers in the body. These energy centers have been called chakras. Through muscle testing, one can tell whether each one of these energy centers is closed or open. What has been fascinating is to discover that when a particular energy center is closed, certain fragrances will smell absolutely wonderful to that person. These delightful-smelling fragrances are the very ones the person needs to open up and heal that emotional energy.
This was demonstrated in a class when the various oils were passed around the room for the students to smell. Later, I muscle tested each student to determine which emotional energy centers were closed. When I found the closed emotional centers, I muscle tested to find out which oil would help to heal those emotions. When I told the person which oil tested the strongest on them, most of the students responded that it was one of their favorite fragrances. At least three students had liked that oil so much that they had put some on their skin while they were being passed around the class.
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For more information Contact:
Karen Olerich, Herb Specialist
Phone: (719) 495-4930