Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Gums and Spices of Abraham

We know from the personal effects at least of monarchy and officials that gums and spices formed a part of everyday life in ancient egypt. There was a belief in the preservation of the body after death. Ancient egyptians saw this as putting more years (several thousand!) on their lives. They went to enourmous effort and not a little expense to ensure the body would be preserved.

In the dry desert climate there was the chance of this which does not exist in temperate climates. Such bacteria as might get to work were quelled with essential oils. The egyptians efficiently made the oils using sheeps fleeces suspended over the heated volatile plant matter as a condensor. We have a record of this use of gums and spices not only in what is written in the bible but the evidence of our eyes in the museums.

Body and soul were linked and an enjoyment of the afterlife (always assuming one had behaved properly in this this life and so qualified) depended on the embalmers skill. Today we still have our concerns and beliefs if differant ones. There is for example less concern with living a blameless life in some societies! In fact a certain kind of celebrity can be obtained in this way whether as terrorists or media persons. it has always been the case. The word hero comes down to us from the arsonist who destroyed one of the most beautiful wonders of the world. He wanted to be remembered. In a way he is!

Today the common concern is with the amount of cardiac disease. Also with cancer which has risen not only with the increase in longevity but with the use of antibiotics. It is only necessary to give high doses of antibiotics to trigger cancers in laboratory animals. In preserving our lives we know that it is not the last stroke of the axe which fells the tree! The need to preserve our bodies effectiveness and form starts from birth, becomes our own responsibility when we become adolescents and becomes more pressing as we approach middle age.

Can Abrahams gums and spices help not only put more years on our lives but also put more life into our years? (in the phrase of Marguerite Maury)

Biblical and modern history: The Bible has a great many references to different oils, perfumes, spices and resins and their uses.  Here are just a few quotations to whet your appetite:
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it according to their kinds (Genesis 1:11).

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much again of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane, 500 shekels of cassia –all according to the sanctuary shekel – and a hin of olive oil.  Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer.  It will be used as a sacred anointing oil (Exodus 30:22-25).

In Leviticus, chapter 14, it talks about using hyssop and cedarwood as a cleansing ceremony for the treatment of leprosy.  Hyssop, particularly seemed to be used for ceremonial and physical cleansing:
Cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).

Oils, spices and resins were considered prized treasures:
Hezekiah (the king) received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses, - the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil – his armoury and everything found among his treasures (2 Kings 20:13).

The oils were also used to beautify the body:
Before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with oil and perfumes (Esther 2:12).

The story of Esther is a love story, she married the King.  Perfumes and spices are also mentioned in connection with love and romance throughout the “Song of Songs’.

Whether religious or not many are attracted to the personality of Jesus and the sayings attributed to him by his disciples.

In the new testament as a baby Jesus was given gold, frankincense and myrrh - the latter two were always given to a king at birth for his anointing in death.

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, she poured it on Jesus’ feet and then wiped his feet with her hair.  And the house was filled with the fragrance of perfume (John 12:3).

Matthew 23:3 talks about the priests giving their tithes (a tenth of their income including their crops, livestock and other possessions)  to God.  This act also included the herb crops, such as their peppermint and anise.

While Jesus was on the cross:
Jesus said “I am thirsty.”  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:29-30).

Aromatic perfumes and resins were of tremendous value in biblical days and because of their strong links with religion and royalty and healing, retained a mystical quality.


Friday, 19 March 2010

And now for something completely differant. Its not just Honeybees who like lavender.

Blue tits use medicinal plants to disinfect their nests, scientists have discovered.

The birds line their nests with aromatic plants such as mint or lavender, which kill bacteria.

That creates a more sterile environment for chicks, which in turn grow faster and have a better chance of survival.

However, individual blue tits are quite picky about which plants they use, and it is not clear how they pass their knowledge on to other birds.

A number of European bird species add aromatic plants to their nests.

Starlings, for instance, usually bring back aromatic plants as part of a courtship display designed to attract females. But they stop doing so as soon as a female lays her eggs, suggesting the plants are for display only.

Lavender and achillea leaves line this egg-filled nest

On Corsica, blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) also incorporate fresh fragments of aromatic plants including lavender, mint and curry plants into their nests.

"We hypothesised that aromatic plants used by blue tits had some anti-parasite properties, because most of these plants, or close species of the same genus, are traditional Mediterranean plants with well-known medicinal properties," says Adele Mennerat, a biologist now at the University of Bergen in Norway.

Germ killer

Blue tit chicks living in nests adorned with aromatic plants grew faster and had a higher proportion of red blood cells, which is known to be a strong indicator of a chick's future chances of survival after fledging.

Mennerat cannot yet be sure but she suspects that living in a disinfected nest enables the chicks to allocate less energy to their immune systems and more to growing physically.

Much remains to be explained, however.

Lavender is an effective antimicrobial

No other bird has yet been shown to use aromatherapy in the same way, while related species such as the great tit or coal tit do not even decorate their nests with such plants. So it is unclear how the behaviour originated in blue tits.

Different birds also prefer different aromatics, regardless of their local availability, the researchers found.

"One of the most unexpected findings we got was that female blue tits display individual preferences in their use of aromatic plant species," says Mennerat.

"For example, in a territory with big bushes of lavender, for some reason blue tits at this site still collect mint that can only be found far away from their nests. We still don't know why and how blue tits have such individual preferences."

The researchers are also keen to discover how these personal aromatic preferences are passed on between birds.

Adele Mennerat

Source: Matt Walker
BBC Editor, Earth News

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Do essential oils have therapeutic properties?

The use of plant oils to get clincal results and for antisepsis was once the norm particularly in military medicine where camp life meant gathering materials locally. Napoleon went on campaign with eau de cologne for his soldiers while the British Army and Navy based around the world made extensive use of plant oils like Chamomile Oil to combat infestation and infection and deal with injuries.

Today Aromatherapy has to fight hard for its position in hospitals and hospices with managers to be convinced that the budget saving in synthetic drugs, perception of client care to say nothing of the clinical results are worth the cost. Fortunately Aromatherapy is very cheap and non invasive while the side effects from its use in trained hands are negligible. This represents a low risk intervention.

Of course there are limits to aromatherapy's application but what it does it does very well. Today few seriously dispute the available scientific evidence for clincal results from essential oils. Whether aromatic chemicals are derived naturally or synthetically matters little to non aromatherapists. That said the published evidence base for the efficacy of aromatherapy used to treat medical conditions remains poor with few methodologically rigorous studies.

In part this is because of the nature of essential oils which contain a cocktail of hundreds of aromatic chemicals from which the body picks and chooses and responds very individually. Aromatherapists also argue that results may depend on constituents present in the oil in tiny quantities and so there is a need to use the whole oil with nothing added or taken away. There is no magic bullet. If there were it pretty soon wouldnt work as micro-organisms evolved their way around it. This scattergun self healing strategy has enabled the more highly evolved flowering plants who produce these oils in particular to become extremely long lived. Rootstock of eucalyptus has been found to be 10,000 years old.

Numerous over the counter medicines exist which contain essential oils and are licensed for sale as medicines. There is no incentive for the evidence supporting those licenses to be published. Consider for example Olbas oil which contains a mixture of essential oils and is licensed for marketing as a medicine. The ingredients and their proprtions are published as they must be. If this medicine effective but the individual essential oils which make it up not effective? To do so is to deny the whole basis of western medicine that chemicals (of which essential oils are a plant derived cocktail)can have therapeutic effect.

It is understandable for the medical profession to be cross. Surgeons study for years to be able to perform the miracles of surgery they do. Medical practicioners resussitate patients expiring before them. Yet their patients are often prepared to put their whole faith and gratitude in natural medicine whose practioners are relatively unqualified. Sp's own diploma in clincial aromatherapy is for example no more demanding intellectually than the first year of a Batchelor of science course.

The whole evidential debate is of course ongoing but if we waited until someone understood and published a learned paper on everything that humanity does in the world we would be living in a strange and disappointing place. I dont do something that I think is not a good idea. I dont need to know why. If I did it and waited to find out why I and others might get a shock! Is that not the logic here? The fact is we are instinctively drawn to the aromas of the more highly evolved flowering plants and have made 'eating our steamed green vegetables and fruit' as habitual as previous generations. We are increasingly learning why.

A whole spoof christmas BMJ (British medical journal) feature was devoted to frankincense adopting a modern rigorous approach to the literature concluding by debunking the oil's effectiveness in slowing breathing and so promoting reflection and meditation despite thousands of years of observation. Aromatherapists had the final laugh with the simple observation that the learned studies referred to were not studies of somalian but of indian frankincense.

It is interesting to see the sometimes outlandish claims in US marketing material (not permitted in the UK) put to the test of legal evidence.

Attorney Mehrban received $5700 from Aroma Vera, Inc in full and final settlement of his claim that their marketing material was misleading consumers. One amusing anecdote from the case was that no consumers in the entirety of California could be found to aver to the fact that they had been misled! The day was saved when an MD was found to be an ‘expert witness’. Presumably this was not an expert witness appointed by the court but by Attoney Mehrban. This fascinating tale which dates from 2000 can be found online under the rather ironic title of quackwatch.

As regards Sp the record should be put straight.

Stephen Barrett, M.D. states
Aromatherapy for Common Ailments, by Shirley Price, tabulates which oils are to be used for more than 40 problems, including depression, sex-drive problems, bronchitis, athlete's foot, high blood pressure, cystitis, head lice. Her table identifies from three to nine oils "likely to help" each problem. She reassures:

With self-help aromatherapy, you will be using oils recommended for a particular ailment or preventative treatment, but it should not take you long to discover which of them work best for you as an individual, particularly since simply liking the aroma of an oil may indicate that it will help you.

Shirley Price Aromatherapy Ltd would like to observe that this ‘expert witness’ does not refer to Shirley and Len Price’s Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, nor to Franchomme and Dr Penoel’s l’aromatherapie exactement which are standard texts with hundreds of references for BSc level courses in Complementary therapies. Is not california home to Tisserand and Schnaubelt?

Then there is the Pharmaceutical Trade which aromatherapy suppliers serve. British Pharmacopoeia (BP) 2004 is published on recommendation of the Medicines Commission UK. There is the European Pharmacopoeia 4th edn 2002 (Eur. Pharm 4th edn); United States Pharmacopoeia (USP); also the pharmacopoeia’s of individual nations such as China, India etc. Earlier editions of The British Pharmaceutical Codex (BPC), such as BPC 1949, contain more on essential oils and is still in use today. The German Commission E monographs provide a useful summary of essential oils therapeutic properties without endorsing their use.

Without wishing to be unkind to our californian cousins and their certainties and allowing for the 'sturm and drang' of litigation I would suggest that had the available evidence in French, Italian, German, Italian, Arabic and Chinese been adduced (much of translated into English and dating from the sixteenth century) even Aroma Vera Inc's claims might have appeared more credible. In ancient times warriors wielding spear and oar and athletes knew Rosemary relaxed soft muscle long before the days of in vitro tests proved it and Basil gave a nervous tonic before battle. God Bless America.

Given the astounding weight of US litigation against medical malpractice and the appalling side effects of legal and illegal synthetic drugs this is proof positive that in California at least all is well with aromatherapy.

In fact it reminds us that there is much we do not know. For example it was taken for granted in previous generations that the family would eat from silver cutlery where this could be afforded. How pretentious we cry! Now Science knows that silver inhibits bacteria and Sp sell towelling with this feature for sensitive care envionments.

Are all those familes around the world who reach for their Shirley Price essential oils and common ailments blends any differant? There is nothing less scientific than to deny the evidence of our own eyes and experience of several generations.

Today in 2010 we can take it for granted that essential oils do indeed 'purify the air'. Even if there is a legal bar against such a claim in california whole towns in ancient egypt thousands of years ago were laid out on the basis that in times of pestilence the burning of aromatic plants releasing aromatic oils do just that. In this regard at least it is hilarious to think of Attorney Mehrban dogging the heels of the great names who have come down to us from antiquity with a writ alleging misleading claims long before science recognised their observations. But perhaps that is my misplaced english sense of humour.

Lets not forget the greeks blamed the fall of athens and democracy on the mortgage and the solicitors. A lesson for our times?

Ian Brealey BSc FCA, Hinckley

Shirley Price Coding with GS1 standards improves patient safety

Barcoding for Safety and Service

Since 2000 when Sp went into Boots and Lothian went into Lloyds Pharmacy it has been important principle for us to have a machine readable barcode compliant
with GS1 standards on all Shirley Price essential oils and aroma products ideally on the bottle but failing that in number form on the bottle and in readable form on the carton.

Where 100 or 1000 differant essential oils cartons are received into a pharmacy store this not only assists in recording and storing the oils it helps with patient safety. It also helps us ensure you receive exactly the oil you have ordered.

Find out more on barcoding for safety in the NHS


Minor ailments cost NHS £2bn

Shirley Price Aromatherapy Ltd response to "Self Care Campaign" Doctors Group Letter.

The relationship between common ailments and health is a complex one. Aromatherapy with essential oils has a well established complementary role to play. Essential oils derived from plants have been used for centuries for self help with common ailments. Today the antibacterial and preservative effect of essential oil components is a favourite and vital matter of university study.

For over 95% of coughs and colds self help with a few drops of essential oil inhaled on a tissue is sufficient to relieve symptoms and even combat bacteria and viruses. Taking Vitamin C tablets in the winter months is a sensible nutritive step beyond eating fruit. Sometimes coughs and colds can lead to complications which require medical treatment so it is sensible to attend the doctor where symptoms persist.

The muscular tensions which lead to back pain are often treatable by aromatherapists and other complementary practicioners where there is not a structural cause like damage to the spine. Acne, constipation, migraines are all treatable by aromatherapists. Finding a properly qualified aromatherapist. Weblink.

Many practice nurses have trained in the use of aromatherapy and it may be GP's could make more time and resources available to encourage this training. Many hope for a 'cure' for the common cold but the fact is that the function of the lungs is not harmed by colds and may have a cleansing effect. Bacteria consume other bacteria and have a protective and beneficial effect on the body. The relationship between health and common ailments is indeed a complex one.

Tell that to the parents of a toddler or an vulnerable elderly relative who has been in the grip of colds and flu for six months over the winter months. Nothing is more distressing. Please note great care must be taken in using essential oils around children. For example inhalation of the more mild kinds of eucalyptus is advised.

Ian Brealey BSc FCA, Hinckley

Summary of Doctors Group letter

People seeing GPs for minor ailments such as coughs and colds are having a "catastrophic impact" on the NHS, leading healthcare professionals have warned. Skip related content
Related photos / videos Enlarge photo Common treatable ailments now account for almost a fifth of GP appointments and are costing the health service an "astonishing" £2 billion annually, they said.

In a letter to The Times, the group also warned the NHS had become "the victim of a demand-led culture" with 51.4 million consultations annually for minor problems alone.

They wrote: "We are now a society in which the common disturbances to normal good health, such as coughs and colds, account for nearly one fifth of GP workload.

"New research reveals the catastrophic impact of this dependency on the NHS and how the NHS has become the victim of a demand-led culture.

"Seeing a GP for ailments that can be self-treated is estimated to cost an astonishing £2 billion every year."

The letter adds: "A shift in behaviour around treating minor ailments could save the NHS this money without any cuts to services whatsoever."

Nearly half the 51.4 million consultations were generated by people aged between 16 and 59, the group's research has suggested.

Back pain was the most common reason, prompting 8.4 million sessions, with other problems consulted on including colds, acne, constipation and migraines.

Among the letter's 17 signatories are Professor David Haslam, former chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners; Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance; and Dr John Chisholm, former chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Welcome to March

Brrr The factory doesnt feel so cold now the days are getting longer in England.

Thanks for all the lovely comments. We particularly like letters telling us how you are getting on with the oils. They make us feel really special.

One of our students has come up with glorious goatsmilk soaps with essential oils made to professional standards and Sp labels. These really are nice and leave the skin feeling really soft. Student visitors to the shop get one as a thankyou with their oils.

We are welcoming a number of new distributors for training from China committed to real aromatherapy in their cities. Our chamomile eyedrops are in full production and we have stocks ready to go for the busy chinese spring. These are very popular and sell in some 100 chinese universities to help students cope with tired eyes. Their production involves three times filtration and illustrates the homeopathic principle of successive dilution improving the effect of the active agent. One day science will understand these supermolecules. Once filled they are irradiated so they are sterile. Please store the eyedrops carefully ideally in the fridge and discard three months after opening.

The oils are more accessible than ever. The organic and conventional selection is on Amazon. FREE next day delivery. Details below.

We have in a very tidy new student wooden storage case in a really nice elmwood, with 50 hole foam insert for the oils in a tray which lifts out and a space below for carriers. Its much handier than the big practicioner cases and costs just £25 with the oils or £40 if bought separately.

The Sp College staff are at full stretch. A module 2 and a module 4 in the same month. This module 4 we have three of the four students on module 4 going for the all important IFPA exams. We wish them the very best of luck. Louise Carta MIFPA and Marion Fewkes MIFPA both principal tutors will be there to guide them to a successful conclusion.

Module 2 - March 15-20

Module 4 - March 22-28

Theres loads of info on the courses online or give Louise a call. She is in Mondays and Thursdays when not teaching.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Now! The finest organic essential oil is on amazon

Now! the finest Organic and Conventional essential oils
direct from the Amazon warehouse, FREE
next day amazon delivery

Our 100% record of satisfying amazon customers with books, air diffusers and organic essential oils led to Amazon suggesting we go to the next stage. Now Shirley Price retail customers can buy secure in the knowledge of Shirley Price quality and Amazon efficiency.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Why Organic?

An essential oil contains volatile odiferous elements produced by the plant. essential oils are produced by steam or hydro-distillation of aromatic vegetable plant matter. Organic carbon based components arise via the secondary metabolism of plants and are stored within specialised plant structures which are penetrated by steam. Citrus oils, produced by the mechanical pressing of citrus peels, are also called essential oils.

The farming of the plant matter is described and certified as organic if a minimum of synthetic chemicals are used in the process. Many valuable essential oils can only be farmed with herbicides because the soil used is so rich in life to do otherwise would be uneconomic. For example Sp's roman chamomile is locally farmed in the UK and though conventional is highly valued by aromatherapists.

In a sense most Shirley Price oils have been organic in all but name. The policy of the company has been to buy oils as supplied to health professionals. These carry the ceritification of the country in which they are distilled. These days even the very smallest of european distillers achieve organic certification. Mediterranean soils are not so rich as to require herbicides and oils grown at altitude are less subject to pests in fact they have to work hard to attract insects for pollination which is why they are so valuable. The costs have come way down so organic certification is more the norm and suppliers demand and receive a modest premium (often only 10%) to cover those costs.

Some 83 of 130 oils carry ecocert Organic certification. Sp can only describe those oils as organic on the label if Sp are members of the Soil Association and our purchases and supplies are subject to inspection and audit. Compliance with the letter of all legal standards is a key business practice.

So Sp havent 'gone organic' we already were. Sp is also noted for the quality of its conventional essential oils which are packaged in light green labels.

Whether organic or conventional what matters is the 'wholeness' of the oil, that it is the originally distilled oil with nothing added or taken away (to meet the needs of the fragrance and preservatives industry which requires 95% of essential oils to be standardised or folded). Source Valnet. Rationale: the observed properties of essential oils may depend on components present in tiny quantities in the mix of plant chemicals in each essential oil. It can for example take as few as 20 molecules to effect the olfactory system and affect mood. Some of these molecules are very tiny and unstable.

Most oils lose much of their utility for aromatherapy after 18 months from the date of distillation. Again organic certification helps us buy fresh season oil.

The aromatherapy profession has available to it only three oils not in use by the flavourings and fragrance industry. Ravensara, Rosemary Verbenone and Helichrysum. Cheaper oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender and the citrus oils are not worth adulterating. Some practicioners prefer to work with these oils above others for this reason.

Oils, particularly the more valuable oils, are at risk of adulteration in the following ways

The addition of single raw materials
The addition of cheaper oils
The addition of cheap synthetics to oils which naturally contain these components
The addition of natural constituents
The addition of synthetic oils particularly to absolutes
The addition of unnatural components particularly to absolutes

GLC traces are a useful after the event check however there is no substitute for direct contact with the distillers and dealing with reputable commission agents. The advantage of organic certification is that it offers greater traceability back to the source distillery.

With 139 oils on offer it is not practical for Sp to get around all the suppliers every season but with a program of visits in place, dealing with agents who are able to provide biochemists certificates of purity, supplemented by a policy of buying organic where possible much assurance can be given to the consumer.
Key reasons for buying organic oils is to minimise the risk of adulteration and assure that purchases are of current season production.

Shirley Price's books

DID YOU KNOW? Its possible to browse inside the Shirley Price books before you buy

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Welcome to Shirley Price Aromatherapy


The Shirley Price International College of Aromatherapy trains students for professional aromatherapy and membership of the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists.

* essential oils *

Shirley Price Professional Aromatherapy supplies 1700 therapists with professional quality aroma products worldwide including conventional and Soil Association certified Organic essential oils, college kits, carrier oils, and Organic facial skincare and personal care.

* care for common ailments mixes, oils, lotions *

Shirley Price has formulated a range of health and beauty products based on traditional formulations which use the properties of essential oils for specific care to meet customers concerns for anti-ageing, a glowing complexion, moisturising, slimness, detox, well-being and natural living, energy and vitality.

* care for the senses *

125ml ready mixed massage oils and lotions. Here are Sp's Pure essential oil mixes. This range of products is unique in the aromatherapy world. Specially developed by Shirley Price to traditional formulations the products are made up with true essential oils, most also being available in a carrier oil or Shirley Price's famous natural white lotion for easy application. They are perfect for customers for safe home use. All instructions for use are on the labels. After flight * Airways * Cellulite * Circulation * Clear head * Easy Breathe * Fatigue * Joints * Muscles * Problem Skin * Respiratory System* Rest * Stress * Stretch marks * Visible veins * Women

There are over 360 Shirley Price Professional Aromatherapy, Shirley Price Aromatherapy, Essentia and Lothian Herbs products

* vegetable and carrier oils * hydrolats * eyes drops and eye cream * shirley price skincare solution moisture creams * essentia classic skincare * body oils * massage and bath oils * balms * care for hair and scalp * goatsmilk soap * foot creams * cosmetic bases * spa range * packaging * diffusers