Saturday, 8 September 2012

Essential oils

Can sadness make you ill?  Cant happiness make you feel better?  Of course.  Our psychological landscape and emotional landscape play a vital role in our health.  The ability of the scents from flowering plants to alter our mood is a valuable tool in self care.

The scents of flowering plants drawn from the roots, flowers, fruits and leaves are evocative and linked deeply to memory. They take you to places and experiences deep in your memory.  The scent of rose takes us back to the first garden they were smelt in and with it a memory of a treasured grandparent and a time of childish laughter, trust and communication.  This is especially valuable in times of stress when laughter - and the trust and communication that go with it are not to be found.

A garden’s perfume doesn’t just come from the flowering plants – bark resins release scent as you brush against them and the smells of hot stone, bonfires, moss, cut grass and mulching leaves. Because a scent’s ability to switch on emotional reactions is so powerful, you can plant a garden to support an emotional state.  The mentally ill (and most people experience mild form of mental illness sometime in their lives) can find it difficult to cope with emotions.  Treatment involves the use of sedatives to damp down the emotion.  Gardening and horticulture plays an important role in the treatment of prisoners and the mentally ill and is utilised where possible.

Scent can either energise or calm. To energise we use stimulating, fresh smells such as fennel, peppermint, basil and lemon. To calm we concentrate on the things that allow people to unwind. The way it affects our breathing – encouraging us to take a full, deep breath – is part of the relaxing effect. Lemon balm, thyme, lavender, rosemary, marjoram, vanilla, and chamomile.

As to why scents have this impact on us that is contained in the chemistry of the essential oils.  relaxing scents contain plant alcohols and esters.  Energising scents are rich in terpenes.  Aldehydes impart subtle emotional qualities to the experience of scent.  Fortunately for us the scents can be experienced in the convenient form of essential oils derived from flowering plants.

Ian Brealey

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