Aroma Therapy, part seven – Sources and resources

Can you smell the mountains?

Part seven, our final installment of “Aroma Therapy – Makes Scents to Me”, focuses on a select few of the many books discussing our five senses and our never-ceasing-to-amaze human physiology, the benefits of aromatherapy, natural scents, as well as the more magickal and metaphysical aspects of aromas and plants.


HEALTHY PLEASURES by Robert Ornstein & David Sobel.
HERBS & THINGS by Jeanne Rose.
HUMAN ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY by John W. Hole, Jr. (my old college text)
MEDICINE GROVE by Loren Cruden
THE ART OF AROMATHERAPY by Robert Tisserand.
THE FRAGRANT PATH by Louise Beebe Wilder
I have enjoyed presenting this series of articles, and I get the impression that you have liked it too. The blog site has experienced more visits than ever before, and I’ll do my best to keep it interesting so you’ll keep coming back!
In case you were wondering, the photo above is taken from up on Johnson Creek Road south of Clark Fork ID, looking north-east across the Clark Fork River valley, across to the Cabinet Mountains in Montana. Just another picture from my “playground”.  

Aroma Therapy, part six – A Recipe for Lavender Stem Incense

Here is a photo of my friends Jayne and Bobbi with me on the left, from a few years ago at a Lavender Festival near Athol, Idaho. It was a wonderful setting, a warm breezy day, and the sights and smells were delightful. Live bluegrass music was a great feature. Green-thumb Jayne makes lavender wands to live for, and Queen of Tchatchke Bobbi makes turns the mundane into magickal everyday, so I am in great company. 
I hope you will try making Lavender-stem Incense this summer, perhaps experimenting with the stems of other herbs such as Monarda or Pineapple Sage. Some herbs, as you have probably experienced, do not smell very good burned, but the only way to find out is to try it.

The following incense recipe is very easy and similar to one found in THE BOOK OF POT-POURRI by Gail Duff.  Please don’t let the kids get a hold of the potassium nitrate (also known as saltpeter).
Lavender-stem Incense
Remove flowers from dried lavender stems and save for another use.  Soak the stems in a water/potassium nitrate bath, 1 cup water to 1 tablespoon potassium nitrate, for 30 minutes.  Remove from solution and dry completely on paper towels.  Place the end of a stick in an incense holder or a jar of dry sand or and light.  They will burn slowly like incense.  Do not leave unattended.

 Take all necessary precautions with any burning object, whether they are candles, herbs, or incense, and be sure to place them on flameproof dishes, perhaps on a bit of sand.

The seventh and final installment of Aroma Therapy will feature a reading list as shown in The Wild & Weedy Apothecary with a couple of new additions to the list. In the meantime, keep your sniffers happy and practice some prolonged smelling by smoochin’ your sweetie!

Aroma Therapy, part five: Healthful Aromas

Healthful aromas
If the smell of huckleberry pie, warm from the oven,

isn’t aroma therapy, I don’t know what is!

     In the ancient traditions of Greece, Rome, India and the Far East, medications and perfumes were one and the same; both were thought to have medicinal properties.  Even today, breathing the forest air deep into your lungs is still good medicine, at least energetically.
Many aromatic plants can be burned for therapeutic benefits.  Juniper gives off disinfectant fumes said to destroy airborne fungi; it was once burned in hospital rooms and is most often used during winter.  Spruce is another evergreen burned for clearing the air of airborne illness, and so is pine, while cedar is noted for helping clear head colds.  Smoke from mullein is especially healing to the lungs; it is disinfectant and has a long history of pulmonary use.  Rosemary, one of the oldest incenses, is a powerful cleansing and purifying smoke, both physically and psychically.  Birch twigs, leaves or bark can also be burned in the same manner.  If you are sensitive to smoke, all these plants can be made into a strong “tea” and simply simmered in an open pan or slow-cooker (the mini versions are great for this), or run the strained tea through a vaporizer to release the healthful qualities.

I find it very practical to keep a bottle of lavender essential oil around.  The aroma is both relaxing and refreshing, and I most often add a few drops (not droppers) to the wash and rinse cycle of my washing machine for fresh smelling laundry, it really does smell “clean” (I also use unscented laundry soap).  Spruce essential oil is nice to use when mopping floors;  just add a few drops to a bucket of warm water (or directly on the sponge) and mop away.  I like it better than pine, although a small piece of pitch from either tree smells great when melted on the wood-burning stove.

I use an old-fashioned vaporizer laced with essential oils throughout the winter. This year, I haven’t come down with a cold or the flu, not even once. I don’t know if the herbal vapor has anything to do with it, but it doesn’t hurt. Plus, it smells really good. I use everything from citrus  and eucalyptus oils, to rosemary, sage and tea-tree oil. Peppermint oil is very sweet smelling, and clove is downright enticing. I like them all.

You can use floral essential oils such as rose or ylang ylang in your vaporizer if you want to set a more romantic atmosphere to your living space, and a simple splash of vanilla extract or rose water can work wonders as well. The aromatherapeutic benefits of these essences are that of lifting the heart and engendering the light from within.  Very useful during the grey days of winter.

Aroma Therapy Part Four – Perfume and other Aromatics


A few years ago, growing amongst some old fashioned, lemony-scented yellow irises, arose this voluptuous beauty, unbelievably purple-black, 
with a delicate beard, and a numinous, intoxicating aroma. 
I’m not even sure where I acquired it, perhaps a piece of rhizome that found it’s way into my weed bucket working in someone else’s garden? 
Quite possible. I would marry this flower, I love it so much.  

The ancient art of perfumery
 has been practiced in one form or another for perhaps 25,000 years.  
 The word “perfume” comes from the Latin words per fumum, meaning by or through smoke, and perfume initially referred to incense.  
 Quite often, scented products were reserved for religious rituals.  
 By offering pleasant odors to the gods – by burning incense – the use of aroma to induce altered states of consciousness became incorporated into rituals and religious ceremonies the world over.  By inhaling the burning fumes of sacred plants, incense is thought to inspire one’s mind to devotion. 

The ancient Hebrews burned incense in honor of Astarte, Queen of Heaven.  
 Myrrh was burned at the Greek festival honoring the handsome youth Adonis, said to have been born of a myrrh tree. 
 According to Mrs. M. Grieve in A MODERN HERBAL, the ancient Greeks wrote of anointing all the parts of the body with different scents, 
such as mint on the arms, cinnamon, rose or palm oil on the jaws and chest, and almond oil on the hands and feet.  
 Indeed, the first gifts to the infant Jesus were incense, and He was later anointed Christos with precious, scented oils, some say by Mary Magdalene.  
 Also known as olibanum, frankincense has historically been burned to drive out negativity, and is still used in some rites of the Catholic Church.  Myrrh, once used as a preservative in wine, also purifies the environment.
The most renowned perfumers in history were the Egyptians
whose complicated and mysterious incense known as Kyphi is said to be intoxicating, bringing on religious ecstasy.  
 The Egyptian Goddess-Queen Cleopatra, a serious perfume devotee, was said to have met her lover Marc Antony on a barge made of fragrant cedar and perfumed sails, her palace floors spread knee-deep with rose petals
 Many ancient temples and palaces were built of fragrant cedarwood, partly because it is a natural insect repellent.  
 Islamic mosques had rose water and musk incorporated into the building mortar.   
Another aromatic wood used for buildings and for making ritual accoutrements is sandalwood, or santal, of which there is a red and a yellow or white variety; each are said to possess very high spiritual vibrations.  

I want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your comments, and am very interested in any ideas for future posts. Thank you so much for spending time here, it’s a great way to make friends.

Aroma Therapy, part three – Scent Classification

 A small bouquet of wildflowers, yarrow and wild oregano gone “wild”, possesses an amazing fragrance, pungent and herby, and the blossoms of each last a long time. How do you like my gorgeous flower vase?
Scent classification
Most classification systems seek to relate the effect of scent on emotions, while others classify scents by the similarities of their aromas.  The response to scent is so subjective, it is difficult to duplicate in a lab any anticipated results.  One system developed by a perfumer several years ago is based on emotional responses.  Naturally, many plants fall into more than one category.
Sex-stimulating aromas are usually wax or fat based which when undiluted can be fairly unpleasant but when diluted “bloom” into low, sweet, deep or warm fragrances suggestive of body heat.  Musk, ambergris and civet are examples; unfortunately for the animals, very few plants carry this effect, but synthetics are available that often come close.     
Intoxicating fragrances, such as jasmine and ylang ylang, are usually floral, sweet, heady and soft.  They create languor and relaxation, dulling the senses and slowing reactions.  In excess, they can cause headache or nausea.
Refreshing aromas have a sharp, clean, high and piercing quality, such as mint, lavender, evergreen, citrus and camphor.  These scents stimulate and awaken, and large amounts can clear the sinuses.    Rosemary and eucalyptus are other examples.
Stimulating aromas are similar to refreshing but tend to be more bitter, dry or spicy in quality; woods, mosses, seeds, roots, resins and some leaves fall into this category.  They are said to invoke intellectual and physical stimulation.  Mint and eucalyptus are included in this category (as mentioned, some plants fall into more than one category), as are bergamot and other citrus fruits, and the fruit of black peppercorns.
Another classification system is based on fragrance quality or effect on emotions and physical sensations, and takes an either/or approach.  For example, is a fragrance faint or intense, fresh or stale, sharp or dull, robust or feeble, pungent or bland?
While most aromas are subjectively described, there are some that most agree fall into certain categories, such as wintergreen:  most folks will agree that it is “cool” but it is also “bright”, “intense” and “animated” as well.  And when it comes to the smell of patchouli, opinions also intense and animated – people either love it or hate it.  I think a little goes a long way.
Celebrating the gift of our sense of smell, here is a recipe for a delicious body oil which I have never shared with anyone! Put the drops of essential oil into a little one-ounce apothecary bottle (or other suitable glass container), then fill with almond oil. You can then use this “stock scent” to scent other oil, or unscented shampoo or your bath. I know the rose oil is expensive, but you could use Wild Rose Body Oil made by Weleda in it’s place as it is made with real rose absolute (not synthetic oil).
Temple Flowers Essential Oil Blend
sandalwood oil 10 drops
rose oil 35 drops
ylang ylang oil 10 drops
benzoin oil 10 drops
rosewood oil 5 drops
sweet orange oil 5 drops
Blend altogether in a 1-ounce bottle,
fill bottle with almond oil,
then use to scent a larger bottle of almond oil.