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For the love of fragrance

By Andrea Walker

As early as 4500 B.C. the ancient Egyptians were extracting natural plant essences to use on their bodies.  They used them for medicine, health, religious ceremonies as well as to embalm their dead.
By the 1700s essential oils were used in mainstream medicine.  In the 1920s a French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse famously discovered the soothing and healing properties of Lavender oil after seriously burning his arm.  It was he who coined the term “aromatherapy”.
Now more than ever, fragrances play a crucial role in our everyday living.
However, most of the products we use are scented with artificial fragrances.
They are much cheaper to produce and are composed almost entirely of petroleum by-products such as benzene derivatives, aldehydes, toluene and other known toxic chemicals.  They use binders like phthalates which help them retain their aroma for longer.  These fragrances pass from the skin and into the blood and are linked to a number of health risks.
Whether in a cleaning product, laundry detergent, deodorant, shampoo, face or body product, fragrance chemicals are not actually making your product perform better.  We have the perception that ‘clean’ has a smell, when in truth that’s not the case.
Choosing fragrance free products will dramatically reduce your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
For those of you who love fragrance the answer lies within pure essential oils, with their magnificent aromas and many benefits.
Essential oils are powerful natural oils extracted from aromatic plant material including flowers, leaves, needles, peels of fruit, seeds, bark and roots.
It takes a great deal of work to produce a tiny amount of essential oil.  Over 240,000 rose petals are required to produce just 5ml of rose oil! 
The oils are part of the plants defence mechanism against fungi, infection from bacteria as well as pests.  They also protect the plant from extreme temperature changes.  Essential oils are chemically very complex and have around 100 components. They have an immediate impact on our sense of smell causing neurochemicals to be released in the brain which are then passed on via the nervous system to relax or stimulate it, according to the aroma.  Our skin is the second fastest mode of getting essential oils absorbed into the body.
Essential oils can be extremely helpful to reduce stress, improve mood and help with memory and concentration.  They fight pathogens and viruses and are very good at relieving respiratory complaints.  In creams or added to an oil base, they are the perfect solution for tired and sore muscles and joint pain. They can be used around the home to clean and sanitise.
Here are some of my favourite oils and simple ways to use them at home:
3 drops of lavender, 2 drops each of bergamot and yang ylang in a diffuser or added into a warm/hot bath.  A few drops of lavender on a pillow can aid sleep.
Head tension
2 drops lavender or peppermint oil neat onto the temples.
Clarity / focus
4 drops rosemary, 2 drops basil in a diffuser.
Tired/swollen feet
Foot bath - 1 drop lavender, 2 drops each clary sage and peppermint.
Stir into bowl of warm/hot water with 1 tablespoon Epsom salts.
Muscle/joint discomfort
4 drops each lavender, rosemary, peppermint, ginger diluted in 1 tbsp of vegetable oil.  Massage into affected area.
Ease breathing/respiratory symptoms
3 drops eucalyptus, 2 drops peppermint, 1 drop thyme
Add into a basin of boiling hot water and inhale, you can cover your head with a tea towel. Keep eyes closed.
Sanitise and freshen surfaces
8 drops each lemon and eucalyptus, 10 drops orange.
Combine into a 50ml water spray bottle.
Lavender, lemon or pine.
Add 5-7 drops of your choice to the softener compartment of your washing machine.

NB Some essential oils are not suited for babies and young children, in pregnancy or people with certain medical conditions. If in doubt, seek advice from your natural health practitioner.