Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Facial Steaming

In previous posts, I have talked about steam inhalations to help relieve congestion and respiratory problems but you can also use steaming to help improve the condition of the skin on your face. Steaming causes the skin to perspire helping to cleanse the pores. It also loosens any dead skin cells and dirt on the surface of the skin. The heat from the steam increases the blood flow to the face bringing oxygen and nutrients to the area improving the condition and tone of the skin, leaving it looking and feeling softer and suppler. The steam also helps rehydrate the skin.

If you have sensitive or dry skin, I would recommend not steaming more than once a fortnight. However, if you have normal, oily or combination skin you can use facial steaming once or twice a week.

You will need a bowl, hot water, and a towel. Place the boiling water in the bowl. Create a “tent” with the towel so that it covers your head and the bowl. Keep your face about 20 cm away from the steam (40cm if you have dry or sensitive skin). Steam your face for approximately 5-10 minutes. After steaming, splash your face with some cool water to close the pores and apply some toner with a cotton wool pad. You can then use your normal moisturiser to finish.

If you are using essential oils in the facial steam, add 4 drops of your chosen essential oils to 1 litre of boiling water. More information on which essential oils to use for which skin type can be found in the Aromatherapy Bath Salts post.

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Monday, 29 June 2009

Foot Massage Helps you Get to Sleep

I was reading through some of my old complementary therapy magazines recently and stumbled upon the following interesting piece of information in the September 2007 issue of Natural Health magazine.
Trouble falling asleep? Before getting into bed, ayurvedic practitioners recommend massaging your feet for a few minutes with sesame oil, ghee or olive oil. If you have a fiery constitution, you can use coconut oil, which is cooling. This is a very helpful way to quiet the mind. Wiping the oil off with a cool cloth is also purported to induce a calming effect on the sleep centres of the brain.”
While massaging your feet, you can also work on several of the reflexes on the feet to help induce relaxation and get you off to sleep. I would suggest working the diaphragm reflex to help relax and regulate your breathing, the solar plexus, the head, brain, adrenals, pituitary, and pineal reflexes.

You could even add a couple drops of lavender essential oil to the chosen oil to help you drop off!

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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Meditative Massage

Meditative Massage
Photo by clix.
I found this simple but effective meditation exercise in a book called 1001 Meditations: How to Discover Peace of Mind by Mike George. It is an excellent meditation to use in between your real massages. It will help you to release any tension in your muscles, relax you, and de-stress you. Give it a go…

Sit or lie down so that you are comfortable and close your eyes. Visualise someone stood behind you massaging your shoulders with their healing hands. As they massage, you can feel the tension releasing, the knots fading away, and your shoulders relaxing. Visualise your imaginary massage therapist moving on to your arms and hands, then to your legs and feet, your back, face and head, working at relieving the tension in those areas as they go. Continue with the visualisation until you are feeling relaxed and at ease.

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Friday, 26 June 2009

The Solar Plexus Reflex

The Solar Plexus Reflex in Reflexology
Within the body, the solar plexus is a network of nerves that is situated directly behind the stomach and is the largest autonomic nerve centre in the abdominal cavity. Nerves branch out from here to all parts of the abdomen and controls many vital functions such as adrenal secretion and intestinal contraction. It is often termed as the “abdominal brain.”

The Solar Plexus is also a point at which one of the main chakras is found and is called the solar plexus chakra or manipura. This chakra is associated with the colour yellow and represents the “self”, individuality, ego, personality, confidence, and self-esteem. It is a personal power centre.

According to Theron Q. Dumont, author of The Solar Plexus or Abdominal Brain,
“its name, “solar”, was bestowed upon it by reason of (1) its central position; (2) the fact that its filaments extend in all directions to the important abdominal organs, like the rays of the sun; and (3) the fact it is recognised as being the power-house, and great reservoir of ”life-force”, just as the sun is the great power-house and reservoir of material energy of our solar system.”
In Reflexology, the Solar Plexus reflex is located on the diaphragm line between zones 2 and 3. To non-reflexologists, this point can be found at the apex of the arch that runs across the base of the ball of the foot. To help locate this reflex, squeeze the sides of your foot together to find the hollow. This hollow is where the solar plexus is.

Working on this reflex can relieve stress and nervousness, aid relaxation and deep regular breathing, and restore a feeling of calm making it beneficial for people suffering from anxiety, depression, stress-related conditions, nervous disorders, asthma, and hyperventilation to name a few. As this reflex helps calm and relax the entire nervous system it should be worked in cases of migraine, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, stroke, Parkinsons’s disease, and any other nervous system disorder.

The Solar Plexus is one of the most important reflexes used in Reflexology and is worked at the beginning and the end of a Reflexology treatment. It allows the therapist time to attune to the client and also allows energies to flow freely between client and therapist. It also prepares the client for the treatment, inducing a state of relaxation and encouraging deep relaxed breathing. According to Valerie Voner, author of Everything Reflexology, when this point is worked it can reduce the congestion felt in other reflexes. So if a reflex is painful, the solar plexus can be worked to help reduce or eliminate this pain response.

The Solar Plexus or the “Bubbling Spring” point, as it is known in acupressure and acupuncture, is the first point on the kidney meridian (K1) and is believed to help with fatigue and lethargy. In the Indian tradition, this point is the Earth chakra which helps balance the whole body, and as in acupressure/acupuncture, it is an important point for grounding and connecting with the earth.

An effective way to work with the Solar Plexus reflex is to place your thumb on the point as pictured and apply pressure for a few seconds then release. Continue to do this for 30 seconds to a minute. You might like to inhale as you press and exhale as you release. You can also press firmly on this point with your thumb and rotate in a clockwise direction – both methods are effective. Repeat this technique on the other foot. If you are not supple enough to reach down to work on your feet, you can also access the solar plexus reflex on the hand.

Reflexology and Acupressureby Janet Wright
True and Useful Blog post - Acupressure Point: Bubbling Spring Point (K 1)
Footworks Blog post - The Solar Plexus - The Abdominal Brain

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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Essential Oil in Focus: Wintergreen

Botanical name: Gaultheria procumbens

Aroma type: herbaceous/medicinal

Note: Middle - Top

When students first start training in Aromatherapy, they are given a list of oils which are considered too hazardous to be used in aromatherapy so should be avoided. Wintergreen is one of the essential oils which feature on the list. If wintergreen (or any of the other oils on the list) are not safe to use, then why are they still manufactured and why do many aromatherapy stockists still sell them? If Wintergreen is considered to be that hazardous, then why is it the main ingredient of shop-bought muscle rubs such as deep heat? The leaf and stem of the plant are also listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeiaas being helpful for rheumatoid arthritis!

Many of the oils on the “hazard” list are very beneficial oils: pennyroyal is excellent for rheumatism and arthritis; camphor is beneficial for respiratory problems; sage is helpful for menstrual problems; and wintergreen is great for joint and muscle aches and pains. These oils are very beneficial when used correctly so they are definitely best left for the professional aromatherapist as it is important to get the right dilution for a blend. The main concern with these oils is that they are toxic when taken internally but as they aren’t used in this way in aromatherapy this shouldn’t present a problem.

The properties of Wintergreen essential oil are anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (increases blood circulation to the area and warms the skin), analgesic, astringent, anti-tussive (suppresses and relieves coughing), carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, and antiseptic.

Wintergreen can help with lumbago, sciatica, arthritis, gout, bursitis, bunions, rheumatism, sprains/strains, neuralgia, fibromyalgia, muscular aches and pains, respiratory conditions, sinusitis, coughs, tendonitis, nasal congestion, colds/flu, asthma, cramps, muscle spasms, digestive problems, fluid retention, PMT, and irregular/lack of periods.

Wintergreen contains 98% methyl salicylate. When applied to the skin, the salicylates are absorbed and enter the tissues to inhibit the formation of prostaglandins (a substance which acts like a hormone which is produced in response to trauma and has an effect on smooth muscle activity), thereby reducing inflammation and pain.

Wintergreen should not be used if you are allergic to aspirin, if you suffer with liver problems, are on blood thinning medication (anti-coagulants) such as warfarin or heparin, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The essential oil should also be avoided if you are already using any medication or topical creams which contain methyl salicylate. I’d also advise that it not be used on children.

A suitable blend for use on sprains and sore muscles would be 35 drops in 250mls of witch hazel. The blend can be bottled and stored in the fridge to keep cool. This makes an excellent rub to use after exercise. Wintergreen can also be added to a carrier oil (Arnica would be a good choice) along with other essential oils such as thyme, black pepper, ginger, marjoram, and eucalyptus. Blends containing wintergreen (including shop bought products) should not be used on large surface areas just on the localised area of pain so don’t cover your whole body in it at once! It is advisable to perform a patch test first as wintergreen can be an irritant to sensitive skin.

It’s not the best smelling oil but when blended with other essential oils it can become less overpowering. It apparently blends well with ylang ylang, ravensara, peppermint, and the oils I have already listed above. I actually quite like the smell - just think deep heat and you’ve got it! I think I like the smell because I know it is really good for soothing my aching muscles after a hard karate session rather than me actually liking the aroma in its own right.

Sweet Birch essential oil has nearly the exact chemical make up as wintergreen and is also an excellent choice for musculoskeletal problems. Both oils have been used in herbal remedies for centuries.

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Sunday, 21 June 2009

Which Chamomile?

Chamomile Essential Oil
Photo by macroninja.
Most people have heard of Chamomile due to the herbal teas which are sold in most supermarkets. I’m not sure what type of Chamomile they contain though as there are more than one variety. In Aromatherapy, three different variations of Chamomile are used – German Chamomile, Chamomile Maroc (Moroccan), and Roman Chamomile.

I use both the Roman and Maroc variations of essential oil in my aromatherapy practice but favour the Roman version more so as it has a nicer aroma. I haven’t used German Chamomile at all, although after researching this post I think I might purchase one as it has many useful properties that the other two variations do not.

German Chamomile has a dark blue appearance due to its azulene content. Azulene is a powerful anti-inflammatory which is why German chamomile is a more effective anti-inflammatory than Roman chamomile, although it is still helpful for this.

German Chamomile is very effective at treating skin conditions, whereas Roman chamomile is better suited to calming a person.

Chamomile Maroc is not recognised as a true chamomile according to Shirley Price, author of the Aromatherapy Workbook: Understanding Essential Oils - From Plant to Bottle. It does however appear “to emulate many of the effects attributed to its aristocratic relation” – German and Roman chamomile.

Below is a table comparing the properties of all three chamomile essential oils.

PropertyGerman ChamomileChamomile MarocRoman Chamomile
AnalgesicY Y
Anti-bacterial YY
Anti-infectious Y 
Anti-inflammatoryY Y
Carminative  Y
CicatrizantY Y
Emmenagogue YY
Febrifuge  Y
Neurotonic Y 
Relaxant YY
Sedative YY
VulnaryY Y

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Friday, 19 June 2009

Sinus Problems and Epsom Salts

In a previous post, I discussed the healing properties of Epsom Salts when used in a hot bath. Not only is it extremely good at soothing muscular and joint aches and pains, but it can also help with various sinus problems including sinusitis, congestion, and reduce the pain associated with these conditions.

You will need 2 cups of very cold water (Let the cold water tap run until it is very cold), a bowl, a flannel, 1 tbsp of Epsom Salts, and 2 tbsp of Bicarbonate of Soda. Pour the water in to the bowl along with the Epsom Salts and bicarbonate of soda and mix together. Soak the flannel in the water, wring out, and place over the sinus area. Keep in place until the flannel becomes body temperature then soak in the cold water again and repeat.

The cold compress quickly helps relieve a blocked nose and sinuses and is excellent for when you have a cold, allergic rhinitis or hayfever too.

This Epsom salt compress can also be applied to bruises, sprains, and strains to help soothe and reduce inflammation; aching muscles and joints from injuries or overexertion; insect bites to help take the sting out; rashes to reduce inflammation and itching; and to draw out foreign bodies such as splinters.

As well as using Epsom salts in a compress, they can also be added to water and sniffed gently up the nostrils to clear mucus from the nasal passages. Blow your nose after application.

The above compress remedy, along with many other natural home remedies for various skin conditions and ailments, can be found in Jude's Herbal Home Remedies: Natural Health, Beauty and Home-care Secretsby Jude C. Todd.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

English Essential Oils

The majority of essential oils are produced from plants native to exotic places like Thailand, the Mediterranean, Malaysia, and New Zealand. There are a number of essential oils which are made from plants which are native to England and are also distilled here too. Some of these oils include lavender, cypress, sage, thyme, chamomile, angelica, rosemary, peppermint, clary sage, dill, hyssop, lovage, melissa, and yarrow.

Some of these plants weren’t originally native to England but were introduced to the country hundreds of years ago such as Rosemary which was originally native to the Mediterranean. However, they are able to grow well here even though the climate is somewhat different to that of their native countries.

The country of origin often determines the unique smell of an essential oil, for example, essential oil produced from lavender grown in France has a slightly different aroma to that of oil produced from English grown lavender. This is due to the climate the plant grows in, the soil type, and even the method in which the oil has been distilled.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Skills Update – Advanced Massage

Last weekend I attended the second part of an Advanced Massage course run by TEACH Therapy . I completed part one back in September and have been looking forward to going on the second part ever since. The course was great.

The course recapped on deep tissue techniques and also taught me a wider range of articulation techniques for the spinal, pelvic, and peripheral joints. I was introduced to muscle energy techniques and functional techniques which are both commonly used in Osteopathy. I found the strain/counter-strain techniques very beneficial and I will be using these with clients as and when required.

Muscle Energy Techniques (MET) is a system of soft tissue
“manipulation methods that incorporate precisely directed and controlled, patient initiated, isometric and/or isotonic contractions, designed to improve musculoskeletal function and reduce pain”
according to Leon Chaitow et al., authors of Muscle Energy Techniques.

The Functional Technique is a simple and gentle technique. It involves placing, for example the neck, in to a position in which it is most comfortable for the joint and held in place. This helps to rebalance the neural feedback mechanism and helps improve mobility of the joint, and ease pain.

I also learnt how to assess mobility in the sacro-iliac joints and articulation techniques to help improve it. The sacro-iliac joint is situated between the sacrum, at the base of the spine and the pelvis. It is a common site for people to experience pain and stiffness as in sacro-iliac joint dysfunction. This occurs when there is a problem with the normal movement of the joints, for example too much or too little movement. This can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, and down the legs.

And finally, I learnt how to assess leg-length discrepancies and how to help realign any differences. Research has shown that a leg length-discrepancy can be a significant cause of chronic lower back pain.

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Monday, 15 June 2009

Manuka and Kanuka Essential Oil

Manuka and Kanuka grow wild in New Zealand and produce two very healing essential oils.

I had heard of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) before from the Manuka honey I’ve seen in shops but hadn’t heard of Kanuka (Leptospermum ericoides) until recently when it was recommended to me in a blend for pain relief along with marjoram and German chamomile essential oils.

Manuka and Kanuka both have very similar properties and can help many of the same common ailments. These oils are quite new to aromatherapy and as such there is “scant amount of pharmacological information available” about these oils although, “based on folk medicinal usage, they are said to have remarkable powers of healing” according to Maria Lis-Balchin, author of Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals.

They are both members of the myrtaceae family and are often termed as the “New Zealand tea tree” however they are actually thought to have a wider range of active compounds than tea tree essential oil.

Properties of Manuka essential oil includes antibacterial, analgesic, antihistamine, anti-infectious, antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, antiallergenic, insect repellent, deodorant, nervous relaxant, antiseptic, cicatrisant, cytophylactic, antifungal, decongestant, and anti-inflammatory.

It can help with rheumatism, itchy and irritated skin including the scalp, stress related conditions, nervousness, anxiety, acne, ulcers, muscular aches and pains, arthritis, athlete’s foot, urinary tract infections, cuts/abrasions, asthma, hayfever, skin rashes, cold sores, insect bites/stings, boils, sinusitis, dandruff, colds/flu, scars, depression, high blood pressure, bronchitis, catarrh, ringworm, and burns.

Like tea tree, it can also be used neat on the skin and has actually been found to have less skin irritating properties making it more suitable for those with sensitive skin.

Interestingly the leaves which are grown at higher altitudes are more antibacterial than those grown at low altitudes.

There is less information available about Kanuka essential oil than Manuka. The properties of Kanuka essential oils include anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiseptic, anti-viral, antifungal and insect repellent.

It can help with acne, athlete's foot, candida, ulcers, head lice, arthritis, rheumatism, muscular aches and pains, cold sores, coughs and colds/flu, corns, cuts/abrasions, insect bites/stings, itchy skin, sprains/strains, migraine, ringworm, sinusitis, urinary tract infections, and warts.

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Friday, 12 June 2009

Eucalyptol – a Natural Compound

Eucalyptol (also known as 1,8-cineole) makes up 80-90% of the essential oil Eucalyptus Globulus (84% of Eucalyptus Radiata) . It is also found in other essential oils in various quantities including rosemary, bay, roman chamomile, cajuput, fennel, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, nutmeg, peppermint, pine, sage, and tea tree.

Its main property is mucolytic meaning it helps to soften and reduce mucus making it helpful for colds/flu, coughs, catarrh, sinus congestion, and other respiratory problems. It does have many other properties as well. When tested for its antinociceptive properties (reduces the sensitivity to pain), its effect was comparable to that of morphine. (Liapi, C. et al., 2007). It is also anti-fungal, antiseptic, and an insect repellent (especially against mosquitoes).

Many sources state that Eucalyptol can be a skin irritant but research suggests that this is not the case and there has only been one documented case of skin reaction to this compound. Perhaps if you have sensitive skin and you are concerned just use a 2% dilution when using essential oils with a high percentage of Eucalyptol in.

Shirley Price's Aromatherapy Workbook: Understanding Essential Oils - From Plant to Bottle, Thorsons, 2000, p49, p 55-57.
Antinociceptive properties of 1,8-Cineole and beta-pinene, from the essential oil of Eucalyptus camaldulensis leaves, in rodents. (2007) Liapi C, Anifandis G, Chinou I, Kourounakis AP, Theodosopoulos S, Galanopoulou P. Planta Med. 73(12):1247-54
Ian Southwell, Tea Tree: The Genus Melaleuca, CRC Press, 1999. p179-180
Maria Lis-Balchin, Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. Pharmaceutical Press, 2006, p185

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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Cedarwood Deters Moths

One of my regular clients came to see me the other week and noticed my box of essential oils on the table. We had a brief chat about the various oils and he told me that he uses cedarwood essential oil to protect clothing from destructive moths in his wardrobes. I was intrigued by this and decided to look in to it further.

Cedarwood is used for lining closets to deter moths. It is also used to line chests to repel vermin in the storage of valuables, especially furs and shoes according to Jeanne Rose, author of 375 essential oils and hyrosols.

You can make your very own mothballs using cedarwood essential oil. All you need is a few wooden balls which you can buy from craft stores, a piece of string, cedarwood essential oil, and a drill. Carefully drill through the middle of each wooden ball and thread onto the string tying a knot at one end to secure them in place and make a loop at the other end so that you can hang it on a hanger in the wardrobe. Place a couple drops of cedarwood essential oil on each wooden ball let it soak in, then hang it up in your wardrobe, or place in your chest of drawers. This is a great alternative to the shop bought mothballs which often contain harmful chemicals.

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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Celebrating Our Cycles

Celebrating Menstruation
Photo by itjournalist.
I am what comes around again and again
what can never die
I renew myself in the seasons
in the cycle of time
the great round
I bleed yet I do not die
I keep my blood within and become wise.
I dance the spiral and keep changing.

“Changing woman comes spinning into your life to tell you the way to wholeness for you lies in learning to honour your cycles. Menstrual cycles are an important aspect of being female. We bleed but do not die and therefore can bring forth life. As we continue to dance our cycles, we reach the time of menopause when we leave our child bearing years behind and hold our blood within. We can then be a resource for our loved ones and community by becoming hags, which means women of wisdom.

Do you celebrate your menstruation and see it as a time for you to go within? As a time to let go, let die, so the new can come? Or have you bought into the patriarchal view that it is a curse, something unclean, something to be hidden away? Does menopause automatically fill you with fear of becoming old and ugly, no longer valuable or worthy in a culture that adores youth? Do you feel invalidated in a society that urges women to hide their bleeding times, regulate their hormones by taking pills and postpone menopause through ERT (estrogen replacement therapy)?

Honouring your cycles also means honouring your own unique process, your own unique path in life. You may be in the midst of a particular life cycle that you need to surrender to and honour. Changing woman says that wholeness is nurtured when we reclaim the power of our cycles by paying attention to them and celebrating them. By celebrating our cycles we celebrate ourselves as women.”
The text above is an excerpt from The Goddess Oracle Deck & Book Set, by Amy Sophia Marashinsky.

For many women, the idea of celebrating and honouring their menstrual cycles just seems laughable when they experience heavy periods, a lack of or irregular periods, cramps, PMT, headaches or migraines, sleeping disturbances, fluid retention, and lower back pain every month. Some women even get pain when they are ovulating.

But apparently, we’re not meant to suffer when we bleed says Alexander Pope, author of The Wild Genie: The Healing Power of Menstruation. She says
“Our menstrual suffering, that’s so often passed off as “normal”, is neither normal nor our lot. The menstrual cycle is the stress sensitive system in women.”
This would explain why when you are stressed, your menstrual cycle gets all messed up causing your period to come early, late, or even skip altogether.

Alexander Pope says that
“when we experience distressing symptoms, it’s a signal to attend to our overall health and place in the world.” These distressing symptoms can be linked to many factors “including poor diet; overweight or underweight; poor digestion and immune system; hormonal imbalance, congenital and hereditary weaknesses; over-stressed life; personal psychological trauma; environmental pollution; low self esteem; cultural devaluation of the feminine; and, unbalanced energy system”.
Wow what a list! It’s no wonder that most women have problematic periods.

Many of us stuff down painkillers so that we can continue to do all the things we normally do the rest of the month but maybe we should make use of this time to rest, relax, and get to know ourselves. Lara Owen, author of Her Blood is Gold: Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation, calls menstruation the Sabbath of Women. Perhaps if we use this sacred time to slow down, taking time to reflect on what our body and mind is trying to tell us we can work towards achieving a pain-free, care-free, and stress-free period. Maybe then we can start celebrating our periods instead of thinking of them as a curse.

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Monday, 8 June 2009

Coming Soon...

Balance Holistics - Massage in Bristol
Balance Holistics will be offering three brand new treatments over the next couple of months including Holistic Facials, Thai Foot Massage, and Feet First — a holistic foot care treatment. More information will be posted on this blog and on the Balance Holistics website when these treatments become available.

Holistic Facials
— A holistic facial is a great way to take care of your skin. It uses Aromatherapy Essential Oils and other natural products to help improve the condition and preserve the health of the skin. The shoulders, neck and face are cleansed and toned, followed by a natural clay or fresh fruit face mask to help restore the skin’s correct moisture balance. The facial is complemented perfectly with a relaxing face and neck massage, incorporating lymphatic drainage and acupressure techniques. While your face mask is setting the hands are massaged, completing the relaxation experience.

Thai Foot Massage — Thai Foot Massage is a massage of the lower legs and feet. A small, specifically designed wooden stick is used to stimulate the reflex points on the feet which correspond to the internal organs of the body. Various stretches are also incorporated into the massage. Thai Massage helps to open up the energy lines in the body known as Sen lines, similar to Meridian lines in Chinese Medicine.

Feet First — Feet First is a luxurious, holistic foot care treatment designed to refresh and rejuvenate your feet. It includes a foot soak, scrub, and mask, finishing with a relaxing foot and lower leg massage. While your feet enjoy the refreshing mask, you will receive a head massage to complete the relaxation experience. A range of products with essential oils of lime, sandalwood and ginger are used to help soothe, hydrate, and renew tired, aching, and dehydrated feet.

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Saturday, 6 June 2009

Reiki and its Affects on the Nervous System

Castor Oil
One of the most common affects people notice with Reiki is deep relaxation and a reduction in stress. If Reiki helps improve stress levels, then it must have an affect on the autonomic nervous system which can be measured proving that Reiki is an affective way of inducing a state of relaxation and reducing stress levels.

The autonomic nervous system consists of two opposing parts – the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nerves are responsible for actions in times of stress, for example, when you feel threatened; this part of the nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands to produce adrenalin. The body is returned to normal by the parasympathetic part of the nervous system when the threat has gone. The parasympathetic nerves are responsible for controlling your body’s everyday tasks such as digestion. This part of the nervous system helps the body relax by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure among other things.

A research study looked into the changes that occurred to the autonomic nervous system during a Reiki treatment. 45 participants were split in to three groups. The first group received no treatment and were just left to rest; the second group received a Reiki treatment from an experienced Reiki practitioner; and the third group received a placebo treatment in which a person with no knowledge of Reiki mimicked a Reiki treatment. Various aspects of autonomic nervous system function were tested prior to, during, and after the treatments. Results showed that the heart rate and diastolic blood pressure decreased significantly in the participants who received Reiki compared to those who received the placebo and no treatment.

This was a small study but it does show some positive results which will hopefully lead to more research being done in Reiki.

Nicola Mackay, Stig Hansen, Oona McFarlane. Autonomic Nervous System Changes During Reiki Treatment: A Preliminary Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. December 2004, 10(6): 1077-1081. doi:10.1089/acm.2004.10.1077.

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Friday, 5 June 2009

Getting the Most from Your Massage in the Comfort of Your Own Home

Having a massage in the comfort of your own home is a great idea. You don’t have to worry about being late, getting lost, or not finding a parking space. And most importantly, you don’t have to go anywhere afterwards so you can continue to relax, put your feet up, and benefit fully from your treatment.

Here are a few tips to get the most from your massage when receiving it in your home.

Choose your appointment time carefully. After your massage, you want to be able to sit and experience the state of relaxation that you have achieved from your massage. You don’t want to immediately start the house work, go food shopping, or rush off to work or pick up the kids. Book an appointment at a time which suits you – perhaps do the shopping and housework first and have your appointment later on in the day or evening. Maybe book an appointment on your day off or after you have finished work. Not only does choosing a convenient appointment time help you to relax after your massage, but it will also stop you thinking about what you have to do later on that day allowing your mind to be clear and focused on relaxing.

Let your therapist know the situation. When booking your appointment, mention to your therapist if there are any parking restrictions outside your house and where the best place is to park. Also mention whether you live in a flat or a house and whether they will need to carry their equipment up any stairs or not. This puts your therapist in the picture before they get to your house and limits their stress so they can give a truly relaxing treatment to you rather than them feeling like they’re the one who needs a massage!

Be ready for the therapist. Ensure that you have cleared an area before your therapist arrives so they can set up the massage couch and other equipment as soon as they get there. Also make sure that any doors and corridors are clear so that the equipment can be manoeuvred through your house easily. Most therapists will bring their own towels for you to use during the massage but if you prefer to use your own, make sure you have them ready.

Create a relaxing and comfortable environment. When you relax during a massage, your body temperature drops so it is a good idea to put the heating on just before and during your massage to make sure you don’t get cold. It is quite nice to have low lighting in the room rather than the big bright overhead lights. You might like to burn some incense, scented candles, or some essential oils in an oil burner if you have them to encourage relaxation.

Limit the amount of possible distractions. Leave the landline phone off the hook or divert calls to your answer phone if you have one. Don’t forget to turn your mobile phone off or change to silent mode too. The last thing you want mid-massage is your phone to go off, then when they can’t get hold of you they ring your other phone. Perhaps mention to your friends and family that you are having a massage at a certain time of the day so that they don’t come round or ring you during that time.

If you have family members at home while you are having a massage, ask them not to disturb you by coming in to the room or making too much noise if it can be avoided. It is also advisable that your pets are not in the room during the massage as some animals can be very inquisitive and jump up on the couch making you jump which is not going to help your relaxation.

Listen to your body. Take a few minutes to sit down and reflect on your thoughts and feelings of your massage experience – Did you enjoy the massage? What would you have changed? Are there any areas you would like more work on next time? Do you feel relaxed? How do you feel physically? Has your tension been relieved or do you still have areas remaining? Have your aches and pains diminished? How does your body feel now compared to before your massage? How do you feel emotionally? Do you feel less stressed? Do you feel ready to face the world and more able to cope with things? How are your emotions now compared to before your massage? Do you feel balanced? If you keep a journal, it might be good to document your experience and feelings in there. You can discuss your thoughts with your therapist at your next appointment and they can then make any adaptations to your treatment to make sure your needs are being met.

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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Lemon Visualisation to Maintain Health

Lemon Essential Oil Visualisation
Photo by white_duck.
In Scott Cunningham’s book, Magical Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent, he suggests placing a few drops of lemon essential oil on to a cotton wool ball and inhaling “the refreshing scent to maintain health” while visualising the oils “energies strengthening your body” letting your minds-eye “see the fragrance fighting off the infection” and “encouraging cell growth and the resultant healing” in the case of illness or injury. He also recommends myrrh essential oil “to speed healing of the physical body”. Other oils which could be used in this way to maintain health include eucalyptus, pine, lavender, and thyme.

This short visualisation can be used for other things such as stress, anxiety, aches and pains, and much more. You would need to change what you visualise slightly, for example, if you have a back ache, visualise the fragrance strengthening the muscles and bones of your back, reducing the inflammation, and relieving the pain and then finally see yourself free from pain. You wouldn’t use lemon for this, perhaps eucalyptus, ginger, German chamomile, plai or black pepper.

You can even do this visualisation without the use of essential oils, just visualise your own body fighting off an infection, repairing damaged cells, being free from worries, tension, or anxiety, etc.

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Oil Cleansing Method

While I was searching the net for information on the castor oil post, I happened across various websites discussing the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) which uses a blend of castor oil and sunflower oil to cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturise the skin on your face. It is the castor oil which does all the cleansing, while the sunflower oil does the moisturising.

The Oil Cleansing Method is suitable for all skin types but is especially beneficial for problematic skin including spots, blemishes, blackheads, whiteheads, and acne.

Making the Oil. You will need two cold pressed carrier oils – castor oil and sunflower oil, some hot water, and a clean flannel. The two oils are blended together to create the oil which you will use on your face. The amount of each oil you use will depend on which skin type you have. If you have oily skin, you will use more Castor oil than Sunflower oil and if you have dry skin it will be the other way round. Use the following ratios as a guide – you may find that you need to adjust the mix or perhaps you might like to add a different carrier oil instead of the sunflower oil. If your skin feels too dry after application, use less castor oil next time. For oily skin, mix 1 tsp of sunflower oil with 3 tsp of castor oil; for normal skin, mix 2 tsp each of castor and sunflower oil together; and for dry skin, mix 3 tsp of sunflower oil with 1 tsp of castor oil.

You can also add essential oils suitable for your skin type or a specific skin complaint. For acne, try adding tea tree, petitgrain, cedarwood, juniper, geranium, German chamomile, or sandalwood; for blackheads, use thyme, peppermint, or lemongrass; for dry and sensitive skin, try chamomile, lavender, neroli, petitgrain, rose, or geranium; for oily skin and open pores, try cypress, juniper, cedarwood, tea tree, or bergamot; and for wrinkles, try mandarin, neroli, rose, myrtle, geranium, or sandalwood.

Performing the Cleanse. Pour some of the oil (about a teaspoonful) into your hand and gently massage the oil into the face for at least two minutes ensuring that you work the oil into the skin well especially any problem areas. You can also include your neck if you wish. There is no need to remove make up or wash your face before performing the cleanse as the oil and steam is very effective at doing it for you. Pour a basin full of hot water and soak the flannel. Wring out and hold in place over your face. It needs to be hot but not so hot that it burns your face! Leave in place until it has cooled, gently wipe the face with the flannel, rinse it out, and reapply. Repeat this a couple times to ensure that all the oil and any dead skin and dirt has been removed from the face. After the cleanse, you can splash your face with cold water to close the pores.

As most people know, oil does not dissolve in water, so washing oily skin in water doesn’t get rid of any residual oil on the face. Most shop-bought products contain alcohol to get rid of the oil but this can often leave the skin feeling dry taking your skin from one extreme to the other. The best thing to dissolve oil is oil itself. By using the castor-sunflower oil blend on your face, it will dissolve the oils which have lodged in the pores of the skin, restoring the skins natural moisture balance. Using the hot flannel helps to open the pores allowing the oil to penetrate deeper in to the skin and draw out any impurities in the pores bringing it to the surface so that you can wipe it off with the flannel.

What I love about this method is its simplicity, making it an excellent addition to your skincare routine although I wouldn’t recommend doing it daily – perhaps once or twice a week. I also love the fact that the oils are natural and contain no harmful chemicals and they are cheap to buy too – a lot cheaper than any ready-made skincare product. As soon as I found out about the method, I headed straight for my oils and mixed up a blend for me to use. I have a combination skin with patches of dryness, open pores, blackheads and sensitive areas so I used the blend for dry skin and added 4 drops of neroli essential oil. My skin felt and looked amazing after the cleanse and smelt great from the neroli. As I didn’t use all the oil after one application, I poured the leftover in to a clean glass bottle with a screwcap to keep it ready for my next cleanse.