Originally published in Massage Bodywork magazine, December/January 2003.Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.Morning Shower and More
There is no better way to begin the day than with the scent of herbs and aromatics. At bedtime, set the timer on a diffuser so you wake to it in the morning. Add an essential oil such as rosemary, one which many experts are convinced is a scent and herb that keeps you young. This oil is good for mornings, because it is both invigorating and energizing. The youthful effects, aromatherapy experts say, come from drinking tea infused with rosemary, using the extract, taking the tincture and bathing with this herb.
Next, walk yourself, (and your dog, if you have one) for 30 minutes and smell the conifers in the park, or the fresh, damp grass. Before any stretching or exercise, use an herbal rub-down as a warm-up. An herbal infused oil or alcohol infusion with juniper, spruce or birch is warming and stimulates the muscles. Afterwards, use massage oils made of carrier oils with added essential oils such as rosemary, bergamot, ylang-ylang or cypress. Each has different properties, yet all can soothe tired muscles. Massage oils may also be used for their calming or stress-reducing properties. A poultice/compress of freshly gathered comfrey leaves can relieve pain and promote healing if you have overdone exercise and strained a muscle.
Sit at your dressing table to prepare for the day. Peruse the variety of herbal and aromatic options available to you. There are several natural skin care products from which to choose: consider flower waters and hydrosols, or a lotion that contains essential oil of lavender or chamomile. For example, you may elect to start with a gentle facial scrub of ground almonds made with a spritz of witch hazel hydrosol or extract. This is mild, and yet fragrant if you add a drop of rose oil. Other herbs and essential aromatics can be added or used, such as peppermint, rosemary, lemon, basil and sage.
Create a morning ritual with a simple home spa-type treatment: a shower of cleansing water and a wonderful hand-crafted soap that incorporates all the benefits of herbs and aromatherapy. It is only with water that the healing qualities of soap can be liberated. Remember that showers should be taken in the morning and are for cleaning your skin and waking up, while the evening bath is more a meditative and restorative ritual, providing healing for mind and body.
At breakfast, consider adding a drop or two of orange flower water to your coffee or tea. This will offer stimulating benefits, while keeping the jitters at bay. A simple breakfast of oatmeal can be made delectable with the additions of raisins, a spoonful of blackberry honey and a drop of vanilla oil. Not only will this nourish the body, it is delicious and healthy.
In the midst of your morning, stop for a short movement break. We all must work, but shouldn't do so at the expense of our health. If your energy is waning, have a cup of restorative tea, such as rosemary or melissa.
Should you have the time, prepare a facial steam. Due to its antiseptic and capillary-stimulating properties, thyme is a great choice. Mix it with comfrey root (a cellular regenerative) and lavender (an anti-inflammatory). Make your mixture (see recipes, below), and remove the pot from the stovetop to a place where you can lean over the steaming concoction. Allow the fragrant tendrils of steam to waft up and around your face. Cover your head with a towel, inhale through your mouth to hydrate the lungs; exhale. Inhale through the nose to treat the sinus; exhale. Allow the steam to do its magic for 3-5 minutes. After the steam, spray with a hydrosol such as owyhee, as it is a soothing anti-inflammatory and the scent is sweet and fruity. The Afternoon Routine
Incorporate facets of aromatherapy into your lunch time. Consider a protein-filled lunch of 4 ounces of chicken breast mixed with salad. Make your salad of at least six red and green items such as cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and radishes. Add chopped basil, sage or sweet marjoram. Make a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. Add culinary essential oils such as dill weed and black pepper. Have a glass of aromatic iced herbal tea, and add to it 1 teaspoon of melissa hydrosol. This is tasty and encourages deep thinking and relaxation. If, however, you need to continue your work day, then add 1 teaspoon of rosemary hydrosol to your lunch time iced tea.
Why not take a five-minute scented breather for an afternoon break. The aromatic properties of plants are effective tonics and energizers. Dabbing the temples with essential oils or spraying the nape of the neck with hydrosols of rosemary, peppermint or owyhee is a wonderful way to implement the potent effects of these distilled plant materials. You can also use a mixture of distilled water with essential oils of peppermint, sage and basil dissolved in alcohol (10 drops essential oil, 20 drops alcohol and a half-ounce of water). Basil and peppermint herb, and their essential oils, have been used for centuries as a mental stimulant. Complete your afternoon break by lying down for 3-5 minutes with a couple slices of fresh cucumber on the eyes. Cucumber contains enzymes which help soften the skin. If cucumbers are not available, you can use an ice cube tea/infusion of lady's mantle or lemon verbena. Making ice cubes of herbal teas preserves their elements and makes the important properties of plants available any time of the day or night. A facial hydrosol or compress of any plant, such as rose geranium, owyhee, lavender or whatever you have available, will awaken your mind, be therapeutic for your skin and keep you younger.
If the day's work has brought on a headache, a drop of rosemary oil to the temples or around the ears works wonders. A 15-minute herbal power nap (if you have the time) can be had by resting your head on a soothing pillow filled with lavender, marjoram, betony, rose petals and clove (see recipes).Putting the Day to Bed
Late in the day, it is only natural that energy fades a bit. An herbal fruit punch or hydrosol tonic drink, such as gingerale, and 1 teaspoon of melissa hydrosol is just the thing. For the fruit punch, consider apple juice steeped with herbs. A favorite of mine is orange mint, borage and burnet, steeped in apple juice for 2-3 days. Remove the herbs by straining, and top the glass with a few decorative borage flowers. For a change of pace, you might try a combination of white grape juice which has been steeped with lavender, lemon peel, rose geranium and pineapple sage, and then topped with a sprig of herb or flowers. For a lovely snack, lavender tea cakes or cookies topped with herbal honey -- such as sage or acacia -- complete the tea tray.
For dinner, remember to keep it light for healthier digestion, or throw caution to the wind and go to dinner at a fantastic new restaurant. For the latter, order the most aromatic and/or pungently-flavored foods. Drink a good wine, and follow with an aromatic glass of cognac or herbal eau de vie.
When it's time to wind down, use the meditative and relaxing properties of incense. After dinner, set up a place where you can safely burn frankincense and myrrh, or use their resinous essential oils in an olive oil lamp/candle diffuser. Should you wish to create a more seductive atmosphere, one can mix cardamom, rose, frankincense and myrrh with gum arabic and oils of labdanum and spikenard. The plants these come from are Middle Eastern, and have been shown to contain human pheromones.
An aromatic bath aids in relaxation and helps soothe away the day's aches and pains. Five to 15 drops of essential oils of lavender, owyhee or ylang-ylang can have a calming effect. If stimulation is needed instead, use sage, pine or other conifer-type herbs in the bath. Marjoram, ylang-ylang and neroli can be used to take the edge off of nervousness and prepare you for sleep. Add the aromatic oils directly into the bath or add them to milk for dilution in a milk bath. In order to receive both the inhalation and skin penetrating effects of a therapeutic botanical bath, simmer the herbs and flowers you have chosen in a pot with water, strain them, and pour the liquid into the bath water. Then add hydrosols and essential oils. If time allows for a bit of luxury, polish the body or facial skin with chamomile-mint sugar or a salt scrub rich with avocado, almond or sunflower oil. Sugar or salt is used for an exfoliating effect.
The bath is a perfect time to take care of your nails and cuticles. Make a simple mixture of 5 drops jojoba, (or cuticle remover) and 5 drops ylang-ylang. Apply to fingernails and press the cuticle gently back with an orange stick (pointed manicure piece of equipment made from orange wood). Put your feet up and do the same to the toenails.
The bath is also a realistic time to do an oil treatment on the scalp. Just add 5 drops olive oil, 5 drops rosemary essential oil and 5 drops basil oil. Mix, and with the finger pads, apply to the scalp; massage in and then put a hair cap on the head. After your bath, remove the cap and brush the hair.
If you have steamed, exfoliated and given yourself an oil treatment, you may wish to finish your bath with a quick shower rinse.
Wrap in a giant towel. Rest. Drink tea. Put on your clean pajamas and climb into your freshly-made bed.
For fragrant sleep, use a perfume application - a blend of flowers, rose, neroli, ylang-ylang, jasmine, vanilla, lavender and rose geranium oils. Sip on an herbal cordial - a rosehip syrup with lemon verbena, or catnip; or use the calming hydrosols, such as lavender or lemon verbena.
There are so many ways in which to incorporate the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy into your day. It's simple and it can bring to light the simple pleasures so often forgotten. Consider it more than pampering - consider it self-care.Jeanne Rose has been teaching and researching natural remedies for 30 years, beginning with her first book, Herbs Things, now in its second edition. For more information or to purchase her books, visit Rose's Web site at www.jeannerose.net or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.