Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Clary and brains in one package

"Clary Sage Field" photo by KL Wood
May is the month in which many fields in my part of northeastern North Carolina burst into lovely purple and white bloom. Flowering spikes of blossoms begin to peek above their green leafy bowers and assail the senses with their beauty and pungent scent. The source of this botanical extravaganza is a plant unknown to the fields of my Carolina childhood, one that in many cases replaced tobacco. Welcome to the world of Clary Sage. 
"Salvia Sclarea" photo by H. Zell via Wikimedia Commons

The Clary Sage grown in our neck of the woods is used for extracting sclareol, refined into sclareolide, which is added to scented soaps, cologne, shampoos, detergents, etc to greatly extend the life of their fragrance. It takes the place of ambergris which used to be extracted from sperm whales. Local farmers have embraced this plant which is temperamental to grow and harvest, but well worth the effort, making North Carolina the unofficial Clary Sage Capital of the World! Please read a great article in Our State magazine for fascinating information about its history and processing.

Beyond its use in the fragrance industry, Clary Sage produces an essential oil used for centuries in a variety of treatments. Purchase only therapeutic grade oil for the following benefits:
  • Painkiller – Helps relieve headaches, back pain, muscle stiffness, and cramps.
    "Purple Clary Sage" photo by KL Wood
  • Eye Health –Known in the Middle Ages as "Clear Eyes."
  • Antiseptic – Used to cleanse wounds and may help protect the body during surgery and against other infections.
  • Aphrodisiac – Boosts libido and may improve sexual performance. 
  • Blood pressure regulator – Helps reduce blood pressure by relaxing the arteries.
  • Hair treatment – Believed to stimulate hair growth and can also limit the sebum produced in the scalp to treat dandruff.
  • Skin health promoter – Regulates oil production and reduces inflammation that contributes to dermatitis.
How to use Clary Sage essential oil: 
"Salvia Sclarea" Kurt Stueber via Wikipedia Commons

  • To soothe eye problems, soak a clean cloth in a mixture of warm water and a few drops of clary sage oil. Lay cloth over closed eyes for 10 minutes.
  • To relieve anxiety and emotional tension, inhale with the use of diffusers and burners.
  • To relieve muscle pain and menstrual cramps, mix with a carrier oil and massage into affected areas or add a few drops to your bath water.
  • To regulate the production of sebum in your skin, add a few drops to your moisturizer. 
-A word of caution, Clary Sage essential oil is known to increase the sedating effect of alcohol and other sedatives.-

Clary Sage figures prominently in my work-in-progress novel, Essentially Dead. My main character's beagle, Betty, has an obsession with its highly aromatic scent and likes to stop, drop, and roll in it if given the opportunity!

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 

(As always: this post is for information only for adult use and does not replace medical advice. Тest out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils.) 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

So Divine...Angelica Essential Oil

Angelica Archangelica photo By Kat- St Albans, United Kingdom
via Wikimedia Commons
The essential oil I'm showcasing today, Angelica, plays an important role in my cozy mystery work-in-progress, Essentially Dead. As the novel opens my main character, aromatherapist Verbena Brazwell, is on the hunt for lacey white Angelica flowers for her shop's display vases. What she discovers is anything but angelic.

The Angelica plant was deemed so beneficial to mankind, it was called Holy Spirit Root and its essential oil, "oil of the angels." Angelica Archangelica (usually just called Angelica) was said to have been introduced by the Archangel Michael and was widely used to help with the ravages of plague in medieval Europe. Today, Angelica essential oil is a prime ingredient in aromatherapists' arsenals. It has a woody/peppery/spicy aroma and can be dispelled into the air by diffusers, inhaled through steam applications, and massaged into the skin with carrier oils. Angelica covers a myriad of benefits including aids as:

-anti-spasmodic for cramps and coughs
-carminative for intestinal gas
-depurative for high blood pressure
"Garden Angelica" By Franz Eugen Köhle (Public Domain)
-diaphoretic to promote healthy perspiration
-digestive to stimulate digestive juices
-diuretic to aid urination
-hepatic to aid liver function
-emenagogue for menstrual symptoms
-expectorant for relief from excess phlegm
-febrifuge for fever
-nervine for nervous disorders
-relaxant for calming and soothing
-stimulant for positive internal actions
-stomachic for balancing stomach acids and bile
-a tonic substance for strengthening the immune system

No wonder Angelica was considered a gift from Heaven!

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 

(As always: this post is for information only for adult use and does not replace medical advice. Тest out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils. Specifically Angelica should not be used in pregnancy or by diabetics and if applied topically, you should avoid direct sunlight for 24 hours.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Going to the Dogs...essential oils for canine comfort

"Sophie Selfie" photograph by KL Wood
Exciting news around our house! We have recently adopted a rescued seven month old female, wirehaired terrier mix. Nine pounds of love, joy, and some emotional baggage. She was brought to the Humane Society by an Animal Cruelty Officer from a home in which another dog had died of starvation while bound to a short rope. Heartbreaking. We have named her Sophie and are amazed at her intelligence and rapid adjustment to our family. She does, of course, have some fears that we are working through together so I thought I'd check on essential oil use for canine anxiety. 

It is important to remember that dogs react, physically and emotionally, differently to some oils than do we. So what's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander...or what's good for Kate isn't necessarily good for Sophie! And the information here is only for dogs. Not for cats. Felines respond differently than canines and can have fatal reactions to things that are just fine for dogs. Instead of listing oils that are not safe for dogs, I am going to give you some recipes that are helpful for them. (If you're like me, you might remember the good and the bad but not recall which was which!)

With all of these recipes: Never spray near eyes, nose, or mouth and if your dog doesn't like it, don't use it! The good thing about all of these mixtures is that they all smell lovely and have similar
"Sophie with her New Grandma" photograph by KL Wood
therapeutic properties for us humans.

For General Anxiety:
Mix these essential oils-
5-10 drops of Lavender and
5-10 drops of Roman Chamomile into
10 ounces of purified water
Pour into a spray bottle and lightly mist over your dog's coat.

For Hyper Sound Sensitivity:
Add any of these essential oils to your home diffuser-

For Separation Anxiety:
Add these essential oils to your home diffuser-
"Happy Tail Wagging" photograph by KL Wood
8-10 drops of Sweet Orange and
4-5 drops of Lavender and
4-6 drops of Ylang Ylang

For YOU! For Odiferous Dogs:
Mix these essential oils-
10 drops of Lavender and
 6 drops of Sweet Orange and
 6 drops of Peppermint and
 3 drops of Eucalyptus into
 8 ounces of purified water
Pour into spray bottle and lightly mist over your dog's coat.

When buying essential oils, always buy the highest quality. You really do get what you pay for and you don't want to use oils that may be diluted with products unsafe for use with your dear pups. (Speaking of pups, wait until your puppy is older than 10 weeks to use the oils.)

"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small..." are deserving of our love and care.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 

Kate (and Sophie Rose)


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring Allergies...essential oils to the rescue

To quote Nanki Poo in Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado:
"Pink Azaleas" photo by KL Wood

"Fresh Cut Lavender Flowers" by Lexipexi via Wikimedia Commons
"Lemons" by By Zeynel Cebeci  via Wikimedia Commons
"The flowers that bloom in the spring,
Tra la,

Breathe promise of merry sunshine..."

But for some of us, the flowers that bloom in the spring (tra la) breathe promise of runny noses, itchy eyes, and headaches. There are several essential oils that can bring relief to these less-than-welcome signs of spring. Three of the most popular and effective are:

A natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. It also has the added bonus of cleansing the air and relaxing mind and body.

A natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. Helps relieve excess mucus and its fresh, citrus scent is uplifting. (Lemon can add to photosensitivity so go sparingly if you are going out into the sunlight.)

An anti-inflammatory that helps open breathing passages. Its fragrance is energizing.

"Peppermint Plant" by By Gürkan Sengün  via Wikimedia Commons
These three are great individually and fantastic when combined with each other. Diffuse them in a home essential oil diffuser, mix them with a carrier oil of your choice (such as jojoba) or lotion and massage into your skin, add a few drops to your soaking bath, place drops on a cotton ball and inhale, mix with carrier oil in a roller ball bottle and apply to temples, back of neck, and pulse points.

So go out, breathe in Spring, (and carry an essential oil roller ball with you!)

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (Tra la!)

(As always: this post is for information only for adult use and does not replace medical advice. Тest out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils.) 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring- when a young man's fancy lightly turns to...Ylang Ylang!

Cananga Flower (Ylang Ylang Flowers) by via Wikimedia Commons 
Back in 1835, Alfred Lord Tennyson pronounced, "In the Spring young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." One might add that the warmth and promise of Spring turns all our thoughts to love! And the essential oil to help encourage such thoughts to move into desired channels of attention or just keep our own minds and hearts focused on the emotion of the season? According to aromatherapists, that would be Ylang Ylang. From my own experience with this essential oil in aromatherapy blends, I heartily agree. It has the most luscious, sensual fragrance you can imagine. No wonder it is often used in perfumes. And its fragrance is so concentrated, just a little bit goes a long way. Too much is overpowering.

Ylang Ylang is utilized as an:
Ylang Ylang (
Cananga odorata) Essential Oil in clear glass vial
by Iteneranttrader via Wikimedia Commons
Antidepressant- its fragrance has qualities that lift the spirit, ease stress, and relax the body and mind
Antiseborrhoeic- helps regulate the natural sebum production in the skin, aiding in relief of seborrhoeic eczema
Antiseptic- acts as a disinfectant and inhibits microbial growth in wounds
Aphrodisiac- used in many cultures to stimulate those thoughts and feelings that arise come Springtime! (Also attributed to balancing hormone levels)
Hypotensive- its stress-lowering qualities contribute to a lower blood pressure
Nervine- boosts the nervous system and reduces emotional strain on nerves
Sedative- its ability to lower stress levels and calm the mind helps induce a good night's sleep (of course, if you are thinking all those "love thoughts" it encourages, that might keep you awake at night!)
Cananga Odorata in Maui, Hawaii by Forest and Kim Starr
via Wikimedia Commons

The essential oil of Ylang Ylang is steam distillation extracted from the fresh flowers of the Ylang Ylang tree, (Cananga Odorata,) commonly found in the rain forests of Asian and South Pacific Islands like Indonesia, Philippines, Java, Sumatra, Comoro and Polynesia. Its chief components are benzyl acetate, benzyl benzoate linalool, caryophyllene, geranyl acetate, methyl benzoate, p-cresyl methyl ether and other components known as Sesquiterpenes, all of which contribute to its fragrance and medicinal properties.

So inhale it, soak in a bath infused with it, massage it in with your carrier oil of choice, or lightly dab it on your skin, and lose yourself in Ylang Ylang's sensual, joyous cloud of Springlike goodness. 

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And inhale deeply...)

(As always: this post is for information only and does not replace medical advice. Тest out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils.) 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Caraway Seed Essential Oil...a nod to the Irish

"Caraway" photo by H. Zell , via Wikimedia Commons 
'Tis St. Patrick's Day week so I searched for an essential oil with an Irish connection and decided upon caraway seed. Although caraway seeds are actually an American addition to traditional Irish soda bread, caraway seed cake is indeed authentically Irish. Sometimes called "seedy cake," it is a lovely, gently sweet cake perfect for afternoon tea, especially spread with some wondrously creamy Irish butter. (I've included a recipe at the end of today's post.)

Caraway Seed essential oil has a sweet, spicy, mildly peppery fragrance. It can be dropped into an infuser for inhalation, bath water for soaking, carrier oil/ lotion/ or shampoo for massaging into the skin or scalp. The following are benefits widely
"Caraway Seeds" by Slick, via Wikimedia Commons
attributed to caraway seed oil:

Emotional Wellbeing-- its warming fragrance aids stress relief, mental strain, and emotional fatigue.

Respiratory Health-- acts as an expectorant and useful for coughs, bronchitis, and other respiratory ailments.

Skin and Hair-- as a tissue regenerator, it can help fight oily skin, clear acne, heal bruises and boils, and clean infected wounds. It also soothes itchy skin, as well as dandruff and other scalp problems.

Digestion-- helps relieve upset stomach, colic, and gastric spasms.

So, as if that isn't enough, toss some caraway seeds into a cake recipe and enjoy their unique texture and flavor. You might say you "can have your cake and eat it, too!" Thanks to for this culinary treat:

Caraway Seed Cake
adapted from Make, Bake, Love by Lilly Higgins
Serves 8 to 10
175 g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
150 g (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
125 g (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
(If you’re worried that your batter looks too dry, add in 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk.)
Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F). Grease and line a 1 lb loaf tin.
Cream the sugar and butter together, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in the flour and mix just until smooth, taking care not to overmix, then fold in the caraway seeds. Pour the batter into the tin, level the top and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 1 hour (check it after 50 minutes), or until risen and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to rest in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool
"Rugby Union Flag of Ireland" [Public domain], via Wikimedia Common
Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 

(As always: this post is for information only and does not replace medical advice. Тest out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils.) 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reguvinating Juniper...Juniper Berry Essential Oil

"Juniper Berries" By MPF (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
"Essential OIl" By Itineranttrader (Own work) 
via Wikimedia Commons
I plan to use Juniper Berry essential oil as an essential story element of my work-in-progress cozy mystery novel. So, today, I will share what I've learned about this aromatic botanical. As always: this is for information only and does not replace medical advice. Always test out an oil first by placing a small diluted amount on your arm as a patch test. In particular, those who are or could be pregnant should always refer to their physicians before using any essential oils. Today's featured oil, Juniper Berry, carries a specific precaution for pregnancy as it has been known to stimulate the uterine muscle and must not be used by expectant mothers. It is also advised against for those with kidney or liver disease. Since this essential oil should not be used for young children or infants, it should also not be used by nursing mothers.

Now! After getting those disclaimers out of the way (sounding like those drug ads on TV that show people dancing in the sunshine while the narrator, speaking in a calmly hushed voice, rushes through possible side effects like suicidal thoughts or death,) here are the attributes and uses of Juniper Berry essential oil: 

Three of the major properties of Juniper Berry oil are terpineol, terpinene, and pinene, which can be helpful in treating skin infections and other health issues. It also contains chemicals that flush out free radicals in your bloodstream. 


"Diffuser" by Borutp] via Wikimedia Commons
-Relief of stress, anxiety, drowsiness, and headaches: diffuse into the air using 2-3 drops in an oil warmer or vaporizer or add 8-10 drops to bath water for soaking (in addition, for headaches, add 2-3 drops into carrier oil such as jojoba oil and massage into temples; add lavender oil for enhanced benefit.)

-Pain relief for arthritis, joint pain, muscle fatigue and aiding circulation: add 8-10 drops to bath water for soaking or 2-3 drops to one ounce of carrier oil such as jojoba for massaging into applicable areas

-Alleviating skin problems such as acne, oily skin, psoriasis, dermatitis, weeping eczema: add 2-3 drops to lotion or cream and apply to affected skin or dampen a cotton ball with juniper berry oil and gently wipe skin

-Aiding in healing of wounds: add 6-10 drops to 9 ounces of water, then soak a clean cloth in the mixture, wring it out, and apply as a compress to the infected area

Foot Bath by John R. Frazier, ca 1920 John R. Frazier via Wikimedia Commons
-Relieving hemorrhoids: add a diluted drop to your bath and soak for 20 minutes

-Relieving menstrual cramps: add 2-3 drops to one ounce of carrier oil and massage into lower abdomen

-Regulating appetite: add 2-3 drops to a vaporizer or use in steam inhalation

-Disinfecting the home: mix 5 drops in a quart of water and apply with spray bottle (shake before using)

I understand it is also the main flavoring ingredient in the making of gin...but that's another story...
Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Setting a New Course...and getting cozy

Illustration unknown
Over the past several months I've shared my research into diverse figures of cultural mythology, from Scotland's Kelpie to the Cherokee Little People. The purpose of this intellectual adventure was to aid in the writing of my current work-in-progress, Murmuration, a novel woven with threads of magical realism. And although I've found the subject fascinating, I've decided to set this project aside for a variety of reasons. Not abandoned. Just on an indefinite leave of absence while I pursue a different literary direction. 

Bath Oil with Herbs and Leaves in Glass Bottle
Photo by Matte via Wikimedia commons
My creative compass is pulling me toward a genre that feels right for me at present; one in which my natural tendency toward gentle humor and love of puzzling out solutions is at home-- the Cozy Mystery. Think Agatha Christie's "Miss Marple" series, Alexander McCall Smith's The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and Lilian Jackson Braun's "The Cat Who" books. I'm in the very beginning stage of bringing this book to life but I do know a few facts: the main character is a female (age to be determined,) living in Edenton, North Carolina, who works as an aromatherapist/perfumier. My amateur sleuth's occupation will both lead her into and help her solve crimes that boil to the surface of this quaint southern town. My days as a certified massage therapist introduced me to the world of aromatherapy and the power of fragrance and essential oils. We all know how our sense of smell can affect our moods, transport us to a different time and place, rekindle memories (pleasant or un.) So! For the next several weeks, my blog posts will introduce us to the qualities and uses of essential oils. Of course, this information is never meant to be a replacement for appropriate medical care and if you try any of these oils, start with a small test amount to be sure you have no allergies to them. There are many great online sources of information regarding the use of essential oils and sources from which to purchase them. Always be sure your oils are pure essential, not the extracts you buy from the grocery store. A couple good online suppliers are Aura Cacia and Plant Therapy.

With all the "chill-you-to-the-bone" weather we are experiencing, I found several oils that
Ginger,  Photograph by Frank C. Müller, Baden-Baden
via Wikimedia Commons
warm us up, physically and emotionally. One of those is ginger. Pure essential oil of ginger root has been used for thousands of years to aid circulation, ease indigestion, and relieve muscle aches and pains. It has a lovely warm, citrusy fragrance that is a comfort on these cold days. There are many ways to use ginger oil but two easy and lovely methods are to add about 6 drops to your bath water just before you step in and add 6 drops to 10 ml of a carrier oil or lotion that you massage into your skin. I like to use pure jojoba oil as a carrier since it is very similar to our natural skin oil and is generally at home with any skin type.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And stay cozy.)


Wednesday, February 3, 2016 give me Fever

Vintage Valentine
Cue the rhythmic finger snapping in 4/4 time: snap--snap--snap--snap--

"Never know how much I love you
Never know how much I care
When you put your arms around me
I get a fever that's so hard to bear
You give me fever
When you kiss me
Fever when you hold me tight
Fever! in the morning
Fever all through the night..." 

Fever! Peggy Lee's sultry voice will forever be connected with this sensuous song. Experience it for yourself via this YouTube video:  

So what does Fever have to do with February? This month of groundhogs, Valentines, presidents, and civil rights activists, has a name we trace back to its Roman origins. It originally honored Februus, the god of purification, and marked the time of year when spring purification ceremonies were held. Spring? Spring? Did someone say Spring? Sounds to me like a little wishful thinking on the part of those ancient Romans...but perhaps spring came earlier there. Of course February 2nd was
Faun and Nymph, about 1615, Peter Paul Rubens
Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow which means an early spring...except it was sunny here in Edenton, North Carolina--so does that mean our spring will be late? Sorry, I digress. Anyway, getting back to Februus--one means of purification is by fire and heat and thus Febris, goddess of fever, came to be. The heat of a fever does, in fact, help to purify by killing off infection which is why we are advised to not take steps to lower a fever unless the fever itself has gone so high it is, in itself, dangerous. 
Another celebration about the same time of year which included ritual purification was that of Lupercalia. That day honored the god Faun, so Faun and Februus were often thought of as the same being. Hmmm. Somehow I just don't usually connect Faun with purity. Lupercalia also honored the she-wolf who nursed the founders of Rome -- Romulus and Remus. Not sure how all that relates, but there you have it. 
Februus's festival of purification, known as Februalia, fell on the 15th of the month. That means it's exactly one day following that traditional celebration of feverish romance, Valentine's Day. I shall say no more.
Peggy Lee

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 

Kate (snap--snap--snap--snap...)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Two-Faced Month...that's January for you

Coca Cola Calendar 1901
For thirty-one days a year, every year, we date our letters and signatures with the word "January"-- most of us, I imagine, not giving it a second thought. But what exactly is a "January" other than the name we give the first month of our calendar year? What exactly is a "February" for that matter? I decided it was high time I stopped blindly and blithely writing the names next to mine without finding out what they meant.

Once you get to September, the months have quite mundane origins in that they only represent their numerical position on the original Roman calendar invented by King Romulus in 753 BC. Since that calendar began with March, September was the seventh month and comes from the Latin for "seven"-- septem. October was the eighth month (octo,) November the ninth (novem) and December, the tenth (decem.)  This first calendar did not take the winter months into consideration and so did not work very well. Who knows, maybe they thought if they just ignored them, they'd go away. Since that method didn't rid the world of winter but did cause undo confusion, King Numa Pompilius added two more months and January and February were born in 700 BC. 
Head of Janus, Vatican Museum, photo by By Loudon Dodd
(via Wikimedia Commons)

But what of the name January? That's where it gets more interesting and a lot more creative. January (or Januarias in the Roman style) is named for the Roman god, Janus. Janus, most often portrayed as having a face on both sides of his head--one looking forward and one looking backward--is the god of beginnings and endings. Quite appropriate for our first month of the year. Janus represents passages and transitions as well, both physical and psychological. He represents the passage from childhood to maturity, the dark of night to the light of day, the beginnings of life and the transitions to death. He is the god of gates and doorways and all they symbolize. When Rome was at war the gate to Janus's temple was open and when at peace the gate was closed. Janus is seen presiding over the beginning of marriages, planting, and harvests. So, as we tear open the cellophane wrappers on our brand new calendars, give a nod to our
Temple of Janus,1748, Giovanni Battista Piranesi
ancestors' acknowledgement of the symbolic importance of recognizing transitions and passages in our lives. That puts Janus in his place.

February? Well, I'll wait until next month to tell you about it but I'll give you a clue. Remember the song Fever made famous by Peggy Lee in the 1950s? Think about it.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!