About Me

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I'm a mom, a wife, a best friend. Sick with CFIDS/ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia since 1975 as a result of a nasty flu while still in grad school, it wasn't until the late '80's that I received a diagnosis. Until that flu I'd never really been ill before. With each year I get progressively worse and add to the bucket load of symptoms I'm living with. I've been blessed with an incredible family and best friend who've stayed with me through my struggles as we continue to find a way out of this monstrous illness and its complications. We've tried seemingly every approach to find my way back to health. Often I think our best weapon in this undesirable and unasked-for adventure has been laughter.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Favorite 3 Aromatherapy Essential Oils

One of the most successful "natural" or "alternative" routes that I've discovered in my adventure of trying to "heal" myself of the CFIDS/ME/CFS and fibromyalgia nightmare has been that of aromatherapy.  It was on a trip to England one year that I discovered the beauty of aromatherapy.  It was the late 80's and we who lived in the States hadn't heard of aromatherapy at all.   Having been raised by a mom who had some miraculous things happen in her life when conventional medicines were not available during drastic times, I always believed in alternative medicine in addition to western medicine: I am my mother's daughter, after all.

I suppose I was most influenced by one of my mom's worst life-altering episodes.  It happened when she came down with some sort of leg infection that became so dire that it called for an amputation but the doctors were understandably too busy with wounded soldiers.  As my grandmother carried my mom back to their home, an old woman called out to my grandmother and asked what the problem was. (Oh those old Russian/Ukrainian babushkas always had to be in on any action going on!)  Upon hearing what had happened, the old woman nodded sagely and after my grandmother swore to carry out the instructions to a T,  she was given a secret recipe of herbs to pull out all the gory stuff from my mom's leg. Within a certain amount of time (weeks, months, this my mom doesn't remember, as other problems were taking their attention away  from the leg crisis) all the tissue was rejuvenated and my mom was left with only a scar that showed where the puss and rot had come out.

Likewise, I doubt that there is a Russian or Ukrainian, here in the States or back in the "old country" who doesn't know that if one gets a wound of any sort, they simply need to find some "podorozhnik," a weed that grows "by the side of the road" (plantain, I believe it's called) and stick it on.  There's no scar left if it's used until the healing is over.  Even a "new" Russian arrival, a doctor at the "major medical center," swore by podorozhnik - that made me really laugh!  The only thing that keeps me away from podorozhnik these days is that I know that there's none that hasn't tons of pesticides drowning it.

So, when I first heard about aromatherapy, I was fascinated.  Plus, there's that tiny thing of having a nose that's infamous for its sense of smell.  To me aromatherapy and my nose seemed to be a match made in heaven and I became almost obsessed with aromatherapy.  I discovered it in an English pharmacy.  I love to visit  pharmacies and grocery stores when I travel. Why?  Because to me they are what I call "contemporary museums."  How better to get a good view of what a country and its people are like?

According to history, it was WWll that brought essential oils to the fore.  A medical doctor began his own research on the properties of essential oils, taking over the work a previous doctor who had started experimenting with essential oils during WWI when there was a shortage of supplies and medicines.  During the second World War, when supplies and medicines, including the new antibiotics, had run out near battlefields and in field hospitals he tried essential oils and the wounds healed rapidly, infection was reduced and often completely arrested - much like what happened to my mom, though through different "old world" means.  It's said that many soldiers were saved because of his treatment with essential oils.

"Dr. Jean Valnet has written extensively about essential oil therapy and  in 1964 published The Art of Aromatherapy and the movement in Europe had rebirth.  Around the same time, a Frenchman, Albert Couvreur, published a book on the medicinal uses of essential oils and Madame Marguerite Maury, a French biochemist, developed a unique method of applying essential oils to the skin with massage and established the first aromatherapy clinics in Paris, Great Britain, and Switzerland, and studied the rejuvenating properties of essential oils.  Her research was published in English as The Secret of Life and Youth (1964).  Micheline Arcier studied and worked with Maury and Valnet and their combined techniques created a form of aromatherapy that is used around the world."  ~From AromatherapyNaturalHealing.com
I've had some dramatic results with aromatherapy.  I was lucky enough to go back to London a few times and get work done at Micheline Arcier's aromatherapy center in Knightsbridge.  For a few years I had a local massage therapist use blends I made up myself.  I would also use the essential oils for various symptoms and health problems that came up, with great results.

Although I could go on and on about many oils that I love, these are my favorite three, aside from the obvious ones such as lavender and tea tree oils.  And just to state the obvious, please remember to only go for organic and well-established sources for essential oils.  Can you imagine the concentrations of toxins in a single drop if you're using an oil that's been grown under non-organic conditions?  (Yikes!)  And please keep in mind that I'm not a doctor, nor a professional aromatherapist.  Finally, bear in mind that if you're on any medications, they need to be cross-checked with a physician of some sort.  I've not had problems, but I've also done "my research" before using any oils and run them by my doctor, who is quite open-minded about these sorts of things if I bring him my research.  At any rate, these are just three of my favorites that have worked wonders for me.

  • Clary Sage: I think of this oil as the one that lifts you up when you are down but brings you down if you're too up and running on jittery nerves.  I absolutely love this oil.  Its properties are that of an antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, deodorant; it decreases gas and indigestion, brings on menstruation, relaxes muscles and nerves and lowers blood pressure.
Clary sage uses: added to a massage oil or used as a compress, it eases muscle and nervous tension and pain. Its relaxing action can reduce muscle spasms and asthma attacks and lowers blood pressure. It's great for "female ailments": coping better with menstrual cramps, PMS and is the first go-to for menopausal hot flashes.  It may be a gentle hormonal stimulant.  As if that's not enough, it's great for improving the complexion, so you can add some to a cream if you have acne, thin, wrinkled or inflamed skin.  In Europe, a tea prepared from clary sage leaf soothes a sore throat. (I didn't remember these last few things: darn it!  I could have used it a while back!)

HOWEVER, WARNING: Large amounts can make one giddy, cause headaches and raise blood pressure. Never use it with alcohol or if you are pregnant, suffer from breast cysts uterine fibroids or other estrogen-related disorders!

  • Neroli:  Oh, I love the smell of this oil and it is my choice for falling asleep if the stars happen to line up in the sky correctly. (I'm kidding about the stars: sort of!)
This oil is derived from orange blossoms, a most wonderful smell.  The best, rivaling my beloved roses.  Because of the delicate nature of the blossoms the method of extraction is by steam, making this oil one of the pricier ones.  It has a sweet, floral smell, and I think it's a rather refreshing smell as well.  It blends well with jasmine, ylang-ylang (another favorite, especially for depression) and sandlewood.  A little bit goes a long way, so if you should order it, go with a very tiny amount.  I also like it because it's a mild oil and thus skin sensitivity is rarely a problem.  Allergic reactions are also quite rare.

Neroli Oil uses: this is an oil that produces relaxation and is although it is often compared to lavender, this is by far the preferred choice.  It's calming properties allow it to to alleviate anxiety, depression and stress.  It helps promote sleep and relieve restlessness.

  • Pink Grapefruit: Oh, my.  If you're exhausted, this will pep you up, but in a calm way, not as jerky and hyper as peppermint (IMHO).

It has a brightness to it that gives you energy and uplifts the spirit.  (I really don't mean to sound too much like a hippie: but other language evades me!)  I once surprised my son by arriving in Australia unannounced (oh yeah, there goes all my credibility!) and was absolutely dead from the long trip.  In order to make it to the surprise "Hi, how are you doing?" as he almost dropped dead from a heart attack, ("Mom, what are you doing out of bed?") I used this oil and suddenly freshened up, despite the shower that was supposed to give me a boost, but suddenly started putting me to sleep instead.  I've been in love with this oil since!

It's said that the oil enhances self-esteem and I agree!  Dare I say that it also gives one "a sense of empowerment"?

Here's another tidbit: it supposedly diminishes people's appetites.  (I'm ordering this very soon - I can't find any of my oils in the house since the remodeling began.  Oh well, they were all past expiry dates anyway!)

Pink grapefruit uses: applied topically, it can benefit toning and have astringent effects.  It's also known to stimulate the lymphatic system and helps the body remove toxins.  Furthermore, it's said that it stimulates liver and gallbladder function (well, that boat has sailed: too late!).  It's an excellent body tonic in that it increases circulation and tones skin cells.  Ancient medicine says that the sour taste of grapefruit was used to balance and regulate conditions such as constipation, anxiety, worry, restlessness, PMS and insomnia.  The sour taste is also known to improve a sluggish digestive system. (Does anyone remember the grapefruit diets?)

One "how-to" use of pink grapefruit oil tip which I came across: place one to three drops in the palm of your hand and rub your hands together vigorously.  (Adjust the amount to your satisfaction, less or more, according to what appeals to you.)  Breath in the scent 5-20 minutes before a meal.  Important: drink 8 oz. of  "real" water after inhaling the oil.

It's said that if one blends a wild patchouli essential oil with the pink grapefruit essential oil,  the grapefruit oil's properties will be enhanced in the appetite suppressant category.  (I've not tried this, but I may well do so!)

A beauty tip: add a drop or two into a shampoo bottle to enhance the shine to your hair.  It's also been shown to eliminate oily scalps and other skin and hair conditions.

Finally, my favorite thing to do is to use it as a room freshener and deodorizer.  I've also used it to mist the air.  It has a "delicious" smell that just makes one feel as light and fresh as a sweet-smelling child who's been out in the fresh air.  And what a feat!  I'm not a fan of grapefruit, so it says a lot that I turned my opinion in its favor.

There you have it: a bit of history along with a bit of hope and optimism which comes naturally, encased in little delightfully fragrant bottles which, believe it or not, our sensitive noses can actually benefit from.  It certainly works for MY wacko system!

As always, I hope everyone's feeling their best, only better.  Ciao and paka!


  1. Thanks so much Irene, this has been really helpful to me and I will definately be trying these out in the new year! Great to see you visited London when you were younger too! Hope you had a fab time! Pink grapefruit is my all time favourite scent, I always use pink grapefruit showergel and creams and oils! Thinking of you, hope you are okay. More posts on natural remedies please! <3 xxxxxx

    1. Hi Chloe! So glad you liked the post - Thanks! And you're a fellow pink grapefruit fan as well. It's truly is a marvelous scent. Yes, I loved London. It's my absolutely favorite place to visit and is mentioned more than a few times in this blog. I cringe if I think I might not be able to ever visit again so I don't give up hope! xx

    2. Aw I really hope you are well enough to visit again one day! I live about an hour and a half away from London and have visit there a few times! Amazing at this time of year with all the Christmas lights! xxxxx

    3. I imagine a Dickens' Christmas! Thank you Chloe! xx

  2. Lovely ideas here, Irene. I am also a great fan of aromatherapy oils. Rose, Lavender and Neroli are particular favourites of mine. They help me feel soothed, relaxed and aid sleep - all absolutely necessary supportive measures for CFS/M.E. Some years ago I wanted to add massage and aromatherapy skills to my nursing ones and went on a basic course. However, not long afterwards I was too ill to use it and it remains an interest for personal use only.
    Glad you were able to visit and enjoyed your time in London. It is a hectic, busy, rather chaotic place to visit but a great attraction none the less! Blessings :)

    1. Thank you, Joy! Glad you enjoyed the post. I still find it amazing that the oils can help so much and hope you are able to get well enough to use your new skills again. I had to laugh when I read your take on London: it feels so quiet, civilized and manageable after NYC! ;) I'm so happy that we now live in "a small town." xx

    2. It's funny how we view places differently depending on our starting point of reference. I live in a fairly busy city about 2 hours or so from London and haven't been well enough to visit it for years. My memories are from being younger and more impressionable, I guess!
      Size and noise are relative too. I hope you recover enough to make the trip again. Blessings, Irene. :)

    3. Thanks so much, Joy! It's been a dream of mine for ages. It's a nice thing to image because you just never know! But noise is a definite factor, in addition to a hundred things other "tiny" things.. I once had to switch hotels for the noise alone! ;) xx

  3. Pink grapefruit is uplifting and fun. The body shop do a lovely range. Neroli is gorgeous too. Have to agree. Body shop do a nice Neroli Jasmine range. Though in the past when ive been well enough ive got this scent from lying in the garden with orange blossom and jasmine plants. If you have the essential oils though, thats great - all the better! Was quite surprised to see pink grapefruit mentioned as no one else I know has mentioned it.

    1. Hi Sophie! I'm not even exactly sure how I got onto the pink grapefruit, but am so glad. I think I was on a roll of trying so many essential oils, probably at least a hundred, if not more. It was a very bad period in my life and I'd just started using a wheelchair, around 1990-ish. But with the help of the oils, I was able to get out of that wheelchair, with the help of much therapy, some of it definitely involving the oils.
      I really need to go back to them and am putting them on my New Year's Resolutions list, even as we speak. I don't normally make those resolutions but this year is a MUST. (Even though I failed my one resolution last year, "to make myself look human," which I failed dismally thanks to all the medical craziness like surgeries, pneumonia, etc.) But I can't afford to go into anymore of a downward spiral. So, yes, the oils will be on my list for sure, along with a masseuse who'll come to the house. Gosh! I hope he's still in business! I really need him now!
      I just love that you're in love with the pink grapefruit. I also love it as a room freshener, or a waker-uper when my body decides it no longer needs sleep, though nothing could be further from the truth. And the neroli is simply wonderful for getting to sleep. Yep, I can see a big order in my near future, with quite a few oils that are real necessities ;) xx