Archive for the ‘Aromatherapy’ Category

Apricot – Prunus armenianca


Cultivated for almost 3000 years, this tree followed the Silk Road from China to Armenia. Later it was introduced to southern Europe by Alexander the Great in approximately the 4th century BC. Pliny credits the Romans with cultivation by 100 BC, and the Greeks had their own name for the fruit, “the golden eggs of the sun.” The Spanish brought them to the western hemisphere, planting them first in Mexico and later transporting them north to the missions in California.


The fruit can be eaten out of hand or dried, stewed, grilled, poached or made into jam or jelly. The seeds or kernels of the apricot are used in the Italian liqueurs Amaretto and amaretti biscotti. The oil expressed from the kernels is used as cooking oil.


Healers have valued the apricot for its medical properties for thousands of years. The fruit, kernel, leaves, blossoms, and oil have been used. It was used to treat cough, fever, skin problems, constipation, infertility, eye inflammation, spasm, worms and parasites, gallstones, and vaginal infections.


The expressed oil can be found in cosmetics, soaps, and skin products. It is also used in perfumery, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves, and a dark grey to green dye from the fruit.

Passion Flower – Passiflora incarnate


This plant is a native to the Americas, growing in sandy thickets and open fields, roadsides, and waste places. It is listed in Indiana as rare, and in Ohio as Threatened.

This flower was named the Passion flower due to the fact that the flower reminded early Christians of Christ’s passion on the cross. Count the petals and sepals, together they are said to represent the disciples (except for Judas & Peter). The stamens number 5, just as Christ had 5 wounds. The stigmas look like the nails of the crucifixion used to affix him to the wooden cross and the corona represents the crown of thorns.

The Cherokee used the flower for food, medicine, and for religious ceremony. It was used in a formula for nervous behavior along with hops, valerian, and hawthorn. In combination with peppermint it has calming properties. Today it is still used for calming.

The fruit can be eaten raw, the inside is yellow, and gelatin like. It can also be used to make drinks, sherbet, jams & jellies. The leaves could be eaten as a spring green.

The aromatic flowers are used in making perfume, and added to potpourri or dried and burned as incense. The root is also used as an insecticide.

Common Lilac – Syringa vulgaris

Lilac blossoms
Lilac blossoms

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed,
And the great star early drooped in the western sky in the night,
I mourned, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring….


By Walt Whitman (1865)

This shrub of Eastern Europe first came to North America with early European settlers in the mid 1750’s. They were included in the earliest botanical gardens here, and were also grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in their gardens. Gerard described the flowers by saying, “many small flowers in the form of a bunch of grapes …consisting of four parts like a little star, of an exceeding sweet savor or smell. . .”

Due to the scent that Gerard refers to is the reason that an essential oil has been, through great effort, finally been steam extracted. It is hard to find, and very expensive, but is used as perfume, in making a sachet, potpourri, and can be found in soups and lotions.

In 19th century America it was utilized as a vermifuge, tonic, anti-periodic, and a febrifuge. As a febrifuge it was used in the early treatment of malaria. Children with sore mouths have been encouraged to chew the leaves and twigs.

A dye can be obtained from various parts creating various colors.

            Leaves: green & brown

            Twigs: yellow-orange

            Flowers: green

Lilac is the state bush of New York, the purple flower clusters are the floral emblem of New Hampshire, and a number of cities call themselves the ‘Lilac City’…Spokane, Washington, Rochester, New Hampshire, and Cornwall, Ontario, Canada.

Vanilla Bean – Vanilla planifolia

Vanilla orchid and bean by Koehler

Vanilla orchid and bean by Koehler

Aromatic vanilla made from the bean
lingering sweet fragrance somewhere in between
the moon, the Milky Way a bright sunbeam
delicious ingredient for vanilla ice-cream…

By Sandra Glassman


This member of the Orchid family is a native of the tropical forests of Mexico, but can also be found in tropical areas of Asia, New Guinea, and Africa. Where the vine is cultivated they once believed the Cojon de gato (Thevetia peruviana) tree was the best companion for growth. In Mexico it was used in antiquity to flavor their chocolate. It was introduced to Europe by the Spanish historian and explorer, Hernandez.


In Meso-America (an area encompassing central Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) it was a special treat that was only allowed to be consumed by the Royalty. Among the Olmec, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Mixtec, Totonac and Aztec it was believed only those of the ruling class deserved to partake in this aphrodisiac! In the 1990‘s the Chicago Institute of Smell and Taste it was determined to be a powerful stimulant to men.


In folk medicine it is an aromatic stimulant, used to exhilarate the brain, prevent sleep, improve muscular energy, and to stimulate sexual desire! It is used in infusion form for hysteria, rheumatism and low fever.


The aroma is used in perfumes, and veterinary medicine. In the Victorian Language of Flowers vanilla stands for innocence, purity, charm, silence, and secrecy. In magic it is utilized in love spells, meditation, healing rituals, and mental clarity & strength.


A Warning: do not use the essential oil of vanilla when pregnant. Avoid high  concentrations in skin care of the essential oil.


The above pic is from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887  [Image in Public Domain]

Coconut – Cocos nucifera

Coconut or Monkey faced fruit
Coconut or Monkey faced fruit

…I wish I were a coconut,
People shout that is absurd,
I wish I were a coconut,
And that’s my final word.

By Jacob T Blow

 (to read the rest of the poem)

The actual origin of this palm is in question, some say the Coconut Palm is from the Ganges Delta region while others insist it is from northwestern South America. Regardless this is one of the most useful plants to man of all time, with every part being useful in some way! The Indonesians says “There is a different use for coconuts for every day of the year.” In Sanskrit the Coconut is called kalpa vriksha, which means “tree which gives all that is necessary for living.”


The Coconut in herbal medicine can be employed by using the pressed juice of the root for dysentery (bloody diarrhea). In the Philippines the fruits are processed into oil or milk and used for its refrigerant, aperient, diuretic, anthelmintic, and purgative properties. The roots are used for coughs due to its astringency.


In the Solomon Islands the water from a young nut is fed to infants with diarrhea, and in emergencies, used intravenously as a saline drip substitute. The young leaves are chewed to a paste and applied to cuts to act as a styptic (stop bleeding). During WWII the coconut water was given intravenously as a substitute for blood plasma when none was available, saving many a life!


As a food the water is sterile till the drupe is cracked, and therefore provides a clean source of water when all else is contaminated by natural disaster. The nut meat is often used, in grated form to make cookies, cakes, candies, even a form of egg nog popular in Puerto Rico. The coco leaves are used in the Philippines to wrap rice for cooking and storage.


Additional uses of the coconut and its parts are…..The charred husk is used as a black dye, and the coconut oil is used much like a mordant, deepening and setting colors. The male flowers were heated in coconut oil and used to perfume fabric, while the bark is used to scent body oil. Coconut oil with other botanicals added (Tahitian gardenia and/or ylang ylang) is used for massage and for hair treatments. The leaves are used in making mats, thatched roofs, and baskets. The uses of the various parts seem endless!

Lemon – Citrus × limon

A Lemon on the tree

A Lemon on the tree

“Lemon tree oh so pretty,

and the lemon flower is sweet,

but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”


Written by Will Holt

Preformed by Peter, Paul and Mary


This native citrus of northern India is only found in cultivation today, the wild populations have been eradicated. Cultivation has been ongoing for centuries and 47 varieties have been developed. In Asia it was widely used for its antiseptic properties. In 700 AD it was introduced to Egypt and Iraq. The first recorded evidence of its use was found in an Arabic farming treatise of the tenth century were it was stated it was used as an ornamental in early gardens.


Lemons are a well known astringent that works well as a gargle for sore throats, as a lotion for sunburn, and in uterine bleeding post delivery. It has also been used to cure hiccough and treat jaundice. The British Navy requires all ships that will be out to sea for more than 10 days to carry sufficient Lemon or lime juice so that every sailor may have a 1 ounce dose daily to fight scurvy!


It has been used as a cooling drink in feverish situations, allaying thirst, for rheumatism, and occasionally to counteract narcotic poisoning. The rind is used in preparations to help cover the taste of medicines in allopathic medicine.


Lemon is popular in cooking as well….lemon juice has been used with fish for centuries…did you know it is because the juice neutralizes the fishy odor? Water and iced tea (sometimes hot teas as well) are served with a slice or wedge of lemon, and in Europe colas are often offered with lemon as well!


When used in marinate for meat it works by partially hydrolyzing tough cuts of meat to make them more tender and palatable. Lemons can be used to make marmalade, a liqueur named Limoncello is made from the rind, and the zest is added to baked goods, puddings, rice and other dishes for flavor.


Lemons are also popular in cosmetic use:

            Lemon hair lightener…the juice applied to the hair acts as a natural highlighter

            Deodorant…raw lemon can be used as a short term deodorant

            Skin bleach…the juice has been used to lighten skin blemishes, the effectiveness is questionable

            Acne treatment… just apply the juice to blemishes

            Facial masks…often added to facial masks for a refreshing treatment

Bearded Iris – Iris germanica

Bearded Iris flower
Bearded Iris flower

Shades of purple, hints of yellow,
Lavender and violet hues,
Regal, royal Irises,
Proud, Spring flowers on review.

Flags unfurled at full-mast,
Sword-shaped leaves unsheathed,
Stand tall, and line the path,
Banners blowing in the breeze.

By Virginia Ellis


This native of Europe is a popular garden addition. The name “Bearded” refers to the presence of a furry strip on each of three drooping, petal-like sepals, called falls. The plant is named after the rainbow goddess, ‘Iris,’ from the beauty and variety of colors in the flowers of the genus.

Also called Orris Root they are grown in Tuscany and other parts if Italy. The Iris is treated with great care, and the ground is cared for and weeded carefully about each plant by the barefoot women. In the fall the plants are just as carefully dug up, trimmed and dried. It can take several years of drying to fully develop the fragrance of the roots. The roots take on the scent of Violets. An essential oil is extracted from the fresh roots.

The iris has since ancient time, been used for purification. As in Roman times the fresh flowers can be placed in an area to be cleansed. The three petals of the flower symbolize faith, wisdom, and valor.

A black dye can be obtained from the root, while a blue dye can be had from the flowers. Sometimes the seeds are used as rosary beads.