Basic Aromatherapy, Part 3

photo of essential oils by lisa maligaBy Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2008-2017

Continued from Basic Aromatherapy, Part 1 and Basic Aromatherapy, Part 2

Aromatherapy In Your Environment

The following methods are for those of you who wish to be able to change the fragrance environment of a room, car, office, closet, drawer, etc. There are psychological benefits to entering a room that has the crisp aroma of citrus, or a subtle scent of fresh blooming flowers.

Aroma Lamps – Aroma lamps are either electric or operated by a tea light or votive candle. There is a small cup shaped portion that is usually made of glazed ceramic and holds a few ounces of water. However, other materials may include glass and stone. Warm or even hot water should be used; as that is less work the candle has to do. Only a few drops of essential oil are added to the water, thus making it ideal for costlier essential oils. Care should be taken to see that the water doesn’t boil away.

Atomizers – Requiring no heat, atomizers, sometimes referred to as nebulizers or nebulizing diffusers, disperse the essential oils on a revitalizing current of air as it passes through an intricately engineered blown glass chamber. This course naturally suspends and ionizes the oil into extremely fine molecules, causing them to remain suspended in the air for longer periods.

Many aromatherapist practitioners and others who utilize the finest essential oils choose atomizers. It’s important to be careful with the atomizers. Since there is a continuous mist emitted it should not be used for more than a few minutes at a time. Many of the models do have built-in timers to avoid any problems like overuse. Also, make sure that this is done in a clear area, away from furniture, [varnish can be worn off] wall hangings and other objects.

Candles – Candles create a more romantic ambiance and do double duty in helping disperse your preferred aroma[s] throughout a room. In the spirit of true aromatherapy, it’s advised to use beeswax, palm wax or soy wax candles as paraffin contains carcinogenic chemicals. Wicks should be trimmed, and the essential oils need to be added at the top of the candle, but never on the wick itself. You can add the essential oils after the candle has been lit and there’s a small pool of wax at the top of the candle. Don’t add the oils to the flame itself as oils can catch fire.

Diffusers – You can buy diffusers to plug into your car’s cigarette lighter, as you can also find those that plug into any wall socket. The atomizers suspend a fine mist of essential oils into the air for aromatherapy is the best method of using essential oils for therapeutic treatments. Many aromatherapists believe that this is the most effective method of enjoying the aromas.

Sachets – If you want your linens to smell clean and fresh, the addition of a smell sachet filled with your favorite aroma will create a pleasant smell whenever you open the drawer or closet. You can buy them already made, or make them yourself. Highly recommended would be a small muslin or organza bag filled with dried lavender buds and a few drops of lavender essential oil. Not only is lavender a universally pleasing aroma, it also serves as an all-natural way to keep moths away.

Carrier Oils:

The most common way to dilute a pure essential oil is with a cold-pressed carrier oil. Carrier oils allow the essential oil to slowly permeate the skin, protecting it from irritation. Jojoba, sesame, sweet almond, rose hip, refined rice bran, shea oil, wheatgerm, evening of primrose, grapeseed, kukui nut, sunflower, hazelnut, safflower, avocado or apricot kernel oils are commonly used. Several of the carrier oils can be combined and when essential oils are added, this makes for a very nutrient-rich bath oil.

Determining Quality of Essential Oils:

Read the label. If purchasing rosemary oil, for example, you would expect to see that name on the label. However, here are the four facts that you will find on any bottle of essential oil from a reputable supplier/company. 

1. Botanical/Latin name. In this case it would be Rosemarinus officinalis.

2. Part. What part of the plant has the essential oil been extracted from? For rosemary, that is the leaf.

3. Method of extraction. Is it an absolute, enfleurage, carbon dioxide [CO2], or has it been steam distilled? In this case it has been steam distilled.

4. Country of Origin. Rosemary comes from many different countries, such as Corsica, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, and France. Location may make a sizable difference for many reasons such as climate, type of soil, high/low altitude, etc.

Aromatherapy isn’t government regulated. Products can claim to be “natural” when in fact distilled water is the only untainted ingredient. Any reputable retailer of essential oils will be very knowledgeable about their product and capable of proving its purity. They will and should be happy to answer your questions.

Basic Aromatherapy, Part 2

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2008-2014

Continued from Basic Aromatherapy, Part 1

photo of essential oils by lisa maligaBefore 1993, you wouldn’t have been able to find the word ‘aromatherapy’ listed in a dictionary even though this art/science has been effectively used for thousands of years. In fact, the word was invented in the 1920’s by a French chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé who studied the cosmetic properties of plants. He soon learned that plants contained organic antiseptic elements that worked better than inorganic antiseptics. His interest was further ignited when he there was an explosion in his laboratory; badly burning has hands. Immediately he poured lavender essential oil [one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly on the skin] on them and made the not so astonishing discovery that his hands healed quickly and with no scarring.

However, the usage of aromatic plants has been going on for thousands of years. From the civilizations of ancient Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome, floral and herbal oils have been used in many ways from flavoring food and beverages to being poured into baths and massaged into the body.

The Romans weren’t shy about employing scents. They inundated their baths and banquets with floral concoctions from scattering rose petals on floors to anointing their bodies with floral perfumes. After bathing their bodies were massaged with aromatic oils. Their beds and clothing, bodies and hair were scented with perfumes. Even men scented themselves with balsam and cinnamon oils.

The natural healing system of ayurveda, meaning “science of life” was established approximately 4000 years ago in the Himalayan region. Plants and all their properties are a relevant part of ayurvedic medicine that continues to be practiced where it started and has now spread around the world.

Hippocrates is known as the “father of medicine”, and this Greek doctor was a noted advocate for the usage of essential oils, especially in the form of daily baths and massages. Resins of myrrh and oils of cinnamon were often applied to a patient to soothe inner and outer complaints.

Essential Oils vs. Fragrance Oils:

Pure, unadulterated essential oils derived from the leaves, roots, seeds, flowers or bark of a plant or tree are the source extracted directly from nature via a form of steam distillation. When you first begin working with essential oils, take care in handling them. Lavender essential oil is quite safe for the skin, as is tea tree, but some people can have allergic reactions to them. When handling essential oils, it’s wise to do a skin test. Simply apply a tiny amount on your wrist, and if there’s no reaction within 24 hours you are safe. As these oils can be costly, you must take care that they’re always kept in a cobalt or amber colored glass bottle and stored in a cupboard [out of direct sunlight] and kept in a cool, dry place. When you buy an oil, write the date on the vial. Most essential oils can last from one to three years. Citrus oils have a shelf life ranging from six months to less than two years. Essential oils can last for several years, but the freshness disappears. There are some exceptions with the darker colored, “heavier” oils or resins. Patchouli Oil is known to improve with age.

You should know about fragrance oils and what they really are. I visited an e-group for soapmakers and when someone asked for a company where they could purchase essential oils, a person gave the name of a company that sold only fragrance oils! Obviously, to this uninformed person, the terms are interchangeable. They’re not. Fragrance oils are synthesized in a laboratory. They are sometimes referred to as “nature identical.” If you’re looking for an inexpensive scent, then fragrance oils fit the bill. But fragrance oils are not therapeutic grade essential oils and never will be.

From personal experience, I’ve learned that sniffing an essential oil right from the bottle and diluting it with a carrier oil such as sweet almond or jojoba, makes a huge difference. I smelled my favorite, vanilla absolute, a thick balsamic oil derived from the pod of the vanilla plant. I determined that the first whiff brought out the usual vanilla scent I was accustomed to, but a millisecond later there was a stronger, harsher scent. I then added a few drops to a bottle of sesame oil and the change was magnificent! I had the aroma I equated with the spicy-sweet scent of a dried vanilla bean pod. The carrier oil had combined perfectly with the essential oil!

You should always dilute essential oils in carrier oils when applying directly to the skin, or even in the bathtub. This is a necessary safety precaution. Essential oils are very strong and need to be diluted. Also, some essential oils [and fragrance oils] may smell good enough to drink, but are for EXTERNAL USE ONLY!

Basic Aromatherapy, Part 3 

What’s So Great About Pascalite Clay?

pascalite clay soap lisa maliga joy of melt and pour soap craftingBy Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2006-2014

It’s not hard to find claims of products with extraordinary healing powers online and offline. We want quick fixes, whether over-the-counter, doctor prescribed, or self-medicating synthetic drugs. Yet it seems to be that some of the simplest and most effective remedies come directly from the earth itself. What’s earthier than clay? And how powerful is clay? For 30 million years there has been a clay mined in only one area of the United States. The location is near the Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming, home to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel. The wheel is approximately 10,000 feet above sea level. While it’s a lot newer than Stonehenge, interestingly enough it’s 80 feet across, and maintains 28 spokes, comparable to the lunar month. To the Native Americans, this has always been a sacred site, sort of like an astronomical observatory.

Not far from this sacred site is a mine where pascalite clay, technically known as Calcium-Bentonite Montmorillonite, hails from. This clay is mined underground to avoid contamination, and then the dense, beige colored clay is solar dried at the mountain site. Unlike the more commonly found sodium bentonite, pascalite is a non-swelling clay, meaning it doesn’t expand up to seventeen times its size when water is added. While pascalite absorbs water like a sponge, it doesn’t increase in proportion. Pascalite also is high in calcium, iron, and magnesium; making is safe for internal and external use.

Several years ago I ordered some pascalite from as I’d been researching an article about various clays and the references to pascalite were somewhat astounding. It seemingly cured spider bites, cleared up bad skin, stopped minor skin irritations such as poison ivy and oak from spreading and itching, and even helped revive flagging energy if taken internally. With recommendations like that, I had to try the stuff. So I got some, used it a few times, experimented with it in clay facial masks, and then forgot about it as I investigated other natural oils, butters and clays. The great thing about clay is that if it’s correctly stored, the shelf life is infinite.

I decided to try a pascalite clay mask to condition my scalp, as I’d read that many toxins are stored there due to the products we use and environmental factors. Another benefit is that pascalite was easily rinsed out within a few minutes. And I didn’t even need to shampoo it out. The results were also worth it—my hair was shinier and fuller and felt very clean—as did my scalp. Odd, but I’d just added clay to my scalp and hair and it felt cleaner than if I’d used a shampoo! So, I also put about a teaspoon’s worth into my shampoo so I could have a clay shampoo. Of course, I had to shake it really well, but again, it was easier to rinse out and I had fewer tangles. Then I made a small peppermint pascalite soap with added powdered green tea so I could have my own pascalite shampoo bar—which smelled terrific and worked really well. You can find the Pascalite Clay Soap recipe in my eBook The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting.  [Seen above is the photo of the soap and the Pascalite container.]

Pascalite is different from other clays such as rhassoul, French green, Moroccan red, kaolin and even sodium bentonite. Perhaps because it’s near an energy vortex of a Medicine Wheel, or that it is solar dried at a high elevation. Maybe it’s due to the geological formation of the earth in that area of Wyoming, or all the factors contribute into making pascalite a beneficial clay. It’s named after the French trapper, Emile Pascal, the first white man who used pascalite back in the 1930’s. According to the company’s literature, “…while setting out his traps in the outcropping of clay, his badly chapped and cracked hands became covered with the cheesy earth. Later when he washed his hands off, he noticed they seemed better. He started using the clay, and encouraged his friends, as well.”

And there it is, a special clay found only in one area of the U.S. that can help assist us in a very earthy way.

Revitalize Yourself with Rosemary

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2008-2016

rosemary lavender shampoo bar
Rosemary & Lavender Shampoo Bar

For those of you with oily skin and hair, bath and beauty products containing rosemary oil can balance this problem and leave you with skin that is more radiant and glossy hair. If your muscles are tired or your mood is exhausted – rosemary can give you an added boost of energy. Rosemary puts the ‘R’ in remembrance! According to Kathi Keville’s The Little Book of Aromatherapy: “Rosemary improves memory, confidence, perception, and creativity, and balances both mind and body.”

The therapeutic properties of rosemary are what make this essential oil so popular. It helps combat many things you don’t want on your skin, hair, or in your home. It’s anti-viral, which means it may get rid of colds and cold sores. It’s an anti-oxidant, so it helps extend the shelf life of lotions, body butters and balms and other good stuff you slather on your skin.

When purchasing essential oils, it’s important to look for five items that should be on the label to help determine its authenticity as a pure essential oil.

[1] Latin name: rosemary oil is called Rosmarinus officinalis.

[2] Country of origin, usually Spain, Tunisia, Morocco, France, Italy.

[3] Method of extraction of the oil from the plant; this will be steam-distilled.

[4] Part of the plant used: leaves or flowering tops.

[5] Note: Middle

The last category needs an explanation. Just like a musical note, aromatherapy classifies its oils in terms of high, middle, and low. Top notes are fleeting as they evaporate quickly. Essential oils like lemon and eucalyptus are considered top notes. Middle notes such as rosemary, tea tree, and chamomile last longer and are thought to be balancing to mind and body. The low, or base, notes comprise essential oils that linger and prevent others from disappearing too fast. Sandalwood and ginger are included in this category.

For those of you who are on a budget, there are several easy products you can make for a fraction of the cost of those found commercially.

Carrier oils are recommended for diluting tea tree essential oil for safe use on your skin. In the book Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art by Kathi Kelville and Mindy Green, the authors explain the use of these oils: “Seed and nut oils, commonly referred to as vegetable oils, are high in vitamins A, E, and F. These soothing, skin softening, nourishing, and rich-in-nutrients oils feed the skin and are among the best carriers of essential oils.”

Bath & Body Recipes:

Liquid soap – Add 3-4 drops per 16 ounces of soap.

Lotion – Add 2-3 drops per 16 ounces of lotion.

Massage – For tired muscles, a blend of rosemary and a carrier oil will help rejuvenate you. Try 10 drops tea tree per one ounce of carrier oil.

Bath Soak – Add 5 – 10 drops of rosemary oil to a hot tub of water and soak your cares away. If you have other essential oils on hand, rosemary blends well with: lavender, clary sage, peppermint, bergamot, cedarwood, basil, lemon, frankincense, eucalyptus and tea tree.

Hair Care Recipes:

Hair rinse – Add 2-3 drops of rosemary essential oil to a bottle of spring water. Shake well and add a few capfuls to your hair after you’ve rinsed out the shampoo. Allow to remain on for about 30 seconds, then rinse thoroughly.

Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse – same as above but add about 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

Shampoo – Add 12-15 drops of rosemary to 16 ounces of any type of shampoo.

Bottles of rosemary essential oil range in size from 1/6 ounce to several gallons. For small amounts, rosemary should be in a glass bottle and will usually contain a dropper top for ease of use. Rosemary is best measured in drops for smaller amounts, in teaspoons for larger. Store all tightly sealed bottles in a cool, dry area, preferably a cupboard, away from any light or heat source. Keep out of reach of children and pets.

Warnings: rosemary essential oil should not be taken internally. Those who are pregnant or have high blood pressure should consult with their physician or healthcare provider about using rosemary.

Rosemary oil has multiple uses for mind and body. This almost transparent colored oil is a rescue from pain, a delightful fresh bouquet that personifies cleanliness in a bottle.

Want a free shampoo bar recipe starring rosemary leaves and oil?

Another recipe can be found in the book How to Make Handmade Shampoo Bars