Welcome to a new part of The F Word blog, Fragrant Fridays, exploring the use of aromatherapy in the treatment of Fibromyalgia, and other chronic pain illnesses.
I’ve used aromatherapy all my adult life. In fact, it was ever since my grandad brought me a stoneware oil burner back when I was 16 (long time ago).
This little burner has travelled everywhere with me, wherever I settle, my oil burner comes. It’s been broken and glued back together twice (in fact last time I didn’t do the best job because now it has stuck to the bookshelf from all the tea light wax that seeps from the bottom), but it still serves me pretty well. I enjoy the strong scent that comes from burning an oil, and that with the right oil you can close your eyes and be transported somewhere far away, like a Turkish bath, or a lavender field in the countryside on a warm summers afternoon.
Since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I have been researching and testing different essential oils and methods that can be used to ease some of the terrible symptoms that plague me each day. I’ve had mixed results, but as fibromyalgia isn’t easy to treat, it was never going to be a quick fix. This section of the blog will be for exploring aromatherapy, and the possible benefits different oils/methods may have for anyone, not just chronic illness warriors.
This week I though it would be best to start with an aroma most people are familiar with, is cheap, and is easily accessible, Lavender.
For me, lavender is easily the most nostalgic aroma, bringing back memories of playing in gardens, and making perfume with an ice cream tub full of water, some flowers and a wooden spoon. It reminds me of warm summer afternoons with the sun on my skin, and fills me with calm the moment I even catch a waft of its pleasant fragrance. It is pretty to look at with its vibrant purple flowers standing tall above its feathery green foundations. I have always had a lavender bush in my garden, it is usually the first thing I plant, and throughout the autumn, winter and spring, I leave the dried lavender heads on the bush to harvest for floating in warm baths, or stuffing inside a tiny homemade cotton pouch to put in my drawers or pillowcase.
However, Lavender is so much more than just a pretty purple flower that smells nice. Most people are familiar with its association with relaxation and sleep, but it can be used for so much more. The list is endless, but here are just some of the other reasons lavender, particularly in the essential oil form, may be beneficial to you –
- Relief of anxiety and stress
- Aching and tired muscles
- Muscle and joint pain
- Wound healing
- Skin disorders such as acne/eczema
- Relief of digestive symptoms
I could go on, but I won’t! I am sure however, that from this modest list alone, you could associate yourself with one of the symptoms and lavender may be able to help you. I personally use lavender, amongst many other oils , to calm my mind and to relax my muscles and joints on days my symptoms have been particularly bad. I also use lavender to help me sleep and when I have the occasional crappy headache. It isn’t a miracle worker, but it does help to varying degrees depending on how I use it and what symptoms I use it for. For example, last night I had a headache and I used it directly by placing a few drops on a handkerchief, and within half and hour it had eased enough to go to bed and go to sleep. I also slept relatively well for me.
There are a large number of documented ways all over the internet in which you can use lavender to maximum effect. I haven’t tried them all, but have tried a few as follows.
- In the bath – this has a two fold effect on me, the heat and weightlessness of being in a bath, along with the properties of lavender filling the bathroom through the steam from the hot water. This helps to relax my tired muscles, particularly my legs, eases my joint and back pain, and relaxes my body and mind, which in turn helps me to manage my symptoms of fibromyalgia better. If taken in the evening it also helps me settle better for the nightly battle with sleep.
- In the shower – I personally prefer to have a shower as they are less time consuming in the mornings. If the morning has been a bit of a rush with getting the kids to school and generally being a mother with all of the demands children make before even the birds get up, then a few drops in a capful of water tipped over my head with the hot shower running is enough to help calm me down and recenter myself for the rest of the morning. This works especially well for me when paired with mindfulness, which can be done at the same time just for a couple of minutes, in the shower, with the door locked!
- In massage oil – using a bland base oil like sweet almond oil, can help to maintain the powerful fragrance of lavender. When diluted oil is massaged directly into the muscle area affected it can have a quick and long lasting effect, especially when mixed with other muscle relaxants. Its delightful when somebody massages you, but you can also use it for self massage. I may even take a little premixed bottle into work with me when I return in a few weeks for emergency self massage. We also use this for one of our daughters who gets terrible growing pains, and this has a quick and long lasting effect on her too.
- On a handkerchief – the great thing about popping lavender onto a hankie, is that you can pop it in your pocket or bag to take with you wherever you go for emergency use when thing gets a bit stressful or manic. You can also pop it into you pillowcase to aid a restful nights sleep.
- In candles – my husband and I (okay more him, but I like to think I am helping) have got into the art of making our own beeswax candles, which is incredibly easy and cheap. Adding Lavender to a candle helps to fill the whole house with a calming and welcoming aroma, and I like my flat to smell nice! I tend to do this more in the evenings when the little ones are asleep, to calm my body and mind ready to attempt a nights sleep.
- Lastly, but by no means least, in my oil burner, this makes the smell of lavender even stronger, in fact you can smell it from outside our flat, and the aroma lasts much longer than a candle. Again, I tend to do this in the evenings.
As with any new method of treating symptoms for any reason, always take precaution. I AM NOT AN AROMATHERAPIST and all thoughts and opinions are my own based on the research I have made and the results I have had. I do however always follow these rules when trying a new essential oil –
- Some essential oils can have an allergic effect on some people so I always begin using essential oils slowly and carefully.
- I never put essential oils directly onto my skin without diluting in a base oil first. I test for skin sensitivity by testing on a small patch of diluted oil my inner forearm and if there is no irritation after 48 hours I consider it safe for me.
- I always check which essential oils are phototoxic (sensitive to the suns UV rays) so that I make sure I have properly rinsed it off my skin before going into sunlight, to avoid burning.
- Less is more – just a couple of drops diluted into a base oil is enough to carry through to the whole mixture, so don’t get too excited and add too much essential oil, it will be too overpowering and may irritate.
- If I was pregnant, I would speak to an aromatherapist first to check what is safe to use.
- I don’t assume that all essential oils can be used in aromatherapy, some can’t, so I always check.
- I would never ingest essential oils without first speaking to an aromatherapist.
- And lastly, I keep them out of reach of children and away from fire hazards.
I hoped you enjoyed the first instalment of Fragrant Fridays. Next time we will be exploring Peppermint.
Please feel free to share, on Facebook, the Twitters, or over on Insta. Also, please leave your comments down below on what you find lavender (or any other oil) is useful for and share your wisdom!