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aromatherapy 101

Winter Aromatherapy

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In the world of plants, winter is a time of rest and dormancy. During this season the processes of life and regeneration are subtle and hidden away. Bulbs, roots and rhizomes nourish growth deep within their structures. Buds enfold developing leaves, stems and flowers, while seeds and fruits sustain the embryonic forms of plants.

As non-hibernating, daytime creatures, we humans can grow restless and depressed during the darkness of winter, cut off from the light and life that we thrive on most of the year. Aromatherapy brings us the aromatic energy of living plants in the form of essential oils. These fragrances are a natural antidote to the emotionally debilitating effects of winter.

The ripe berry of the juniper tree, Juniperus communis, yields an essential oil that is particularly well suited to this task. The essential oil is contained in the resinous purple berry, which surrounds a cluster of brown seeds. The oil is extracted from the partially dried fruits by steam distillation. It is colorless or slightly greenish yellow with a refreshing, bracing, sweet foresty aroma.

Juniperus communis grows throughout Europe and Asia, often inhabiting rocky exposed areas. Virtually all of the juniper berry crop is harvested in the wild. It takes two seasons for the berries to ripen into plump, bluish-purple fruits about 1/4 inch across. Northern Italy and Yugoslavia produce some of the finest, largest berries with high resin and sugar content. The largest Italian berries are sold at a premium as a specialty culinary item for sauces and preserves. Much of the harvest is used to produce gin. The fermented, spent berries from this process are re-distilled to produce an essential oil. Such oils are identifiable by their more harsh-woody, less sweet and delicate aroma.

Juniper berry essential oil contains mainly pinene, myrcene, sabinene and limonene. These constituents are also found in other winter season oils including pine, cypress and fir needle. Juniper berry oil blends especially well with these oils. Juniper oil is refreshing, clarifying and uplifting to the spirit. Its physical actions are cleansing, astringent (for oily complexions) and toning.

A wintertime aromatherapy blend featuring juniper oil can be adapted for use as an invigorating massage oil or a holiday fragrance. This recipe will yield about 1 teaspoon of concentrated essential oil blend. The blend can be diluted in vegetable oil for a massage oil preparation or diffused for scenting the home. For a massage oil, dilute 12 drops of the blend in 3 ounces of vegetable oil. To diffuse into the air, use a candle diffuser or terra cotta ornament style diffuser.

Wintertime Aromatherapy Blend
Aromatherapy is supportive in the winter season of quiet regeneration. Juniper berry oil is well suited for this purpose, being pleasantly sweet and fruity with a gently invigorating fresh evergreen tone. Combined with other winter season oils like pine and fir needle and sweetened with a fruity citrus oil like bergamot, juniper berry becomes an indispensable aroma with therapeutic and aesthetic applications.

 

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