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Christmas 2017

GIFT IDEAS FOR THIS FESTIVE SEASON

CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

The countdown has started! Advent calendars being opened each day, their secret doors revealing the treasure hidden within. What fun and excitement for the young and not so young ones too!

For Christmas we have many treats, small and big, ideal for cracker fillers, secret Santa or that very special person in your life.

Please take a look and enjoy the world of fragrances and pampering that Materia Aromatica loves to offer!

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Posted in December 2017

Christmas Treats & Crackers fillers

‘Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please to put a penny in the old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny then God bless you’

As the old nursery rhyme reminds us, the festive season is drawing near. For many of us this time of year is full of nostalgia - decorations, trees and food often trigger memories of childhood Christmases.

For my sister and I, Christmas was one of the rare occasions that our parents let us eat sweets, a huge treat! Candy canes, chocolate santas and boxes of chocolates (where, mysteriously, only coffee creams remain by Boxing Day) are still part of many people’s festive experience. To help you prepare for this year’s festivities we’ve devised some bath and body treats to conjure up nostalgic aromas of childhood sweets. Of course, favourite sweets vary between families, regions and countries, but these gift ideas make lovely gifts regardless of which sweetie aromas you grew up with. Christmas selection boxes have never smelt so good!

Fruitylicious Bath Bombs

Our fizzy bath bombs conjure-up memories of chewy, fruit sweets. This aroma takes me on a swift journey to the alleyway next to my house in the 1970s, illicitly chewing sweets that my mother certainly didn’t approve of. The uplifting citrus aromas of this blend are designed to bring an impish, child-like smile to your lips. Despite being a low dilution be aware that lime oil in particular is phototoxic. The usual guidelines are to avoid direct sunlight for at least 12 hours after using, though this shouldn’t pose a problem to Europeans in December. Many thanks to Aromatherapist friend Julie Lever for sharing her favourite nostalgic blend recipe with us.

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Posted in November 2017

Spanish Sage

‘Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto’
Why should a man die whilst sage is growing in his garden
(Latin proverb)

‘Salvia’ is said to come from ‘salvere’ or to be saved, heal, to be well.

Sage has been valued over the centuries by many cultures for its medicinal and therapeutic uses and in modern time as a decorative and aromatic garden shrub.

In Spain, it is regarded as a ‘cure all’. It is believed to promote longevity, protect and cure against all infections including the plague. It has been used to treat rheumatism, digestive complaints, menstrual problems, nervous weakness and also to boost memory and cognitive responses ...

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Posted in October 2017

Earth’s Treasures

I always mourn the passing of summer, my favourite season, so thank goodness that autumn is packed full of beauty to ease me through the seasonal change. One of my favourite sights right now are the many seed heads adorning gardens, parks and verges. As well as providing interesting textures, the seed heads of flowering plants often look stunning and – excitingly - carry the promise of next year’s growth and colour.

For aromatherapists, members of the Apiaceae family are always a particular joy to spot, their umbrella-like heads bulging with seeds at this time of year (this distinctive look gave this family their old name of Umbelliferae). In particular I often spot Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) growing in my local park. Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all used common fennel medicinally…..

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Posted in September 2017

Skin Care - Creams versus Oils

I have always enjoyed using my hands, making and creating. Learning about vegetable oils and essential oils lead very quickly to the intense desire to make my own skin care.

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Posted in August 2017

Queen of Hungary Water

I love a good story, particularly when aromatics are the heroines. The truth behind the legend of the Queen of Hungary's Water is long lost to the mists of time, leaving behind intriguing whispers of a beautiful queen, reclusive monks and magical alchemists.

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Posted in July 2017

Fire & Water

The days are getting warmer. Soon, instead of reaching for long sleeves, we’ll be looking for ways to cool down. I love the summer so I can’t wait to feel hot sunshine on my skin, but even I can get too warm at times. This year I’m prepared with some watery aromatic remedies.

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Posted in May 2017

Hayfever and Allergies

The joys of spring and summer are manifold. Here at Materia Aromatica we love watching the trees sprout new growth and humble garden plants transform into flowering beauties, providing nectar for happy bees and insects. Unfortunately though the pollen released by the season’s blooms and grasses spells misery for many of us.

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Posted in April 2017

Juniper & New Year resolutions

January is the time for making life-transforming resolutions, and all too often breaking them before the month is out. Regardless of how much we’d like to try new things or break certain habits, we humans tend to be scared of change. Like most people, I break far more new year’s resolutions than I keep.

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Posted in January 2017

The Christmas Tree

Once upon a time the British Isles were swathed in pine forests, perfuming the air with their uplifting aroma. Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), native to Britain, is a particularly special tree. Sporting distinctive red-brown bark this majestic conifer can grow 35-40 metres tall. As its name suggests it has a strong connection to Scotland, where it still grows and traditionally symbolised immortality. For me, Scots Pine is a perfect oil for this time of year, and not just because pines make lovely Christmas trees.

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Posted in November 2016

Summer into Autumn

I can hardly believe its autumn already, but it’s been a great summer! One of the things I loved most about the sunshine months was taking my aromatherapy work to festivals. I’ve discovered a common pattern amongst clients whilst working at music and other festivals. For the first few days people tend to bounce into my aromatherapy and massage tent, often sprinkled with mud and glitter, occasionally dressed as unicorns and full of the joys of life. The final day however can be very different; sleep deprivation and over-indulgence giving rise to frayed emotions.

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Posted in October 2016

Season's Greetings!

Season’s Greetings! The festive season is finally upon us! Here are our top Christmas survival tips and special Christmas offers to help you through the next few weeks.

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Posted in December 2015

Using vegetable oils as base ingredients for skincare

We are often faced with comments such as: ‘Oils will make my skin greasy, oily and shiny !’ If it does, you will have either used the wrong type of oil or put too much of it. Vegetable oils are made of the same molecules and substances that are already present in the skin. Each oil has a different texture and therapeutic application. If used and applied appropriately, they are all your skin need. They will leave it clean, soft, nourished and rejuvenated.

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By the end of this article, we hope to have dissipated the worries and misconceptions and made you an addict of skincare formulated with the best ingredients in mind to look after your skin.

INGREDIENTS WE USE

  • All ingredients in our skin care formulations are derived from plants only.
  • As much as possible, we only use ingredient that have undergone the least aggressive extraction processes before they reach our shelves so as to preserve the vital components of the plant.
  • We use ingredients that are certified by the soil association so our customers know that they are the purest we can find
  • We do not add anything to our formulations – no preservatives, no chemicals of any sort, no colourings. We also endeavour not to take anything out.
  • As a result, our skin care is suitable for all skin types, from dry, mature to sensitive or damaged.

The reason we can do this is because we use vegetable oils as our bases. They do not contain water, therefore do not need any preservatives. As long as they are kept sensibly out of a source of heat and out of light, they will keep for a year. They are packed with fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, K, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, carotenoid, chlorophyll, lecithin… all that is necessary to feed the skin.

WHAT IS THE SKIN MADE OF

The skin has 2 basic layers, dermis and epidermis.

The epidermis which is in contact with the environment is made of layers of dead or dying cells separated by layers of lipids which role is to protect and retain the moisture held in the deeper layer of the skin. These lipids are made of fatty acids, waxes etc. and accounts for 14% of the total weight of the skin.

The dermis is a mixture of protein fibre collagen and elastin. The moisture is retained in the collagen. It contributes to the plumpness, smoothness, elasticity and youthfulness of the skin. This will dehydrate quickly if the limpid barrier, residing in the epidermis, is poor or damaged, resulting in sagging skin forming wrinkles etc. It is therefore important to look after the oil film protecting the skin so that it can effectively protect the collagen and its moisture retaining properties.

The body produces its own protective oil – sebum a mixture of fatty acids and glycerides. It is produced by special glands and are most active after puberty. Their activity decreases as the body gets older. Diet, reactions caused by the use of chemicals on the skin affect greatly the secretion of sebum causing dry, oily or a variety of skin complaints.

Vegetable oils offer the right solution. They are used because of their low incidence of irritation, sensitivity and non clogging.

OILS & THEIR CHARACTERISTICS

Vegetable oils are made of chains of fatty acids, the very same that are present in the lipid barrier in the top layer of the skin. The variations in the combinations of these fatty acids and their nos give the oils their own specific values and characteristics, whether it is solid or liquid, saturated or unsaturated, mono-unsaturated or polyunsaturated. The latter are the oils that contain the EFA (essential fatty acids - omega 3 & 6) that are not produced by the body – sign of deficiency in EFA is a dry, flaky skin

They also contain all the liposoluble vitamins A (provitamin A), D (D3 in avocado), E and K.

There is a wide range of vegetable oils, we stock about 20. They are all very different from one another.

Some are solid (contains more saturated fatty acids) - cocoa butter, coconut, shea butter
Some are thick (olive, almond), others are light (macadamia, evening primrose, borage, walnut, sesame, sunflower ...)
They have a colour from pale yellow to green, red and brown
They have the aroma of the seeds or nut they come from.

All these describe an oil which has not been refined and has only undergone the basics of cold-expression.

Refining involves deodorising, bleaching, degumming, using solvent (petroleum based) to increase the yield (grapeseed, almond), winterisation to avoid cloudiness caused by waxes (filtered or centrifuge), neutralisation (to remove free fatty acids with caustic soda), fractionating. Hydrogenation is the process of hardening a liquid fat into a hard fat, adding hydrogen molecules to the chain of fatty acids to make it a saturated chain. That requires pressure and heat along with creating a reaction using hydrogen gas and metal catalyst usually nickel or platinum. That process creates trans-fatty acids that compete with enzymes, interfere with the work of essential fatty acids in the body and are toxic.

The refining process covers a number of operations which varies from manufacturers depending on the type of oils they wish to produce.
All these processes remove all the vital elements of the oils and produce an oil which has very little to do with its original counterpart.

It is essential to use a vegetable oil that has not been refined, which means that it should have retained its original colour and aroma.

  • Rosehip oil is red because it contains carotenoids that are red. Bleaching the oil will remove the carotenoids therefore will deprive the oil of the anti-antioxidant properties contained in the carotenoids.
  • Evening Primrose and Borage are pale green to a deep green which is the colour of the Essential fatty acids that the oils contain. Bleach these oils, and all the EFA are gone.

WHY ARE VEGETABLE OILS GOOD FOR YOU ?

Clinical studies have demonstrated the wide benefits when appropriate oils have been massaged into the skin.
Combinations of specific vegetable oils have shown to make significant improvement in the skin treating:

  • Dry skin – calendula, rosehip, jojoba
  • Eczema, psoriasis, particularly true using oils reached in EFA, GLA, carotenoids (rosehip, carrot)
  • Signs of aging, rosehip, camellia, sea-buckthorne,
  • Reduce scaring and stretch mark, argan, rosehip,
  • Balance the sebum secretion, jojoba, reducing it in case of oily skin or acne, jojoba, hazelnut,

If chosen correctly, they do not make the skin greasy. Although not technically absorbed by the skin, they seem to blend with the already present fatty acids in the skin to enrich the natural lipid barrier and restore the skin to health. Vegetable oils offer elements that the body need.

  • essential fatty acids, omega 3 are present in evening primrose, borage, pumpkin, melon
  • Carotenoids - pro-vitamin A in rosehip, calendula, carrot
  • Vitamin E (tocopherol) is naturally found in all vegetable oils to various degree.
  • Vitamin D – (formed in the skin when the skin is exposed to sunshine) regulates the calcium maintenance and bone structure. The sole vegetable source is reputed to be avocado oil.
  • Vitamin K – needed to form the blood clotting agent. Found in green leafy vegetables and in green oils olive, canola, camellia.

All those are powerful anti-oxidants

HOW WE DESIGNED OUR PRODUCTS

Cleanser ‘Citrus Squash’

The ingredients have been chosen to create a thick and greasy consistency that will glide on the skin and dilute all the make up and grim of the day. Only a peanut size is necessary. Rub with the tip of your fingers and massage the face, even around the eyes. This blend will dissolve, eye liner, mascara, thick foundation. Remove with a warm, wet cotton pad and repeat until the pad stays clean. No feeling of dryness or tightness will be experienced. You skin will feel refreshed, cleansed, plumped through the action of avocado oil which is nourishing to the skin.

Tone with our Rose Essential Water

Apply with a cotton pad or a spray over the face. The purpose of the toner is to refresh and harvest the benefits of rose essential oil. Putting it on the face will look after the skin and fill your senses with the psychological properties of rose.

For the skin, rose is antiseptic, astringent, cicatrisant and anti-aging. For the mind, Rose is antidepressant, boosts self esteem and confidence.

Moisturise

Combines in a small bottle the essence of what the skin needs.

Moisturisers are designed with a blend of oils chosen for their specific properties and for their lightness. Very little is needed indeed: 2, 3, 4 drops at most rubbed on the tips of the fingers and massaged over the face following natural lines. Leave to sink in for ten minutes and apply make-up as normal. Your skin will not feel greasy.

‘Tissue repair balm’ was designed specifically for damaged tissue, scars, post operative stress, stretch marks, eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles. It is our best seller and works wonders as a daily moisturiser for mature skin or even not so mature. A wonderful combination of specialists oils packed with anti-oxidants, carotenoids and is ideal as a moisturiser around the eyes, mouth where wrinkles are more likely to develop.

‘Nocturnal mist’ is especially designed for night time. Made slightly richer with added avocado therefore to use when the skin is given time to rest and restore itself. Packed with Omega 3, vitamin A, D, E & potassium. It is a good emollient, very nourishing, ideal for dry and mature skins or those suffering from eczema.

Posted in September 2014

Ravintsara and Sleep

For light sleepers

Although Lavender and chamomile haves been widely used to help those who suffer from disturbed sleep, their aroma is not always appreciated by everybody.
Ravintsara offers a useful alternative. Like rosem...ary and eucalyptus, it is rich in cineole and has a refreshing, pungent aroma which one would not necessarily associate with a calming and relaxing action. But the oil has a balancing effect on the nervous system, is sedating and induces a peaceful and tranquil state. It will improve sleep quality and promote a calm and deep sleep.

  • Put 5 drops on your pillow
  • If you are lucky enough to have a willing partner, ask him / her to massage your back, following the grooves along side the back bone using 6 drops of ravintsara in a table spoon of jojoba or apricot oil.

Use the oil for a week or two and give your body and olfactory senses a break for a while. Start again if necessary.

Ravintsara is also reputed for its anti-bacterial and anti-viral action, will help clear up bunged-up noses and air passages and at the same time boost the immune system… two birds killed with one stone!

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Ravintsara versus Ravensara

Cinnamonum camphora
Family: Lauraceae


THE TREE

Ravensara aromatica is native to Australia, Tasmania and Madagascar and thrives in humid conditions of rain forests with an altitude between 70 and 100 metres. It grows to a height of 20 metres with several buttress roots at the base. The bark is reddish and the leaves are simple elliptical in shape. The flowers are small and green and a fruit is produced with six septum inside.

Traditionally, the Malagasy people use the bark and stem as a tonic and antibacterial medicine. The leaves were also burnt in homes after a death to prevent the spread of disease. The anise flavoured bark is used in the production of local rum.

Cinnamomum camphora - Ravintsara is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 20–30 metres tall. The leaves have a glossy, waxy appearance. The foliage is bright green with masses of small white flowers that come out in spring. It produces clusters of black berry-like fruit. It has a pale bark that is very rough and fissured vertically.


ORIGIN OF THE NAME

 
The ravintsara tree is not indigenous to Madagascar and was introduced to the island in the early 19th century from China. It is a chemotype of the Cinnamonum camphora tree which has lost its ability to produce any trace of camphor in the Madagascan climate.

Ravintsara means ‘the good leaf’ and the Malagasy people have come to recognise and highly appreciate the therapeutic value of the leaves and the essential oil. Both have been used intensively in folk medicine to treat stomach aches and headaches, colds and chest infections.

The Agatophyllum aromaticum tree was discovered in 1792 by Sonnerat and was given the botanical name of Ravensara aromatica. Two types of oils are produced from this tree. The oil produced form the steam-distilled leaves is called 'ravensara aromatica' and the oil produced from the bark is 'ravensara anisata'.


THE OILS: RAVINTSARA versus RAVENSARA


 

  • A little chemistry

Ravintsara oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and has a fresh, slightly sweet balsamic odour quite reminiscent of rosemary. The main chemical components are oxides (with at least 45% to 55%1,8-cineole), monoterpenes (sabinene 15%, alpha-pinene and beta-pinene), sesquiterpenes(beta-carophyllene), monoterpenic alcohols(alpha-terpineol 7% and terpineol) and esters (terpenyl acetate) and numerous trace compounds.

Ravensara aromatica is high in methylchavicol (estragole), sabinene, alpha-terpinene, limonene, but contains very little 1.8 cineole. Ravensara anisata has a higher methylchavicol content (up to 90%) than the leaf oil and is characterised with a stong anisic odour. This oil is not used in Aromatherapy.

 

  • Botanical identity

“The situation regarding the exact botanical identification of the source of Ravensara oil has previously confused some most learned and academic researchers (let alone aromatherapists) and has been the subject of a number of articles.” writes Tony Burfield.

Kurt Schnaubelt, leading figure in Aromatherapy, has described Ravensara aromatica as being high in 1.8 cineole, of which it contains very little. A certain confusion with ravintsara.

Ravensara is a latinisation of the Malagasy word ravintsara and was generally given to the oils distilled from either ravensara aromatica or cinnamonum camphora.

Recent research in the chemical make-up of these 2 oils has lead to give each of them a clear botanical identity. The leaf oil from Agatophyllum aromaticum has kept its common name of Ravensara and its botanical name of 'Ravensara aromatica' and the oil from cinnamonum camphora has been given the common name of 'Ravintsara'.

 

  • Therapeutically

Both oils have a strong anti-viral action. Ravensara aromatica is particularly efficient at treating all forms of herpes and soothe inflamation caused by shingles. It needs to be used cautiously as the oils can cause skin irritation. Methylchavicol is a suspected carcinogen.

Ravintsara oil is antibacterial, anticatarrhal, antifungal, anti-infectious, anti rheumatic, antiviral, decongestant, cicatrisant, expectorant, immune tonic and neurotonic.
Schnaubelt says ‘it is the essence of choice for the treatment of influenza and shingles’ and calls the alpha-terpineol/cineole synergy the “cold-and-flu" synergy. He includes laurel, eucalyptus radiata, niaouli (MQV), tea tree and spike lavender in the same antiviral category and explains that prompt aromatic treatment of a viral condition inhibits the virus by altering the pH and electrical resistance of humoral fluids in a way that is adverse to the virus. For more information on advanced techniques using the oils consult his book 'Medical Aromatherapy'.

Ravintsara makes the ideal oil to use when there are coughs, colds, influenza and other respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis and otitis. It acts as a tonic when one is lethargic or congested with white or clear catarrah.

Use it for tissue repair in cases of shingles, herpes, verrucas, warts and athletes foot.

Glandular fever, ME and immune deficiency are also assisted with ravensara oil.

Gabriel Mojay recommends the oil for nervous debility, chronic anxiety, melancholy, mild depression as well as aching muscles and sinews. He says it is ideal for restlessness and insomnia, weakened immune systems and to open the chest and instil a sense of positivity.
Certainly an all round oil which is especially beneficial during our cold damp months when we all could do with a boost to our immunity.


 

  • Suggestions for use:

Makes an ideal inhalation to clear catarrah – 3 drops into a bowl of freshly boiled water and place a towel over the head to trap the rising vapours for ten minutes 3x a day.

Ravintsara can be added to a diffuser in the bedroom and living areas when one is poorly, to boost immunity and constrain infection all while raising the spirits.

And for aching muscles after a workout in the gym, a soothing sports rub or addition to a hot bath.

A few drops can be added to warm water as a gargle in the case of a sore throat. It can be dabbed neat onto verrucas or warts.

 

  • Blending suggestions:

Ravintsara will blend well with all eucalyptus's,
- Rosemary, laurel, frankincense, cardamon
- Woods such as black spruce, cypress, juniper
- Citrus such as lemon


MATERIA AROMATICA RAVENSARA / RAVINTSARA


Ravensara is still commonly sold as either 'ravensara aromatica' or 'cinnamonum camphora' which refers to two essential oils with completely different chemical make-ups. For many years now, Ravensara aromatica has been available to purchase on the market as an oil with a high level of cineole 1.8 of which, we now know, it naturally contains very little. This is rather confusing as one never knows exactly which oil one is actually buying.

Although the name 'Ravintsara' is still unknown, Materia Aromatica have decided to try and clear some of the confusion over Ravensara and Ravintsara, confusion, we have to admit, we have shared with many others. We have always stocked the Madagascan version of cinnamonum camphora, high in cineole 1.8, immune booster and strong anti-viral but free from camphor and methylchavicol.

We have now changed the name of our Ravensara to Ravintsara.

References:
Tony Burfield – Aromatherapy Times 2004
Kurt Schnaubelt - Medical Aromatherapy
Gabriel Mojay – notes from 2003 ITHMA diploma course
International Journal of Aromatherapy Vol 11, Number 1, Robert Harris

To order Ravintsara