September 2017, posted by Isabelle
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. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote that even snakes made use of it, rubbing themselves against the plants to improve their eyesight. Fennel’s serpent associations continued in Ancient China and India, where it was used to treat snake and scorpion bites. Even Europe’s own top herbalist Culpepper, writing in the 1600s, recommended fennel seeds boiled in wine as a remedy for snakebites and poisonous mushrooms. To be honest, I think that sounds delicious!
Another rather lovely association between our seed oil giving plants and autumn comes from Oriental Medicine, where several of our favourite seedy essential oils are associated with the Earth Element. This is the element of late summer-early autumn and is strongly associated with the Stomach (its Yin organ). This ties in nicely with modern life - our diets often change in autumn as the weather cools and we turn to food for comfort, of which digestive disturbance can be an unwanted consequence.
In today's aromatherapy world I more commonly use fennel seeds to promote good digestion than to treat unfortunate brushes with serpents. Along with other seed oils such as coriander (Coriandrum sativum) and cardomon (Elettaria cardamomum) - a ginger family member whose oil is distilled from the whole fruit, including its seeds - fennel is useful for calming unhappy digestive systems.
Of course the aroma of these autumn-associated oils is important too. I utilise my favourite seed oils to help bolster confidence and concentration levels in both myself and clients; sowing the seeds of confidence helps me reap the rewards of a job well done!
An important safety point about sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): the essential oil is contraindicated for use with pregnant and breast feeding women, people with oestrogen-dependant cancers and endometriosis, and young children. This is due to high levels of the trans-antheole (a phenol methyl-ether), which is known to have oestrogenic effects.
Confidence Booster Blend
- 10 ml jojoba oil (liquid wax)
- 3 drops of cardomon essential oil (Elettaria cardamomum)
- 2 drops of fennel seed essential oil (Foeniculum vulgare)
- 2 drops of coriander seed essential oil (Coriandrum sativum)
- 2 drops of bergamot essential oil (Citrum aurantium)
Mix well and carefully pour into a sterilised rollette bottle (with a roller ball top). Apply to wrist pulse points as desired. Alternatively, add the pure essential oil drops to a burner or diffuser to use as an inhalation.
Tummy Soother Tea
Lightly crush 1 teaspoon each of cardamom and fennel seeds. Add a generous pinch to a mug or a tea diffuser (I like at least ½ teaspoon of the combined seed mix per mug). Pop in some orange zest and boiling water. Cover your mug with a saucer and leave to seep for a good 10 minutes. Sip slowly and let this tasty tea sooth your digestive system. This tea is also nice cold – add a touch of ice to transform it into a cooling drink.
- Corkhill M (2011) Natural Remedies Self-sufficiency, London, Cape Town, Sydney, Auckland: New Holland Publishers
- Lawless J (1995) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Dorset, Massachusetts & Victoria: Element
- Le Strange R (1977) A History of Herbal Plants, London: Angus and Robinson
- Mojay G (1996) Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit (1996) London: Gaia Books Limited
- Price L & Price S (2007) Aromatherapy for Health Professionals (3rd Edition), Churchill Livingstone Elsevier
- Tisserand R & Young R (2014) Essential Oil Safety (second edition), Edinburgh, London, New York et al: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier
- Worwood VA (1996) The Fragrant Mind, London; Bantam