Aromatherapy and Native Americans

Aromatherapy has been around for centuries and used by many cultures all over the world. Like many of the ancient civilizations, the Native Americans found a number of spiritual and medicinal uses for essential oils. Perhaps one of the most common uses of aromatherapy in Native American culture is the smudging or scared smoke bowl blessing ritual.

Traditionally, Native Americans used this ritual to perform a cleansing of a space, object of person. The sacred ceremony is intended to remove negative energy and restore positive influences and regeneration. During the ritual, a smudging stick or dried bundle of herbs is lit and allowed to smolder so it produces aromatic smoke. As the smudge stick is gently wafted around the area to be cleansed, the smoke diffuses the air. It is believed that the smoke attaches itself to all the negative energy and as it dissipates, it takes all negative influences with it. Restoring peace and calm. Sage is most commonly used for this ritual. This is because the herb and its oil have a long history of cleansing, both emotionally, spiritually and physically. Many Native American would keep sage leaves close to their sacred pipe or wands to keep them safe from negative forces. Today many people still use the smudging ritual to help with native feelings illness or depression.

Native American shaman also used many other herbs and oils that we are still familiar with today. Among them were:

Juniper – this is a great essential oil to help with circulation, which means it is useful for muscle sprains, it may help relieve joint pain if you suffer from arthritis or rheumatism and it can help alleviate strains and sprains and poor circulation to the extremities. Juniper also has vulnerary properties; this means it helps speed up the healing of minor cuts and abrasions. This oil is also a stimulant and its aroma is believed to help concentration and focus and to alleviate mild depression.

Citronella – you may be familiar with citronella as a bug repellant, which is one of its most common uses. However, this essential oil does have other uses. It has expectorant properties, which means it can help to clear sinuses and to treat flu and colds. It is also helpful for healing scar tissue. Although citronella is very mild, it may cause skin irritation for some people, so you should try a small patch test before using extensively.

Cajeput – cajeput has a pleasant aroma like a fruity eucalyptus. Similar to eucalyptus it is used on rubs for arthritis and rheumatism, due to is warming and ant-inflammatory properties. It may also be used for sore throats, coughs and bronchial infections. You can use it in the bath, as a massage oil and in an oil diffuser to help clear your sinuses and relieve aches and pains.

Wintergreen – you may be familiar with wintergreen oil as it is sometimes used to flavor mouthwash; this is because of its antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties, which help to reduce bacteria and plaque in the mouth, as well as to freshen your breath. It also has analgesic properties, which means that when mixed with a carrier oil and rubbed on the skin, wintergreen can bring pain relief. This essential oil may also be used to treat insect or snake bites and to stimulate the gastric juices.

Cedar wood – cedar wood oil has many benefits including it can reduce inflammation and skin peeling during outbreaks of eczema, its antiseptic properties prevent wounds from becoming infectious and it is a good general tonic. It can also be used on the gums to prevent gum disease and loosening of the teeth. If you have a cold or sinus infection, cedar wood oil is also a good expectorant and will help you breathe more easily.

Aromatherapy Diffusers

Diffusers have been used for hundreds of years to spread the wonderful and healthful fragrances of essential oils throughout people’s homes. Nowadays there are a number of different types of diffuser available. Here is a rundown on each of them.

Reed diffusers

Reed diffusers are becoming increasingly popular throughout the United States. They are very simple and work by placing a number of reeds into the opening of the oil container. The reeds transfer the scent of the oil up to the surrounding air by means of capillary action. Using a reed diffuser is a safe way to disperse fragrances in every room. They will burn quite safely for hours without any risk of flames. As well as adding their wonderful aroma to your rooms they are also attractive and make interesting additions to your décor. They are simple to maintain and can last for several months. Because they do not present a fire risk they are safe to use in bedrooms, dormitories and office buildings.

Clay Pot Diffusers

This type of diffuser is a small pot made from terracotta clay. The pots are available in a wide range of shapes, colors and sizes. The pots usually have a small spout or lip that is sealed with a cork. This is where the oil is added. The oils blend gradually disperses through the terracotta and is released into the surrounding air. Clay pot diffusers are inexpensive and pose no fire hazard. Their biggest disadvantage is that the scent is strongest when you fill the pot and often fades quite quickly.

They come in an array of shapes and contain an opening for adding oil which is usually sealed with a cork. The oils gradually permeate the pot and the fragrance is dispersed throughout the room. The intensity of the aroma depends on how concentrated the oil in the pot is. Clay pot diffusers are very inexpensive and do not require electricity or pose a fire risk. The disadvantage is that the aroma is strongest when the oil is first added to the pot and gradually dissipates over time.

Candle Diffusers

Candle diffusers are usually made of clay and they work by using a tea light which gently heats the essential oil to diffuse the fragrance. The diffuser has an opening at the back for the candle and a shallow dish on top for the oil. Candle diffusers come in a wide array of shapes and colors so they can double as a piece of décor. They vary in price range and style. Because of the necessity of a candle, this type of diffuser could pose a fire risk.

Lamp Rings

Lamp rings are terracotta rings that sit directly on top of the light bulb in a lamp or around the light bulb in a light suspended from the ceiling. It has a shallow lip to hold the essential oil. When the light is on, the heat from the bulb warms the oil and as it evaporates it diffuses its aroma. They are very inexpensive. If the oil gets onto the light bulb it may cause it to shatter. The heat may also alter the constituents of some essential oils.

Essential Oil Focus: Scotch Pine

Scotch Pine, (Pinus sylvestris), also known as pine needle, has been widely used in aromatherapy for some time because it is not only the most useful of the pine oils, it is also the safest.

Scotch Pine History

Native to northern Europe and Russia, it is now also cultivated in the United States and Scandinavia. The therapeutic essential oil is usually steam distilled from the tree’s needles and twigs and is other pale yellow or colorless. It is believed that the Native Americans used pine oil to keep flees and lice form their clothed and bedding.

One of the many varieties of pine, the Scotch will grow up to 130 feet in height. It’s red-brown bark is distinctive because of its cracked patterns. It is not as common as many of the other pines which is why Scotch pine needle oil is usually more expensive than other pine oils such as white pine or Austrian pine.

Because of its sharp aromatic odor, it blend well with other ‘woody’ oils like cedarwood, juniper and eucalyptus as well as the flowery scent of lavender but will tend to overpower more subtle fragrances such as rose or chamomile.

Scotch Pine Properties

Its consistency is medium to slightly oily and its perfume holds a top note. Its active constituents are limonene, pinine, cineole, myrcene, borneol, phellandrene and camphene.

Scotch Pine has many health giving properties including antiviral, antibacterial, bile stimulating, expectorant, diuretic, lowering blood pressure, insecticidal and restorative.

In aromatherapy, this essential oil has been successfully used to relieve the symptoms of many complaints including:

  • Infectious diseases – bronchitis, soar throat, sinus infections, cold and flu.
  • Joint and muscle problems – as rheumatism, gout, arthritis, strained muscles and poor circulation.
  • Skin care -the oil of the majestic pine is also good for helping to eliminate toxins form the body, which makes it a good treatment for acne.
  • Emotional effects – pine oil can alleviate feelings of general fatigue and can also help to stimulate energy after convalesce.


Although Scotch Pine oil is considered one of the safest pine oils because it is not toxic and non-irritant, it should never the less, be used in moderation. Do not use more than 1 or 2 drops at a time in a massage oil, inhaler or diffuser. It may cause irritation for anyone with potential skin problems. It should not be used by anyone suffering from asthma. Scotch Pine Oil should never be taken internally.

Essential Oils for the Skin

Essential oils can be great for the skin, leaving you feeling energized and fresh. They can also help you look younger, longer. You can use them to cleanse, tone, relax and they may even help prevent skin disorders such as acne, rosacea and psoriasis. The best carriers oils for gentle skin blends that will not cause and allergic reaction and will not leave a greasy film on your skin are apricot and jojoba. Here are some simple but effective aromatherapy blends to help your skin.

Essential cleansing lotion

Take 200ml of a natural, hypoallergenic lotion and add the following essential oils.
10 drops chamomile
5 drops calendula
5 drops geranium
5 drops lavender

Skin loving bath oil

Add 8 drops of neroli or petit grain essential oils to three tablespoons of honey and let this melt in your bath to soften your skin, sooth away tension and help you have a restful sleep.

Foot freshener

After a hard day at work, add 1-2 drops if peppermint oil to 1 tablespoon of carrier oil and rub onto each foot. It will soothe away aches, revitalize tendons and help prevent blisters and calluses.

Essential Acne Treatment

This gentle treatment can be used to treat mild or severe acne and will show results in 1-2 weeks. For the carrier use 1 ounce of jojoba oil. Add to it;
8 drops chamomile
6 drops bergamot
4 drops tea tree
4 drops lavender

Essential lotion for dry, mature skin

Use 2 tablespoons of jojoba oil as the carrier and the add;
6 drops of myrrh
4 drops of neroli
2 drops geranium
Dab on a drop to the effected dry areas as needed.

Essential after sun soothing gel

Use aloe vera gel as the carrier. You will need 1oz. Add the following essential oils and mix together well:
10 drops of lavender oil
5 drops of chamomile oil
3 drops peppermint oil

Essential toning face masks

Moisture mask

Use 1oz of apricot oil for the carrier. Add:
2 drops of geranium
2 drops of neroli
2 drops of rose
To make a soft paste mix with fines ground oatmeal or almond.

Cleansing clay mask

Use 1oz of apricot oil for the carrier. Add:
2 drops peppermint
2 drops lavender
2 drops lemon oil
Mix with 0.75 kaolin to make a smooth paste.

Essential Oils and Skin Types

Depending on whether you have dry, oily, natural or combination skin, you might want to switch the oils in the above recipes to suit your skin type. Here are some essential oils that will match your personal needs:

Oily Skin

Geranium, peppermint, cypress, grapefruit, juniper, yarrow Melissa, ylang-ylang, coriander, lavender, rose.

Dry Skin

Geranium, , petit grain, sandalwood, rose, neroli, lavender, carrot seed, clary and cedar.

Normal skin

Geranium, cedar, lavender, angelica, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, neroli, petit grain, and roman chamomile.

Aromatherapy for Sports and Fitness

Aromatherapy is not only about curing it is also an important part of preventative medicine, especially for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

If you play a sport or work out on a regular basis, you may want to add some essential oils to your sports kit to help you stay in great form. Because many oils have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties they are great for preventing strains and sprains, relieving pain and some can even help to improve stamina. If you are new to the idea of aromatherapy for sports injury prevention and you are already suffering from a strain, you can also use them to help you recover quicker.

Aromatherapy Oils for Sports Massage

Sports massage is an important part of athletics both before and after exercises of a competition. Pre-exercise a massage help stretch and warm up the muscles to prevent injury. Post-exercise massage helps cool the muscles down and reduce the build-up of lactic acid. To make a massage oil you will need a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil, hazelnut oil or sweet almond oil. Mix 30 drops of carrier oil to every ounce of essential oil blend. Mix together in a dark glass bottle (to help preserve to oil from light), and shake vigorously. The oil is ready to use immediately. Essential oils that have anti-inflammatory properties include clove, rose, thyme, fennel, bergamot, eucalyptus and helichrysum. Pain-relieving essential oils include rosemary, lavender, sandalwood, clary sage, helichrysum and German chamomile.

Essential oils and your total performance

Aside from injury prevention, essential oils can help to boost your total performance in the gym or on the track. As you known, why you are exercising you body relies on your blood circulation to transport sufficient oxygen and vital nutrients to all your cells and organs. Whatever kind of physical activity you are performing, essential oils can help to keep your circulation flowing optimally. For this effect you will need to choose essential oils that have a stimulating effect such as juniper, black pepper, lemon, cedar, bergamot, cypress, rose and geranium. You can add a single oil or a blend of 3 to 5 drops of your favorites to you carrier oil and rub them onto your skin at least and hour prior to working out.

Clean up sweat and prevent fungus

If you have an aroma problem with your gym shoes or bag, essential oils can come to the rescue. They will not only clear up sweaty smells, they will also prevent the growth of bacteria that thrives in sweaty places. Mix 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of cornstarch, add to the mix 15 drops of bergamot oil and 15 drops of sandalwood oil. Mix thoroughly so that you don’t lose any of the oil, and then sift. Sprinkle a fine layer the powder over the insoles of your gym shoes, bag and any other equipment that smells sweaty. Leave the powder their overnight then vacuum in the morning. You will be amazed at the difference. If you want a portable solution to help keep your gear back or your locker smelling fresh and to prevent bacteria, drop 15-20 drops of either essential oil of lavender or cedar on a piece of cloth and place it in either place. It will last for weeks.