Relaxation for a healthy body and mind
Liz Buckles, MSc, MIFPA
Holistic Aromatherapist
Aromatherapy York - Lavender



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Focus on essential oils

Eucalyptus - a medicine cabinet essential

Grapefruit - a sunny oil for our dark winter days

Rosemary - for memory

Lavender and Marmite

Focus on specific issues

Did you sleep well?

Text neck and other modern day pains in the neck

Cold remedies

Focus on essential oils

Eucalyptus - a medicine cabinet essential

Eucalyptus is native to Australia, and can grow up to 35m high. When the leaves are young, they are rounded and blue grey in colour, and these are the leaves you often see in flower bouquets, which often have a distinctive smell. The leaves become elongated and more yellow green with age. They belong in the same family as Tea Tree, and have similarly powerful anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. This is because they both have the ability as plants to survive in very inhospitable and harsh climates, and often very poor soils lacking in nutrients.

This oil has long been known to have antiseptic and healing properties by the Australian aborigines, and its use has spread across the world. Groves of eucalyptus trees were planted in North Africa to prevent the spread of malaria, by deterring mosquitoes to breed and drying up the moisture of the soil. For this reason I have planted a eucalyptus tree (Eucalytus staigeriana, also known as lemonbark) in the boggy part of my field to help soak up some of the water!  I also use the cut leaves of my Eucalyptus tree, with its soft lemon scent in the house to freshen up a room, but the water has to be topped up daily!

There are several different species of Eucalyptus, and they have varying properties and smells. Eucalyptus radiata (also known as narrow leaved peppermint) has a fresher, more minty smell than Eucalyptus globulus (Tasmanian Blue Gum), which is a much more camphorous, medicinal scent. I often use the oil of Eucalytus citriodora (Lemon-scented gum) in a room spray or diffuser, because it keeps a room smelling fresh for days. This oil is also very effective used in a room diffuser when you have a cold.

The essential oils of Eucalyptus and Lemon in a carrier oil, and massaged into exposed areas of the skin make a good insect repellent: tests have shown this to be as good as a weak solution of Deet: I have used it while abroad and it really does work!

The chemist Jean Valet found that a 2% dilution eucalytpus airspray kills 70% of local airborne Staphylocci, and I can vouch for the ability of this oil to rid the air of mould spores. When we moved into our old house with a bit of a damp problem, we found that a glass of water left by the bedside, soon tasted of mould, and mould started forming on the bedroom wall. So, I put some drops of Eucalyptus globulus in my aromastone every day, and this problem went away, after about a week!

Eucalyptus acts as an expectorant, and also has antibacterial properties: it enhances breathing by increasing the uptake of oxygen by red blood cells. Therefore it is a great oil to keep in the medicine cabinet for a steam inhalation at the first sign of a cold or sore throat.

This powerful oil also has benefits in a massage blend, because it has anti-inflammatory properties, and helps to alleviate muscle tension, open respiratory airways, and E. radiata is often the oil of choice in a massage blend, because of its softer fragrance.


Anthony, V., 2013. An Australian Adventure. In Essence Vol 12 No 1

Battaglia, S., 2004. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy.2nded. Virginia: Perfect Potion.

Davis, P., 1999. Aromatherapy, an A – Z. Essex: The C.W. Daniel Company Limited.

Katayama, E., 2013. Course Notes. The Yorkshire School of Natural Healing.

Grapefruit - a sunny oil for our dark winter days

The grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) derives from a cultivated tree, a hybrid of the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and the pomelo, or shaddock (Citrus maxima). It is very high in limonene (90%), much higher than lemon in fact (which has 70% limonene).

Grapefruit oil is a lovely, sunny oil, which comes from the rind of the fresh fruit. I use it a lot with clients during the winter months: it is said to be good for SAD (seasonal affective disorder). It is an antidepressant: emotionally uplifting, refreshing and reviving. It is also good when one has overindulged and for those in states of stress and nervous exhaustion. I think it helps to promote a lightness of spirit, and when clients smell it, their faces often brighten, and the aroma is instantly recognizable.

Physically it has beneficial effects on the skin, circulation, muscles and joints. Like lemon, it is cooling, cleansing, decongesting, and detoxifying.  A mild diuretic and a stimulant of the spleen and lymph, grapefruit oil helps the body to eliminate excess fluids and break down fats. As it is an astringent, it is good for oily skin, acne and stretch marks, and I often mix it in a blend for my clay skin cleanser, when my skin looks a bit dull or lifeless.
It is moderately phototoxic, which means it may react with the skin if you go out in the sun, but that is not a problem during our winter!

For all these reasons it’s a good choice for this time of year. It blends really well with heavy floral aromas such as rose or jasmine, and woody aromas such as frankincense, cedarwood or sandalwood, all of which would make up a wonderful skin blend.

The health benefits of eating grapefruit seem to make it pretty appealing as part of your diet too!


Why is grapefruit good for you? Medical news today 

Battaglia, S., 2004. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy.2nded. Virginia: Perfect Potion.

Davis, P., 1999. Aromatherapy, an A – Z. Essex: The C.W. Daniel Company Limited.

Katayama, E., 2013. Course Notes. The Yorkshire School of Natural Healing.

Rosemary - for memory

It seems to be that the essential oils that have the strongest properties come from plants growing in the most inhospitable climates. Lavender is one example of this, and Rosemary is another. In fact, the rosemary plants we saw growing in desert areas in Corsica were huge, over 6 feet tall. Lots of essential oils are produced here: the hot arid climate seems to be ideal for these plants!

Rosemary, like Lavender, has been used for centuries for culinary, medical and spiritual purposes. Sprigs of rosemary were burned as ritual incense at shrines in ancient Egypt, and it was placed in tombs of the pharaohs to help them recall their former life. For the Greeks and Romans it was a symbol of loyalty, death remembrance and scholarly learning. It was burned in French hospitals until recently to prevent the spread of infection and is still used today for commercial production of detergents and cosmetics.

It is often used in aromatherapy to help overcome mental fatigue and nervous exhaustion, and can be helpful if driving long distances or to overcome jet lag. A recent BBC report highlighted some research, which suggests that those early civilisations may have been on to something:

An experiment in which volunteers were given vapourised lavender or rosemary infusions found that rosemary was associated with an increase in performance on memory test, but lavender caused a significant decrease in performance. Lavender is traditionally associated with sleep and sedation. Dr Chris Van Tulleken reported that:

“It turns out that there are compounds in rosemary oil that may be responsible for changes in memory performance. One of them is called 1,8-cineole - as well as smelling wonderful (if you like that sort of thing) it may act in the same way as the drugs licensed to treat dementia, causing an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.” And he went onto say:

“These compounds do this by preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter by an enzyme. And this is highly plausible - inhalation is one of the best ways of getting drugs into the brain. When you eat a drug it may be broken down in the liver which processes everything absorbed by the gut, but with inhalation small molecules can pass into the bloodstream and from there to the brain without being broken down by the liver.”

You can read the full article here:

I would usually use it with clients who report poor circulation or muscular aches and pains, but it should be avoided if you have high blood pressure or epilepsy.

Lavender and Marmite

Lavender and Marmite: two words you don’t normally see in the same sentence! But Lavender does seem to be an oil that people either really love or hate, and they are thinking of the smell when they tell me this. Smell is something that evokes deep memories and emotions, and many oils can bring back reminders of events and people long forgotten, which may not necessarily be pleasant ones. this is why a very personal approach is used in creating a blend for someone.

Lavender is a multifaceted oil: it has many uses, and the aroma can vary depending on where it is grown. The soil and the altitude, for example, can affect the properties and the aroma. There are also different varieties of lavender plant which can give varying properties. For example, Lavandula angustifolia (english lavender) has sedative properties and aids sleep, but Lavandula x intermedia (known as lavandin) is less sedative than true lavender, and I would use this in a blend when the client needs to stay awake and alert after their massage. Spike lavender is a variety grown in mediterranean countries and has particularly strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Lavender is a very safe oil, and it is one of only two oils which can be used directly on the skin (the other is tea tree).

The history of lavender use goes back many centuries, but it has great importance in the history of contemporary aromatherapy: the chemist Gattefosse was inspired to study its therapeutic properties after burning his hand and placing it in a bowl of lavender water, and finding how quickly the burn healed.

Which leads me to……

Lavender uses No.1: Treatment of minor burns and scalds. A few drops on a piece of cotton wool placed directly on the burn will ease the pain, and speed up healing.

Lavender uses No.2: Lavender is widely used as a sleep aid, and I often use it in a blend for someone who has difficulty sleeping.

Putting a few drops on your pillow, or on the soles of your feet can be helpful to aid sleep.

Lavender uses No.3 Lavender’s great skin healing properties are partly down to the way it can promote cell renewal, but also there are anti-fungal and antibacterial properties within the oil. I would use it neat on the feet to clear up a fungal infection really quickly, or within a carrier oil, for dry skin or cracked heels (I would use it with Avocado oil, which is also brilliant for your nails by the way!!)

Lavender uses: No.4 The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of Lavender make it very useful in a blend for a sports massage; stiff or aching muscles after strenuous exercise really benefit from a good rub down with an appropriate blend!

Focus on specific issues

Did you sleep well?

I often get questions about sleep, and I have come to realise this is an issue for many people. We are often told how important it is for our health and longevity, which itself creates a pressure to pursue the magic 8 hours of sleep each night! Last year I listened to a lecture by a paediatrician, who specialises in the sleep problems of children and he emphasised that since early human times, the normal sleep pattern has been:

sleep for 3-4 hours - be awake for 2 hours - sleep for a further 3-4 hours

Before the invention of electricity, this was a usual pattern, and it allowed for people to do important things during the night: maybe feed the animals and babies, keep watch for intruders, have sex, etc. In certain African countries it is perfectly normal for people to have no more than 4 hours sleep at a time, and of course, in hot European countries the siesta is still an important part of daily life. I suppose it depends what we are used to. If we allow ourselves to view this pattern as normal, then this may take away some of the anxiety around sleep – worrying about getting enough sleep is the first thing we perhaps need to resolve.

Some tips for developing a more restful sleeping pattern:

Remember that everyone is different – if you are getting less than 8 hours sleep, and you don’t feel tired, then what you are getting may be enough. As we get older, we tend to need less sleep.

Have a regular sleep routine, and try to avoid falling asleep in the chair in the evening.

Keep your bedroom free of clutter and electronic gadgets (no TV, etc). The blue light produced by some electronic gadgets can be over stimulating for the brain, and dealing with social media, emails, or anything work related is definitely a bad idea if you want to get a good night’s sleep!

Keep the room cool and dark, with fresh air. Low light levels before going to bed stimulate the brain to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone.

If worrying is keeping you awake: try having a worry book and a worry time – say half an hour at a certain time each day – make a list, and close the book well before you go to bed. (Make sure the worry time is not too close to bedtime). If you can, try to deal with the source of the anxiety, and this may help to resolve the sleep issue.
Keep an hour or so before bedtime for relaxation – do yoga, read, have a bath, etc: whatever it is that relaxes you.

Think about your diet – vitamin B is good for the nervous system and there are certain foods which are naturally high in melatonin – eg oats, bananas, monterency cherries, hot milk, and herbal tea containing chamomile and lavender can help.

Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.

Exercise – preferably in the fresh air, but not too close to bedtime. Research shows that regular exercise (anything which gets you puffed out) has a beneficial effect on sleep. It tires you out physically, raises endorphin levels and it helps to alleviate anxiety. Its best to do it in the morning or afternoon, but not the evening – too close to bedtime and it wakes you up.

Have a massage with essential oils, of course!! There are lots of essential oils which have a sedative effect: lavender, frankincense, sweet marjoram, sandalwood, bergamot, jasmine, ylang ylang, neroli, clary sage (pictured), and there are several more. If you have any of these essential oils at home, you could try putting a blend of them in your bath before bed, or on your pillow at night.

Text neck and other modern day pains in the neck

Many people mention that they have stiff or aching shoulders and neck, when they come to see me, and there may be several causes.

It is a very common symptom of stress. When we are stressed this is a part of the body that tends to hunch up. There’s a good reason why we say that we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders, when we are worrying about something!

Our lifestyles, and the way we work often plays a big part too. There are lots of things you can do to help this issue, apart from coming to see me for a lovely back, neck and shoulder massage, of course!

Usually, pain and stiffness in this part of the body gets better after a few days, but it is best to avoid the issue in the first place.

Here are some tips to help you do this.

1. Set your workstation up properly

It’s important to set your workstation up properly. For example, your computer monitor should be located roughly at eye level or slightly below when you’re seated and your knees should rest just below your hips.

‘Text neck’ Recent research has indicated that mobile phones and tablets are the source of a whole new generation of neck pain sufferers, simply because we hold our head down to look at the screens. So use a stand for your tablet/iPad to hold it in an upright position. See my ‘Bourne Again Bags’ Etsy page for some nifty little stands to use for your phone or tablet, made using locally sourced wheat and re-used fabrics.

See this article for further information on text neck:

Other activities like sewing (embroidery and cross stitch, particularly) are also terrible for the neck, its not easy to change your working position for these activities so ……..

2. Take a break

If you’re doing activities for a long period of time that require you to sit in the same position, make sure you take regular breaks. For example, if you’re driving long distances, it’s a good idea to stop from time to time to stretch your legs. Similarly, if you often sit for prolonged periods at your computer, make the time to stand up and move around every so often.

And ……

3) Stretch

Have a good stretch when you’re inactive for a long time. Simply shrugging your shoulders up and down, pulling your shoulder blades together and leaning your head from side to side can help to loosen your muscles. Roll your neck from side to side holding at each side for 15 seconds, and the middle for 15 seconds. I suggest rolling your neck for at least a minute. This will release a lot of tension and pain.This will help you to correct your neck position, as we can easily forget that we are holidng our neck in the wrong positionuntil it starts to hurt.

4) Self massage

Roll a warm or regular towel into a “braid” Hold it behind your neck tightly, slowly move the towel braid up and down, after 3-5 minutes the muscles should start to release. With your fingers, massage the sides of the spine on the back of your neck. Rolling your fingers up and down the neck. There are pressure points on the back of your neck. The pressure points if pressed and held, relieve pain and tension.

5) Invest in good quality seating

When you’re choosing seating, whether for your office or your home, make sure you get good quality items that offer full support.

6) Avoid the shoulder tuck technique with your phone

Many of us are guilty of using the shoulder tuck technique when answering phone calls. However, pressing your handset between your ear and shoulder when you talk can cause neck problems, particularly if you’re on your phone a lot. If you need to use your hands while you’re making and receiving calls, consider getting a headset.

7) Protect your neck from draughts

Exposing your neck to draughts from windows, doors or air conditioning systems can lead to stiffness and discomfort. With this in mind, try to get out of drafts or protect your neck with clothing or bedding.

Also, using a lavender/wheat pillow heated in the microwave, is great way to ease neck pain. I make these too!

8) Think about how you sleep

If possible, you should avoid sleeping on your stomach because this position puts added strain on your neck. Also, make sure you select a pillow and mattress that provide the right level of support.

9) Lift correctly

Whenever you’re lifting heavy or cumbersome items, make sure you follow the correct procedures. For example, keep the load close to your waist, adopt a stable position, don’t bend your back or twist, keep your head up and ensure you have a good hold on the object. Also, know your limits.

10) Tackle stress and anxiety

Many people don’t realise this, but excessive stress and anxiety can contribute to neck pain. Think about what is causing your stress, and try to reduce it. By addressing these problems through lifestyle changes and other means, you can reduce the risk that you’ll suffer discomfort in your neck.

11) Lead a healthy lifestyle

More generally, it’s important to lead a healthy lifestyle. By staying fit and maintaining a suitable weight, you will ensure you are at a lower risk of experiencing problems with your neck.

Cold remedies

Steam inhalations are a good way of relieving congestions in the respiratory passages caused by coughs, cold and catarrh.

There are quite a few essential oils which can be helpful with a cold: they may help to reduce the discomfort of a blocked or runny nose, and also help to reduce the risk of secondary infections, because of their antibacterial properties and also stimulate the body’s own immune response: you can try eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree, peppermint, rosemary, pine or thyme. Thyme is good inhalant for sore throats, and bathing with marjoram can help to reduce shivers and aching.

•NEVER ingest essential oils, or let them get into your eyes.
•Asthmatics must not use steam inhalations as it may trigger an attack.
•Remember that rosemary and peppermint are stimulants, so better to use at the beginning of the day, whereas lavender is sedative, so will enhance sleep at night time. I often put some frankincense in a night time blend as well, as it is also very good for helping sleep.
•There are some things that really don't help: recent research has shown that decongestants, such as oral phenylephrine are no better than a placebo, and have many unpleasant side effects.

Prevention is a better option:
•Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently.
•Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. These are a prime germ entry points.
•Get enough sleep.
•Manage stress. When you’re stressed, your body releases more of the hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and makes it harder for your body to fend off infection. For me, a cold is a sure sign that I am stressed out!
•Eat healthy foods and exercise.
•If possible, avoid being around people who have a cold!

Instructions for a steam inhalation
•Add a few drops of essential oils to a bowl of steaming water:
•4-5 drops in 200 ml water, using the blend that you have been given by your aromatherapist
•Place a towel over your head, and breathe in the vapours for a few minutes
•Keep your eyes closed
•Alternatively, apply a few drops of essential oils to your hanky and regularly inhale.

Vapourisers and diffusers

Using a vapouriser or diffuser is also a good way to inhale the vapours and to kill airborne microbes. Plug in vapourisers are much safer than using candle burners: there is no fire risk, they supply a controlled temperature and do not allow the essential oils to heat too quickly and thus change the therapeutic effects. They are safe to use in a child’s bedroom. Add 3-7 drops, using a combination of oils if desired, for up to an hour and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.


Davis, P., 1999. Aromatherapy, an A – Z. Essex: The C.W. Daniel Company Limited

Articles updated, references and sources checked on 12th January 2020