Friday, April 29, 2016

The Search for Sacra, Part 2.

Years ago, before Nature's Gift even had a name, I was visiting a friend in Brooklyn, and she took me shopping to two fragrance stores in Manhattan. One was....affordable... and probably didn't offer the type of products that interest me. The other was very high end. Amazing. Not like anything I had ever experienced.  And, because at that time in my life, I was living on a very limited income, totally not affordable.  But, I ooohed and aaaahed, and never forgot the name.

A few years later, Nature's Gift was attending a very "new age" holistic conference in Arizona. (I think it was Arizona.)  And the booth across from ours was representing that exquisite New York shop. I met the owner but things were much different then...I was new to the aromatic world and at the time she was very much a "somebody," and I was very much a "nobody," in the industry; so our paths did not cross again.  As a result, we never got to know each other and the conference was the end of our contact for several years.  But even back then, I admired (and was envious of) her beautiful range of aromatics.

Over the ensuing years, she spent more time exploring the world.  I don't know when she started distilling Frankincense, but I do know that she had been traveling to Oman to buy the resins for her store and her stills.  I followed her blog, which was fascinating (and no longer exists.) I know that she began distilling in Oman close to a decade ago, and now lives there most of the year.

And I know she shares, or even excels, my passion for true authentic beautiful oils.

Trygve taught us that the resin is only collected during the dry season, when the trees are leafless.

But, did you know that during and following the monsoon season, the trees blossom, before they leaf out.  And that they are pollinated by butterflies?

These are photos of some of the Hojari trees.   And below is resin collected from them.  Please note, these trees grow on the dryer coast of Oman, protected from most rainfall by the mountains.

We have offered other oils from artisan distillers.  This beautiful Frankincense is a gift.  Trygve shares her passion for the Frankincense trees, and their gifts.

"The frankincense tree is the mother of society, the umbrella which shelters her children, and, like a mother, she gives her very blood so her children can use it to live. " Trygve Harris

You may read about, and order, this beautiful Frankincense Sacra essential oil here. 

Photos, courtesy of Trygve Harris, shared by Anya McCoy of Anya's Garden Perfumes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Search for Sacra

Back 18 or so years ago, one of the multi level marketing companies started saying that Sacred Frankincense, Boswellia sacra, was a cure for Cancer.

The whole world wanted to buy Sacred Frankincense. Now, I knew that NO Frankincense was going cure cancer. But people were asking us to supply Boswellia sacra, and we wanted to.  So the search began.

I researched. Dr. Art Tucker, from U. Delaware, is the US authority on the botany of the various Frankincense species. We had discussed some GC's he had done for us, both of distilled Frankincense oil, and on my first specimen of Frankincense CO2. (This was in 2002!) He referred to the tested sample as B. Sacra.  I wrote back that they were B.Carterii, would that make a difference? He wrote, "Herbs of Commerce, mandated by the FDA for all commercial labeling by the CFR (published by AHPA and co-authored by me), says that Boswellia sacra is the correct synonym, including B. carterii, for commercial frankincense,despite the labeling of the supplier, so this is what I would use in comments in a Certificate of Analysis."

Oh.  The correct name is Boswellia sacra,  and Boswellia carterii is a synonym.  But, but, but... my suppliers are shipping me what they say is Boswellia carterii.  So we stayed with the "carterii" nomenclature.

Ten years later, in another conversation, when I had asked him to analyze another Frankincense, his analysis referred to the sample as "Boswellia spp," and I asked why.  Why did he not label it Boswellia carteri, or Boswellia frereana, or..whatever.

His reply? "So little has been published on the Boswellia spp., and I have only analyzed a few, so I indicated Boswellia spp. to hedge my bets."  And this man is the leading botanist in the US.  Art went on to talk of "vouchered specimens,"  "A herbarium voucher means that you can go back and check the botanical identity of the reported chemistry."

And I came to the understanding that, first of all, most distillers receive the resin to be distilled from those who gather it, and are at the mercy of the identification that the harvesters give them.  And Dr. Tucker was not going to state the species of a Frankincense oil that he analyzes unless he has personally seen the resin gathered from the tree.
At one point, perhaps a decade or so ago, we had two lovely specimens of Boswellia carterii from Somalia. Both excellent oils. Quite different aromatically. (One seemed a bit more lemony in aroma.) We wanted to offer both, but how to delineate/differentiate between the two? And I remembered Art teaching me that Sacra = Carterii.  We blithely labeled the more lemony one "Boswellia sacra" - Sacred Frankincense.  This was, perhaps, in 2007, 2008. 
At some point I made the differentiation that perhaps, no matter what the botanists say, that the boswellia sacra or carterii that grows in Somalia, is B. carterii.  And that the trees of  Boswellia sacra (or carterii?) that grow in Oman,  are called Boswellia sacra.  That makes some sort of sense.   

The problem being that I knew no distillers in Oman. Nor did any of my reliable and trustworthy sources.  I WANTED Boswellia sacra from Oman.  And I couldn't find it.

One bright and shiny day in 2012 a distiller in Oman contacted me. Would I be interested in his Boswellia sacra essential oil.  Of COURSE I would! He sent me a generous sample of the oil and some of the (absolutely lovely!) Resin.    I loved it.  Piney, resinous, balsamic, I loved the oil. (I still do!)  But, I am suspicious of strangers offering to make my dreams come true.  So I sent it to someone else (not Art Tucker) for testing.   And the chemist who analyzed it basically said that the a-pinene content was higher than ANY he had ever seen in any specimen of Frankincense oil, and reminded me that a-pinene is dirt cheap and easy to add to an oil.    I was disappointed, to say the very least.  I so wanted that oil to be real.  But, apparently, it wasn't.

In the years since then, about once a year, some stranger from Oman will offer me some boswellia sacra.  More recently  even my nose has known that something was... off.   

I had become resigned to the fact that Nature's Gift was never going to be able to offer you true Sacred Frankincense.

But I was wrong.  Sometimes I love being wrong.

Our next blog article will tell the rest of the story.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Athlete's Foot

Last week Charlie asked, "So. Since moving to Chattanooga I'm staying in a hotel while house hunting. After two days I noticed a blister on my big toe and figured it was my new shoes. Well now after four days and a trip to urgent care it's basically athlete's foot. Which I should have known because it used to happen all the time when I was a dancer/figure skater. What would be best for supporting the healing of this?"

Our answer?  

"First thing that comes to mind, Charlie is Tea Tree.. but there are others that we discussed in class. I am going to have to research and get back to you, ok? I know it's been discussed in both classes, but I can't recall the answers.

But, in passing.. when talking about the needed dilutions for wound healing (10% btw) Robert Tisserand mentioned that Sandalwood (did nor reference the species, could be spicatum.. you HAVE album) at 10% is effective for tinea.   And tinea = Athlete's foot."

Charlie wrote back, "Perfect! I'll experiment. I have a sample of the spicatum co2. I'm guessing the distilled would be ideal but we'll see what happens"

"Another thought.. a gel base will increase absorption into the skin.. something you want in this case... so you could use a tad less of your precious S'wood.. or tea tree... (the EO doesn't blend well with the gel, so seeks out fat cells in the body to bond with)"

 In a follow up, Charlie said, "The foot looks great! No more pain, swelling. Blisters are gone. Just some dry scaly skin. I'm still applying nightly. At least for a week....It's amazing! The oils are so much faster acting than products I have used in the past! I've ended up with a blend of sandalwood, tea tree, Frank frereana, and English lavender. I'm making it my nightly foot massage for a few weeks."

Another aromatic success story!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Aussie Oils 11 - Eucalyptus dives (Peppermint Eucalyptus)

(I have no idea why this did not get published when Sandy wrote it.  Here it is, six months later.)

My aromatic journey began with peppermint.   When my boss knew it was going to be a particularly
hard day, she would bring me a Starbucks peppermint mocha frappaccino.
I refer to it as “happiness in a cup,” and seriously, you can’t ruin my day with that at my side.   I’ve been sighted plunging my face into a peppermint candle when a migraine is threatening.  Chocolate covered peppermint, peppermint bark…I even made an afghan out of multi-colored yarn that is peppermint in color.  Where others claim the peppermint herb is the bane of home gardens, I allow mine to flourish. (

My note - When Sandy and I travel together there is no need to ask what she wants at a Starbucks stop....)

So it was only logical that when I began exploring essential oils, peppermint was first on the list.  I have tried – and loved – every peppermint that Nature’s Gift has offered.  Imagine my excitement when I realized a different peppermint was available!!
Eucalyptus dives Schauer – Broad –leaved Peppermint or Eucalyptus peppermint – from a tree with fibrous bark and broad, thick leaves that have a strong peppermint odor when crushed (I’m getting happy already!).   The trees are commonly found in South East Australia, from west of Sydney – through the Blue Mountains, the Great Dividing Range, the high alpine country of the Snow Mountains to Melbourne, in altitudes of 492 feet to 4593 feet.  (1)
 Steam distillation of the aerial parts is done to produce two different chemotypes.  One rich in pipertone, the other in cineole.  The piperitone rich CT is a natural source of which synthetic menthol is manufactured.  Marc Webb indicates that the oil is produced as it has been for over 200 years in “Eucy Stills” by bush distillers in rugged country of which the trees are grown. (1)
The piperitone CT has 53% piperitone in a typical analysis.  In comparison to the cineole CT, the Piperitone CT is higher in alpha-phellandrene (20%), globulol/viridiflorol (6%), terpinien- 4-ol (4%), para-cymene (3%), alpha-terpinene (2%), beta-phellandrene (2%),  and alpha-terpinyl acetate, alpha-pinene, and delta -terpinene, each at 1%.  Trace amounts of myrcene, linalool hydrate, trans-menth-2-en-1-ol, methyl acetate, cis and trans piperitol, alpha, beta and gamma eudesmols are also present in a typical analysis.  These constituents together allow the E. dives piperitone CT to be beneficial in a diffuser for typical colds, bronchitis, etc., as it brings about slower, deeper breathing while opening bronchioles and sinuses.  (1)
I most favor Marge description of the oil: “Sparkling and bright, smelling like a blend of your favorite Eucalyptus species with just a touch of sweet Peppermint.” (2)
  Robert Tisserand sites no hazards or constraindications known in Essential Oil Safety, Ed. 2.  (3)
(1)Mark Webb.  Bush Sense,  Australian Essential Oils and Aromatic Compounds,  Adelaide, Australia:  Griffin Press, 2000. 
(2) Marge Clark,
(3)  Robert Tisserand/Rodney Young.  Second Edition, Essential Oil Safety:  Churchill Livingstone

My notes: for many years we did not offer this delightful oil because I had read that the Piperitone was a severe neurotoxin, and didn't want to sell it. It was only after Robert Tisserand's book was published that we finally offered it.  I was wrong. NOT all ketones are hazardous. I am so glad to be able to make this available.

You may read more about, and purchase your own Peppermint Eucalyptus here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Baby Bottom Balm

Michelle has been making our BBB for us for years now. And of course using it on her own family.
She reminded me of an old shot with Ollie.. who loved the feel of it.  (We never experiment on animals, just on ourselves and our families!)

Whenever we change a product there is apt to be someone who loved the original and is surprised to see a change, so, fair warning:

We have been making our Baby Bottom Balm available for well over a decade, perhaps closer to two. And never a change in the formula.   But it used our refined Shea Butter. White as the driven snow, hard to the touch.   And, in our experience and those of some of our clients, not as rich or healing as our Traditional (unrefined) Shea Butter.

Dilemma.  Finally I asked Michelle to make a smaller, test batch, using our traditional Shea.  (Which we used to call "Traditional GOLDEN Shea" but this years batch came out more cream than gold!)  And it produced a lovely beautiful creamy balm.

Do you remember your color circle from Elementary school art classes?  "Blue and Yellow make Green."

This year's Baby Bottom Balm,  rather than being the ice blue of years past, is a softly tinted olivish green.   If you are expecting "Ice Blue" you will be surprised.   Spread a bit on your hand, and I think you'll be delighted.

Another change.  We have always added a smidge of Corn Starch, for a soft, powdery, non-greasy finish.  But Corn Starch can feed yeast. And some diaper rashes are caused by yeast. (The really red angry ones are apt to be yeast.)

So we substituted ArrowRoot powder for the Corn Starch.  Same soft powdery finish, and nothing to feed those nasty yeasties.

Michelle took some 'scrapings' home to experiment with.  Her next day comments: "After my shower last night, I slathered my feet with it, and pulled on some socks to sleep in. When I woke up this morning, I had happy toes.  All the dead dry skin was nice and soft. I definitely give it two toes up!"

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Good Dreams Spray"

We love feedback that shows we make a difference. And sometimes we share (with permission) because someone else out there may have the same problem.

Email that came in yesterday.  And of course I asked permission:

"A while back you recommended Neroli Hydrosol for my daughter who struggles with anxiety due to her high-functioning autism and night time sleep issues.  I must say, I ADORE YOU!!!!!  My daughter and I recite a sweet little poem together each night after stories, and while doing so I spray the Neroli Hydrosol around her bed.  She calls it the "Good Dream Spray".

Marge, I cannot express my gratitude for your kindness and helpfulness enough!  When I reached out to you months back asking for your recommendations for my daughter's anxiety, I had no clue that ONE BOTTLE of Neroli Hydrosol would mean SO MUCH to our little family!  If my daughter wakes at night from a bad dream I instantly grab the spray and she is calm and soothed.  

When she worries about her Daddy, who is changing careers and becoming a police officer, she writes down her worries, places them in her "Worry Box" and then I spray her with the amazing Neroli Hydrosol.

THANK YOU for having something SO SIMPLE that has made SUCH a difference in our days.

 And I am reminded of when Debby G's daughter graduated from nursery school to "the big school" and had butterflies in her tummy during the drive to school each morning. Just anxiety about all the changes, and what might happen.  I suggested the Neroli Hydrosol...  and it became the little girl's "Butterfly Spray" because it took away the butterflies in her tummy.

Our new bookkeeper, Cindi, has a rescued brindle Boxer,  "the Harley Man" who had a difficult background, and suffers from severe separation anxiety.  A splash of the hydrosol in his water bowl seems to keep him a bit calmer.  I've suggested she start spritzing her hands and wiping him, head to tail, with them, or that she try the same thing with a highly diluted Neroli essential oil.  Haven't heard back about either experiment, though.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tips on Growing Younger

A reprint from April, 2010. Some friends, (much younger than me!) are rather bemoaning the condition/conditions that come with aging. I thought they might enjoy this! (Would it be too corny to label this blog 'an oldy but a goodie'?

This just in from client Ellen Wood. It delighted us, we hope it will delight you, as well.

Scalp Stimulation, Anyone?
by Ellen Wood ( Keynote Speaker, Author, Columnist and Grow Young Guide
Oooooh. Aaaah.  That feels soooooooo good.
            Ever have someone wash your hair and massage your scalp?  It feels so good, you’re glad your head is leaning back over the sink so you won’t drool on your chin.
            It's a time for allowing your consciousness to go to scalp and just feel the pleasure.  This is not a left-brain thinking/talking experience; it’s one of those right-brain feeling experiences.
            Scalp massage has been used by many cultures throughout history to stimulate hair growth. I can’t vouch for that, but it does increase blood circulation, which is needed to bring oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles.  Of course, the top of your head is one of the most difficult places to get blood flowing since we usually just keep our head upright and let it sit there all day.  Scalp massage is the best way to get blood circulating at the top of your head and help prevent hair loss (or perhaps even stimulate new hair growth, as some folks claim.)
            Scalp massage has other benefits, too.  When you massage your scalp (or better yet, have someone else do it for you), you activate neural pathways to the brain and stimulate dormant brain cells. Yes!  We can increase our brain power without even struggling with Sudoku.
            Here’s one way to massage your scalp: put some Stimulating Scalp Massage Oil on your scalp, then use the balls of your fingertips of both hands and rub in gentle, circular motions over one small area of your scalp while you count to five.  Then, with your fingertips in the same place, rub in circular motions without moving your fingertips, allowing only your scalp to move while you count to five. Then move on to the next place on your scalp and continue until you’ve massaged your entire scalp.
            Another method to use for stimulating your scalp is pulling your hair, usually before your shower and after dry brushing your skin. It takes just 15 to 20 seconds total, so try this (but get your doctor’s permission first):  Bend at the waist and let your head fall forward.  Keep your legs straight, feet hip-width apart.  With each hand take a small bunch of your hair at the roots and gently yank 3 to 5 times rapidly.  Then move to the next clusters of hair and continue that process until you’ve covered your whole head.
            WARNING:  The first time I did this was several years ago when I was in my late 60s.  I was naked and when I bent over at the waist, I was unprepared for the shock of what my eyeballs were staring at.  Not a pretty sight!  I just hadn’t looked at myself naked in an upside-down position in a long time so I was caught by surprise.  If my breasts were larger, they might have covered my belly, but I’m not sure I was ready for that picture either.
            I am a proponent of loving yourself exactly as you are, so if you don’t like what you see when you bend at the waist and pull your hair, tell your belly and boobs you love them as they are and thank them for doing their job (and still being there) – or wear clothes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Addressing Change

 Christi was intrigued by a question and decided to address it at greater length.

During Marge’s first live "Mondays w/Marge" Facebook Q&A on Monday night, Charlie, an artist making a locational move, asked about which oils she would recommend for new beginnings/change.  Marge addressed the joy and trepidation of the new beginning and the discomfort of leaving the familiar behind. 
She said she would think not only about oils for embracing the new, but transitioning out of the old.  Marge is correct, finality and letting go is a necessary part of big life change, although as humans our tendency is to resist.
Oils she suggested include Petitgrain, Violet Leaf, Galbanum, Bergamot Mint…some of the “Spring-time” scents that came to mind on the spur of the moment. Robbi Zeck affirms the fresh lightness of Petitgrain Bigarade (citrus aurantium) as an excellent oil for mentally and emotionally “awakening,” in her book, THE BLOSSOMING HEART.  As an added bonus, Petitgrain is known to be helpful for calming anxiety.
Another oil to consider is Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) which Zeck calls “supportive.”  She says, “When change is imminent, Cypress brings structure, strength, and a sense of protection.”  Robbi’s book includes heart affirmations at the bottom of each essential oil summary and Cypress’ affirmation to counter the challenge of change, is, “Life supports me.” Well said!
Admittedly I am a Fragonia™ fanatic, but I, (Christi), think Fragonia ™ would be helpful during a life transition, as I find it exceptionally adaptable, and from a mental and spiritual perspective very balancing.  It would also blend well with a majority of oils in the diffuser or as part of an anointing oil blend. 
Ah, dear sweet Vetiver! Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) is an oil I am never without.  It is centering, and solidifying mentally and emotionally, and yet  (Third or solar plexus chakra between ribs and navel.)  Physically, Vetiver is mildly sedating, and can be helpful in anti-anxiety or stress blends.
it is an oil I “feel” deep in my being, as if it is anchoring, securing, grounding and supporting me all at once.
Ultimately, the best oils to use are those speaking to you personally at a given time.  Marge and I have both found over the years, times when certain oils “speak” to us more clearly than others.  Sometimes we’ve been surprised to be drawn to an oil or oils we did not care for at all in the past.  It is always an adventure!
Have an aromatherapy question you would like Marge to answer?  Most Monday evenings she will be answering questions live on our Facebook page at 8:00 p.m. CDT. (Monday, April 11th being the exception as she will be traveling back East from Robert Tisserand’s educational seminar in Denver.) Join us on Facebook as we continue our aromatic journey together:

Monday, April 4, 2016


Melissa (Lemon Balm)
During the Materia Medica portion of his Aromatic Medicine (part 2) course, Mark Webb spent some time on the "Lemon scented" oils.  Mostly high in Citral.  We've written of them before here, Lemongrass, Lemon Myrtle, Lemon Tea Tree, Melissa, etc.

He made a suggestion that I hadn't thought of, that there are two Australian oils that make wonderful substitutes for rare and costly Melissa.

Chart copyright Mark Webb,  

When I look at the uses of Melissa, I think first of it's anti-viral effects, how we add it to a lip balm for cold sores (herpes simplex virus) and how people say it is useful as an insect repellant.  Lemon Tea tree is known for its effectiveness at detering mosquitoes and other stinging beasties,  and matches Melissa in its content of germ and virus fighting Geranial and Neral, (together known as Citral.)   

One other substitution that Mark didn't mention in class leaped off the page at me when we studied this slide, and is noted in my handwritten notes.  The Esters, plant compounds ending in ATE, like the Geranyl acetate and the Methyl geranate mentioned above are relaxants. They are what make Roman Chamomile, some Clary Sages, some Lavenders so very relaxing.  And although I personally have found our Ironbark Eucalyptus delightfully calming and relaxing, I never made the connection on the chemistry. Of course!  Whichever name you choose.. Mark's  "Lemon scented Ironbark", Robert Tisserand's "Australian Lemon Balm",  Our  "Eucalyptus Ironbark", or its proper species name, Eucalyptus staigeriana, is a wonderful substitute for the emotional uses of Melissa Essential oil. 

There is a lot of research to be found regarding the calming effects of Melissa Essential Oil. I hope someone will try to replicate their results using Ironbark.  In the meantime it might be worth considering for yourself or your family.