Energy Matters July to September 2017
High summer is holiday time! Many are heading off for a change of scene but for me it is always a busy time. Lots of people take the opportunity to learn something new and enjoy a nice break in beautiful Haworth at the same time.
It boosts your self-esteem to acquire a new skill, and my courses are fun and accessible, with no case studies or written assignments to plough through at home. Choose from a leisure course like my Friends and Family Courses or one of my Guild of Holistic Therapists accredited diplomas such as Indian Head Massage. You will learn in a small group (no more than four) or one to one, with lots of practice in carrying out treatments. You will take home a full manual of all the theory and all the techniques you have covered. Dates and prices for everything I have to offer this summer are on the Home Page.
I hope you enjoy the newsletter. This time I am focussing on the herb thyme as part of my series on herbs for beauty therapy. And in tune with the leisured mood of summer time, I'm looking at the modern issue of constant busy-ness and what it means for our clients and for us.
Thyme, the great healer!
Thyme is evergreen and it is a perennial herb, so it can be used all year round. It grows well in hot, sunny conditions in well-drained soil but it is resistant to cold and resists frost well. It responds well to being regularly pruned, so don't be afraid to cut thyme for a variety of different purposes!
The most common variety is Thymus vulgaris, although Thymus serpyllum is also found growing on mountainsides, particularly in Greece and Malta as well as in North Africa. This plant is important for honey bees as well as for blue butterflies, and you will find thyme honey, wonderful for coughs and colds and very nice in natural cosmetics too.
Other varieties of thyme include Thymus citriodorus (lemon, orange and lime thyme) as well as Thymus praecox, wild thyme which is considered to be the ‘mother’ of them all. All the thyme varieties belong to a group of plants called Lamiaceae, which also include mint and oregano.
A History of Thyme
Thyme has been used as a culinary herb, as a medicine and as a preservative for many centuries. In Ancient Egypt is was an embalming herb, and later on the Ancient Greeks used it in their baths as it was believed to bring courage. Later on, ladies in the Middle Ages offered it to knights going into battle, and the herb was also placed on coffins during this period as it was believed to aid passage to the after life. Both the Greeks and Romans burned thyme to scent their homes, and the Romans used it as a flavouring ingredient. Throughout history, people have used thyme to stuff pillows or place near their bed to aid restful sleep.
Thyme is still used widely in cooking, and is one of the plants included in the blend 'herbes de Provence'. It is also one of the ingredients used in za’atar (which actually means 'thyme'), a blend of different flavourings used in Arab cooking. Armenians use thyme in herbal teas called urc, and I have included a herbal tea recipe to try. Thyme is a warm, light herb which doesn’t dominate a dish and it is especially good with lamb, poultry, tomatoes and lemon. Using herbs in cooking is a good way to aid digestion, boost your immunity and add flavour to your food.
Essential Oil of Thyme
The essential oil of Thymus vulgaris contains a high percentage of thymol, a monoterpene phenol with antimicrobial properties - it is an effective fungicide, and has proven antibacterial properties. Research indicates that it helps reduce resistance to antibiotics when used in conjunction with another substance called carvacrol also found in thyme oil. Thymol is an active ingredient in commercial products such as mouthwashes and hand sanitizers.
The essential oil also contains compounds such as linalool (analgesic and anti-inflammatory), myrcene (a regulator of terpene activity in the body), p-cymene (anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive) and borneol (antibacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and a stimulant). Other elements of the oil include a-thujone, a-pinene, camphene, b-pinene, a-terpinene, and b-carophyllene. As well as being important in the healing synergy of the oil, these substances give depth to the aroma.
The oil is warming, calming and pleasant to include in blends. It can be used to help a wide variety of needs, from fungal toenail to skin conditions such as acne. Research continues into its medical uses, and Leeds Beckett University found a tincture of thyme to be more effective than chemical products in treating acne vulgaris. The use of essential oils containing thymol to help issues such as fungal toenail has been researched by podiatrists with positive results. Amongst its many properties, thyme is said to help balance hormones (in particular the production of progesterone), and to aid memory and concentration as it has stimulant properties which boost circulation, including blood supply to the brain. Thyme is a powerful antioxidant and this means it helps combat ageing.
Here are some ideas for using thyme as a herb and as an essential oil in health and beauty products and treatments – but be aware of the law and rules concerning products you have made, be cautious with pregnancy and seek medical help with any symptoms.
THYME AND WITCH HAZEL TONER
This may help acne-prone, oily skin. Use it after cleansing the skin, and to make a clay mask or oatmeal scrub. You can buy witch hazel from beauty suppliers such as Beauty Express or Ellisons, or indeed from herbal suppliers like Aromantic or Baldwin’s who will also have dried thyme. You can use dried thyme from your garden, of course, or get a jar in the supermarket. Do not use fresh thyme as the water content means it will cause mould in the product and can turn it a funny colour too.
Use a clean jar with a wide neck – they are available from aromatherapy and herbal suppliers. You will also need a bottle to put the finished product into. Sterilise your containers by putting them in your oven at 100 degrees centigrade, or boil them in water for ten minutes, or use a sterilising solution.
ORANGE AND THYME TONER
This is a balancing toner for normal to dry skin. It is calming and gentle, cooling in hot weather and it will remove excess product after cleansing. You can use it in products, like a clay mask or oatmeal scrub. You can buy orange flower water from beauty suppliers and herbalists, and dried thyme from any source.
Use a clean jar with a wide neck, and will also need a bottle to put the finished product into. Sterilise your containers as described above.
Bottle it up and label the bottle with the ingredients, the date you made the product, its expiry date and the name of the product.
USING YOUR TONER TO MAKE A THYME AND WITCH HAZEL CLAY MASK
Use a cosmetic grade clay, available from beauty and herbal suppliers. Good choices for oily skin include bentonite, Moroccan Red clay Kaolin and Fullers Earth. This recipe combines a mix of different clays with the toner you’ve just made to produce a cleansing mask for oily, acne-prone skin. This is enough for one treatment - make it up for each person, and don't store it.
1 teaspoon kaolin
1 teaspoon fullers earth
Two drops of thyme essential oil
Witch hazel and thyme toner
Use a glass or steel container, and add the clays to it. Give them a stir with a spatula and then add the witch hazel and thyme toner drop by drop, with a dropper, and mix with a spatula or glass dropper until you have a smooth paste. Go slowly! Once you have the right consistency to make a mask which will spread easily with a brush, add the two drops of thyme essential oil. Use the mask straight away.
Apply with a brush. Leave on for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove with a damp sponge and warm water.
ORANGE AND THYME TONER MASK
1 teaspoon kaolin
1 teaspoon French yellow clay or calamine clay
Two drops of thyme essential oil
Half a teaspoon of avocado OR wheatgerm carrier oil
Two drops of orange essential oil (citrus sinensis)
Orange Flower Water (available from beauty suppliers and herbalists)
Use a glass or steel container, and add the clays to it. Give them a stir with a spatula and then add the orange flower water drop by drop and mix with a spatula or glass dropper until you have a smooth paste. Go slowly! Add the carrier oil and mix well to a smooth dropping consistency. Add the essential oils. Use the mask straight away. Apply with a brush. Leave on for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove with a damp sponge and warm water.
OATMEAL AND THYME SCRUB - FOR ALL SKIN TYPES
Oats are cleansing, but they are also soothing so are suitable for oily and for sensitive or dry skin. This recipe is adaptable for different skin types! The recipe makes enough of the scrub for one treatment. Use it fresh, and don't store it.
1 tablespoon of ground oatmeal (or put porridge oats in your coffee grinder to make them)
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (Dead Sea Salt or Himalayan salt ground up are ideal)
Teaspoon of dried thyme, break up the leaves if necessary to make more of a powder
1 dessertspoon of unscented cleansing lotion for your skin type
Two drops of thyme essential oil
Two drops of camomile essential oil (optional, but it is very soothing)
Now, here is the adaptation for different skin types
Use a steel or glass bowl. Add the oats, salt and dried thyme. Mix into a paste with the toner or rosewater using a spatula, and then stir in the cleansing lotion and the carrier oil. Mix well until you have a creamy consistency and then add the two drops of thyme oil.
Gently rub the scrub onto the skin in circular motions, let sit for a few minutes minutes and rinse with damp cotton wool pads, towelling mitts or sponges.
BALANCING SERUM FOR ALL SKIN TYPES
If you have oily, acne prone skin you still need to moisturise it. The important thing is to use the right kind of oil, which will penetrate the skin quickly, without blocking the pores.
You will need a clean glass airtight bottle, sterilised.
Funnel which fits into the neck of the bottle
40 mls carrier oil – here are some suggestions for different skin types:
Jojoba – all skin types
Apricot Kernel – dry and mature skins
Argan – sensitive skins
Hazelnut OR Thistle oil – oily skins
Sesame – psoriasis, eczema, broken veins, very dry skins
Put your carrier oil into the bottle, using a funnel. To the carrier oil add:
2 drops clary sage essential oil
2 drops ylang ylang essential oil
2 drops thyme oil
Use this on the face, neck and décolletage, a couple of drops is all you will need. Serums always seem to work best when they are applied at night as they get time to really sink in.
Label the bottle with the ingredients you used, along with the date you made the product. Keep it in a cool dry place and use it within a month.
CINNAMON AND HERB TEA
And finally, a herb tea. Thyme has good antimicrobial properties, and is used to help coughs, recurrent sore throats and generally boost immunity. This is a soothing drink, and it would be good to sip whilst you are resting after a facial treatment!
2 cinnamon sticks, or tablespoon of cinnamon chips
4 teaspoons dried thyme
Honey to suit your taste (try finding rosemary or thyme honey)
4 cups of water
Use a saucepan to boil the water (not the kettle).
Add thyme and cinnamon, cover the pan, turn off the heat and leave the mixture to infuse for about 15 minutes.
Strain the tea into a teapot (or into your mug and keep the rest in an airtight jar). Throw the used herbs and cinnamon away.
Add honey to taste.
Keep any leftover tea in the fridge, and either drink it cold or reheat it gently.
Would you like to learn aromatherapy? We offer Aromatherapy Training for professionals.
You will learn a full body massage using carrier and essential oils, you will learn about the properties of both carrier oils and essentials, and the course has a strong creative element too. You will blend your own oils and use your blends to create unique natural products. The course is Guild Accredited for membership and insurance.
Being busy is a sign of status in modern society. It proves that our skills are in demand, as professionals or carers for example. It also shows that we are socially connected, with a network of family, friends, colleagues, people with whom we do business or take part in sports or other activities. It demonstrates that we are valued and valuable.
Being leisured, having time to simply think or smell the roses, being able to put down what we are doing to pay attention to someone else, all undermine our importance. We feel prone to being considered of little account in the world. Most of us would be utterly miserable if we had nothing we felt we ‘had’ to do, and indeed we will even invent tasks if none rise to our hands. Being busy is important to our mental and emotional wellbeing.
We work, of course, to pay our way in life but I can remember being well-paid to be underemployed and being absolutely miserable. Why had they recruited me only to leave me sitting relatively idle in a comfortable office in an exclusive part of town? The experience touched my sense of self-esteem and worth very deeply. It left me determined to find ways of using my knowledge and skills to achieve a sense of worth and usefulness.
We need to be busy, it seems. And what’s wrong with that?
Doesn’t it mean that we are keen to move ahead in life? Isn't this how we discover ways to help the sick, construct safe and comfortable buildings, produce works of art?
It does, but it also leads us to avoid lessons we can only learn when we turn to face ourselves, alone, in silence. We use numbing behaviours to protect us against vulnerability and avoid dealing with the important issues in our lives which, if resolved, would enable us to grow emotionally and psychologically. Brené Brown explains in her book ‘Daring Greatly’ that being ‘crazy busy’ is as much a numbing strategy as alcohol or narcotics. ‘We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us’.
So what is it we are trying to avoid looking at? Clients tell their therapists about these issues all the time, explicitly or in throw-away remarks and the way they are with us. We ‘hear’ how they are missing out on the sweetest moments of the children’s lives because of long hours or business travel, or how they feel guilty because they don’t spend much time with their ageing parents. How they fear finding out they are ordinary, and feel ‘not good enough’ unless they are overachieving, with a constantly pinging mobile and a day stacked with activity.
Many people are socially isolated, with lots of online friends and virtual contact but with little time spent with people they care about or want to get to know in real space. Everyone is too busy to arrange lunch together (with their gadgets turned off), or simply to go for a walk (with no chatting on the mobile or glancing at the time constantly)! Even a yoga class becomes another challenge to overcome, with a focus on achieving the perfect asana and a fit and flexible body – students have been known to leave a class early and skip the all-important breathing and relaxation parts of the session. For many of our clients, the only time they lie down and do nothing is when they come for a massage or beauty treatment – and it can be hard to make them turn everything electronic off, and not feel that they need to fill the silence with talking or reactions to the treatment.
The need to earn a living, keep our homes clean, care for our families and be able to present a fun-packed weekend on our social media pages is taking a toll on our health. A study in the ‘Journal for Marketing Research’ suggests that the emotional impact of feeling that there are conflicting demands on our time is considerable. Straightforward tasks become difficult and induce anxiety and people feel guilty about not ticking off the whole 'to do' list.
Many of our clients come to us to relax and deal with stress, and this study indicated that difficulty sleeping, many physical health problems and depression are the result of the constant pressure on time and the need people feel to be constantly busy. It suggested that ways to help include ‘pausing to breathe or envision the source of stress in a more positive light’.
Holistic therapists have the tools to help clients to do these things, and these and other findings suggest that gentler therapies are the most effective. Reiki, aromatherapy, or facial massage bring deep relaxation, help deepen the breath and enhance general wellbeing. They slow down the sense of time and allow us the opportunity to use positive visualization and meditation techniques to deliver positive messages to the client. We can enhance the experience with warmed oils, massage candles, essential oils and products with soothing textures. All of this brings the client back from the virtual world and mental stress to live the moment in full awareness of their own bodies, minds and spirit, and to enjoy simply being.
Have you heard of 'slow food'? Well, slow therapies help the client to relax and enjoy their down time and offer the opportunity for the therapist to be creative and offer original treatments tailored to the needs of their customers. Here are details of courses I offer in the therapies mentioned in my article:
Facial and Indian Head Massage Courses