In the past, we've focused on blending essential oils and herbs based on their chemistry. Today, we'll explore a different method of blending - by plant part.
Think of a plant. Think of its parts and what they do.
Roots anchor the plant to the earth and hold it steady through good weather and bad. They absorb nutrients from the soil and send them up to the rest of the plant.
Resin/Gum is the lifeblood of the plant and carries the nutrients to all of its parts.
Stems are the skeleton and blood vessels. As the skeleton, the stem is strong enough to resist breaking so the plant stands upright, yet flexible enough to allow the plant to bend in rough weather The stem also houses conduits to circulate water and nutrients to all parts of the plant.
Leaves breathe and sweat for the plant. They take in carbon dioxide and sunlight, then produce glucose (which gives the plant energy) and exhale oxygen.
Flowers attract insects through color and aroma. This attraction leads to pollination and fertilization, and the flower’s primary duty – reproduction.
Fruits protect and nourish the seed during its early days of germination until the ‘baby’ is able to sustain itself.
Seeds are the plant’s embryos. They drop from the plant and, when conditions are right, grow into new plants.
In aromatherapy and in herbalism, one method of deciding what ingredients to put in a blend is to match a plant part to the body part and function we’re endeavoring to support. Let’s look at how this works.
Someone who is highly stressed or lacks proper nutrition may find grounding and nutritional support from the roots of plants. Angelica, Vetiver, and Valerian are roots with calming, grounding properties. Dandelion, carrots, and radishes provide a plethora of vitamins and minerals we need to survive.
When blood or lymph is stagnant, a person may feel tired, bogged down, or sick. Resins like Frankincense, Myrrh, Copaiba, and Opopanax all have the potential to support healthy blood and lymph circulation. Improved circulation allows the body to heal faster so that person has more energy and feels better.
Often, the stems used in aromatherapy are wooden. Sandalwood, Palo Santo, Cedarwood, and Rosewood are good examples. The oils from these stems have analgesic and relaxant properties that may provide relief from muscle and joint issues and from acute injuries. They support our skeletal system. Like the resins, they also support circulation, encouraging blood flow to an injured area for faster healing.
When there is congestion (sinus or lungs), breathing clearly is the function one wants to bolster. In this case, the best option may be choosing herbs or essential oils that are made from the breathing part of the plant – the leaves. Think of Peppermint, Sage, Eucalyptus, and the evergreen leaves like Pine and Spruce. The aroma alone for all of these can open the airways and promote respiration.
Flowers provide a great deal more than perfume - though their aromas may inspire romance and reproduction in humans. Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Chamomile, and Jasmine, with their incredible fragrances, have the ability to calm and uplift a troubled spirit. They open the heart to peace and love. Those who are angry or tense can benefit from these florals.
As they nourish the seeds, fruits also nourish us. Apples, lemons, oranges, elderberries, and rosehips provide us with vitamins (especially vitamin C) to support and strengthen the immune and skeletal systems. People with demanding schedules and constant exposure to colds and flu may boost their energy and immunity with fruit.
Sunflower seeds, pecans, cashews, and chia seeds provide protein and other nutrients to support growth and maintain health. Oils made from seeds flavor our foods and nourish our bodies and skin. Cooking with the right seed oils provides the body with essential fatty acids that balance the inflammatory process. Using them on the skin may help regenerate skin cells. The seeds and their oils work to rejuvenate damaged cells. Seed butters and oils are good for baby's diaper rash, mature skin, and everything in between the two.
Now that we understand the affinity between plant and human parts, we can begin to design formulations based on them. Some of those blends may include only one part, i.e. leaves, while others may combine different parts for a greater effect. Next week's blog will go into more detail and specific examples of blending by plant part.