Aromatherapy uses the ecological balance of nature and can help with the treatment of conditions such a stress, mental fatigue, arthiritis, rheumatism, low or high blood pressure and infertility, to name a few. It is an ancient tradition that can be dated back to 4000 B.C.E, in the time of Mesopotamia, where the use of plants were recorded on clay tablets in cuneiform. Aromatherapy has reached many cultures throughout the ages, including the Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks, Indians, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Aromatherapy has the ability to connect us with our past and the now forgotten connection to nature we once nurtured.
The oils are extracted from the natural plant products such as the flower, stem, leaves and resin from the barks of trees. The oil is extracted using a method of steam distillation. Abu All al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina (980 – 1037 C.E.), a natural scientist of his time, can be commended for this process and other valuable written work of more than 800 plants and their healing properties on the human body systems. Botanical sources such as geranium, thyme, rose and bergamot (there are more than 70 oils to choose from in modern aromatherapy) are used in the treatment. The oils I use are purely natural and have no added preservatives or colours. They consist of natural compounds that work with the body’s complex systems, for example, when assisting with the treatment of depression, I will use oils that stimulate and regulate the nervous system, penetrating the unconscious mind. Aromatherapy can also help to balance women. There are oils that can help with fertility, uncomfortable or irregular periods and the menopause, for older women. Aromatherapy can have a positive effect on your general well-being, you may find you have more energy, a relief in your current symptoms, an improved mood, you feel more relaxed, you are able to sleep better and a greater sense of well being.
Each aromatherapy oil is made up of it’s own unique blend of chemical constituents. The oil is absorbed into the body usually through olfactory process which is situated in the nasal passage or it can be absorbed into the blood stream through the lungs by massage or steam inhalation.
The chemicals in the essential oils attach themselves to the scent receptors in the nose, chemical messages are received into the brains limbic system via the olfactory nerve. The limbic system is situated at the top of the mid brain and includes the hippocampus, amygdala, septal area and hypothalamus. This part of the brain is used for survival, expression of emotion and the formation of memory.
The olfactory bulb is “hard wired” into the limbic system, it connects our sense of smell to memories and emotional responses. The hypothalamus is home to our subconscious mind; the unconscious mind is mental activity that is not perceived by consciousness. Our memories, feelings and thoughts have the potential to influence our behaviour, without any realisation of it. Aromatherapy can soothe the unconscious processes we may have, helping us life a more fulfilled and nurtured life.
© Melissa Ward
The word ‘subtle’ means ‘slight and not obvious’. Subtle aromatherapy works on a level that cannot be seen. The oils used in subtle aromatherapy work on a vibrational level. Vibrational means to ‘be communicated on an unconscious level’. Subtle aromatherapy uses the subtle energies from the oils to influence and restore the energetic body of the individual. This in turn leads to the homeostasis of the physical body.
Research has been carried out on the relationship between our emotional self and our physical body (Pert, C. 1997). Our state of mind can influence the biomolecules of our physical self. A healthy mind means a healthy body. The unconscious mind is the aspect of our self that is not known or understood easily. Our experiences and interactions with others from the moment we are born to the present moment can affect our unconscious processes. Subtle aromatherapy has the ability to calm and restore the unconscious mind.
The healing powers of the plant are drawn upon. The process of photosynthesis converts the energy from the sun, carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere and water from the soil, into a chemical energy which is finally extracted from the plant using a process of steam distillation, into the form of an essential aromatherapy oil. Each plant, tree, flower or herb is grown in it’s own unique eco-system. This gives the aromatherapy oils their different healing properties. For example, lavender grown at high altitudes will have different healing properties to lavender grown at a lower level. Frankincense is extracted from the bark of the tree, it produces a resin which eventually hardens. Trees are both in the ground (roots) and in the atmosphere (branches) therefore frankincense is a very grounding oil but also has the ability to deepen and slow the breath allowing the mind to reach a higher state of being in meditation.
While aromatherapy has the ability to heal the physical self it also has the ability to heal the mind, spirit or soul. If you are intrigued by subtle aromatherapy, please do contact me for more information.
© Melissa Ward 2014
This is where my photography journey began. My dad belonged to the team of professionals who regenerated Deptford in the early 1990’s. It’s his photo really because he was the one who encouraged me to climb to the top of one of Deptford’s many high rises. With my hard hat in tow and the wind blowing vigourously in my face we both climbed in the builders lift together.
My photography tutor at Goldsmiths College introduced me to the term ‘thatcher’s needle’. It was an appropriate term, seen as my dad was a socialist and I can proudly say we had a picture of Lenin in the hallway of our family home in Forest Hill.
Little did I know this would be the last home he lived in (depicted in the far right cluster of homes, ironically). He died in Kenya on Sunday 17th November 2013 and this photo is in his memory. This is when he was the dad I loved and cherished and before the life he chose, that broke him.
I have fond memories of playing in the ancient forest that sat on the opposite side of the main road, from my house in Forest Hill, South East London. It was the same forest my dad played in as a child with his friends and brother. It was veiled in the mysticism of queens and war planes and if you listened carefully you could hear the trees breathing. I can remember the sun glistening through the gaps, revealing the blue sky beyond. My self-sufficiency would have me and my friends take a jam sandwich and watch the gardeners attend their allotments. And with my parents, a game of hide and seek was enjoyed as a family which was a happier time for my Dad.
I loved nature as a child even though the city of London ran through my mum’s veins. She loved London more than anything and given the choice of nature or a trip to the west end it would always be the latter.
Born in the early 1970’s I was a very much a screen child. Hopping between my television, hand-held computer games and my Commodore 64. I was obsessed with gaming, waiting for my tapes to load, Hungry Horace, Daly Thompsons Decathlon and Damsel in Distress were some of my favourites. Gaming was isolating then, it was stand alone and I spent most of the time in solitude, not communicating with anyone. Gaming now is very different, I often hear my son cackling inappropriately into his Xbox 360 mic.
We all need balance in our life, a life that has equal parts. Climbing trees, running through forests and splashing across streams nurtures the psyche. Trees feed tranquillity into our very being, they ground our existence on this earth. They have the ability to transport us to other worlds, with queens and war hero’s. A child’s imagination can run as free as their body through a forest that sparkles with sunlight.
Most of our possessions in the home come from the earth, in some format or another. Nature is the perfect way to help children understand the process of consumption and the impact that process may or may not have on the environment. The wooden chair I sit upon once stood rooted to the ground with branches and leaves.
Spending time watching a bumble bee collect pollen and explaining why we need bumble bees allows children to understand the connectedness of every living being. Finding a dead animal and talking about the ecosystem that’s right before your eyes encourages how the reliance of every living thing impacts upon each other. If one is out of balance, nature allows us to explore the impact on the rest of the chain.
Climate change sees local streams flooding and when we visit the same wild place regularly we can see the impact of climate change on an environment that is changing. We can connect with others and understand how their lives have been affected by devastating floods and typhoons, for example, those people in the Philippines. It encourages children to empathise with the rest of the earth and it encourages a debate that children need to have with themselves about the causes of a changing climate across the globe. It’s not about frightening children’s existence, it’s about creating a dialogue that needs to happen for the sake of humanity.
With earth, comes fire and spring is the best time to camp up around the fire pit. Some ancient cultures use the smoke from fire to communicate with ancestors, those who once roamed the earth. Our ancestors are important to our sense of who we are and a fire is a great opportunity to discuss with children those who came before us. My own children love roasting marshmallows, independently. My daughter has been proficient in fire pit safety since aged five, negotiating danger is important to children. It’s important because if they’re ever in danger they need to be able to know how to get out. If they’re never in danger they’ll never know how to get out of it.
Being outside and listening to silence embraces the presence of being human, the silence has the ability to touch the psyche in a way that the hustle and bustle of the city cannot. I live on the edge of the M25 and I find it difficult to listen to nature go about it’s daily business. As the lorries roar past, I feel their power in my chest. I’ve lived in silence, of an evening we would sit outside, around the fire and listen to owls hooting and bats swooping. I miss the silence tremendously.
Balance in life is key and it can exist but it can only exist if we allow it to. Sacrifices in life are key and we all make them, only some are different to others. What sacrifices will you make today? And who will benefit from them?
My husband, daughter and me found an ants nest when we visited Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, as well as an array of Buddleia’s alive with butterflies. Four out of five children now suffer with nature deficit disorder.
Managing my 14 year olds sons connection with nature was much easier when he was younger. Now he likes to be with his friends more than he likes to be with me. We are lucky that we have a forest at the end of our garden which he does frequent. He hasn’t been out of the house for a while because no one likes the cold, only when there’s a blanket of snow. I advised to him to go climb a tree, something he’s awesome at. I’ve yet to meet someone who can climb a tree as well as he can.
I took this photo on my way back from Greenpeace Lobbyist training. This really is Angel underground station and sometimes I feel like I’m an angel underground. I was once compared to the trickster, who in psychotherapy, teaches us something about our inner self that we did not know. The trickster encourages us to strip away our pretensions and run naked through the forest. The trickster will encourage the death of the self but encourage an awakening at the same time. I enjoyed challenging the superficiality of my group of fellow students and I’d like to think that some learned something about themselves that they were previously unaware of.
My two beautiful children. I took this the last time I saw my dad alive. My children were so happy we had moved back to the south east from East Anglia. Their smiles are genuine happiness.