Ann Carter Introduces HEARTS and What it Means for Cancer Care

A multisensory approach to facilitating relaxation in cancer care using aromatherapy, touch and voice, the HEARTS process – created by Ann Carter – offers a new way to help patients achieve a state of relaxation and calm as quickly and easily as possible.

In their new book, Combining Touch and Relaxation Skills for Cancer Care, Ann Carter and Peter Mackereth discuss principles which may influence the effectiveness of touch and relaxation therapies, emphasising that there are approaches that can be learnt and utilised by healthcare workers (and carers) who are not qualified in any therapies when working with distressed and vulnerable patients. Continue reading

Meet The Singing Dragon Author: Pam Conrad

As part of our Meet The Singing Dragon Author series, we speak to authors to discuss their motivation for entering their respective industries, inspiration for writing their books, what challenges they faced, and who they would recommend their books to. Is there a specific Singing Dragon author you would like to hear from? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation using #MeetTheSDAuthor.

Pam Conrad, author of Women’s Health Aromatherapy

How did you become interested in aromatherapy?
As a nurse, I’ve always been interested in complementary therapies that enhance health and wellbeing and offer support for the side effects of medical conditions and treatments. Prior to aromatherapy, I studied herbal medicine and nutritional therapies so it was a natural addition for holistic care.

I’ve also always loved pleasant scents and flowers so the idea of a clinical therapeutic modality with beautiful scents was very appealing to me. Continue reading

Meet The Singing Dragon Author: Lydia Bosson

As part of our Meet The Singing Dragon Author series, we speak to authors to discuss their motivation for entering their respective industries, inspiration for writing their books, what challenges they faced and who they would recommend their books to. Is there a specific Singing Dragon author you would like to hear from? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation using #MeetTheSDAuthor.

Lydia Bosson, author of Hydrosol Therapy

How did you become interested in aromatherapy?
I discovered aromatherapy about thirty years ago. A friend had given me an essential oil of lavender and one of neroli. As the effect of these two essences impressed me so much, I decided to deepen this knowledge. Subsequently, I tried many essential oils and hydrosols on myself and those around me. The rest is history – and fortunately, the collective spirit has opened up to alternative medicine in recent years. Continue reading

Neurogastronomy and a Plant-Based Lifestyle – A Personal Reflection

By Jennifer Peace Rhind

Neurogastronomy is a branch of neuroscience which explores how the brain perceives flavour. Now we might all agree that flavour is important to our wellbeing – it is at the heart of what we choose to eat, and indeed how much we eat. It determines whether our food satisfies us (or not) and it can bring enormous pleasure. It would also be fair to say that an understanding of flavour will influence how we approach food and cooking. Indeed, it can transform our time in the kitchen and the dishes that we prepare…. Continue reading

Saints, Sages and Ordinary People and Their Encounters with Aromatic Plants

An Invitation to Read: SEVEN SCENTS: Healing and the Aromatic Imagination by Dorothy Abram

     SEVEN SCENTS: Healing and the Aromatic Imagination is an invitation to enter the lives of individuals who have been transformed through their interaction with sacred fragrant plants.  I examine the historical lives of saints, sages, and ordinary people whose encounter with aromatic plants provided the means and method to heal the crisis of a divided mind.  Just as smell retrieves memories from the distant past, the power of the aromatic imagination constructs reality in the present.

The book begins by studying the origins of the repression of scent as an authentic source of knowing in Western society.  The consequences of that rejection for identity are tremendous: we live with this loss.  Echoing Western philosophy from Plato onwards, Freud claimed that, in fact, the evolutionary repression of the sense of smell was a necessary act that initiated our humanness.  Freud explained that by renouncing a four-footed stance in favor of a two-footed posture (that prioritized vision as the dominant sense for survival), humans repressed the sense of smell.

This profound absence continues to leave its trace in our lives today.  Yet, the sense of smell cannot be rejected in our pursuit of human wholeness. Questioning the emotional costs of such an act for contemporary society, this book proposes that reclaiming an aromatic imagination has the potential to heal this fundamental division in the senses.  Paying particular attention to the socio-economic setting that promotes such divisions within, this book seeks to locate and to elucidate the necessary attributes of an aromatic imagination.  Fragrant plants appear in cultural and historical settings worldwide and at various historical moments whereby we may pay witness to the power of reclaiming scent for contemporary consciousness.

Beyond theory, we must consider the lives and cultures that demonstrate the power of the aromatic imagination for what they may teach us.  In this way, we witness its power to unify and heal.  I examine seven fragrant plants and the people whose lives were transformed through their engagement with these fragrant sources.  These seven plants include:

  • Sandalwood (Santalum album)
  • Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea)
  • Neem (Azadirahcta indica)
  • Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus)
  • Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
  • Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)

The chapter on sandalwood tells the story of a female sage in 19th century India who healed a problematic case of madness through her use of fragrant sandalwood.  We would not have known about this powerful aromatic healer had she not entered the life of the mad priest of Kali, Ramakrishna.  Her healing method reminds us that, in addition to the physical upset, illness is a story—a narrative—that is constructed to make sense of experience.  It is the aromatic imagination at work.  The narrative that this female sage offered Ramakrishna enabled him to reform his identity from mad priest to divinely inspired saint.  Because they lived in a culture that honored spiritual insight and religious experience, they were named great teachers and creative geniuses.

The chapter on lotus (blue water lily) examines a traditional biblical narrative from the perspective of shamanism.  This is an unusual framework with which to analyze the book of Job.  The focus on the lotus opens new approaches to understanding that are not available without taking the plant and its meaning in the narrative into account.  In fact, it enables the reader to recognize Job as a shaman; that is, as a healer of humankind who gains his expertise through his successful underworld journey and the power of magical plants.  Analysis of this scented water plant reveals the emotional significance of Job’s journey.

The study of the pungently scented neem tree offers a fascinating inquiry into ambivalent states of mind brought together through interaction, inhalation, and ingestion of the leaves of this sacred tree.  It offers powerful lessons in healing through states of mind that must accompany the botanical cures for true healing today.  Highlighting the smallpox epidemic in India and the goddess called Sitala Mata who was believed to be in charge, neem demonstrates the power of faith to bring about healing.   The aromatic imagination heals the divided mind.

The passage of Abraham’s recuperation under the fragrant terebinth tree in the biblical book of Genesis sets the stage for a new look at the ancient tale and often studied story of the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac by the command of his God.  That is how we are often told this story: that the sacrifice was a God-given command to test Abraham’s faith.  However, by looking at the cultural context in which the act was nearly accomplished and by examining the Hebrew words used, the reader comes to a very different understanding that makes sense of this cruel request.  This evidence also demonstrates the quality of consciousness that Abraham achieved under the terebinth tree resulted in a compassionate ending to the episode.

Similarly, the chapter on fragrant tulsi narrates the specific qualities of plant, mind, and action that are required to bring about an altered state that expands consciousness.   Examining a maiden rite still held in India today, this chapter reveals the use of scents to describe emotional states of expression and achievement of unified consciousness.

Spikenard is well-known from the New Testament as the fragrant oil that Mary of Bethany used to “anoint” Jesus’ feet in the gospel of John.  By examining the original Greek text, we discover that Mary’s actions were directed toward Jesus, the man, in a profound and intimate gesture of relaxation and aromatic healing.

The chapter on jasmine examines this fragrant flower for use in healing epilepsy in the 19th century and in aromatherapy today.  In both situations and at both times, the scent of jasmine facilitated the physical control of symptoms and management of the disease.

In addition to their fragrant scents, all of these plants have psychoactive potencies that were employed in the healing practices described in this book.  But, it is the story that accompanies the botanical treatment by which healing is truly secured.  That story is different in each context where it appears.  However, in all the cultures and contexts that I examine in SEVEN SCENTS, the story pays witness to the achievement of a spiritual level of awareness.  That achievement is brought about through inhaling the scents of these sacred plants in a narrative cultural context.    Whereas the individuals in these chapters require healing from a conflict and crisis of consciousness—the divided mind—aromatic healing demonstrates a unification that is witnessed across cultures and historical eras.  This is the aromatic imagination.

Clearly, such diverse origins necessitate the location of a common underlying crisis; something that traces back to the origin of our shared humanity. I propose that the repressed sense of smell may finally have achieved its reappearance and vindication in the aromatic imagination.

We are healed with scent.

The Influence of Scent on Ageing and Health

An interview with our author, Jennifer Peace Rhind, by Linda Gray. This interview is also featured in the Christmas edition of Good Housekeeping.

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Are there any scents apart from grapefruit that make us seem younger?

Grapefruit is perceived as an ‘activating’ scent, and is associated with energy and freshness and indeed youth! But does this mean that wearing a grapefruit fragrance will make us appear younger?

Maybe – we might feel energised, and this can affect how we behave and project our self, and this may give the superficial impression of youth. Continue reading

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SDCatSignUp-FBPostThe Singing Dragon Complete Catalogue is now available. With full information on our expanding list of books in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, Qigong, Yoga, Aromatherapy, and a variety of other disciplines, our catalogue is an essential resource for complementary health practitioners and anyone interested in enhancing their own health, wellbeing and personal development.

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Choosing Essences for yourself

Lilly_Essence-Practit_978-1-84819-250-8_colourjpg-printby Sue Lilly, author of The Essence Practitioner: Choosing and using flower and other essences

Many of us visit practitioners if we want essences, but some of us have our own essence collections and need effective ways to choose essences for personal use. For essence practitioners for instance there is always the question of how to best choose essences for yourself. Choosing for oneself is always an interesting exercise: trying to overcome the biases of our conscious mind and our underlying unconscious predilections so that we can actually choose essences that can be helpful for more than just superficial issues.

The traditional method of choosing, often called ‘pattern matching’ or the ‘logical method’, compares the qualities of the essences, as described by a producer or author, with the symptoms, emotions or thoughts that are being experienced. Depending on what has been written about an essence it may be possible to make a choice for an aspiration or a final goal. The advantage of this method is that anyone can work in this way. The disadvantage is that it relies on the capability of the individual to be able to identify – or reflect on – personal symptoms, emotions or thoughts without being influenced by his or her own judgment.

Moreover the descriptions of essences are limited to what the producer or author has written. No matter how many carefully written words, it is only going to describe a fraction of what the essence is capable of doing when interacting with a person or an animal. So this method of choosing essences for their own personal situation has limitations.

Another method of choosing essences for oneself is by pendulum dowsing or self-testing (muscle-testing). However, unless precautions are taken, the accuracy of these methods can be undermined and over-ridden by the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. The power of these areas of our being can influence those choices that are often accepted gratifyingly by the conscious mind, as these choices appear to confirm our dominant beliefs and wishes. The types of steps that need to be taken to improve accuracy are grounding, or anchoring, personal energies and centring personal energies. Grounding can be simply imagining roots growing out of the feet, deep down into the Earth. Being dehydrated or very hungry can impair the ability to ground personal energies and to keep a good connection with the planet. The simplest way of centring is by ‘tapping in’.  Here the person does a firm, light tapping with the fingertips on the area of the upper chest just below where the collarbones (clavicles) meet the breastbone (sternum). This is the approximate placement of the thymus gland, an important maintainer of the subtle energy balance in the body. Whilst the thymus is being tapped, the other hand is placed palm open, over the navel. This allows the centring effect to last longer.

The methods above are adequate for choosing essences for oneself, but it is very useful, when treating someone close to you emotionally, to have a few more methods that can also divert the conscious mind and the other dominant areas of the brain.

Here are some examples. Make a list of numbers that correspond to the number of essences you have available. Then enter the name of those essences randomly to create a list. With the situation you want help with in mind this list of numbers can then be dowsed or muscle-tested for help with a particular personal issue without the list itself present and without input from the conscious mind. Personally I find this method works really well. The emerging essence or essence combinations brings surprising good results.

Another method is to create some small cards and write the name of an essence on each one. Then, placing them face-down, with the situation you want help with in mind, choose from the cards.

It could be easy to dismiss methods like these as having no use. However, it is easy for our conscious minds to ignore or belittle the depth of knowledge within us, and the access to knowledge of which our unconscious mind is capable. After all, our conscious mind is in charge, isn’t it? If we really want to get to the underlying causes of ill health, remove sabotaging thoughts or release toxic emotions we have to go beyond our everyday levels of consciousness and find ways to access the vast storehouse of knowledge of our unconscious mind.

When working as a practitioner, with a client, it is easier to stay detached and thereby have easy access to deep levels of consciousness. However, when working on ourselves or on those close to us, it is almost impossible to gain a similar level of detachment using methods we would use for clients.

I would suggest trying the ‘number’ or ‘card method’ without expectation and indeed, maybe with a playful approach for issues you want to resolve for yourself and see what happens!

Sue Lilly is the author of The Essence Practitioner: Choosing and using flower and other essences, she has been involved in many aspects of healing for over thirty years. She has a wide ranging experience as a therapist and  teacher – Flower Essences, Crystal Therapy, Astrology, Yoga, Meditation, Colour Therapy, Nutrition, Spiritual Development and Counselling. Sue is a qualified teacher and holds a Diploma in Clinical and Creative Supervision. She is an Advanced Practitioner and Tutor with the British Flower and Vibrational Essences Association (BFVEA), the Secretary of the British Association of Flower Essence Producers (BAFEP), joint Life President of the Affiliation of Crystal Healing Organisations (ACHO) and joint chair of the Japanese Crystal Healing Institute (JCHI). She has developed and produced Sovereignty Essences which complement the Green Man Essences created by Simon Lilly in 1991. She lives near Llangammarch Wells, Powys, Wales, UK.

Last post dates for Christmas 2014

If you would like to receive your purchases in time for Christmas 2014 we recommend placing your order before midnight on the following dates (depending on which country you want to ship to)

USA – 12th December 2014

UK – 15th December 2014

Australia – 15th December 2014

New Zealand – 5th December 2014

We regret that we cannot provide accurate dates for other countries but if you email hello@singingdragon.com or call +1 215 922 1161 (USA) or +44 (0)20 7833 2307 (UK and rest of world) we will do our best to find out for you. If you miss the last post dates it may be possible to express deliver your order, please call or email to find out.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year from everyone at Singing Dragon!

Osmanthus – the Scent of an Oriental Autumn

 

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In Scotland, we have just enjoyed an uncharacteristically glorious summer, full of beautiful scents. Autumn can be wonderful too, but then it is more the rich pallete of colours that we appreciate – our visual sense tends to dominate the season. Here, if we are asked to identify the scents of autumn, we might think of fallen leaves, damp earth, pumpkins and gourds, bonfires, wood smoke, maybe coniferous forests. However, there is one beautiful scented flower that, in China and Japan, is very much associated with autumn, and that is osmanthus.

Osmanthus fragrans is a woody, evergreen flowering shrub. In China it is known as kweiha, and the scent of the blossoms is loved and renowned; and indeed has been described as the quintessential scent of China.  It has been cultivated for hundreds of years, and is often found at Buddhist temples, where it is planted in groves. Osmanthus is very much considered to be an autumn flower, despite the reality that some varieties bloom all year round, hence the name ‘osmanthus four seasons’.  The flowers range from silvery white to reddish orange, but the most fragrant are the orange-yellow varieties. Osmanthus blossoms fill the air with their diffusive, floral-fruity fragrance, and when they fall from the shrubs and carpet the ground, the scent persists for many hours (Kaiser 2006). It is no wonder, then, that they grace such special places, and are held in such high regard.

Traditionally, like jasmine, dried osmanthus flowers are used to flavour both green and black teas, however the scent is very different, and quite distinctive. An absolute can be extracted from the flowers. This is very costly – it is an amber or greenish, thick liquid, with a complex, rich, sweet, honey-like, floral scent with prominent notes of plums and raisins, and apricots (Warren and Warrenburg 1993; Kaiser 2006). Because of its complexity, and the unique relationship between its floral and fruity notes, the absolute has the qualities of a perfume, in that its scent has many dimensions. It is impossible to attribute its scent to a handful of constituents, however it would be reasonable to say that β-ionone (woody, floral, violet, slightly fruity, with cedarwood, raspberry nuances) and dihydro-β-ionone, γ-decalactone (powerful, peach-like) and related lactones, linalool (light floral, woody), nerol (sweet, floral, seaweed-like) and geraniol (sweet, rosy) have a major impact (Kaiser 2006).

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Turin and Sanchez (2009) discuss the use of osmanthus in perfumery; they suggest that it is actually a ‘ready-made’ fragrance, and that the perfumer’s skill is in reviving it after the solvent extraction process! They illustrate this with two fragrances composed by Jean-Claude Ellena – Osmanthus for The Different Company (2001), which is true to its nature with peach and lemon top notes, and the uplifting Osmanthe Yunnan for Hermès (2005) which pays tribute to its traditional uses by including Yunnan smoked tea notes alongside freesia, orange and apricots. Other well known, ‘mainstream’ fragrances that claim to include osmanthus or an osmanthus ‘note’ are Eternity (Calvin Klein 1988), Escape (also Calvin Klein 1991, but since reformulated), and Sunflowers (Arden 1993). The artisan perfumer Alec Lawless, who worked mainly with natural raw materials, commented on his experience working with osmanthus absolute when composing Kuan Yin (Essentially Me); it produced an unexpected, delicate note of peach blossom (Lawless 2009).

It would seem that the fragrance of osmanthus has, for a long time, been regarded as uplifting. A study on the mood effects of fragrance conducted by Warren and Warrenburg in 1993 included a synthetic version of osmanthus. It was shown to increase feelings of stimulation and happiness, decrease feelings of irritation and stress, and prominently decrease depression and apathy; it had no significant effect on feelings of sensuality or relaxation. So, in the west, where we cannot readily access the fragrant flowers, we could consider using the scent of the absolute to lift our spirits. As autumn progresses, and after the equinox the days grow shorter and darker, many of us experience low mood, lethargy or even ‘seasonal affective disorder’. Osmanthus can offer us a beautiful, safe way to restore balance.

Jennifer Peace Rhind is a Chartered Biologist with a Ph.D. in Mycotoxicology from the University of Strathclyde. Her long-standing interest in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) has led to qualifications in massage, aromatherapy and reflexology. She co-founded the first professionally accredited CAM school in Scotland and remains involved in scent education. She has written several books on aromatherapy, published by Singing Dragon, the latest is Listening to Scent, a guide to training your olfactory palate. She lives in Biggar near the Scottish Borders.

References

Kaiser, R. (2006) Meaningful Scents around the World. Zurich: Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta & Wiley VCH.

Lawless, A. (2009) Artisan Perfumery or Being Led by the Nose. Stroud: Boronia Souk Ltd.

Turin, L. & Sanchez, T. (2009) Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. London: Profile Books Ltd.

Warren, C and Warrenburg, S. (1993) Mood benefits of fragrance. International Journal of Aromatherapy 5, 2, 12-16.