Many of us are intrigued by using essential oils for the skin. In fact, this is one of the first ways that I started blending many years ago. As a woman, I cared about my skin’s appearance and created anti-aging blends for myself and my friends. I was a beginner then and I didn’t want to use over-the-counter products that were full of stuff I knew I really wanted to avoid (namely parabens and other chemicals that are harmful and, specifically, estrogenic). Besides, many of these “boutique” products were really, really expensive. I didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for a tiny little jar of something that has been marketed to take away wrinkles.
And so, over 20 years ago, my blending for my skin began. I didn’t have much training yet, but, maybe like many of you, I had my “aromatherapy recipe book.” I referred to it often, not really knowing whether the oil choices were correct, but it was a starting place. The thing I didn’t realize until many years later was the tremendous importance of two things which I feel strongly about even today—the quality, purity, and freshness of the oils I used, along with the chemistry of the essential oils. These two factors really go hand-in-hand because I believe if you know and understand the chemistry of essential oils, you understand the importance of freshness, which really is about shelf life.
Last August after returning from Botanica in Brighton, I was up really early and still a bit jetlagged. I had a few kitties snuggling with me in the living room, when all of a sudden, one of the larger male cats started annoying one of the older girls. I went to break up what seemed to be an escalating catfight, but I really should have just gotten out of the way. The fight occurred and I was right in the middle! The cats used my face to spring off the couch and I knew it wasn’t good. On my way to a mirror to investigate the damage, droplets of blood were falling to the floor. When I finally looked at myself in the mirror to get a look, chunks of skin were falling from my face. I screamed in horror and for the first time in my life, went to the emergency room. Before going to the ER, I used what I consider the premier skin healing essential oil—you guessed it—Helichrysum italicum.
I needed to take what life had dealt me and work with it, even though it wasn’t ideal. This was my face, and I had never experienced anything like this before, so this was all new territory. I decided that I would become my own case study. I took pictures to document the healing process. I didn’t have sutures, but the steri-strips were a challenge. They were supposed to fall off within 5-7 days. After three, they began to fall away. I used several different carriers because the area needed to be kept moist, including coconut oil (Cococs nucifera). Coconut oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but in doing some research, there was a paper written on the use of coconut oil for its dermal wound healing benefits.
The next stage was to make sure there wasn’t any infection because typically when a person is scratched by a cat, you have to be careful of cat scratch fever, which is caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae. The next blend I used had to address this concern. I used lavender wild (Lavandula angustifolia) because I needed to use an essential oil that had a significant amount of terpinene-4-ol as well as being high in the chemical family of esters. Lavender is known to be high in linalyl acetate, a skin-friendly ester. I also used Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) in this anti-infectious blend. Manuka is closely related to tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), and in fact, it is known as New Zealand tea tree. Finally, I had to keep including my friend, Helichrysum italicum just because I knew that I needed to keep using it.
I was told the healing would continue for at least six months and so I knew that I would have to keep switching blends, oils, and carriers to assist in this process. I have found that we get accustomed to the same old, same old – even when it comes to essential oils. This has always been the way that I approach any condition. I use essential oils in combination with other things. This is what I found to be most effective. I made many different blends over the next few months, using other complementary modalities such as herbs and supplements.
I saw a dermatologist friend of mine a few weeks ago. Even though I know where the scar on my face is, not many others see it. She didn’t know the story that I just told, but she totally feels that my healing is one to be amazed about. She said that it really is remarkable. I feel this way too, even though I was my greatest skeptic!