We are already heading towards winter… Temperatures are falling, the days are becoming shorter and the trees in the forest are loosing their leaves. But one family of majestic trees is still showing signs of strength. They are standing tall, strong and evergreen rising high into the sky as if the growing cold is their true element. Their countless leaves sharpened and compressed into needles radiating in all directions. They spread fragrances which make our breathing lighter and invigorated by their “green” aromas and essential oils.
Stalwart, proud, enduring in severe cold, wind, and snow, conifers are real survivors. Their essential oils, mostly distilled from the needles but also sometimes from the bark, wood or resin, bring us all the secret benefits which these amazing pillars of “light in the forest” can convey. Actually, these trees need their oils and their resins as warming energies to withstand the extreme temperatures they are often exposed to. “Methuselah”, one if not the oldest living tree on Earth, is a conifer tree from the Pinus genus (Pinus logaeva) and survived for 4 800 years until today in the ice-cold climate of the mountains of Eastern California.
Aromatherapy offers us a large variety of oils distilled from conifer trees. From the impressive Giant Fir, one of the largest conifer trees of the world, to the small but powerful and protective Juniper. All these oils have a very strong personality and are characterized by warming, invigorating energies.
Especially the Firs, Spruces and Pines essentially possess fresh-herbaceous-“green” fragrance notes, while other conifers such as the Cypresses i.e. may possess a variety of different notes. But even the oils of a Patagonia Pine, a Silver Fir or a Black Spruce come out with substantially different fragrance notes and compound varieties. Their oils uplift, stimulate and invigorate. Working through the nervous and endocrine system by helping release stimulating hormones and neurotransmitters (e.g. noradrenalin, dopamine and vasopressin etc.), they can regenerate our energies and promote strength, motivation, warmth and stamina. At the same time they tend to refresh, clarify and open up inner space. This is why conifer oils are so valuable in wintertime, which makes extra demands on our reserves of energy and endurance and which is usually a kind of emotionally draining time of the year. Conifer essential oils can help pull us through the stressful hustle and bustle of seasonal and other challenges and make us stay solid, steadfast and independent. They are specially efficient when used in baths and diffusers throughout the cold and damp months when there are tendencies for Seasonal Affective Disorders (SAD) and the depressive moods often linked to it.
If we look at the so called “signatures” of the Conifers, their intricate network of branches and needles can remind us somehow of the internal structure of our breathing organs, the lungs. Conifer essential oils are indeed very good allies to help us with any issue we can have regarding the respiratory system and have very good expectorant properties helping the release of mucus.
Giant Fir, Black Spruce or Scotch Pine (or even better a blend of all three) will keep us going, and going, and going… without getting tired. Their amazing molecular build-up mainly based on mono-terpene compounds give us all the endurance and courage we need to accomplish and complete the most daunting projects. “Forest bathing”, as the Japanese call the therapeutic technique of walking around in the forest, among the conifer trees, revitalizes the immune system as one deeply inhales their healing energies.
Some other essences like Hemlock Fir and Douglas Fir with their more deep, subtle and volatile fragrance will provide more mental energy, clarity and focus and will also simultaneously have a calming and sedative effect on us.
Black Spruce, Stone Pine, Scotch Pine and Larch convey a deeper woody-balsamic base note. They are more grounding. They have the ability to help us to stay centered and focused so we can work on our projects with optimism and strength keeping our feet on the ground.
Siberian Fir, Nordman Fir, Silver Fir and Sitka Spruce have a more fresh-lemony note that can create clarity in case of mental confusion and emotional stress. “Breathe deep and relax” – this is the motto of all the conifer oils together. They convey a sense of peace reminding us of the quietness of a winter forest. Their character is that of “patience” and quietness, but with a vital, warm and invigorating boost. Botanically, they do not immediately show signs of growth but, in fact, they are growing with perseverance – even through the storms and extreme temperatures they are often exposed to.
Another interesting evergreen oil is Juniper, obtained by the distillation of berries and (or) needles, is able to help the body to release toxins and purify itself, i.e. after excess of over-eating or wrong diet. This oil is often used in connection with kidney cleansing and the lymphatic system. And not to forget: Juniper is very helpful in case of muscle pains, rheumatism and injuries and sometimes used to help people with weight loss. Psychologically, Juniper oil is also a great helper for gaining motivation and letting go negative thoughts.
Calming and Relaxing
That leaves the deeper and more mysterious world of the Cedarwood oils to explore. From the fragrance point of view, the cedars lie at the opposite end of the spectrum: woody, somewhat sweet-earthy notes predominate here, along with a fluid, smooth softness. The two main true Cedarwood oils in Aromatherapy stem from the Atlas and the Himalayan Cedar. Their effect is comforting, grounding and strengthening with a deep relaxing effect. They are classic scents with sesquiterpenic compounds and – to a certain degree – can be compared to oils such as Myrrh, Patchouli, or even Nagarmotha. Rather than elevate and stimulate one’s energies like the fresh-herbaceous conifers, the Cedarwood oils fortify and ground our nervous system. Their centering and balancing effect also extends to the emotions, where they can help dissolve negative or irritated emotions as well as strenghten our psychological defense. A great advantage lies in their capability of soothening and calming anxieties and nervous tensions. Just leaning against the trunk of a cedar may strengthen and uplift our consciousness. Scientifc studies indicate that exposure to Cedrol – one of the major compounds of Cedarwood oil – significantly decreases heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Furthermore, respiratory rate is reduced during exposure to Cedrol, making Cedarwood oil an excellent oil to accompany meditation practices (Cf. http://swiftcraftymonkey.blogspot.com)
All these amazing “winter allies” from the Conifer family are wonders that protect us against all kinds of seasonal diseases such as cold, flu, etc. Indeed, they all have powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral (and also anti-septic) properties giving us the necessary push of energy to strengthen our immune system.
The Christmas lights on the conifer trees are a beautiful symbol for this wonderful botanical family which transforms the evergreen “chlorophyllic light” of the Sun so beautifully into curative energies and whose essences give support to our “inner light”, our energy and joy, especially during the winter season.
Conifers remind us that even in times of least sunlight when all seems put to seasonal sleep we can still draw from the strength of the earth and feed from the light of the sun to continue our direction upwards in growth.
Ever Green columns of health, pillars of light for revitalizing human life on Earth.
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