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  • Carina Falck

They're everywhere!

Citrus rind, flowers, herbs and trees, resins, spices, grass, and reeds – the exhilarating gift of essential oils comes in all sorts of packaging!

Today I would like to invite you to once again marvel at the treasure chest of essential oils that can assist us with this (rather uphill) journey on earth.

One remains in awe about the effort and dedication that go into obtaining the oils. Nature and the whole essential oil industry become a source of wonder, amazement, and deep gratitude if you ponder on it for a while....

Oils are obtained from various parts of the plants, and sometimes more than one part of the plant is used: here is a general guideline.


Oils obtained from flowers are mostly extracted by steam distillation and are most often used for therapy regarding the mind and the reproductive system. Flower oils often have a calming effect, and could in particular help with depression, tension, worry, nervousness, and sleeplessness. The most well-known are lavender, neroli, rose, roman chamomile, jasmine, ylang ylang, tube rose, magnolia, frangipani, tagetes (Afrikanerblommetjies – indigenous to South Africa) and melissa (lemon balm).


In general, oils from spices assist with the digestive system, and muscles.

In muscles, spices have two functions: a good rub with a carrier oil and some spice oils can both prepare the muscles for challenging work, as well as help eliminate waste products after a workout.

Black pepper, cinnamon, juniper berry, coriander, ginger, and cloves, cardamom, cassia, cinnamon bark and cinnamon leaves, cumin, dill, and fennel are all used to produce essential oils.

Coriander is a natural preservative in biltong, and fennel and dill both help with bloating.

Remember that it is really very healthy to cook with as many herbs and spices as you can – the oils therein are so designed that they become tiny amounts of ‘medicine’ in your food. A good example is cinnamon that stabilises blood sugar, and naturally goes well with sweet food like pumpkin, sweet potato, and pancakes. Another example would be black pepper that is a great digestive aid and goes well with food like green beans that could cause bloating.


Oils derived from herbs regulate metabolism, such as the function of the menstrual cycle (hormones that fluctuate) and digestion. Herbs tend to regulate the effects of fatty foods, over-eating, eliminating waste, etc.

The most often used oils are obtained from clary sage, geranium, lemongrass, marjoram, rosemary, spearmint, peppermint, thyme, and sweet basil.

Here you could think of how instinctively we reach for a peppermint after dinner, or of a treat like “After Eight Mint Chocolate Thins” that we just love after a heavy meal. Thyme goes well with fatty mutton and lamb, and rosemary with chicken. (All in herb form – do not use the oils in cooking!)


The oils are mostly obtained from the skin or peel.

Examples are bergamot, sweet orange, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin, and lime.

Just like the astonishing sunny colours of the fruits’ skin and flesh bring joy, citrus oils are uplifting, clear the mind, assist with things that tend to ‘clog’ like the digestion of fats, draining of lymph, and the movement of fluids in our bodies. It is also helpful with building immune support in winter when illness threaten.

These wonderful uplifting oils also assist with those ‘mind clogging’ winter thoughts of depression and being cooped-up. Once more it is so logical and supportive from nature’s perspective that these fruits are available right at the time of year when sombre colours, illness, clogged minds, and slow metabolism are everywhere. Helping with frustration, bringing clarity, and assisting the liver (think too much coffee and red wine in winter) sweet orange, lemon, grapefruit, and bergamot oils should be on your winter shopping list.


Oils from trees are obtained from various parts of the trees:

Leaves: cypress, eucalyptus, petitgrain, pine, tea tree, niaouli, myrtle, fir, manuka (New-Zealand tea tree).

Wood: cedarwood, rose wood, sandalwood.

Gums and or resins: myrrh, frankincense, rock rose, asafoetida, Peru balsam, benzoin, and elemi.

Just like trees are the lungs of the world, many oils obtained from the leaves of trees, assist with respiratory problems.

From sore throats to runny noses and more serious problems like bronchitis, trees are there to help.

Oils obtained from the resins, like frankincense for example, assist with deepening the breath, whereas the ‘leave-and-twig-oils’ often assist with upper respiratory tract issues.

Oils from trees are very stabilising and grounding, especially the strongly rooted ones like cedarwood and cypress. The leafy oils in general help to clear the mind, refresh, and uplift. Here myrtle in combination with cypress stands out and gives the feeling of creating space to think and ‘gather yourself’.

Grasses and rhizomes (roots)

The one that stands out here, is the mysterious spikenard mentioned in the Bible. The deep calm of the smell of palmarosa, vetiver, and valerian is well-known.

Oils from rhizomes (vetiver and spikenard) are exceedingly calming, but in general have strong earthy smells – use very little – one drop in a blend.

Citronella and lemon grass are more generally known and used. Fresh lemon grass can be cut and stirred into your tea to bring a whole new dimension to tea. You could also make an herbal tea:


Ranger, H.

Everybody’s aromatherapy, 2 nd edition.

Tafelberguitgewers 2001


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