So you've been hearing about lymphatic drainage massage and wondering what's so special about it? Well, here's the post where I will give you the goods!
I confess, before I started to do my own training in this form of massage, I also had no idea what it was or why it was something anyone would want. I was also a person who didn't particularly even like massage, after some experiences where I found it painful - not only during the treatment, but in the days that followed.
I was delighted to discover that there could be a highly effective form of massage to treat inflammation, water retention, pain and acute stress that was virtually painless, extremely relaxing and paired beautifully with essential oils.
So what exactly is the lymphatic system?
If you're not sure what the lymphatic system is, you're not alone. It's one of those body systems that most of us have vaguely heard of, but that's about it. You can think of it as a network of tissues and organs in the body that help us to eliminate dead cells, toxins and waste. It also transports lymph, a fluid our bodies naturally produce, which contain white blood cells. These cells are a critical part of how our immune system functions. When our lymphatic system is healthy, it efficiently removes waste and excess fluid from our bodies, as well as keeps our immune system strong. I'd say that's pretty important, right?! When our lymphatic system is unhealthy, lymph becomes stagnant, creating inflammation, pain and poor immune function.
The Role of Massage in Lymph Health
So what can we do to keep this system strong and functioning well? In short, we need to move our bodies. Unlike our arteries and veins, which move blood and nutrients around our bodies via a pump (the heart!), our lymph system has no pump. Movement such as exercise, stretching and yoga are excellent ways to move the muscles and organs, which in their own way "massage" the lymphatic system and keep it mobile.
Additionally, we can receive manual therapies to achieve this in a very specific and powerful way. Enter the drainage massage as well as other techniques such as Gua sha (a technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine).
Lymph drainage massage uses very specific sweeping movements combined with various pressure points, lifting, squeezing and dragging movements around the body to stimulate the movement and "drainage" of the lymph. It is extremely gentle, relaxing and rhythmic! However, the power of this treatment should not be underestimated. It can be thought of as a full-body detox with each session. Many of my clients are amazed at how something so gentle can give them so many benefits - without the soreness sometimes associated with other forms of massage.
Regular lymphatic drainage massage, especially with essential oils, can have a profound effect on the body and immune system. It can reduce water weight, reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body and increase healthy immune function. People report benefits such as lower stress, better sleep, improved digestion, better mobility and increased energy in the days that follow. It has been proven to help reduce symptoms during hay fever season and lower the occurrence of colds and flus in winter. To get the best results, I encourage 2 treatments per month during acute conditions and once every 3-5 weeks for maintenance.
Combining with Aromatherapy
Working with the healing benefits of essential oils is what my practice is all about. The massage itself if very powerful, but by blending specific oils for each client, I can really help you take your health and healing to the next level. Some oils are more relevant to pain relief, while others are more beneficial for releasing water weight, or soothing inflamed tissues. This is where working with a clinical aromatherapist can really help you get to the heart of what ails you and relax, knowing you are in the care of expert hands. As a clinically trained therapist, I will never "overdo" it and am careful to listen to each client's wishes and levels of sensitivity.
Whatever your specific goals are, know that the benefits of receiving compassionate touch together with organic essential oils and their beautiful aromas will add a depth of pleasure and peace to your experience that you simply have to try to believe!
So often we are so hard on ourselves! Many time our bodies end up taking the brunt of this and it can be so healing to simply rest and experience softness during your treatment.
If you'd like to experience the truly amazing benefits of this therapy for yourself, please do get in touch as I'd love to welcome you for your very own appointment at my private practice in The Hague.
If you live in another region or country, you can still experience the wonderful benefits of this massage by looking for qualified professionals who can offer you a high level of experience. You and your body deserve to receive only the best care, so do ask questions and do feel for yourself if a treatment or therapist is correct for you. A good therapist will ask you about your medical history, inquire as to what your wishes and goals are, and be happy to make adjustments to your preferences and needs.
Wishing you a happy and healthy summer!
Today's post is based on a client question. Megan writes:
"I’m interested in experimenting with essential oils but I don’t know what kind of diffuser to get. I see really cheap ones to use with candles, and really expensive electronic ones. I don’t have much to spend on something I don’t know much about yet. But I’m a bit overwhelmed by the diffuser choices. What should I get?"
Well, great question Megan! It can indeed be pretty confusing, and there are a variety of prices. So I've created - the Ultimate Aromatherapy Diffuser Guide - Let's go!
WHAT DOES A DIFFUSER DO?
First things first. What is a diffuser and why do you even care? An aromatherapy diffuser describes any kind of device for diffusing essential oils. What this means is, that via some type of either heat or pressure, the essential oil molecules are released and dispersed into the air so that you can breathe them in.
Breathing in essential oils is really one of the most powerful and effective ways to work with them. The tiny odour molecules enter the body via the olfactory and respiratory systems and make almost instant contact with a part of the brain called the limbic system. This is the area where we store many of our memories and emotional responses. Due to our brain's anatomy, It's a fact that you can have a response to a smell before you even know what that response is. Think about it... you're feeling blue, you smell something that "lights up" a happy memory for you - and you can have a mood response before you are even conscious of it happening. Cool huh?
The particles also enter our lungs and make their way to our bloodstream. So if you are dealing with things like asthma, respiratory infections, flu or general anxiety, diffusing specific essential oils in your environment can be a very powerful way to "take in" their medicinal qualities.
Tip: Intermittent diffusing (30-60 min on followed by 30-60 min off) is proven to be both more effective and safer than constant diffusing.
TYPES OF DIFFUSERS
So now that we know why you might want to diffuse…let’s talk about TYPES. There are 4 main types on the market today: Heat diffusers, Evaporative Diffusers, Ultrasonic or Humidifying Diffusers and Nebulizing Diffusers. What? Yes. Let’s get into it.
HEAT DIFFUSERS: Average Price: $10-20
As the name suggest, these diffusers require some type of heat source. This can be a tea light candle underneath a ceramic basin, a lamp ring, or a ceramic dish that gets plugged into the wall. The idea is that the heat causes the essential oils to evaporate, releasing the molecules into the air. It does work, but the heat also causes some damage to oils as they are released into the air, and so you are likely not getting as high of a therapeutic value from them as you could. I have found that if you are diffusing before bed for a few minutes, it’s OK, but if you need to diffuse for a longer period or have a serious respiratory issue you’re working to heal, this would not be my first choice. That being said, I've gotten by using a large ceramic diffuser during flu season when it was all I had. I've also had asthma clients who find this to be a great method because it's a very casual dispersal as opposed to a concentrated stream.
One of the pros is that they are completely silent!
If you do go for this option, it’s important to know that you need to add WATER to the basin or dish and not add your essential oils neat. This will prevent the oils from being completely damaged by the heat. I do have a really beautiful, handmade ceramic diffuser that was gifted to me by a friend. I have used it in the bedroom before bed, as well as other small spaces for a limited amount of time. My first ever diffuser was a lamp ring, and using it right before bed was pleasant and very affordable!
EVAPORATIVE DIFFUSERS: Average Price: $25-40
Evaporative diffusers work by pushing air past the essential oils and dispersing them into the air. Typically there is a disposable pad or filter that you put your drops of essential oils on, insert into the diffuser and the fan will then blow air up and out, taking the odour molecules with it. This works perfectly fine, however the pads are often not re-usable and have to be replaced. Also, the smaller molecules will tend to blow out of the diffuser first, and so there will not be a consistent smell coming from the diffuser for the entire 30-60 minutes that you run it. Additionally, these types of diffusers can be noisy, depending on the type of fan motor it uses.
I’ve used an evaporative diffuser with success in small spaces where the goal was mainly to improve the smell. For example, to ‘clear the air’ after a meeting, or ‘set the tone’ before an appointment. It will disperse the molecules faster than a heat diffuser. It's also a dry dispersal, no water needed, and you don’t need to use much essential oil to get the job done. Cons are – can come with non-reusable pads or filters that need to be replaced, and be noisy.
ULTRASONIC/HUMIDIFYING DIFFUSERS: AVERAGE PRICE: $15-$50
These diffusers work without using any type of heat source. Instead, there is an internal plastic reservoir that holds water and essential oils, and a plate that vibrates. This vibration causes the water and essential oil molecules to ‘break up’ and be dispersed into the air. While it does look like a stream of ‘smoke’ leaving the diffuser, it’s quite cool to the touch as no heat has been used.
The pros are that these diffusers tend to be pretty quiet, require minimal essential oil to get the job done and the oils are not degraded by heat. It’s not really a con, but for some people it may be annoying to know that you really must clean the plastic reservoir daily. This is because essential oils will eat through plastic if left there long enough, and because standing water will breed bacteria which you would then be dispersing into your environment. Yuck. A quick wash with soap and hot water once a day is enough, but some people may find this taxing. Additionally, this type of diffuser will put more moisture into the air, which may be unwanted, depending on your needs.
Price-wise, there are a lot of options. Everything from small USB minis around $15 and more deluxe models around $50-$60.
I tend to use ultrasonic diffusers in my home and office when there is a need. Especially if flu is going around, or I just want to freshen things up a bit. They are typically pretty quiet, though you may hear the sound of lightly running water from the internal reservoir.
NEBULIZING DIFFUSERS - Average price: $50-$100
These may be the most visually pretty diffusers and are often touted as ‘the best’. The way they work is that either an entire bottle of essential oil is hooked up to an internal nozzle, or a glass pipette is used to transfer essential oil into an internal glass tube. Air is then blown across either the tube or the essential oil bottle and dispersers the complete molecule into the air at once.
I have to say that while these are pretty specky diffusers and do allow for the whole molecule to go into the air at once, I only use a nebulzing diffuser in very specific and usually more clinical situations. Say I have a client who is dealing with a very pernicious upper respiratory infection and needs to sit in a room and really breathe in the complete oils as part of their treatment. If I just want to make the room smell nice or benefit from the essential oils in a more general therapeutic way, the other diffusers are sufficient. So, I wouldn’t feel pressured that this is the ‘best’ in all situations.
These diffusers are on the expensive side, highly breakable if you have kids or pets and use up lot of essential oil in comparison to other diffusers. I personally would not find it appropriate to run one of these daily or for long periods of time as this can be incredibly potent and there’s just no need. Essential oils are potent therapeutic medicines, and there can be too much of a good thing.
AROMA STONE - $5-$10
OK so I like to throw this one in as I actually use it all the time and it’s great for those on a tight budget! It’s basically a piece of porous ceramic that you can drip a few drops of essential oils on and place next to the bed or on your desk. What I love about this is that you get just enough of the smell to enjoy it, but it doesn’t overpower you. I wouldn’t choose this if I was trying to treat an illness, but for general relaxation and enjoyment, I love it! Cons are…if you use different oils, especially base oils like vetiver and patchouli, it can get kind of murky and start to smell like “all the oils”. So I use it for a specific blend I like, or just a couple of oils that I regularly combine together. I have never tried to wash one, but I suppose you could give it a try and then leave it out in the full sun for a day or two and it may be good as new again.
This one from Prima Vera comes in a cute little tin and I bought it for under $5!
So there you have it! The ins and outs of types of diffusers! It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t also leave you with a few tips for how to diffuse and a little blend to try at home.
You really don’t need a LOT of essential oils to receive their benefits. Whether it’s a heat, evaporative or ultrasonic diffuser – stick to 5-7 drops diffused for 30-60 minutes at a time. Then stop.
I don’t actually think that it’s healthy to diffuse all day, every day. I certainly don’t. I would wonder what the reason is and if there are other more gentle solutions. Too much of an essential oil can be harmful, causing headaches or other types of sensitivity. Lavender has a sedating or relaxing effect, but too much lavender is actually stimulating! When I work in my clinic, I'm required to have good ventilation and open the windows after clients leave to clear the air. I have absolutely had that "jittery rush" from over-exposure to essential oils and it's not nice!
It’s also not recommended to diffuse with very young children in the room as some oils, such as peppermint, eucalyptus (and others) can constrict the airways of infants and young children. Other oils can trigger people with asthma, so as a general rule, diffuse for yourself or consult with a professional on blends more suitable for public spaces.
Some nice times to diffuse are – before bed, when meditating or taking a bath. It can be a very enjoyable way to connect with aromatherapy, but use common sense. I have also been known to set up my diffuser after a party to clear out any air-borne germs that may have come in and for 20 min at the end of the day during cold and flu season. Experiment with what combinations uplift or relax you and go ahead and get creative with it!
BEDTIME DIFFUSER BLEND
This is a blend I use on those days where I just want to lay in bed and decompress quietly for 20 min before “switching off”. It’s very soothing for me and I hope it will be for you, too!
Lavender – 2 drops
Petitgrain – 2 drops
Sweet Marjoram – 2 drops
I hope you've enjoyed getting some tips and recommendations and wishing you lots of peace and enjoyment with your personal aromatherapy journey!
I’m just going to say it. For far too long now, the entire concept of Menopause has been treated like something to be “managed”, “suffered through” or “medicated”. Many women dread the day that this very important rite of passage begins and are offered very little support and encouragement to not only embrace, but celebrate this time in their life.
The reality is, that this is a time when women are able to welcome and hold a great deal of power, stepping into deeper roles of leadership and wisdom keepers for their families and communities. Today, I want to share with you how a holistic approach to menopause can be not only effective, but move beyond effective and into transformational.
So what is menopause? And more importantly if you are reading this, what is perimenopause? Menopause is often incorrectly defined as the cessation of fertility in a woman’s life. I say incorrectly because while it is true that a woman can no longer conceive a child once she has entered into menopause, it’s incorrect that she is no longer fertile. Women are always fertile. Fertility is the state of being able to create, a state that all women are in, all the time, and I find it very disconcerting that we describe menopause as the cessation of fertility. Let’s be very specific here and say that it is the cessation of a woman’s ability to biologically create a human baby inside of her body. Maori healer and elder, Atarangi Muru, also speaks about this in her work, and the corrosive label that “infertility” creates.
Menopause is clinically defined as not having a menstrual period for twelve consecutive months. So that means if you don’t have a period for 11 months, and then you do, the 12 month counter is then reset.
Perimenopause is the phase before menopause, where periods are hit or miss, where estrogen and progesterone levels are dropping off and many of the symptoms associated with this transition “show up”. Some of these symptoms include: night sweats, hot flashes, interrupted sleep, joint pain, depression, loss of energy and loss of concentration.
I would like to add that some other “signs and symptoms” that the text books won’t mention are: increased drive to pursue passions and goals, increased sex drive (Yes! Don’t let them fool you with this one!), increased sense of purpose and power, increased desire to create boundaries and make room for one’s sacred self. Many women discover entire new chapters, talents, relationships and careers in their lives at and beyond menopause!
Perimenopause can start as early as your late thirties or as late as your late fifties. It is very much dependent on the individual. It can last anywhere from one to five years with most women reporting that about two to three years is the average.
What are the typical responses from the medical community?
Typically, a woman who is going through perimenopause who seeks medical advice will be given two options by her primary doctor or gynaecologist:
a. nothing, this is a natural process!
b. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
HRT is a treatment option where a woman is given hormones, either synthetic or biological in origin, in order to offset the 40-60% loss of estrogen and total loss of progesterone. HRT got a very bad rap following the release of the Women’s Health Initiative study that was released in 2002. The results were presented in a way that suggested that there is a drastic increased risk of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke for women who participate in HRT. However, more recent studies (Dessapt & Gourdy 2012) have indicated that the risks were overstated and that several years of HRT will do no long-term damage in most cases.
However, HRT still presents unpleasant side effects such as weight gain, bloating and break-through bleeding. The origins of some of these medicines are not exactly pleasant, not to mention, it does send the body a message that a process that has naturally started should be in some way controlled or dampened down. In some cases, this may be warranted or even desired, depending on the needs and wishes of the individual. It’s a valid choice that some women make, and I respect every woman’s right to choose what is best for her.
There is increasing support however, for the use of plant-based estrogens to alleviate the severity of symptoms (Bedell et al 2012). I further suggest that as plant-based medicines are natural and have their own energetic signatures, there is added value in working with them as teachers, healers and wisdom givers that a synthetic drug is just never going to provide.
WHAT DOES AROMATHERAPY HAVE TO OFFER?
So where and how does aromatherapy come into the picture?
Are there estrogenic essential oils and are they effective at helping a woman to feel more supported and in balance during peri and post menopause?
First, aromatherapy can help and offers the most by the application of essential oils in gentle massage, the use of personal inhalers, patches and hydrosol sprays. Some common estrogenic essential oils are Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and Rose (Rosa damascene). There are of course others but they should be used with caution and in consultation.
OK Lauren, but is there evidence? Come on, I want the evidence!
Yes. Yes there is. For all my soul sisters out there who, like me, love it when both the spiritual and clinical evidence is available, here we go.
A 2005 study by Murakami et al took a sample of fifteen women who were experiencing perimenopausal symptoms. They were examined by their gynaecologists to get a base line report, and then given aromatherapy massages once a week as well as an aromatherapy mixture to apply to the skin four times a week. They were seen by their gynaecologists again after one month and thirteen out of the fifteen women saw a reduction in the severity of their symptoms.
A second study by Darsareh et all (2012) provided bi-weekly aromatherapy massages to ninety women including a control group. All participants saw improvements to their lives, but the perimenopausal group saw the most improvements and especially to their symptoms.
So the research is there and this is really great news.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AS A THERAPIST
As a student working through my case studies, I chose to explore the topic of peri and post menopause as a research topic. I wanted to learn as much as I could from real women, and get hands-on experience.
The first thing I did with each woman who participated, was to sit and just listen to her experience. I would ask questions and gather information that would help me best support her, but job #1 was to be a person who could validate her experiences in a positive environment.
At the end of their course of treatments, everyone had seem some form of improvement, but what they all told me was that the most helpful thing I had done for them was to simply care about what they were going through and treat their experiences like they mattered. Most indicated that their regular doctor gave them ten minutes at most and the standard options of HRT or nothing.
THE TRULY HOLISTIC APPROACH
Perimenopause a huge physical, but also emotional, mental and spiritual change in a woman’s life. To not have your chosen primary caregiver be able to properly acknowledge and validate that is in my frank opinion, a big, bad deal. I know most doctors don’t have the time and are doing their best, but it would be great if there was at least some form of acknowledgement of the importance of this time by the people responsible for shepherding us in our health.
There is a grieving process to be honoured, as well as a celebration to be cultivated. We acknowledge a young woman’s first period as well as the birth of new babies (and the making of new mothers) with sanctity and celebration. There are special breakfasts, showers, gifts and hopefully, at the very least a few hugs from other women who are happy to walk with you through these rites of passage.
So when was the last time you heard of someone throwing a menopause celebration brunch or a Crone passage party? How about never. Or very infrequently, which I hope to see change.
A truly holistic approach needs to start there, with validating women’s experiences, honouring what they go through and planting the seeds that some form of celebration is important and possible. Secondly, the holistic approach seeks to offer individual and natural options that are evidence-based and compassionate to the needs of the human being sitting in front of you. If we can’t start with validating the experience and expand into an individual protocol, then what are we even doing?
The Crone aspect of the triple goddess is not one to be trifled with. Try it and report back, if you dare! I would argue that menopause is perhaps the deepest experience in a woman’s life. It’s her time to step into the accumulated power and wisdom she has gathered thus far, and wield it. As a holistic therapist, it’s my honour to walk with any woman during this time and be a part of her support and positivity crew. The Goddess takes infinite forms, all of which are critical to life. I hope to see the celebrations and respect due to the Crone flourish and take root in society once again. When we honour the wisdom keepers of our society, we invite prosperity for all.
Lauren Keizer-Gilbert is a clinical aromatherapist, massage therapist and aromatic reflex therapist specializing in women’s holistic health. To learn more about Lauren and her work or to book your own consultation, please contact visit the website at www.falconrose.com
Aromatica, Holmes, 2016
Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, Price & Price, 2011
Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Healthcare, Buckle, 2014
Essential Oil Safety, Tisserand & Young, 2016
It's Your Hormones, Redmond & Geoffrey, 2006
Menopause and Cardiovascular Risk, Dessapt & Gourdy, 2012
Lauren Keizer-Gilbert, MIFPA