Back to School with Aromatherapy

Summer is winding down—Labor Day has come and gone, this year’s summer vacation is just a memory and most children have already headed off back to school. By now in the northern parts of America, kids are probably buttoning sweaters as they wait for their busses on cool brisk autumn mornings and maybe the autumnal leaves are threatening to change colors and begin their descent, reminding us of the birth, death and rebirth cycle. Here in Virginia, September is one of those transition months where those dreadful 3-H days of hazy heat and humidity are easing off with the promise of cooler nights and open windows. September is also the month we welcome in autumn.

In Five Element Chinese philosophy autumn is a time when we settle back into routine. The summer’s ease and freedom give way to school schedules, more formal relationships and a sense that life is getting back to normal. This sense is a key theme in the Metal element, as the metal element feels comfortable with the maintenance of boundaries and a return to the norm. Autumn is also a time of harvest, where fruit separates from the tree and vegetables are dug up to be stored for winter. In a sense, the Metal element brings us to a place of harvest as the sunny summer experiences are gathered and stowed in preparation for the long cold winter. We innately feel the need to scale back energetically as the Yang energy begins to fall. Just like the harvest where abundant life now begins its transformation towards death and a return to the earth, so we begin the journey inward, the death of active summer recreation leading us to a more studious and quieter existence. There is almost a palpable sense of heaviness, the energy moving downward, back to the ground, on its inward voyage.

For “children”:, routine can be comforting after two or three months of random timetables and disrupted schedules, but it also can be challenging settling back into a working pattern. Kids bridle against conformity and their brains seem to still be on vacation during those initial school days. Essential oils can help focus the brain and switch it back on after a summertime of disuse. Oils that center and stimulate brain functioning are *black pepper, cardamom, eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary and marjoram*. Kids can have a combination of these oils burning in an aroma lamp while they do their homework, or else have a few drops sprinkled on a tissue or cloth to inhale when the mind starts to wonder. I’ve heard that hanging a bright yellow piece of paper just above eye level when kids are studying also stimulates the brain and increases memory, so it is good when cramming for an exam. Another tip for helping a child memorize information for exams uses essential oil. Aromatherapy oils, because of their connection with the limbic system help to create new pathways of memory in the brain. By burning a specific oil at the time of study, then reintroducing the scent when the information is later required, the needed information is brought forward in the mind. To use this technique, choose an oil that has no previous associations. Some good ones to use would be basil, bergamot, lemon, lemongrass, rosemary or verbena oil. Either place a few drops of essential oil in a bowl or on a tissue and sniff the scent when memorizing the needed info, then at the time of the test, have an already impregnated tissue discretely available with the same scent, and inhale the aroma when the information is needed to come forward. A separate oil can be used for each school subject.

After lazy mornings of sleeping in, it is often hard to get kids up in time for the bus. For the sleepy child who doesn’t like to get up in the morning, instead of enticing him or her out of bed with yummy smells of pancakes as they do in commercials, why not awaken the brain by introducing a citrus or mint aroma into the room. Both will revive the child from his or her dream state and have him alert and ready for the day. I once tried spritzing a little essential oil in a spray bottle around my sleeping child’s pillow in the morning and although it wasn’t initially received well, it did have the desired effect of getting my boy out of bed.

Going back to school can also bring a change of diet. Cafeteria food can shock the gastric system if the child is used to eating fresh summer fruits and vegetables from the garden. And vending machines rarely have anything healthy to power a child through the day. Oils that ease intestinal bloating and invigorate sluggish digestive organs are *basil, fennel, marjoram, thyme, chamomile, peppermint, and ginger*. They can be rubbed on the belly in a clockwise direction or tisanes can be made from the plants.

And of course going back to school means returning to a Petri dish of germs. Children love to share everything, including viruses and bacteria. No amount of hand sanitizer will catch all the germs and eventually they will bring home some kind of “bug”. Some oils recommended for congestion, both digestive and respiratory, are sandalwood, peppermint, tea tree, rosemary, ginger and lavender. Cold and flu symptoms can be reduced by using eucalyptus, camphor, sage, rosemary, pine and tea tree. Putting essential oils in a vaporizer at night can kill of germs and assist in clearing congestion. Gargling with a drop of essential oil can soothe sore throats and clear mucus. And bathing in a bath of mineral salts infused with essential oils will get into the blood stream and cleanse the whole system.

So this September be prepared with a medicine cabinet full of essential oils for all your child’s back to school challenges!