Program Seven: Health and Healing
with Judy Bluehorse Skelton

Judy Bluehorse Skelton

Essential Oils


Arlie Neskahi:
The healing arts take many forms and can be found in abundance throughout the natural world. The beauty and aroma of flowers and trees offer deep healing of our physical as well as our emotional, mental and spiritual health. Today, on health and healing, judy bluehorse skelton reveals some secrets of the art of making and using essential oils.

Judy Bluehorse Skelton:
I have a way to distill my own essential oils. Essential oils are flowers that have had their volatile oils distilled, separated usually using pressure and steam.

They should be organic or ethically well crafted plants. That's why I learned how to extract my own oils. I knew that they had been grown in an organic or healthy environment. I knew that they had been ethically gathered with the ceremonies, with thanks.

And it's a great activity to do with young people whether they're doing a science project or whether they're just learning about how to take care of their own health needs.

They're fragrant. It puts us in a relationship in a beautiful way with the plant world, and captures this essence, this higher vibration of the plants with just their essential oils.

Another aspect of plant medicine is flower essences. I don't know how many people are familiar with flower essences; however, flower essences capture even a higher aspect of the plant. They flower or several flowers may be gathered and placed in spring water, in a clear bowl, and set in the sun for three to five hours. And it should be undisturbed, no pets licking out of the bowl. However, butterflies or birds or other wild creatures that might visit the flowers as they're being extracted into the water are fine. They add a special medicine, a special energy to the formula. These flower essences can be made with anything from pussy willows to roses, from Oregon grape flowers to Echinacea flowers, and even the trees - fronds of cedar or fronds of Western hemlock or fronds of Douglas fir or fronds of birch leaves. After it has sat in the sun, or solarized, for three to five hours, you can strain off the flowers from the water and you have a flower essence.

Many times I'll add some essential oils to the ointments - they make a nice mix, they add a good aroma, and many of the essential oils are anti-bacterial and some are also anti-inflammatory. Ones that come to mind are wintergreen essential oil, birch essential oil, even lavender which has anti-inflammatory aspects. It smells good, and it's also a nice anti-microbial. Also good for burns, and it's the top of the list for scar tissue. So it's a nice one to add to a muscle rub.

Burning Sky
Bare Root
Sprits In The Wind
Canyon Records

This flower essence is something I've learned about from the European culture. Dr Bach in England first came up with these flower essences and found that they were very helpful for certain emotional states and ways of being, or attitudes and characteristics. And that if you could address that, whatever was ailing the person in their body would heal and transform as the character or personality or ways of being or attitude was changed.

Anyway, I asked an elder, "What did we have. How did we use these flower essences? Did we have something like that too?" And as we visited, what became clear is it's like the dew that forms on the flowers and plants each morning. When you step outside and dew has gathered in the crevices of petals and in the little crinkles of leaves and how they gather on the tips of the fronds on trees and ferns, that this is like a flower essence.

And that when our land and our lifestyle was much cleaner and we were more connected and living outdoors with the plant world and with the animal world, we came into contact daily with this dew, with the solarized water that gathered in the grasses and gathered on the plants. And this can be sipped or taken into the body just by walking on the morning grass, the dew. This might be kind of a balancing effect.

Burning Sky
Bare Root
Sprits in the Wind
Canyon Records

It's, I think, empowering to know that in the beauty of these plants, we have everything we need. And they heal in such a beautiful way. It's not invasive. It's not startling to the body. It's not harsh. By their very aroma, they begin their healing process. Their beauty, as far as just their appearance, then when we bring them indoors, or when we walk through a garden, we walk through a forest, we walk through a meadow, their healing begins immediately.

So they're healing us all the time, not just with giving us clean air, but with their beauty, with their aroma, their colors, and certainly the medicine they give us when we take their oil or take them as medicine. Whether it's a poultice or an ointment or a cream, or whether it's tea or vinegar or the things that we cook, and put in our meal and have at mealtime, they're with us all the time.

Educator, writer and herbalist Judy Bluehorse Skelton is Nez Perce, Chickasaw and Cherokee. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

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