Extractions and Distractions – A Survival Guide For Aromatic Living in Lockdown – Part 2

Continued from the previous chapters of Extractions and Distractions – A Survival Guide For Aromatic Living in Lockdown – Part 1 by sharing excerpts from her journal, plant alchemist Ildiko Berecz would like to offer some highlights of the past year of how life went on during the pandemic with almost a whole year of lockdown on the Mediterranean Island of Crete in Greece. It is highly emphasised that the journal is not a panacea for pandemic, neither complete nor unbiased, yet focuses on the bright side of a dark year with aromatic and medicinal plants.

The article was originally written for and published in the issue 2021/3 of Aromatika Magazin, an online publication to support holistic living, the practice and professional education of aromatherapy, phytotherapy, naturopathy and related subjects. My special thanks and gratitude goes to Gergely Hollódi, editor-in-chief of this beautifully constructed aromatherapy periodical, and for his always encouraging support. Hope you would enjoy this post here. The original copy of the electronic magazine is available for download  from the website of Aromatika Magazin.

 

Aug 3rd, 2020
Work in progress. Filtering my Thyme distillate, and I thought: it is time to take our power back! Creative flow is like a reverse osmosis. You’d better be careful to keep your invisible membrane clean and strong enough to filter out larger disturbances, impurities and harmful stuff. Let pure liquid of life pass through to keep you fresh and nourished! Had we ever thought of the days as we live today, when the amount of information and interactions we would have to face on a daily basis are cutting us off unprecedentedly? Being disconnected from our heart wisdom, questioning the rights and nodding the wrongs… and questioning ourselves under the growing slavery of anxiety and fears, while giving away power to the ones who superficially try to master hiding weakness, degeneration and decay. Thyme once had been considered a plant of power and strength as good virtues. Where has it all gone? Can we put extra attention on learning more gracefully to connect with nature and each other? Just asking…

Aug 20th, 2020
Most of the time I distill freshly harvested plants, and sometimes I also do dried aromatics. Each has its own reasoning and their very own stories as well. Yesterday’s Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus or Rosmarinus officinalis as known earlier) had been harvested quite a while ago, I once had rescued the branches of an old bush that had to be cut down. They have been waiting in my drying room ever since. In fact, I do not have a drying room, but at least I have enough space to dry and keep some of the plants that are in transit. Anyway, as always, distillation had its magic with its own characteristics, sitting with the alembic for a couple of hours, and it came with a lovely hydrosol and some very strong essential oil. It is simply breathtaking every single time, seeing and, of course smelling, the oil appearing on the top of the receiving container.

Aug 25th, 2020
What’s my favourite game? I love playing with Synchronicity! So much beyond what we know life is. Signs of alignment on your Path, with your Soul purpose. A beautiful dance with the Universe, with internal guidance, with occurrences and that of consciousness. A sort of inner harmony, and a choice of how to dance with your own calling, the ones around you and the rest of your world. It can be misleading, if balance is lost between playfulness and self-responsibility, only mimicking true action for justification. Sometimes a dramatic play with questions and answers, trust and doubts, constantly a school of discern free will and destiny. I was distilling Cistus creticus yesterday, and with the many metaphorical qualities of this incredible teacher plant, there is the aspect of staying Present. “Cistus itself is Here and Now, helping to handle old images, feelings and matters of the past come settling in the right place for now, thus assisting to strengthen your trust for the future.” – as my beloved consultation tool, the Plant Messages cards (also known as Tongue Of The Trees Oracle Cards) would advise.

Aug 30th, 2020
This recent one was my 7th Rosemary distillation over the years (not counting one with another sweet little alembic once upon a time). Plants are no different to people in that we need to dedicate time to get to knowing them better, and understand the love we can share with them in giving and receiving. Of course, you can run into a passionate love at first sight encounter, and just as well, develop a relationship revisiting with gentle cultivation, letting it grow naturally. Some of them will be friendly and open towards you, others may hide and even cause hard times. But don’t just be focused on what the other does, claiming this and that… but spend time on observing your very own self, how you act or react, how your mind is tricking you in all sorts of ways, and most importantly, how the connection really makes you feel? Focus & creativity, these are my buzzwords for Rosemary that I call a warm stimulating balancer. Reading a good plant monograph is an Alfa and Omega in learning about properties and benefits, and to those who want some quick take-away, here is a few random ideas to start with. Rosemary promotes circulation. Helps concentration and to restore memory. Tonic for the skin and hair, great for massaging the scalp. Helps both the nerves and muscles to relax. Now, cheers to Rosemary!

Sep 7th, 2020
I am feeling blessed. Working with those on the Path of their personal development, my Plant Messages sessions are of a complex nature, and it came through the years that I dared to accept and acknowledge it is my very own method. Born from the very same experience and wisdom that made me start Essential Reflections to leave my aromatic blueprint in service of others. I am so very proud of this work which helps people incredibly, and gives me so much fulfilment. There is no two sessions the same, although they tend to be enriched by some involvement of the beautiful original aromatherapy cards from my teacher, editor-in-chief, and friend Gergely Hollódi at Aroma Botanica. Beyond that, loads of aromatic teachings about plants, herbs and various forms of extracts, all beautifully waved around the life stories of the person I am working with. We look at issues as qualities that we intend to change for the better, and beyond the conscious learning part I guide them through an intuitive journey to bring more awareness into their lives. Part of the process is that we identify and transform patterns and disbeliefs. We look behind the emotional masks and let old walls fall down like paper castles. A truly magical and life-transforming consultation that touches my heart and fills it with hope for both the individuals and humanity.

Sep 22nd, 2020
This year especially, I had a resistance in boosting online teaching. As a rebel from the heart, did my best to avoid doing what ‘everybody’ else was doing. Needless to say, it was also my fear packed in pride and justified in colours. And as for someone who’s preaching about the importance of becoming aware and facing our undercurrent drives and emotions, there is no other way than going through the Lion’s gate. After all, where would I be not having given a chance to study from so many amazing teachers from all over the world? Yes, preferably in person, of course, but also, through the practical access of beautifully delivered online courses and conferences! After all, one of our main tasks on this Earth is to experience, gain and master skills, and upon completion we should be ready to share our talents and gifts with the world. Yet, Life is an ongoing school where we keep learning and teaching each other, and now it’s my countdown to the start teaching the Foundations of Aromatherapy soon, taken under the wings of two amazing teachers. So excited to begin this with Michelle Ensley who will be the lead instructor with her 18-years of experience in clinical aromatherapy and teaching this beautiful, passionate and much-needed profession. And I feel gratitude for the friendship, trust and encouragement from Jade Shutes, founder and creative spirit at The School for Aromatic Studies.

Oct 15th, 2020
A little end-of-season picking at my favourite wild and organically ‘let-grown’ lavender farm on Crete. With a small accident, as I had an unexpected false ‘acupuncture treatment’ with the wrong tool, meaning a large thorn of bramble found its way deep into my toe. So what do I do? Pull over a few lavender stems making a pretty bandage as the best possible first-aid solution on the field! That stopped the bleeding in a matter of moments and I happily continued enjoying the day out in this magical kingdom of the wilderness between olive trees, aromatic plants and wild flowers at The Lavender Way.

Oct 21st, 2020
Garden snails arrived with the rainy season, and I couldn’t resist but use them modelling on the Lemongrass in the garden that is highly enjoying the rain and can’t be bothered by the uninvited visitors. We know that the essential oil of Lemongrass is insect repellent, and I can add that they make snails to be resistant. Not one patch of the green Lemongrass leaves has ever gone missing or damaged due to the sluggish presence! Preparing for the upcoming aromatherapy class to demonstrate cultivating our relationship with essential oil bearing plants and specifically Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), I also re-visited the tincture I had made this spring. Oh, that came out very nice too, reflecting the strong lemony notes of this medicinal and culinary plant. That’s all today, from the diary of a forever-young Alchemist!

Nov 8th, 2020
The joy of welcoming a sacred plant into my home. Finding Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) at Griffin’s Botanical Nursery on Crete was indeed an unexpected surprise, beyond imagination. Patchouli is a tropical plant whose reputation has been badly damaged over the past decades due to synthetic ingredients in the perfume industry. Yet, it is something exquisite and its original high-quality essential oil − that is surprisingly earthy and resinous considering it comes from these paper-light, gently furry-leaved shrubs − is used in aromatherapy as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety contributor, just to mention some basics. Patchouli, a very strong support to create a relaxed, balanced state of being, especially valued in times of great challenges. Welcoming peace, love & harmony on day one of another new beginning with lockdown X.

Nov 18th, 2020
Incredibly grateful that I live through the comprehension of original concepts. It is overwhelming often, wanting to ‘have’ it all, and more, but it is the most beautiful experience to develop this connection to life and the nature of all things. Just as sustainability has long become a marketing term for many corporations to cover and tick their social responsibility, there is a huge misuse of the word ‘natural’ and similar suggesting it’s all good and authentic, while this can be just as misleading. We human beings are manifold, yet we all have a beautiful beating heart inside. Some hide it by effort, some cover it subconsciously, perhaps due to harsh and damaging life experiences. When the heart is blocked, it cannot fulfil its most vital function of being connected and allowing the purest and most powerful inner guidance. Whether in rational or sensible circumstances, conflicts, arrogance, ignorance, and eventually even disease would arise. I still believe that it comes through educating ourselves and digging down to the basics to heal our hearts, and to find ourselves more compassionate, open and cooperative with the world. With more transparency, shading off personal greed and stepping more out of comfort zones, we are more able to recognise the living energy of original field to bottle concepts. Especially these days, when due to circumstances, providers and consumers are more than ever getting used to the terms ‘you can enjoy that from the comfort of your room’.  Watch your words − they sink in and cemented into the individual and collective consciousness with their respective consequences! Just a side-note on occasion bottling some of my hydrosols, and looking back to all the love, curiosity, passion, learning, success, failures, efforts, connecting, friends, community, fun and also endless hours of hard work that goes into the bottles… just to share some depths of all that holistic approach… all the way from the fields.

Dec 2nd, 2020
When there is a 3/4 day of power-cut… I feel free as a bird. There is no cleaning piles of jars and dishes as hot water is not a standard luxury, but needs to be heated, thus needs electricity. Not any single heating in the house, so better be outside that feels warmer anyway, and since no internet and no battery charging, therefore no feeling guilty of not completing enough on the computer before going out to play. Loads of benefits working in the garden, enjoying literally groundbreaking spading work, and even finding time to sweeping leaves at the backyard. I also made it to the post office to finally send out some aromatics that I’ve been procrastinating for no special reason, but waiting for the right power-cut moment! Once there, why not enjoy a freshly baked lovely Cretan spinach pie while having a walk by the sea and saluting the sun after a few days? I returned home before electricity did, but oh well, a few extra layers of clothes and even a blanket on, I can cope with room temperature 16℃. Not only I let myself read a fascinating book, but came up with many conclusions and revelations. And it’s just the top of the iceberg, and a reminder to us all humans beings obsessed with productivity, how taking it easy and positive can actually lead to a greater freedom and unexpected results while enjoying the bright side of life!

Dec 9th, 2020
Aromatherapists at the age of Cleopatra had such a high respect that they were called priests and priestesses. I so enjoy my current read ‘The Book of Lost Fragrances’. A novel written by M.J. Rose which is a fiction, but contains exciting learning material based on extensive research. ”Fragrance was holy before it was cosmetic. People believed the soul traveled on smoke up to the heavens − up to the gods.” Needless to say, this refers to using genuine, original plant material, prepared and applied with great wisdom and respect. And this is what has got lost on the way. In today’s cosmetics industry, I can’t even think of all the synthetics and poor quality products that are being sold on occasion of the holiday season. My heart is breaking every time I experience or just see fake, botch or soulless makes. But we’ve been trained on eating misleading marketing for way too long, and still only a few remember and understand. I wish you conscious choices for the improving health and wellbeing of us all!

Dec 26th, 2020
As I was distilling bergamot, the words Illuminating Light and Enlightened Enthusiasm came to me. The truth behind bitterness. This variety of bergamot we are having here on Crete with its huge size and bumpy ridged rind carries with it the wisdom of seeing further, valuing everything, and every step, each layer for its own place. Never stop searching truth and beauty in life.

Dec 28th, 2020
After a few years of just observing and admiring this beautiful plant right across my gate, I finally got to picking and tincturing Mimosa flowers. Meanwhile, I was entering into the world of Mimosas, especially to identify two distinct species in Crete that look very alike from a distance, but are very different when you understand what to look for. Now this is what I identified as Acacia farnesiana, also called Vachellia farnesiana, or previously Mimosa farnesiana. As her common name suggests, Sweet acacia smells sweetish, very gentle, almost powdery. Her being tinctured is reminiscent of that innocent childhood raspberry, and also brings the bubbling nature of fresh vibrant champagne.

Dec 30th, 2020
No matter what, but we get up every single morning and dedicate ourselves to finding beauty in this life. Taking it one step further, we make something special out of our findings so that we all benefit from it. On the day before the last in this year, picking jasmine in the garden of roses, and much more… Preparing for a Full Moon journey through celebrating my approximately 50th distillation with a co-distillation of some of the most precious fragrant medicinal plants. A beautiful process that symbolises interconnectedness of the years that passed and the ones to come, as well as co-creation, harmony and more understanding between plants and people. My offering to the Gods above and to You on this Earth with a divine nature! Happy New Year!

Jan 11th, 2021
I realised I have never showed you my Patchouli since she came to live with me at the beginning of November. She has been blossoming beautifully for several weeks now! Such a blessing in times of recurring lockdown extensions. Sometimes, I caress the leaves a bit and they offer me that deep, earthy, woody, sort of sweetish aroma that is reminiscent of the fragrance of its essential oil. What a plant ally for times of isolated quietness, when the world around seems to counteract that dreamy world of peace, love and unity that our hearts are longing for! Strengthen your trust, create calmness and focus on your visualised positive outcome with this healing companion!

Jan 21st, 2021
In these weeping times I have no choice but to keep myself − and you − trained and entertained, and find some inspiration and goodness even when passing by this willow tree along the riverbank by the fields. Who had ever thought about it ten years ago? The time when I had a short career adventure working with guys focusing their talents on drawing willows, villains and monsters, and sending them to the battlefields in the 3D virtual space. It really was not my world, but loved working with those people who I utterly admired for their creativity, considering very little of my own, which was a bit false, I learnt later. After all, ever since The Matrix (1999), we can never really be sure again about what reality is… yet, in my reality, I am now finding myself learning to create something new again. Making Willow water is a natural method of providing rooting hormone to help easily propagate unrooted plant cuttings. One step further on this road with a holistic approach to life! Everything is connected, and every little part of the puzzle matters. And I am grateful to be a dedicated life-long learner. What about you?

Feb 6th, 2021
Yesterday I photographed this gorgeous soon to be blossoming Bay Laurel that had grown into the most inspiring tree form I’ve ever seen for this species.  Many of us in aromatherapy share the opinion that the essential oil of Laurus nobilis is such an understated one. With my new series of photographs capturing my beloved Bay Laurel plant on Crete, I also thought to bring in another side of the story. So if we wanted to have a look at it from the chemistry perspective, I offer you a quote from our highly respected aromatherapist, teacher and author Kurt Schnaubelt who writes: “This oil contains approximately 15-30% eugenol within a diverse mix of monoterpene alcohols and esters and a small amount of phenylpropane ethers, cineole, and sesquiterpene lactones. This creates a natural balance, a matrix, in which the eugenol is suspended and does not have the same fierce reactions on the skin as it would if it were isolated or in the form of clove oil where it is present in much higher concentration.” Knowing a bit of aromatic chemistry could help demystify scientific text reading, and make you feel empowered in the proper use of essential oils. Deepening this knowledge might take time, as it does for learning a new language.

Feb 19th, 2021
I have so many plans again with Stinging Nettles that keep growing abundantly both in my garden and all-around out in the wild here on Crete. Just harvested the first batch as I needed to create more light and space for my Rose geranium plants. The Nettles are now being dried for tea. Last year I also distilled them, but I am not so keen on the hydrosol, even though many appreciate it. The tincture is nice, and I also like the seeds in salads. Let’s see if I get there to make more of that wonderful herbal vinegar infusion  I did two years ago as a hair rinse which was a very popular give-away in the neighbourhood.

March 15th, 2021
Nettles hardly closed the door behind themselves, the garden is full again. Another year of Borage (Borago officinalis) bravely blossoming with such a close contact with one another! In fact, so bravely that they also line up along the village roads that are rather empty and quiet for a long time now… Very few cares, although, if they knew what a useful plant this beauty is! As a flower essence it supports the heart, bringing courage for heavy heartedness and lack of confidence when facing challenges. As a vegetable oil, which is extracted from the seeds, Borage is a great contributor to our health either applied on the skin or taken internally. The magic world from science is GLA that stands for ‘gamma-linoleic acid’ and Borage is super rich in that, as well as other essential fatty acids, and brings anti-inflammatory benefits for such as eczema, psoriasis, sensitive skin conditions. But there is more to it, supporting the joints or reproductive organs for instance − just do your research, and perhaps knowing the plant visually at least helps to appreciate whatever is delivered to you in capsules and bottles. PS: The flower is also great to decorate (and eat) salads and cakes, ice cubes or hot soups. It tastes like cucumber!

March 21st, 2021
These days, the more I want to return to public writing, the harder it feels to filter through the dimensions of the matrix. Yet, aromatic life holds such a curating place to come with a value proposition on various aspects of life. I have done the spring cleaning for my partner-in-the-act copper still, and that is also a ceremony of transforming something in me that is currently on my bucket list. And what I am going to distill next? It has to be another Citrus fruit from the Happiness family!

Epilogue

There is so much to learn from the plant world and presence, patience and persistence are right ahead of their teachings. No matter what stage of life, what circumstances you are with, plants are there in one form or another offering themselves to journey with us! So I encourage you: find the time for plants, and that will help finding the time to yourself, as well as better connecting with other human beings!

Closing to A magical Year of Aromatics

I carry two decades of experience in substantial conscious life-changing practices from my own journey on Planet Earth, along with being such a catalyst in other peoples’ lives through my various personal aspects as an aromatic adventurer, holistic therapist, consultant, mentor, author, photographer, forager, distiller and plant alchemist. Living in Crete in the past 8 years I have further developed my skills of (re)using whatever is possible and transform one into the next. Alchemy is my life in various matters, from simple cooking to aromatic distillations, from activating the physical body of living beings to touching human souls. However, the observations are not part of a scientific experiment. They are born from the marriage of the art and science of creating and using plant medicine, and combines cognitive skills with intuitive gifts.

A Gentle Reminder

Due to the complexity of the situation and the lengthy nature of even trying to give a somewhat realistic description of official regulations and life conditions in general, it is not the subject of this article to inform, analyse, measure and make conclusions and comparisons on the challenges and hardships individuals had to face in their respective locations and life circumstances. The information and experiences collected herewith comes with the purpose to ignite, enlighten and inspire the readers by the magic of living and working closely with Nature and how it can facilitate keeping faith and hope even in extremely difficult times. Allowing the knowledge and familiarity of aromatic and medicinal plants back into our everyday lives brings with it a positive reciprocal influence and a symbiotic way of thinking and feeling, which not only enhances our current lives, but offers better prospects for the future of all living beings.

 

PS: If you are on a journey of self-discovery, healing and empowerment and feel the call of the magical power of the plant world, you may want to check out what else I have for offer on my signature website as a Holistic Guide to Life. With love, Ildiko

References:

Tierra M., Cantin C. (1993). The Spirit of Herbs: A Guide to the Herbal Tarot, U.S. Games Systems, 2014

The Mother (1988). Flowers: Their Spiritual Significance, Lotus Press

http://www.flowersociety.org/three_borage.htm
Last accessed on June 11th, 2020

Worwood V. A. (1995). The Fragrant Mind, Bantam Books, 1997

Hollódi G., Ashley E. (2019). Tongue of the Trees. Aroma Botanica. The Secret Healer.

Rose M. J. (2012). The Book of Lost Fragrances, Atria Paperback, 2013

Schnaubelt, Kurt (1999) Medical Aromatherapy: Healing with Essential Oils, Frog Books

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