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Aromatherapy and Flower Posies - Two Healing Supports

by Barbara Payne(more info)

listed in aromatherapy, originally published in issue 75 - April 2002

At this time of year, like mad March hare, we get caught up in spring fever, cleaning, gardening – of which there is much to do at this time – the gymnasium and doing well at work. This can lead to unexpected time out. It is surprisingly easy for us to forget how precious our bodies are and the necessity to take care when undertaking new projects. Spinal injuries are very common and it is a fact that most of us at some time in our lives will suffer from back pain. My own speedy recovery from a recurrent back problem is being upheld through the impetus of a few simple measures and, although regularly utilizing natural treatments as healing aids in my work, I am still always surprised by their immense power.

As a holistic aromatherapist I advocate aromatherapy as my primary strategy for management of pain and discomfort. The secondary system of treating the 'inner self' is with the aesthetic lifting experience of a small scented bouquet or flower posy from my garden. This is especially comforting when in the form of a tussie mussie.

Comfort from Heat

The most rudimentary comfort one can implement is heat, and coupled with essential oils it is very effective. Heat can be applied in several ways, by bathing, massage, heat sources such as wheat bags, and using essential oils which are rubefacient (warming) on support bandages and in preparations such as massage oils. Bathing in very warm water is in itself very soothing, but when it is enhanced with muscle relaxing or warming essential oils such as sweet marjoram (Origanum marjorana), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), black pepper (Piper nigrum) or ginger (Zingiber officinale) it relieves a certain amount of pain and makes one feel much refreshed. Eight drops is enough for the whole bath and will also safeguard against excessive dry skin on exposure to increased presentation to water. For those who live alone bathing may prove difficult. Heat sources such as wheat bags are excellent if such a situation exists.

Wheat Bags

Wheat bags are easy to make. An inner 'pillow' is made by sewing two pieces of cloth together, leaving one side open. Now still leaving one side open, sew two lines of stitching up the pillow. This makes a pillow with three pockets which are sparingly filled with wheat grains, usually two handfuls in each pocket, and other dried herbs if you wish. The open end is now sewn up to seal in the grains. The two lines of stitching up the pillow will stop all the grains running into one corner. The bag is then covered with a stylish cotton cover.

Wheat bags are heated up for no more than three minutes in a microwave oven and will stay hot for up to an hour. Before applying to the affected area, sprinkle the bag with an essential oil which is calming to the nervous system such as chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) or lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).

Massage and Massage Oils

Massage is often used in aromatherapy and the benefits need no introduction. Its universal success has been well documented for thousands of years. When combined with essential oils in a suitable carrier oil its healing power increases in so many ways. To make a massage oil for aches and pains prepare 50mls of carrier oil made up of 25mls of macerated calendula oil (Calendula officinalis) – it is said to be anti-inflammatory – and 25mls of macerated St John's wort oil (Hypericum perforatum), which is renowned to be helpful when nerve tissue has been damaged. For bruises use 100% calendula as a base. Add 15 drops of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and shake well.

Attitude is important too, and our mood can be altered by using aroma as a restorative agent and to enhance the healing process. Much research in recent years has proved that there is a link between how the state of emotions and the mind affects the physical processes. Hence such studies as psychoneuroimmunology. The sense of smell and the way we perceive pleasant aromas can do so much to bring solace.

Aesthetic Comforts – Tussie Mussies

These beautiful floral arrangements are lovely to have because of their form, perfume and colour, but additionally for the sentiments and hidden meanings behind the flora used. The Victorians were very conscious of the meanings of flowers and made up bouquets or buttonholes of various flowers to convey secret messages. Tussie mussies go much further than a bunch of flowers in both origins and uses.

"Aromatic posies containing herbs and flowers have been in use for centuries. During times of plague and disease outbreaks, people would carry odiferous nosegays through the streets. This would not only mask unpleasant smells but the antibacterial properties of certain herbs included would protect the person from diseases. These posies or small bouquets became known as 'tussie mussies'."1

Books are now available on the subject of the language of flowers. They make interesting reading and serve as a basis from which to choose a theme for making a tussie mussie, as each individual and their particular needs vary.

For example someone with aches and pains may benefit from a tussie mussie containing:

  • Chamomile – Chamaemelum nobile – Energy in adversity;
  • Honeysuckle – Lonicera – Bonds of love;
  • Lemon balm – Melissa officinalis – Sympathy;
  • Geranium – Pelargonium – Comfort;
  • Rose leaves – Rosa – You may hope;
  • Heartsease – Viola tricolour – You occupy my thoughts.

Tussie mussies are always made in circular shapes starting with one bloom in the middle and gradually working outwards in layers. A small hand-written card divulging the private message can be included.

Imagine how uplifting and restoring uncomplicated medicine like this can be.

Simple – but less can be more. Once again a garden and aromatherapy have proved to be invaluable in empowering me through difficult times.


Harness ED. Tussie Mussies. Herb Day Course Notes. England. 1999.


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About Barbara Payne

Barbara Payne taught clinical aromatherapy in various hospitals in the North of England, for School of Health, University of Hull, and was principal of an IFA and IFPA accredited college of clinical aromatherapy, for many years. She served as an inspector and examiner and was Chair of Education for the ISPA, (now IFPA). Barbara had regular interviews with BBC radio and appeared on national television occasionally and lectured annually for the RHS. Having contributed to Positive Health over many years, Barbara has now decided to retire from her PH Expert Regular Column after Issue 154 in Jan 2009. She can be reached on Tel: 01482 835358;

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