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Liquid Sunshine - Vegetable Oils for Aromatherapy

by Jan Kusmirek

listed in aromatherapy

[Image: Liquid Sunshine - Vegetable Oils for Aromatherapy]

This was a most interesting and challenging book to read and review and is highly recommended for a wide variety of readers. Although there is much to interest aromatherapists, the content is extensive and far-reaching. Perhaps the title should reflect this as - "Liquid Sunshine - Vegetable Oils for all"! The author draws upon his wide and varied experience in aromatherapy, medical herbalism, naturopathy, nutrition and cosmetology in addition to his background in agriculture, his commitment to the organic production of plant products and his involvement with the Soil Association. His consuming interest in plants, their products and uses, illuminates the book. Of special value are the pages of description of fifty oils: the plants which produce them, their extraction and production, their properties and uses, their history and mythology, their use by indigenous peoples and their commercial exploitation. There are many aspects which trigger the imagination on the enormous possibilities of producing blends of vegetable, fixed, or 'carrier' oils as they are variously called, to enhance a massage treatment or to protect and condition the skin both inwardly by use as foods and outwardly by use in massage.

There were several challenges for me. This book is not intended to be a text book on vegetable oils, nor could it be so recommended. Indeed, in the preface, Jan Kusmirek states that it "is for anyone interested in using vegetable oils in the home, clinic or salon" and as such, is full of interest and information. I was frequently impelled to go in search of herbals and reference volumes on botany and pharmacognosy to identify species or families as these essentials were omitted from the botanical names of the plants. I was forcefully reminded of my pedantic nature, over-developed critical faculties and low threshold of irritation. These were brought into play by repetitive evidence of poor syntax, misuse of apostrophes, and apparent ignorance of the difference in the use of 's' to signify possession or plural.

A major difficulty was the avoidance of the use of 'science' or scientific language. This frequently necessitated circumlocution and involved, opaque and convoluted explanations and descriptions. We are fortunate in having the whole range of natural sciences to inform and describe all the gifts of nature and their application to health and well-being. Jan Kusmirek is admirably suited to explain, and widely experienced to demonstrate the holistic application of the many branches of this specialised knowledge. It is often overlooked that the derivation of 'science', from the Latin. scire -to know applying to specialised knowledge, and that experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them critically or practically, constitutes wisdom. All these Jan has in full measure which he demonstrates in his lectures and courses.

It is possible that a major part of this book is a transcript of a series of lectures. This would explain the omission of the botanical family or species from the Latin names of the plants from which the oils are obtained and the total lack of references throughout the book. It is written in his inimitable style of speaking with many fascinating digressions, deviations and divarications (branching), enthralling his audience, and made obvious and interesting in speech by gesture, change of tone of voice and body language, but confusing in the written word where clarity of expression is essential. Efficient proof reading would have eliminated these irritancies. Grammatical and spelling mistakes could have been removed, Although, perhaps "if it is living it is dyeing" could have been left, just once, to raise a smile, but not repeated. Books published 'in house' require extra careful editing to avoid the pitfalls of self-promotion and denigration of other organizations, schools or professions which would be expunged by the editor of a publishing house. Jan Kusmirek is a popular, well respected aromatherapist; self-advertising and disparaging others detracts from his good image.

Vegetable oils receive mass media exposure at present and pundits talk knowledgeably and sometimes contradictingly of the merits of different oils and their constituents. Jan explains their constituents and health values. He reminisces on the fats and oils of his childhood, of butter and dripping! My mouth watered! Shortage of butter and meat to provide dripping during the second World War was hard to bear. For my grandfather, it was the lack of olive oil and lemons. He held fast to his belief that anything from a cut throat to a broken leg could be made better by lemons and olive oil; taken or applied singly or together in various combinations, was his 'cure all'.

I sympathize with the ideas and criticisms of commercial exploitation and would go further on the extortion of third world producers of foods and oils in order for the rich to get richer. The strength of this volume lies in the richness and wonderful variety of information. Drawing on his wide experience not just in aromatherapy but in herbal medicine and the cosmetic industry, we are introduced to a great variety of oils, fats and waxes and their uses. Many myths are dismantled and replaced by accurate information; that quality is fitness for purpose. There is a reasoned argument for natural oils, organically produced and with little refinement. There are also reasons given for the refining treatment of oils to improve their stability and guarantee their shelf life when used in cosmetics. I would recommend this book as an enjoyable way to become more familiar with the use and blending of vegetable oils and the plants which produce them.

About the ReviewerMaureen Farrell is a pharmacist specializing in plant science, an experienced gardener, focusing on fragrant herbs and aromatic plants and a practising aromatherapist and lecturer. She has been active in the provision of aromatherapy for the alleviation of AIDS-related illnesses, for adolescent survivors of cystic fibrosis, people suffering from cancer, dementia and Alzheimer's Disease and people with mental health problems. She has championed the teaching of botany and chemistry to achieve better understanding of plant metabolism and the nature of the oils used in aromatherapy, and worked towards academic validation of aromatherapy as aromatic medicine, holistically applied, matching the requirements of the whole person with the properties of both fixed and volatile oils.

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Maureen Farrell
ISBN 0-9543295-0-3

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