When I first met Cecilia I knew she was just magic, and my fall visit to her home and garden confirmed it. As you walk through the gate you enter a land of enchantment, the tulsi growing as tall as your hip, a bountiful vegetable garden and little statues through her home reminding you of just how sacred life truly is.
There are few like Cecilia, with a heart so kind and a spirit so joyous. Her passion for the plants and enthusiasm for aromatherapy is infectious. When I was working for a local essential oil company Cecilia and I became quick friends, for we both have strong relationships with the plants. Cecilia taught me how to experience essential oils, how to feel their power and their medicinal qualities.
I wanted to interview Cecilia so that I could share her deep knowledge of the plants, and hopefully inspire readers the way she has inspired me. Below you will also find a witchy little toner recipe and some suggested reading about aromatherapy from Cecilia. If you are in the area, you can find product made by Cecilia and her daughter, Kaitlin, who is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and Clinical Aromatherapist, under the name Trinity Rose Botanicals. They create amazing blends like the Ayurvedic Oil Pulling formula below. Sold in Sebastopol, at the Dhyana Center. And if you’re in the Bay Area, keep an eye out for their class this coming fall at Homestead Apothecary.
How did you become interested in Herbalism?
It actually began with my Mother. I watched both of my parents make herbal preparations to support their health. As they grew older and needed more medical care, my Mom would ask their country doctor for his opinion about an herb or supplement she had researched and took his skeptical reply of, “Well, it can’t hurt you” as approval. There’s a saying, “don’t check your brain at the door” – we must actively participate in our own health and wellness.
What is your favorite plant right now?
My favorite plant changes frequently. Today, I am enjoying Sage. I have so much respect for this plant and have several varieties growing in my garden: one with tiny leaves and sweet flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds; precious White Sage for ceremonial smudging; and, of course, the culinary variety, Salvia officinalis. This one makes a wonderful tea to soothe my throat. It works great as a digestive aid after a rich or heavy meal. And, to reduce hot-flashes. Because Sage is relatively high in tannins and quite astringent, it should not be used for more than about a week. I have been experimenting with Sage essential oil in a deodorant.
As we toured around the garden and got to know the story behind each plant, Cecilia told me that her husband Alberto is actually the caretaker for the garden, and she is the medicine maker. They both smiled as Alberto lit tea lights in the garden, and Cecilia offered me tea and expressed how “Alberto loves the fantasy of our garden as much as I do.”
How did you become interested in essential oils and Aromatherapy?
I’ve always loved fragrance. From childhood, I remember the sweetness of my Grandmother’s Rose garden; onions sautéing in my Mother’s kitchen; the smell of wood in my Father’s workshop. I enjoyed perfume when I was a young woman but, as I learned about the synthetic fragrances and chemicals used in the industry, I began experimenting with essential oils to create more natural perfumes. About 15 years ago, I was introduced to their medicinal properties and my love affair with EOs flourished! Lavender EO became my go-to for cuts and abrasions, Peppermint EO was cooling, eased a headache and instantly stopped an itch, Tea Tree EO was added to natural cleaners in my home – the list goes on. I have the good fortune to work for a local essential oil company and have since experienced a deeper relationship with EOs.
When I asked Cecilia about being an herbalist she told me recent experiences have focused on transition and death.
Much of my practice has been learning. As herbalists, we care for our children, their pets, a neighbor or coworker, clients, patients, aging parents, and loved ones who have passed. In doing this, we continue to learn. We learn who we are and who we are not. As I cared for my best friend, my parents, and former husband in their last days, I learned there is more to heal than the body. I learned about healing Light, healing Energy, Lawampi healing, Shamanic journeys, and falling asleep with Nature. I learned the fear of death lessens with each goodbye. If we fully respect the process of life, we must learn to respect the process of death with herbs that ease fear, plants that aid the Spirit, and prayers to soften sorrow.
On a lighter note, I also make a great little love potion, an herbal cough formula, or an oil blend to anoint a birth, wedding, and more.
We began to talk more, drink more herbal tea and snack on all the lovely treats Cecilia had made in her candlelit garden, her sister-in-law accompanied us and her husband Alberto. We smiled, laughed and felt the magic of the garden under the moonlight. We began to get into a deeper conversation, about what essential oils really are to her.
Essential oils are a plant’s “life blood”. They also act as the plant’s immune system, protecting it from disease and as its defense mechanism, to deter neighboring plants from invading their territory and robbing necessary nutrients for its own survival. The chemicals that create their scent attract pollinators or repel predators. Plants have a million years on us at fighting bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Virtually all plants have anti-microbial properties. Essential oils are like my friends – some offer support and comfort, others remind me to focus or “snap out of it”, and others help me reflect on things that are only known to my Soul.
Sometimes Cecilia would tell me how essential oils can transport you, and change the way we feel.
Scent is a strong trigger of memory and emotion where they comingle in the Limbic system of the brain. An example could be the smell of a wood burning stove. Without a purposeful thought, you may feel anxious or content, depending on your childhood experience of camping. Another association could be the smell of lilies and a funeral. Lilies might agitate or make you feel sad without your knowing why. This is part of the reason why not everyone likes the same smells.
Witch Hazel Facial Toner
15 drops Lavender EO
15 drops Tea Tree EO
12 oz bottle witch hazel (look for alcohol-free)
This can be made directly in the bottle of Witch Hazel – just be sure to relabel it!
-Add essential oils to witch hazel and shake vigorously before each use. Dampen a cotton pad and wipe your face, paying special attention to the oily areas. Be careful to avoid the eyes.
The only thing witchy about this recipe is how magically it works at removing excess oil and dirt. It’s gently astringent, reduces redness, is inexpensive, and smells wonderfully clean.
Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit by Gabriel Mojay
Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Arts by Kathy Keville & Mindy Green
The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils by Kurt Schnaubelt