Amber – A Complicated Story

Baltic Amber - from a few different species in the Mediteranean

Baltic Amber – from a few different tree species in the Mediterranean

The other day my client asked me about amber oil. I told her that I’d researched it years ago and that it didn’t seem to be straight forward – and that I’d forgotten everything too, and that I never used it. She had a little sample of resin and it did smell beautiful. So what is her sample, really?

It seems there’s a few stories floating around out there which include –

Ambergris – sperm whale vomit or poo

Liquidambar orientalis – the sap from the tree

Baltic amber or succinite – the hard crystals we know that are used for jewelly


Pinus succinefera fossil – fossilised sap

Here’s what I can gather about the truth of Amber oil.


ambergris - I think

ambergris – I think

Ah yes the lovely scent of sperm whale poo and vomit. The ambergris seems to be a secretion in the digestive system of the whale to protect it’s gut from spikey cuttlefish. It is excreted with fecal matter, or regurgitated if the amount is too large to pass.The story goes that this intriguing substance was found around the Atlantic Ocean along the shorelines of many countries including Australia and NZ, Japan, South Africa, The Maldives and other areas in the world. Apparently as it aged, the scent changed to a sweet balsamic, earthy odour and was therefore grabbed and distilled by perfumers to use as a fixative in scents. It can still be found today and is worth a lot of money! If you have a perfume with that listed it would be synthetic. All perfume is synthetic anyway, so don’t panic, there’s no vomit in your fragrance.

Liquidambar orientalis

This seems to have more credit in the ‘amber stakes’. The name also has “amber” in it so there’s a bit of a hint (or coincidence). This gorgeous tree is planted all over Sydney and I believe it originates from the Mediterranean region, particularly in Turkey. The trees are referred to generally as “sweet gum” and these forests in Turkey (according to wikipedia) are under threat due to dam building and clearing for agriculture. This oil is also produced in India, and the tree is also native to India.

In English, this oil is known under several names, shortly as Storax to include all sweetgum oils, or as Styrax Levant, Asiatic Storax, Balsam Storax, Liquid Storax, Oriental Sweetgum Oil, or Turkish Sweetgum Oil. …. it is used externally in traditional medicine for abrasions, anxiety, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, cuts, ringworm, scabies, stress-related conditions and wounds. It is a different product than the benzoin resin produced from tropical trees in the genus Styrax.


I have never used this oil but now I’m a bit desperate for it. It sounds bloody gorgeous. We had a beautiful liquid amber tree in our backyard when I was growing up. I did a school project on it – if I’d only know it contained a medicinal, scented secret!

As with Frankincense and Myrrh, the tree is tapped and the sap collected. To produce the oil, the resin then undergoes steam distillation.

Baltic Amber

Baltic Amber with a fossilised insect

Baltic Amber with a fossilised insect

Baltic amber refers to fossilised tree resin from a variety of conifers living around the Scandinavian countires and the Baltic region. The Pinus succinefera is one of these trees and this stone is sometimes referred to as succinite (and also because it contains succinic acid).The Baltic region contains most of the world’s supply of amber which could be between 40 to 60 million years old! Oh dear should we really be digging this up?

So this leads us to the claims that this stone can produce a resin, then an oil.

Pinus succinefera – fossil

Pinus succinefera - the fossil - also possibly Baltic amber

Pinus succinefera – the fossil – also possibly Baltic amber

This fossil relates to the Baltic Amber above. But can the stone produce this oil? How is it extracted? Dry distillation could be used, whereby a solid is heated to produce gasses and materials which are then condensed and collected. This is a fossilized resin so I’m wondering if the claims that the oil is Pinus succinefera – fossil, are false.

There are stories of this stone and resin/oil being used by the Romans and Greeks to use medicinally and in rituals. Did they have dry distillation techniques or were they collecting sap and distilling it?

It’s all very interesting and if anyone has anything to add or can clarify any of these claims I’d be grateful. Just leave a comment.

My money is on Liquidamber orientalis but none of my trusted suppliers sell this. Hmmmmm.


copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Absolutes? Not Absolutely

the fragrant jasmine blossom

the fragrant jasmine blossom can be steam distilled or an absolute

Straight from Wikipedia I thought this was a good explanation of an absolute:

Used in perfumery and aromatherapy, absolutes are similar to essential oils. They are concentrated, highly-aromatic, oily mixtures extracted from plants. Whereas essential oils can typically be produced through steam distillation, absolutes require the use of solvent extraction techniques or more traditionally, through enfleurage.

So basically absolutes are essential oils derived from solvent extraction or enfleurage.

Enfleurage is a term to describe the extraction process. It can be cold or hot and unfortunately animal fats are used. Right off the bat that turns me off. I’m a vegetarian and have been for nearly 30 years. I don’t wear leather and try to be mindful of everything I buy or consume in my life. I don’t buy absolutes for this reason. This method was created hundreds of years ago specifically for perfumery. I really can’t think of anything worse than mixing botanical substances in hot tallow to extract a scent. Blah. And if you didn’t know –  hoofs and other materials from the bodies of horses, cows and pigs are boiled up to make things like tallow and gelatine.

I’m not even sure if this method is used in commercial production at all.

Adorable cow and calf

Adorable cow and calf

In both instances, once the fat is saturated with fragrance, it is then called the “enfleurage pomade”. The enfleurage pomade was either sold as it was, or it could be further washed or soaked in ethyl alcohol to draw the fragrant molecules into the alcohol. The alcohol is then separated from the fat and allowed to evaporate, leaving behind the absolute of the botanical matter. The spent fat is usually used to make soaps since it is still relatively fragrant.


Then there’s solvent extraction which usually uses some type of chemical to extract the scent. Often hexane is used which some people claim is safe, but I’m not quite sure about that. It’s usually alcohol that’s used and I suppose it’s relatively harmless. When this method is used a “concrete” is formed, which is then soaked in alcohol. When the alcohol evaporates, the absolute remains.

the structure of hexane - from wikipedia

the structure of hexane – from wikipedia

Gasoline has a high amount of hexane but I’m not sure about the origin of the hexane that used in absolute production. I’m unsure if it would come from petrol, or if it would be synthesized in a lab and sold by chemical companies. At any rate, I’d prefer to buy a steam distilled oil, or an oil produced by CO2 extraction which is also called Super Critical extraction. That sounds a bit wrong but the CO2 method seems to be an environmentally friendly way to extract aromatic compounds. I’ll do a separate article on that.



Oils that you may find as an absolute –





Lotus – pink and white






Tomato leaf

Violet leaf



And there are probably lots more too. It’s totally up to you as to what oils you buy but I prefer to choose oils that have a more simple extraction method.

Your thoughts?

oakmoss - is this sustainably produced?

oakmoss – is this sustainably produced?


copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Essential Oils for Hair Care

Lovely long hair in great condition

Lovely long hair in great condition

If essential oils can be used on your skin then they can be used on your hair too.

By now you know I dislike any kind of synthetic fragrance so you can imagine how much I really dislike most shampoos and conditioners. Hair styling products often have strong scent as well but those products are harder to replace with natural ingredients.


My advice is to find a natural unscented shampoo (they do exist) and add some essential oils. You could add essential oils to the whole bottle if you feel confident you have a lovely blend, or pick new oils each time you shampoo. Even though that sounds a bit harder it’s like aromatic dressing – making a new nourishing body oil blend each day. It allows for spontaneity and creativity, and each day you’ll feel emotionally and physically different from the day before.  As essential oils have individual purposes, you will be treating yourself for the day, according to your needs.

You’ll just need a little dish to squeeze some shampoo into, then add oils.

a cute little dish

a cute little dish

I’m going to estimate you’ll need 2 tablespoons of shampoo (but of course this will differ depending on the length and thickness of your hair). This equates to about  40 mls of shampoo so we will add 15 drops. If you are sensitive to essential oils reduce the amount to 10 drops or less. This ratio is lower than what I recommend for body oils for 2 reasons –

1. It’s close to your eyes and nose

2. You will wash it down the sink anyway

For more info on body oil ratios see this article.

You will be washing your hair AND having an aromatherapy treatment at the same time! YAY!

washing hair with essential oils can be revitalising

washing hair with essential oils can be revitalising

I don’t necessarily agree with using different oils for different coloured hair, and as always, some oils are better than others for this purpose.

Try these combo’s

1. “Lovin Myself”

For all hair types

Lavender     5 drops

Rosewood   5 drops

Orange        5 drops


2. “Just Stepped Out of A Salon”

For hair that’s a little oily

Spearmint                    6 drops

Lemon                        6 drops

Cedarwood Virginian   3 drops


condtioning hair - add essential oils

conditioning hair – add essential oils


The same ratios apply as for shampoo but at least by leaving the conditioner on your hair for a while will allow more benefits to soak in. Find an unscented conditioner and blend away.


For drier hair types

Peru Balsam      6 drops

Mandarin           6 drops

Patchouli           3 drops


2. “Smooooooth”

For all hair types

Geranium         4 drops

Marjoram         4 drops

Bergamot        7 drops


They are the basics, so I think I may have to do a Part 2, to include hair conditioning treatments with oils and natural hair masks using natural ingredients from the cupboard.

Stay tuned!


copyright suzannerbanks 2013

10 “Pure Pulse Point Perfume” Recipes for Urban Survival

Hong Kong - a great city with loads of people living, working, surviving

Hong Kong – a great city with loads of people living, working, surviving

As the Grandmaster Flash says in his 1982 album and single “The Message”

“It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under….”

Don’t go under!

Use essential oils for nurturing, support, expansion and to help shift your focus to what’s really important.

Try these recipes, and file them in your urban survival kit:

Pure Pulse Point Perfumes

It’s easy to make a little perfume with essential oils but if you are sensitive the right thing to do is to patch test first. So that’s my official stance – patch test first.

I like to choose a couple of oils, put a few drops into a little dish and choose which pulse point or chakra point I want to anoint. It is equally important to smell the oils deeply through your nose so they can go to work on different levels of your brain and body.

Smelling the oils is the primary key.

Wearing the oils is the secondary key.

Using your intention when you create the blend is the underlying key to wonderful synergistic blend.

It’s easy.

You could even just use a saucer or Chinese tea cup.

Chinese tea cup

Chinese tea cup

Away we go.

In a little dish mix these oils and anoint your pulse points or chakras – 3 drops of essential oils and dilute with a few drops of carrier oil – always patch test first!

1. “Brainiac”

To stimulate your mind and help you wake up –

Rosemary    1 drop

Basil            1 drop

Mandarin     1 drop


2. “Notice Me”

To give you confidence and help you shine  (so maybe someone you’re interested in will notice you)

Ylang Ylang                2 drops

Cedarwood Atlas       1 drop


Anoint yourself with pure essential oils

Anoint yourself with pure essential oils

3. “Deep Sleep”

Entice your body and mind into relaxing enough to go to sleep –

Marjoram   1 drop

Lavender   1 drop

Vetiver       1 drop


4. “Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!”

Stop freaking out –

Melissa      1 drop

Bergamot  2 drops


5. “Re-Align”

When you’re feeling a bit out-of-sorts –

Lemongrass    1 drop

Rosewood      1 drop

Lime               1 drop


we are one

we are one

6. “I’m connected to the Stars”

When you are feeling completely alone unsupported –

Roman Chamomile 3%  3 drops *info on 3% blends

Juniper                           1 drop

Peru Balsam                   1 drop


7. “Superwoman”

When you have a lot to do and others to look after too –

Lavender                    1 drop

Cedarwood Virginian  1 drop

Petitgrain                    1 drop


Nurture yourself now

appreciate yourself now!

8. “I am the Queen of My Life”

Take time out to appreciate how magnificent you are –

Rose 3%                    6 drops *info on 3% blends


9. “Expansion is Inevitable”

Remember you are here to experience life, and expand your consciousness –

Sandalwood   2 drops

Lemon            1 drop


10. “You are Fabulous”

Inspire others which will help YOU to find growth and happiness within –

Rose Geranium    1 drop

Patchouli              1 drop

Neroli 3%              2 drops *info on 3% blends


Remember to treat yourself first, then everyone will benefit.

copyright suzannerbanks 2013

The Start of How to be Completely Amazing

colour and movement

colour and movement and essential oils

1. Use Essential Oils

Yep I know this is a bit obvious coming from me, but it’s true.

Use essential oils instead of perfume. It’s natural vs synthetic. In this case natural is much better than synthetic.

Use essential oils to clean instead of toxic products.

Use cold pressed carrier oils for moisturiser. Simplicity is back in fashion.

Do it!


Lavender    1 drop on your wrists – it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that!


inspire someone today

inspire someone today

2. Inspire Someone Today!

You’ll be amazed at how great you feel when you inspire someone else. It’s quite infectious and you’ll want to keep doing, it I promise. It sort-of gets you into an upward spiral of positivity.

There’s no better way to help yourself, cancel out your self-doubt and quash those little negative self talks. When you inspire someone else – you’ll be inspired 10 fold.

Do it today! And use essential oils.

Sage         1 drop on your throat chakra to speak the truth with others and share your abundance


be kind to animals

be kind to animals, always

3. Be kind to Animals

Always be kind to animals, it’s our duty to protect them. Let’s face it there are some totally fantastic animals out there.

Your kindness will send ripples into the universe. Hopefully some of those ripples will join up to more kindness waves and wash over us all! Maybe then we can all be kind to each other, but maybe that’s a bit too simple? Or not.

Be kind to an animal today. And use essential oils

Rosewood   1 drop on your heart chakra to allow the flow of love, inward and outward.


Use your intention to create something new (via

Use your intention to create something new (via

4. Use Your Intention Everyday

Start each day with an intention. A good intention. Create the vibe of your day. You’ll automatically rise up to meet that intention.

Create your day…..your week….your life.

This is another duty we are bound to, if we want to evolve into a peaceful community. We are living in a time of great expansion. We need your help.

Use your intention today. And use essential oils

Basil       open the bottle and take a huge whiff to open your mind to possibilities.


This is just a start to the influence you can have in your world.

Make it a good influence and share your knowledge.

Talk about what you know and aspire to.

Connect with others.

But most of all use essential oils. You’ll smell great and you will be able to harness their healing power, absorb it, and give it back to your world with joy, times infinity.



copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Change Your Focus in 3 Seconds

change ahead - if you want....

change ahead – if you want….

It’s easy to get bogged down in the little bumps of life.

It’s easy to be influenced by negativity in the world.

It’s easy to allow chronic patterns to drive your life.

But is it easy to change your focus, and change the way you see things?

Sometimes. Sometimes we choose to stay in the lower energetic vibrations of emotions because we know them. It feels familiar and it’s easier than to question why we are continuing on a path that doesn’t feel quite right.

sneakily borrowed from

why question?

If you feel somewhat driven to change your focus in any way, it is actually quite easy with essential oils.

You don’t need to have a lot of oils to choose from.

You don’t even need to make a blend for your body, or a blend for the house, or a mist for your personal space.

It’s as simple as opening a bottle of oil and taking a big whiff.

sniffing bottle of oil

sniffing bottle of oil

A long deep whiff through your nose will transport the little molecules of oil through the nasal epithelium into various parts of the brain. Within 3 seconds your brilliant brain will have locked in a scent recognition, stimulated a memory from the past (or future or another dimension) and stimulated other parts of the brain to secrete hormones and also even effect your nervous system.

If that’s not a change of focus I don’t know what is! And all this is done without your conscious mind even needing to be put into gear.

Just one whiff!

Here’s a little snippet from my soon to be released book “Revelation – How to use Essential Oils to Reveal Your Destiny”. I’ve just chosen a few oils as an example of progression:

Sniff This Go from this To this
Mandarin Feeling unhappy Feeling happier
Sandalwood Disconnected Embracing your spirit
Myrrh Lack Abundance
Rose Unloved Appreciated by someone
Cedarwood Virginian Disliking your job Finding what you love to do
Marjoram Freaking out/stressed More relaxed
Juniper Not knowing how to change your circumstance Creating an affirmation to help you get there
Tea Tree Feeling toxic emotionally Cleansing your aura
Neroli Feeling old and that time is running out Connecting to your immortality
Lavender Weak and scattered Strength and health

Do it! Have a whiff today!

You don’t even need to use my guide – just grab ANY bottle of oil and sniff for at least 3 seconds.

The results will be subtle yet powerful. I guarantee it!

Nurture yourself now

Nurture yourself now with essential oils

Remember, treat yourself first then everyone will benefit.


copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Just Think PINK!

I love Pink!

I love Pink!

Australia is embedded in a love affair with PINK!

We simply can’t get enough of her.

She is a great singer, performer and writer, but best of all I think it’s her sense of humour that appeals to us. She’s fun, a little bit naughty and supercute too. We are awaiting her arrival for another sold out tour of Oz so let’s get this party started!

Lets get all PINK …………

There are quite a few oils I would consider that resonate with the colour pink – cute oils, fun oils and oils of happiness:


Rose Geranium




Orange (ok i know it’s orange but when it gets together with other oils it’s quite pink……)

Peru Balsam



Pink Grapefruit



1. Nourishing Body Oil Blends

For a coat of your body use 3 teaspoons of carrier oil in a little dish and, add 7 – 8 drops of essential oil.

***** Always put the drops of essential oil into the bottle or dish first, then add the carrier oil. It gives the scents time to create a synergistic fusion.


For a bit of cute fun-

Rosewood    3

Orange         3

Patchouli      1


“Aww That’s Sweet”

To see the innocence and sweetness within yourself and others-

Rose 3%             9 drops * see my article for more info on 3% blends in jojoba

Pink Grapefruit    3 drops

Cinnamon           1 drop


Anoint yourself with pure essential oils

Anoint yourself with pure essential oils

2. Pure Pulse Point Perfume

In a little dish mix these oils and anoint your pulse points or chakras – 3 drops of essential oils and dilute with a few drops of carrier oil – always patch test first!


To surround yourself within angel energy or call on the angels for help

Geranium       2 drops

Peru Balsam  1 drop



Turn on your charm

Tuberose 3%      6 drops * see my article for more info on 3% blends in jojoba

Rose Geranium   1 drop


3. Personal Aura Cleansing Mist & Room Mist

In a 50ml mist bottle filled with water add 25 drops of oil

“Fun House”

Get a fun vibe going for a party make a mist and spritz away

Geranium           8 drops

Orange              8 drops

Pink Grapefruit   9 drops



To get yourself out of a funk into the fun house

Cinnamon            8 drops

Rose Geranium   4 drops

Pink Grapefruit    12 drops


So think PINK!

Happy mixing and remember to use your intention when you are blending (see my article about intention).

copyright suzannerbanks 2013

Cedarwood Atlas – An Ancient Wood with a Modern Scent

Cedarwood atlas - Cedrus atlantica

Cedarwood atlas – Cedrus atlantica

In Aromatherapy we use a few cedarwoods –

Cedrus atlantica           = Cedarwood Atlas

Juniperus virginiana     = Cedarwood Virginian

Cedrus deodora           = Cedarwood Himalyan

When I first started practicing I didn’t really use this oil a lot – I preferred Cedarwood Virginian. Years ago when I was creating a range for a new clinic in Sydney, I was inspired to incorporate this oil by the Herbalist and sales manager. She encouraged me to use Cedarwood atlas and described the scent to me as being reminiscent of sandalwood. She also suggested I could use it in place of sandalwood as the Sandalwood industry was under pressure and prices had tripled within years.

So embraced Cedarwood atlas and while I don’t necessarily use it as s replacement for sandalwood I certainly love to use it frequently. It is a true cedarwood and has an interesting history.

The Atlas Mountains in Morocco

The Atlas Mountains in Morocco, map originally created by Daniel Feher of Free World Maps. Original map can by found here

It is part of the Pinaceae family of trees and is still considered to be a viable tree with no concern for its life here on earth. It hails from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and is also farmed for its wood and oil in other regions.

The rich history of cedarwood most probably relates to Lebanon cedarwood which is Cedrus libani and found in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Cypress and surrounding areas. It is also from the Pinaceae family and I would assume that the two are quite similar and they both would have been used for ancient rituals and traditions; in Egyptian times, in building the Temples of Jersualem and all the ancient majesty and mystery that comes with them. Phoenicaians and Egytians built their boats with this wood, and the resin was used to treat illness and mummify Phaoroahs. There are also other cedars in these areas that belong to the Cupressaceae family (the cypresses), and have also been used over thousands of years in spiritual practice.

A drop of oil can be essential

A drop of oil can be essential

The oil is steam distilled using the wood and twigs and currently in Aromatherapy Cedarwood atlas is used for-

* respiratory ailments – coughs, colds, bronchitis as it is a great expectorant

* in a sitz bath to address kidney and bladder including cystitis – it’s an astringent oil

* as a tonic for stress and anxiety (yes we say this about many oils so it goes to prove a few drops of distilled nature really can change your focus and make you feel better)

* as an astringent for oily skin and on the flip side to also treat dry and flaky conditions like dry scalp, dandruff and also to ease symptoms of psoriasis

Abundance is a state of being

Abundance is a state of being

I love to use this oil to stimulate connection to spirit and to inspire acknowledgement of the abundance all around us. If the resins of this tree were used in the mummification process  to help souls live for ever after death, I see it as a sign that our abundance is ever flowing in all states of existence.


copyright suzannerbanks 2013