Victoria Kirkwood, BSc (Hons), BA, OMBAcC, L.Ac. | Article

Yin and Yang Basics: Aromatherapy and Lifestyle Tips.

Yin and Yang are Chinese philosophical concepts denoting opposites. Each opposite contains the seed of the other however and they frequently merge into each other, day into night being a classic example. Female/male, cold / hot, moist /dry, stillness/movement, even up and down are all Yin Yang pairings so it’s not difficult with a little thought to apply these to aromatherapy essences and the mental emotional and physical complaints they can address. The aim is to restore harmony and balance, to counteract elements in our environment or and lifestyle which may be out of whack.

Some examples of Yang oils are Rosemary, Ginger, Cinnamon and Black Pepper which warm stiff muscles and sluggish digestion. They stimulate and invigorate both physically and mentally. Sniffing some Rosemary oil on a tissue is a great way to get your brain working before an exam or an important meeting. Like chili, coffee and alcohol these should be avoided if you are hot and hyper or have a condition causing redness. Because they are so Yang we often use coffee and alcohol when we feel ‘stuck’ to get us into action. But we all know overuse leads to depletion and exhaustion.

Yin cold contracts and Yang heat expands. Red and White Tiger balm are examples of the two principles. The Red ‘hot’ Tiger Balm contains Cassia which is a kind of Cinnamon and is much more warming. The White has more cooling menthol and sometimes anti-inflammatory Eucalyptus and is used for headaches and hot stuffy congestion.

Yin oils tend to have moistening or cooling properties and are soothing and relaxing. Lavender and Chamomile are examples of essences which are Yin in nature helping us to wind down and sleep. Vetivert comes from the root of a plant and is very grounding, useful to relax someone who has an excess of Yang and simply can’t slow down. Rose and Geranium are also Yin oils and considered feminine in nature. They are more useful where Yin is depleted rather than where Yang is excessive. You can see this reflected in the traditions of perfumery where male scents are often earthy, and heavy and female scents light, floral or fruity. Though of course no one is exclusively Yin or Yang and their interplay can be so subtle and ambiguous that just one ingredient can differentiate a male or female perfume.

It can be a fine art to create balance. Often the Yin coldness of salads, fruits and raw foods are not the healthy option for someone who is already a little too Yin. They may cause cramping, indigestion or bloating. And often we don’t suffer from extreme imbalances at all and instinctively know what we need, but where we have become detached from our bodies using these simple concepts can guide us. Are you restless and hot or cold, pale and lethargic? Then think about adding or subtracting a little Yin or Yang from your diet, behavior or with healing essences in a burner, bath or balm.