While a study may have found that a staggering 53% of young people would rather give up their sense of smell than give up technology, that may not be the case if they were more informed as to the incredible power of their noses. Aromatherapy has a proven ability to ease muscle tensions, mitigate stress levels, help with sleep issues, and so much more. We spoke to Hope Gillerman, the founder of H. Gillerman Organics, to get wellness tips and find out how these powerful essences work.
The Fashion Spot: How did you get involved in practicing holistic medicine?
Hope Gillerman: I was a dancer. I injured my back and there I was at age 21, unable to walk more than 6 blocks! I found an Alexander Technique teacher who showed me why my back was injured and how to fix it myself, and a massage therapist who used essential oils in her detoxifying treatments. Holistic Healing is by far the best way to deal with chronic conditions because you look at how the body is out of balance, as a whole, not just where the pathology is.
tFS: Can you tell us about the Alexander Technique and what has attracted you to it?
HG: I immediately knew after my first session that this was the thinking person’s solution to postural alignment, pain relief, increased energy, stress management. With the Alexander Technique, you learn that everything you do can be done with more ease, efficiency and comfort. And it even works for people who have low body awareness or don't have time to exercise. It makes you look great, too— I got 1/2" taller! Technically, it is a mind/body system that re-trains your neuromuscular patterns so you can shed all your physical habits of internalizing stress.
tFS: Do you have any tips on how we can prevent the common chronic aches and pains that come from sitting at a desk everyday?
HG: Don't sit on your tailbone or your spine will round, your shoulders will hunch and your neck will tense. Instead, try this: find a hard surface to sit on. Locate the two boney landmarks that you feel contacting the chair on the bottom of your hips; these are called the sit bones. Now go ahead and really slump and you will feel yourself fall behind them — now you can feel that sitting behind your sit bones means you are slouching. Now lean forward until you feel your sit bones coming off the chair completely, then try and perch right on top of them. All pain is worsened by the muscles tensing up and the one thing that makes the whole body tense up is a collapsed, rounded or overly arched spine. The muscles just simply can't do their job of keeping you upright when your back is not aligned, so they strain and spasm. When you perch on your sit bones, your spine lengthens.
tFS: What's the most effective way to apply essential oils?
HG: First of all, to understand all the answers below, you have to know:
- Essential Oils are the MOST concentrated essence found in nature.
- Essential Oils are ingested through our skin and our lungs into our bodies. They affect us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, chemically, physiologically.
- Essential Oils must be organic and wild-crafted to receive their true healing benefits.
- Essential Oils are all anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, detoxifying.
The most effective way to apply essential oils is topically! You apply them right on the area where you need them. Example: got a tension headache? Most headaches are caused by excess neck tension blocking blood flow to the brain. So put on an essential oils blend that is good for headaches, like my Clear Mind Tension Remedy, right where the neck meets the head, the base of the skull. H. Gillerman Organics formulations are designed to tackle some of your biggest stress problems and each product goes on a specific part of your body.
Here's something you can do with any blend (I don't recommend using oils one at a time — use them in blends of 2-8 oils): for a quick mood shift, put a few drops (like my True Relaxation Stress Remedy) in the palm of your hand, rub your hands together and then cup them over your face and inhale 10-15 deep breaths. You will feel so chilled out you will be able to go back to whatever you are doing without the feeling that you have too much to do or that you have to rush. And then, once you are really focused and not rushing, you will be using your time efficiently.
Essential oils are actually ingested into the lungs when you inhale them, and from there the tiny particles go into your blood stream and at the same time, the particles are going to your hypothalamus where they affect your autonomic nervous system and the part of the brain that controls body temperature, fatigue, sleep, and circadian cycles. Double blind studies show that just inhaling an oil can lower the amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your blood stream.
tFS: How did you settle on the essential oils used in your product line?
HG: I trained in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of using essential oils for multi-dimensional healing. I worked on my formulations for 10 years, testing them out on my clientele — my Alexander Technique "students" — and I refined the formulations to create the final 8 remedies. For example, I use Litsea Cubeba in my Travel Remedy because, according to over 2,000 years of use of this oil in TCM, it has shown to help balance the hormones and help the body adjust to shifts in temperature, climate, and time zone — perfect for a Jet Lag formula!!! I use Basil essential oil in my True Relaxation Muscle Remedy because it works most effectively on the lower back area especially for low back pain, it relaxes the joints and it helps to overcome fear. Most people react to pain with fear, which triggers patterns of body mis-use, excess tension, and shallow breathing, all of which slow the healing process. With essential oils, you can deal with the whole person — what kind of stress they are under and how their injury or illness is affecting their psyche. Mind/body healing is my area of expertise, that's why my True Relaxation Muscle Remedy works so well.
tFS: What made you branch out into skin care?
HG: My skin was a mess! I had to wear heavy foundation every day to cover up the rashes, redness, breakouts and blotchiness. And I wanted people to have access to how essential oils can really help the skin to stay young-looking, supple and problem-free. Most natural products are too harsh for people with sensitive skin and essential oils are commonly used in too high of a concentration. Herbal extracts often contain alcohol or are too stimulating to the delicate dermis that has been over-sensitized because of an overdose of toxins in our atmosphere and our beauty products. I think Clinique had it right — keep it simple and the skin will calm down and you will have loyal followers who realize trying all the latest brands only makes your skin more sensitive and reactive. My idea was to do the organic, toxin-free version of Clinique.
tFS: How is developing a skincare line different from developing your essential oil blends? What were the biggest challenges?
HG: Skin care was easier, but it also took ten years! I like to thoroughly test my products on the end user before I release them.
However, organic essential oils and unprocessed vegetable oils are so good for your skin that they do the work for you. With natural ingredients of such high caliber, you really are getting the best that nature has to offer. There is no chemist that could fabricate the complexity of what an essential oil does once you have absorbed it into your body. With cosmeceuticals, each chemical has to do a different action; with essential oils, and especially those essential oils that come from flowers, they do it all — balance hormones, reduce the stress that is stressing your skin out, heal and rebuild the tissues, give you a heavy dose of anti-oxidants, detox your skin, protect it from the damaging effects of our pollutant rich environment, reduce redness and inflammation — and these are just the generalized benefits of essential oils, each oil ads its own special benefits.
tFS: What are some everyday things people can do to reduce their stress levels?
HG: Exercise, eat right, sleep 8 hours, don't let your mind dwell on your worries and things that aren't important — the obvious stuff — and use essential oils everyday. Use them in your daily routine, in the shower, on your face, at the office, before you work out, after you work out… And, breathe breathe breathe breathe.
The first step towards reducing stress is breathing more efficiently so you can oxygenate your blood and soothe your nervous system, but don't take a deep breath IN, exhale OUT first. Exhale until you feel you have no more air in your lungs and you will automatically breathe in, you can't prevent that. Now exhale again fully, but this time, don't force the air out and you will naturally breathe in again. Now exhale the air out by silently saying the words "lalalala…" or "ah" and you will relax your jaw, throat, tongue, and neck — all the areas where we tense up first. Never let your teeth touch and keep your tongue in the bottom of your mouth, not pressed against the roof of your mouth. Relaxing the jaw and the breathing are basic for helping the whole body relax. If you are at the computer combine this with perching on your sit bones. If you are at home, do this lying down with a pillow under your head and knees bent, feet by your hips.