What do flowers mean to you? Freshness? Probably. Romance? In some cases. Beauty? All the time. These are edifying attributes. They contribute to an indefinable feeling of happiness. In short, flowers make us feel good.
But ‘feeling good’ is an emotional state of mind. Something airy-fairy that can’t be defined. So it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that flowers can contribute something rather more physical to our wellbeing.
Essential oils of flowers have been used for years in alternative therapies, says aromatherapist Blossom Kochhar. They can heal problems ranging from stress to infections. But even medical science of the allopathic kind is enthusiastic about flowers, as Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, head, internal medicine, Max Healthcare, Delhi, says. “A lot of research has gone into it and you’ll find flowers in several creams, lotions and even capsules and tablets.”
Here are four flowers and the benefits they provide.
The seeds of the evening primrose are used to produce evening primrose oil, an excellent source of the omega-6 essential fatty acid. This is used for several skin disorders, and may also help prevent diseases involving the breasts and central nervous system. Studies have shown that oral supplements containing this oil can help inflammatory skin conditions including eczema, and atopic dermatitis.
“Primrose oil is also beneficial for pre menstrual syndrome (PMS) and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is easily available in capsule form,” says Dr Budhiraja.
Aside from its health benefits, says Dr Shushant Shetty, vice president, beauty services, at the beauty chain VLCC, evening primrose oil has good cosmetic uses. “It helps cure acne scars, dry eyes and dry skin, and also contributes to strong and healthy hair and younger looking skin,” he says.
Doctors recommend sunflower oil as a cooking medium because sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. “Vitamin E also plays an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease,” says Dr Budhiraja.
The vitamin E content is also useful if you have acne, because it soothes several types of skin irritations. “Like every other oil, sunflower oil helps the skin retain moisture. What sets sunflower oil apart, however, is that it provides the skin with a natural barrier against bacteria and other irritants that are at the root of most blemish issues” says Suparna Trikha, a natural beauty expert.
“That’s why sunflower oil can be found in skin care products such as soaps, body wash and lotions,” adds Dr Shetty.
Commonly known as the English marigold, calendula is particularly remarkable in the treatment of wounds. That’s because it contains chemicals that increase blood flow to the affected area, and promote the production of collagen proteins.
“Calendula petals have anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antiseptic (antibacterial and antiviral) properties, and may even offer immune-stimulating actions,” says Dr Amrit Kalsi, senior medical officer (homeopathy), Delhi government. “Astringent actions promote healing. Moreover, it can reduce the swelling and itching associated with insect bites and may even help to prevent infection due to its antimicrobial actions.”
The dried petals of the calendula plant are used in tinctures, ointments, and washes to speed the healing of burns, bruises, and cuts. It is also drunk as a tea for gastro-intestinal disorders. “This tea can be refrigerated and used to take care of nappy rashes and sunburns,” adds Suparna.
Says Blossom Kochhar, “Add marigold flowers to your bath water as they are effective for broken veins as well as certain types of acne.”
While essential oils from geranium leaves are known for their toning, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial strengths, geranium can also help relax tight muscles. “Add the geranium flower to bath water as it helps improve circulation. Besides this, it is widely used in hand and body lotions and moisturisers,” says Blossom.
The oil of the geranium makes a good astringent. “It also has great antiseptic properties and restores the balance to dry or oily skin and hair. You can also make a tea with the leaves and flowers. Geranium is perfect for making face creams and if you add oatmeal to it, you get an excellent body scrub,” reveals Suparna.
The geranium also has soothing qualities and helps relieve symptoms of anxiety and insomnia as well as PMS. It is reputed to help heal bruises, sunburns and varicose veins too.