Reflections from the Iris Respite House Healing Gardens – February 2023

Except for some winter pruning, I haven’t been in the garden much, and I’ve missed it. Most of
my time has been occupied with indoor tasks and planning for next season. Many, many
gardeners veg out (no pun intended) with seed catalogues about this time of year to start planning
their crops. For us, curling up with a cup of hot tea and a pile of seed catalogues qualifies as
indoor nature therapy. For gardeners and non-gardeners alike though, wintertime nature therapy
outside is limited. Granted, you can enjoy the snow, but the outside world is just not as hospitable
in winter, especially to the troubled soul. When we aren’t feeling well, or our spirits are heavy, its
often being enveloped in the restorative power of nature that people turn to for recentering. We
seek the natural world to chase away the blues, calm, soothe, clear our heads, feel safer, more
grounded, or even more loved, and pray. It’s therapeutic, whether you call it that or not. Even
people who turn from conventional worship often find themselves in a state of worship when
surrounded by the awesome beauty of nature.

This got me thinking, when it’s inhospitable outside, what other forms can nature therapy take?
My answer: essential oils. If you’re not up to braving the cold, and miss connecting with the
plants outdoors, I highly recommend the therapeutic world of essential oils. I could write pages
upon pages about the benefits of essential oils; you just have to trust them. One that’s been
especially beneficial to me is frankincense. Just a few drops will act to cleanse my energy of
unwanted anxiety and negativity. More simply put, it can help make me feel a lot better, in a very
gentle way.

I’ve been writing about healing plants now for over a year. We’ve focused on ones that help reduce
anxiety, calm the digestive system, support the respiratory system, boost energy levels, strengthen
the immune system and adapt to stress. Like holy basil, frankincense adds a higher dimension.
The tree both means, and is used to aid in, sanctity-defined as the state or quality of being holy,
sacred or saintly. It’s been used as a part of religious ceremonies for thousands of years. It’s an
ingredient in the old testament’s recipe for holy incense (Exodus 30:34). And, it was one of the 3
gifts of the wise men to the Christ child (Matthew 2:11). Two thousand years ago, it was as
valuable as gold, making it a very nice gift.

The frankincense tree grows native in the limestone rich soil of the peninsular countries Oman,
Yemen and Somalia, and it’s in short supply. The essential oil is derived from the tree’s resin, a
milky white sap, burned as incense. The tree bark is wounded twice a year, the resin oozes out,
hardens, and then is harvested. The energy of frankincense essential oil has such a high vibration
that it is known to have a cleansing and purifying effect on the mind and spirit, which I can attest
to personally. It is highly recommended for use as an aid in prayer and meditation. I’ll say that
word again: highly. Any spiritual path worth its salt usually involves an arduous process of
purification, and frankincense can be a good friend in that and you don’t even have to leave your
house! In past years, during some difficult and trying seasons, more than once, I’ve found myself
in treatment for depression and anxiety. Speaking from that frame of reference, the therapeutic
effects of the essential oil of frankincense have been, for me, better than a lot of that treatment. If
that isn’t some powerful nature therapy indoors, I don’t know what is.