THE YIN AND YANG OF ESSENTIAL OILS

In the blog post titled “Qi in a Bottle” I explain the meaning of the word qi and how it relates to essential oils. In this post, we will learn how to classify essential oils into yin qi and yang qi and we will discover how this is a useful approach to choosing essential oils for therapeutic benefit.

When we say that essential oils are “qi in a bottle”, we are referring to the vibrational aspect of the oil contained within the bottle. Qi is life force energy and expresses itself through two polarized aspects: yin and yang. Yin is the passive, female, night, moon, soft, water, dark, yielding aspect of energy. Yang is the active, male, day, solar, hard, fire, bright, aggressive aspect of energy. The contrasting patterns of yin and yang form the basis of existence and can be found interacting everywhere within and around us - near and far, light and dark, heaven and earth, electron and neutron, masculine and feminine, happy and sad.  When we smell an essential oil we experience yin and yang through the sense organ of the nose. Yin aromas tend to be nourishing and cooling. They create an inward, downward and relaxing movement.  Yang aromas tend to be more stimulating and warming. They create an outward, upward and exciting movement.  

It’s important to emphasize that yin and yang are not two different kinds of energy. Rather they are different aspects of any given form or space, like two sides of a coin. Let’s look at the symbol of yin and yang pictured below on the left. This is called the taijitu symbol and depicts two fish chasing each other’s tail; one black “yin” fish and one white “yang” fish. Within this simple symbol we can find the principles of yin and yang.

 

1.       The summation of Yin and Yang form a whole. Together the fish form a perfect circle of existence. Yin cannot exist without yang and yang cannot exist without yin. Yin and Yang are interdependent upon each other so that the existence of one requires the existence for the other to be complete. For example: day becomes night and then night becomes day.

2.       Yin and Yang are not static: The fish are always moving. Yin and yang are never fixed, they are constantly in flux and always changing. The shift between night and day happens gradually and continuously. Think of the sun shining on a hill. The sunny side is yang; the shady side is yin. As the sun changes the sunny side becomes shady (yin), and the shady side become sunny (yang).

3.       Yin and yang are transmutable: As the tail of one fish dissipates the head of the other fish begins. As one aspect increases, the other decreases and shifts into the other. Sometimes this can happen very abruptly where the energy flips; our favorite clown fish, Nemo, can turn from a male into a female!

4.       When yang is full, yin is empty. When yin is full yang is empty: When the belly of the fish is full, the tail of the other fish is small.

5.       Yin Yang can be subdivided into additional Yin and Yang aspects. Take water for example, a Yang aspect of heated water can be further subdivided into warm water or boiling water and even hot steam. A Yin aspect of water can be further divided into cool water, cold water to an ice cube.

6.       There is no absolute yin or yang: Notice the white dot in the black fish and the black dot in the white fish. Yin contains yang and yang contains yin. Even the concept of yin and yang should not be attached to as absolute. Before yin and yang existed there was the great void. This state of potential still exists in all of us

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, harmony and health are achieved when conditions arise that yin and yang come into balance. Balancing is not something we can hold onto, it is a constant process of awareness, non-attachment and moving with the flow. Nature is always moving towards balance, from the tiniest shifts of cellular homeostasis to the largest migrations of ecosystems. In our own life we are constantly adapting from morning to night, season to season, emotion to emotion. How we eat, breathe, sleep, think and cope with circumstances creates the dynamic interplay of yin and yang within us. When yin becomes excessive or out of balance, yang becomes weak. When yang becomes excessive, yin becomes weak. If this pattern of disharmony is sustained for too long the results are destruction (excessive yang) or stagnation (excessive yin). On the other hand, the longer we sustain balance, the easier it is to entrain our energy habits to come back to center when we move away from it.

In general, the modern human lifestyle is predominantly yang: we work long hours, subject our eyes to light at night, are externally-future oriented, and consume a lot of caffeine. Regardless of how exciting the yang life may be, the body follows the principles of yin and yang. It’s no surprise that working long hours with little sleep for an extended period of time (a yang lifestyle) can result in a simple headache (a yin condition), chronic fatigue (more yin condition) and eventually a bedridden flu (very yin condition). This is nature’s way to bring the body’s energy back to balance.

Fortunately, nature has also given us many tools to live a healthy, adaptable and clear minded lives. Chinese medicine considers herbs as one of the most powerful applications to assist the body to maintain a state of harmony. Essential oils are the most potent form of herbs and are filled with qi. Understanding the yin and yang vibration of essential oils is a simple and intuitive way to apply them to your wellness lifestyle. Let’s take a closer look.


THE MOST YIN

One of the best examples of a yin essential oil is Vetiver. Vetiver (vetivera zizanioides) is steam distilled from the root of the vetiver grass plant. The roots grow deep in the moist darkness of Mother Earth. The consistency of vetiver oil is thicker than honey and it is difficult to get just a few drops of the oil out of a 15ml bottle. The smell of vetiver is heavy, smoky and earthy. Vetiver is made up of 42% sesquiterpene alcohols that give it anti-inflammatory and cooling properties. In India it is called the oil of tranquility and is used to clear heat, tonify the skin, calm an agitated heart and fortify the stomach and spleen. I use vetiver on my feet and hands before bed as a sleep tonic and it is one off the key oils in doTERRA’s Serenity sleep blend. It’s also wonderful to soothe rashes, skin irritations and to calm stress.


THE NEUTRALS: YANG WITHIN YIN AND YIN WITHIN YANG

Remember, there is no absolute yin and yang. What makes essential oils so magical is their diverse chemistry that contains both yin and yang aspects. In addition to predominately yin and yang oils, there are also what we call neutral oils: some oils that are yang can contain a high amount of yin. Some oils that are yin contain a large amount of yang. This assessment is determined by the polarity of the chemical composition and levels of aroma volatility within the oil.

A great example of a neutral oil is Frankinscense. Essential oil expert Dr. David K. Hill says, “When in doubt, get the frankincense out!” Franki, as we call it in my home, is the crown jewel of essential oils and has a “yang within yin” vibration. It’s balanced temperament along with its unique chemical constitution make it an ideal oil to use for a variety of imbalances whether yin or yang. It is also a wonderful oil to raise our vibration when we are already in balance! It’s no wonder that frankincense has been one off the most valued aromas pre-dating biblical times. Frankincense is made up of 40% monoterpene hydrocarbons which give it a strong yang vibration and its wonderful anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, skin tonifying and immune boosting qualities. The other 60 % include keytones and sesquiterpenes that resonate in the yin frequency and contribute to its ability to strengthen the lungs, uterus and oxygenize the brain. I use Frankincense most often as a qi facial and on sun exposed skin. It’s a wonderful tonic to sooth an upset stomach and of course is a high vibration for meditation and connecting to Source.


THE MOST YANG

On the opposite end of the spectrum a great example of a yang essential oil is Cinnamon. Cinnamon (cinnamomum zeylanicum) is steam distilled from the bark and leaves of the cassia cinnamomum tree. The smell of cinnamon is sweet, spicy and pungent. It is one of the best oils for fighting infection; bacteria, viruses, and fungus cannot live in cinnamon oil. Cinnamon is so hot and dry, that it is a skin irritant and should never be applied directly on the skin without a carrier oil. Cinnamon bark is made up of 75% aldehydes that give it tonifying, stimulating and warming properties. I love to rub cinnamon oil in a coconut carrier on my feet in the winter followed by cozy wool socks to relieve cold feet, boost my immune system and promote blood circulation. I also take a few drops with a shot of water internally when I feel sluggish and am craving sweets.


The concepts listed here are merely a starting point for you to begin a journey into Aroma Qigong. To begin I suggest that you explore the list of essential oils on The Vibration of the 65 Most Used Essential Oils Chart* and experience how the vibration of yin and yang makes you feel. The human body is an intelligent, responsive system that has the power to heal itself and thrive. Tuning into your bodies energy requires nothing more than listening, understanding, compassion, and love. With practice you can become more sensitive to the patterns of yin and yang in your own life and the lives of your loved ones. And of course I always encourage friends and students to use the abundant resources of trained doctors and vibrational medicine professionals all around you; visit your local holistic doctor, acupuncturist or energy healer and cross check their assessment with your own intuition. Like yin and yang, the path of the Dao cannot be defined in words, it is an ongoing process that reveals itself through the direct experience of the extraordinary in the ordinary.

 *For the complete chart of The Vibration of 65 Most Used Essential Oils download it here.


QI IN A BOTTLE

     

     

Energy is the vital, vibrating, moving force of nature that directly influences the quality of our health, happiness and aging process. For ages, cultures around the world have given life energy a name; In India it’s called prana; in Hebrew, ruach; in Greek pneuma; in Hawaiian, mana; in Japanese, ki, and in Chinese it’s called qi (pronounced chee).  Qi is associated with the breath because like the breath, it animates our body and brings it to life. When our vital qi is flowing, we feel healthy. When it is blocked we feel pain. When qi becomes weak, we feel tired. When there is no qi left, the body dies.

Qi, however, is not just relegated to living creatures. Energy takes a multitude of forms and is moving through everything in the universe. A rock, a tree, a thought, an emotion, an atom, and even empty space are all vibrating with qi; it is the pulse that beats our hearts and the pulse of a star. According to most spiritual traditions, when we die, although the vital qi is extinguished, the qi of the spirit passes on to another form, heaven or incarnation. This belief echoes Albert Einstein’s famous quote: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed.”

Essential oils are filled with qi, and at Aroma Qigong we like to call them “Qi in a Bottle”. This does not mean that qi is a thing you can literally hold on to. Daoist scholar Ken Cohen explains this perfectly: “Qi creates life, it is life; but it has no substance, and anything you measure is not it. It never holds still long enough to be measured.” In other words, qi is not the form; it is the quality of movement that animates form, function or space.

Essential oils are Mother Earth’s most potent and refined expression of a plant's qi.  Every essential oil has its own unique vibration that can attune with your own unique vibration to create optimal health, healing and balance. Here’s how:

THE V FACTOR

Essential oils are volatile liquids carefully extracted from the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, fruits and other parts of plants. The word volatile comes from the Latin, volare, meaning “to fly”. Essential oils are volatile because they change quickly from a liquid state to a gas state when exposed to air. When you first open a bottle, you instantly notice that the aroma is potent and you can smell it even from some distance. These molecular messengers are released by the plant as an immune defense system against bacteria, fungus, parasites and harmful insects. The messengers can also be reproductive signals sent out to attract useful insects.  The V factor, the vibration of qi, expresses the chemical message that the plant is sending out. Recall that qi is a function, not a substance. The quality of qi in an essential oil is a powerful aspect of both the oil’s aroma and the benefits it offers. It's something we intuitively and instinctively experience within seconds of contact. Is the message hot, activating, herbaceous, coniferous, minty, medicated, irritating? Or is it cool, calming, floral, fruity, balsamic, resinous, citrusy, earthy, soothing? As we will come to learn, maybe it is a combination of both. 

THE SCIENCE OF ENERGY

Organic chemists are continually studying the science of essential oils to explain their natural health benefits. Essential oil molecular compounds are made up of atoms that are charged through the polarity of electrons, neutron and protons. In his book "Medical Aromatherapy", Kurt Schnaubelt explains how to classify essential oil molecules according to energetic polarities. Molecules that are nucleophilic (yin) give up electrons, while molecules that are electrophilic (yang) take up extra electrons. In general molecules with nucleophilic movement are calming and relaxing.  Molecules with an electrophilic movement are stimulating. Often the molecular make up of an essential oil is a combination of different energetic molecular chains within one structure. An essential oil like frankincense for example, contains both polar opposite electrophilic and nucleophilic molecules, creating a neutral temperament and a balanced yet high vibration. For thousands of years it is has been known that the vibration of frankincense prepares the dense vibration of the physical body to receive the lighter vibration of spirit.

MODERN ALCHEMY

The ancient Chinese could be called the first chemists. They surely were the first alchemists and are famous for Daoist tales of transforming lead into gold with the goal to discover the elixir of immortality. Chinese philosophy believes that since we are all children of Mother Earth there is no better place than to look within our own bodies for answers. So they did! The sages contemplated heaven and earth around them as well as heaven and earth within themselves to gain direct access to the mysteries of life force energy. Their conclusion: Harmony and health are created when conditions arise that energetic polarities come into balance. Alchemists are known to combine two opposing forces to create a third transcendent or refined outcome. This metaphysical principle can be found hidden in the Chinese character for qi.

 
The Chinese character for qi

The Chinese character for qi

The three lines at the top of the character mean steam, or vapor. The character at the bottom means rice. So the character signifies “vapor” or “mist rising off of rice”. Here vapor can also mean breathe. The vapor is the essence of the rice, and rice is nourishment. So the vapor can be understood as the “essence of nourishment” or life force energy. To create steam from rice one must use the polar opposites of fire and water.  So we find that qi is the union of opposites:  heaven (steam) and earth (rice), fire and water.

Steam distillation is the method most commonly used to extract essential oils.  Essential oils are hydrophobic, so they do not mix with water and as we already learned, they are volatile and evaporate easily. In this method fire is used to produce steam from a water chamber. This steam is funneled into a chamber of plant material where the volatile essential oil rises to the top of the chamber and is directed into another chamber where the oil is allowed to cool. In order to preserve the delicate chemical compounds, essential oils are steam distilled at precise temperatures. The oil then rises to the top of the water, where it is easily separated and bottled.  Once again we find the union of the alchemists most prized elements: heaven (steam) and earth (plants), fire and water. Essential oils are truly qi in a bottle!