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Leleshwa: The multi-tasking African healer, you've never heard of.

If there's one thing for which I'll always be grateful, it's that my parents instilled a love of reading at a very early age. I was reading my own bedtime stories by the age of six and as a full fledged geek and member of the Library Council , spent many hours in the libraries at both my school and the main branch of the Free Library.

And while my course work took a bit of a hit after the death of my father as I've spent time transitioning my mother into a life without him; the reading continued. I'd read an article on the train to visit, or read information from National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists (NAHA) on my ipad. Many nights I've read a chapter before bedtime; often falling asleep pages open, head bowed.

That love of essential oils and reading introduced me to my new favorite oil; Leleshwa.

With the growth of the internet and the shrinkage of the world, as we become a global marketplace some oils that were heretofore unknown in the West, are now available.

Leleshwa Tarchonanthus camphoratus is an oil extracted from a tree/shrub that had been considered a weed until it was noticed that black rhinos and cape buffalo rubbed themselves against the plant. When people began wondering why the animals seemingly sought out this shrub, they discovered the animals who had been using Leleshwa as a stationery back scratcher, were relatively tick free. That may explain the another common name "flea bane".

Also known as African camphor bush or African Wild sage, the name Leleshwa is the name given to it by the Maasai. The Latin binomial Tarchonanthus camphoratus actually comes from the Greek; tarchos=funeral, anthos= flower and camphoratus referring to the camphor odor.

The shrub's stems and undersides of leaves are flocked and the seed pods are enshrouded in a cotton covering, which explains why in some areas it's called wild cotton. This "cotton" was used by indigenous people to stuff mattresses, providing the bedding with a softness that helped repel insects with a fragrance that promoted a deep sleep sans nightmares.

The wood has a gorgeously striated grain and has been used in both the creation of instruments and employed in building as it appears to deter termites.

It wasn't long after reading about the benefits, that I decided I needed to try this oil myself.

Distilled, this oil still retains the ability to keep ticks, mosquitoes and tsetsy flies away, which makes it perfect for those on safari, hikers or even those lounging on a patio who want to eschew synthetics and chemicals for a natural bug repellent.

As a member of the Asteracea family, Leleshwa also offers some of the same the skin healing properties as its cousins Helichrysum and Chamomile. Add to that it's ability to calm like Palo Santo and work as an anti-fungal like Teatree, this one oil is the perfect multi-tasker to add to you essential oil first aid kit.

Tarchonanthus camphoratus wood

Leleshwa is a natural antiseptic, anti-fungal, antiviral, disinfectant, deodorant, psoriasis, insecticide that supports the immune system and the respiratory system. It can be used to relieve headaches, relieve stuffed sinuses, assist with joint an muscle stiffness in a massage, used in your DIY natural cleaners, kill head lice and at concentrations of .5% (3 drops in 1 ounce carrier oil/aqueous cream/lotion) can repel mosquitoes naturally and more effectively than synthetic repellents for up to 6 hours. It can also help you get a deep and restful sleep and relieve headaches. It can be used in compresses to treat wounds, quell the itching and redness of psoriasis, dermatitis, can be diffused to clear both negative energy and deodorize the air in a stagnant room and and help to extend the shelf life of you handcrafted natural products.

Pregnant women can use this at a concentration of 1% (6 drops in 1 ounce of carrier oil) after the first trimester, and it can be used on children at the same concentration above the age of 4. This is not an oil I would recommend using neat at it may cause burns, but whether you're using it for it's relaxing properties, in a bath, to soothe tired feet and legs or for it's myriad of other benefits, I hope you'll get to know this hidden gem that has jumped to my short list of favorites.

Disclaimer: Statements contained within my blog and on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information is not intended to treat or address any specific medical condition. For treatment of health ailments, please seek diagnosis and recommendation of a licensed physician.

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