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MoonDragon's Health & Wellness
Nutrition Basics


(Anchusa Officinalis, Alkanna Tinctoria, Batschia Canescens, )

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  • Alkanet Description
  • Alkanet Uses, Health Benefits & Scientific Evidence
  • Alkanet Dosage Information
  • Alkanet Safety, Cautions & Interactions
  • Alkanet Supplements & Products

  • common alkanet



    Alkanet refers to any plant of the 50 or so mostly Mediterranean species of the genus Anchusa and the closely related Pentaglottis sempervirens, bearing blue, purple, or white forget-me-not-like flower clusters on hairy, herbaceous stems. They belong to the Borage amily Boraginaceae. True Alkanet (A. officinalis) bears purple flowers in coiled sprays, on narrow-leaved plants, 60 cm (2 feet) tall. Large Blue Alkanet (A. azurea), popular as a garden species, reaches 120 cm (4 feet) and has large, bright-blue flowers with a tuft of white hairs in the throats, and narrow leaves. Oval, pointed evergreen leaves and white-eyed blue flowers characterize the Evergreen Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens), which reaches 100 cm (3 1/3 feet). All three species grow in fields and roadside waste spaces. True Alkanet has become naturalized in some areas of eastern North America.

    Alkanet is the common name of several related plants in the Borage family (Boraginaceae):
    • Alkanet or Dyers Bugloss, Alkanna tinctoria, the source of a red, purple to blue dye depending on pH; this is the plant most commonly called simply "alkanet".
    • Various other plants of the Alkanna genus may be informally called alkanet.
    • Alkanet or common bugloss, Anchusa officinalis.
    • Bastard Alkanet or field gromwell, Lithospermum arvense
    • False Alkanet, Anchusa barrelieri.
    • Green Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens, a blue-flowered plant with evergreen leaves.
    • Alkanet or , Batschia canescens.

    alkanna tinctoria

    ALKANET - DYERS BUGLOSS (Alkanna Tinctoria)

    Alkanet or Dyers' Bugloss (Alkanna tinctoria) is also known as Batschia canescens, Hoary Puccoon, and Lithospermum canescens. It is a plant in the borage family whose roots are used as a red dye. The plant is also known as orchanet, Spanish bugloss or Languedoc bugloss. It is native in the Mediterranean region. Alkanet (Alkanna tinctoria) is cultivated in Central and Southern Europe for its dye, which is readily extracted by oils and spirit of wine.

    Alkanna tinctoria has a bright blue flower. The plant has a dark red root of blackish appearance externally but blue-red inside, with a whitish core. The root produces a fine red coloring material which has been used as a dye in the Mediterranean region since antiquity. The root as a dyestuff is soluble in alcohol, ether, and the oils, but is insoluble in water. It is used to give color to wines and alcoholic tinctures, to vegetable oils, and to varnishes. Powdered and mixed with oil, the alkanet root is used as a wood stain. When mixed into an oily environment it imparts a crimson color to the oil, which, when applied to a wood, moves the wood color towards dark-red-brown rosewood, and accentuates the grain of the wood. About 8 to 10 tons were annually imported from France and Germany as well. The plant is sometimes also cultivated in Britain, but by far the greater portion of the Alkanet used here is imported either from the Levant or from the neighbourhood of Montpellier, in France.

    Alkanet root is employed in pharmacy as a natural dyeing agent as it imparts a ruby red color to salves and ointments, lipstick and lip balms, soaps, lotions, oils, vinegar, tinctures, wine, or varnishes. It is used in staining wood in imitation of rosewood, or mahogany. This is done by rubbing it with oil in which the Alkanet root has been soaked. It was used to improve the appearance of low quality wines and ports, and to give an aged appearance to wine corks. However, Alkanet root is now mainly used as a dyeing agent, and is not recommended for internal use. In soap, Alkanet root will yield shades of pink, blue, ad purple, depending upon the amount used, types of oils used, and the alkalinity of the soap.

    For oil based products, infuse oil by placing approximately one tablespoon in 1/4 cup of oil. Shake or stir daily for a few days, then strain out the root. Heat may be used to help speed up the process. Ratio of Alkanet to oil will need to be altered according to product being made. Adjust amounts as necessary.

    Alkanet is traditionally used in Indian food under the name "Ratan Jot", and lends its red color to some versions of the curry dish Rogan Josh. In Australia alkanet is approved for use as a food coloring, but in the European Union it is not. It has been used as colorant for lipstick and rouge (cosmetics).

    In alkali environments the alkanet dye has a blue color, with the color changing again to crimson on addition of an acid. Hence, it can be used to do alkali-acid litmus tests (but the usual litmus test paper does not use alkanet as the agent). The coloring agent in Alkanna tinctoria root has been chemically isolated and named alkannin.

    Alkanet Root (Batschia canescens is used in dyeing natural fabrics. The dye produces purples and purple grey depending on mordant that is used and the water ph. Alkanet dye recipees are usually not listed in some natural dye books. Alkanet Root dye can not be dissolved in water. To extract the dye, place ground alkanet in a piece of muslin or muslin bag, tie closed tightly with string, soak the alkanet root packet in rubbing alcohol that is placed in a tightly covered plastic or non reactive bucket. The alcohol will evaporate if not covered. Let this sit over night. The dye liquid can be then be added to the water dye bath and proceed as you would with a regular dye. Be careful as alcohol is flammable. You can save the dye package and add more alcohol to extract more dye until the dye is exhausted.

    In English in the late medieval era, the name alkanet meant Alkanna tinctoria. In the centuries since then, the name has come to be used informally for some botanically related other plants.

  • Description Medicinal Parts: The medicinal part is the root of the plant (the dried roots and rhizomes).
  • Flower & Fruit: The calyx is 4 to 5 mm in the flower, 5 to 6 mm in the fruit and eglandular. The corolla is blue and glabrous outside. The funnel is as long as or slightly longer than the calyx. The limb is 6 to 7 mm in diameter. There are 5 stamens, and the anthers are fused with the corolla tube. The nutlets are 2 mm in diameter, irregularly reticulate and tuberculate.
  • Leaves, Stem, & Root: Alkanet is a short-bristled, perennial half-rosette shrub. The stems are 10 to 20 cm, procumbent or ascending and glandular. The basal leaves are 6 to 15 cm by 0.7 to 1.5 cm, linear-lanceolate; the lower ones are cauline, oblong-linear and cordate at base. The bracts are slightly longer than calyx and oblong-lanceolate. The neck of the root is covered with the remains of leaves and the stems. The root is spindle-shaped, curved, up to 25 cm long and 1.5 cm thick, with purplish root bark.
  • Habitat: The plant is indigenous to southeastern Europe and some parts of Turkey and Hungary. It is cultivated in other parts of Europe, Britain, and northern Africa.
  • Production: Alkanna rhizomes are the dried roots and rhizomes of Alkanna tinctoria Tausch.
  • Actions & Pharmacology Compounds: Naphthazarine derivatives: including the ester of the (-)-alkannin (stained red). Pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Tannins.
  • Effects Antimicrobial Action: In the agar diffusion test, Alkanet root extracts and Alkannin esters impaired the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis, however Alkannin worked only against Candida albicans. In a double-blind study, 72 patients suffering from ulcers of the leg (Ulcus cruris) caused by varicose veins, were treated with Histoplastin Red over a period of 3 years. After 5 to 6 weeks of daily administration, 80 percent of the patients' ulcers had healed or were considerably reduced in size. The results are difficult to assess, as details concerning the patients, the treatment pattern, and control groups are unavailable. Used by the ancient Greeks to heal wounds; also for skin diseases and diarrhea.

    Though Alkanet imparts a fine deep red color to oily substances and to spirit of wine, it tinges water with a dull brownish hue. Wax tinged with Alkanet, and applied to the surface of warm marble, stains it flesh-color and sinks deep into the stone. It is also used in coloring spurious 'port-wine,' for which purpose it is perfectly harmless.

    common alkanet

    ALKANET - COMMON ALKANET - BUGLOSS (Anchusa Officinalis)

    The British species, the Common Alkanet (A. officinalis), is a biennial or perennial herb with a strong main root and grows to a height of 12 to 32 inches, and flowers from June to July. It is a member of the Borage family (Boraginaceae) and is also known as Bugloss and Alkanet. The name Alkanet comes from the Arabic word alhinna, or henna in English, due to the red dye in its roots. 19th century herbalists used a decoction of the leaves and root for treating coughs and chest congestion. They used the juice of this plant as a remedy for pleurisy. French ladies of the day colored their faces with an ointment containing anchusa and the color did not last long. A tea made from Alkanet leaves was used to cure melancholy and hypochondriac type conditions. Alkanet has expectorant, diuretic, astringent, purgative, blood tonic, and demulcent properties.

    common alkanet - anchusa officinalis

  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic) (wheel-shaped-bell-shaped), 8 to 12 mm (0.3 to 0.45 inch) wide, initially red, later dark purple, fused, 5-lobed. Corolla tube longer than calyx, straight, mouth with large white protuberances. Calyx fused, bell-shaped, from midway almost to the base 5-lobed, densely hairy. Calyx lobes narrowly triangular, sharp-pointed. Stamens 5. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence a scorpioid cyme. All flowers with supporting leaves.
  • Leaves: Alternate. Basal leaves stalked, stalks winged. Stem leaves stalkless with broad attachment. Blade elliptic, hairy, entire-wavy-edged.
  • Fruit: 4-parted schizocarp. Mericarps elliptic, oblique, brown, granular surface, approx. 4 mm (0.15 inch) long.
  • Habitat: Loading places, yards, wasteland, roadsides, beside fields. Also ornamental and escape.
  • Flowering Time: June through August.
  • Endangerment: Near threatened.
  • (Common) bugloss comes from the steppes of South-Eastern Europe. Its seeds have originally adapted to be spread by ants, but in Finland, for example, the species has arrived with human help. It established itself mainly in South-western Finland, in village roadsides, yards and ruins, when it was long ago cultivated for its medicinal properties. Bugloss was used as a sedative and analgesic, and in larger doses as a laxative, and young leaves can also be chopped into salads or prepared like spinach. Nowadays the species is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant due to its beautiful flowers. The corolla mouth of many Borage family plants is almost closed by protuberances, scales or hairs, which manifest as a clear difference in color in bugloss flowers. The point of this construction is to guide the proboscis of pollinating insects into the nectar in such a way that it unavoidably touches both the stigma and the stamen. Their unusual pale color also means that they are clearly efficient signs for nectar. The funnel on bugloss corollas is longer than e.g. that of its forget-me-not or hound's tongue relations, so the flower’s stores of nectar are only available to long-tongued insects.

  • The scientific name for the bugloss family has a long history. In ancient Greece the name Anchusa was used for many borage family plants - although not for buglosses whose name is derived from the Greek for ox's tongue, Buglosson. Linne, who gave the plant its modern scientific name, intentionally deviated from the former understanding. The other bugloss that grows in Finland is small bugloss (A. arvensis), which has small, blue, horn-shaped flowers.

    Alkanet tea is still used today in folk medicine for treating melancholy. The tea is also used to ease coughs and bronchitis, and helps break up phlegm. Alkanet tea also promotes sweating for the purpose of breaking a fever. In homeopathy, this plant is used in the treatment of stomach and duodenal ulcers. Externally, Alkanet is used to soften and soothe skin, and in treating cuts, bruises, and phlebitis. Alkanet comes in various forms and is an ingredient in many products. There are no known safety issues associated with Alkanet when taken in the recommended doses.

    bastard alkanet - lithospermum arvense

    BASTARD ALKANET - FIELD / CORN GROMWELL (Lithospermum Arvense)

    Lithospermum arvense (Field Gromwell, Corn Gromwell, Bastard Alkanet) is a flowering plant of the Borage family Boraginaceae. It is also known as Buglossoides arvensis. It is native to Europe and Asia, as far north as Korea, Japan and Russia, and as far south as Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. It is known in other places as an introduced species, including much of North America and Australia. This is an annual herb with a strong brown taproot, a source of reddish-violet dye. The plant grows to a height of 6 to 18 inches with a sparsely branced upper stem, hair growing upwards flush with stem and reddish base.

  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), 3 mm (0.12 inch) wide. Corolla yellowish white, fused, narrowly funnel-shaped, 5-lobed, hairy. Upper part of calyx-tube bluish. Calyx fused, deeply 5-lobed, lobes narrow, needle-like. Stamens 5. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence a scorpioid cyme, flowers with subtending bracts, subtending bracts resemble stem leaves.
  • Leaves: Alternate. Basal leaves stalked, winged, upper stem leaves stalkless. Blade narrowly spatulate - ovate - lanceolate, with entire margin, both sides hairy.
  • Fruit: 4-parted schizocarp. Mericarps greyish brown, with granular surface, 2 to 3.5 mm (0.08 to 0.14 inch) long.
  • Habitat: Grain fields, rocky outcrops in villages, waste ground, harbors, loading areas, railway yards.
  • Flowering Time: June to July.
  • Endangerment: Endangered.
  • Genus Lithospermum contains around 50 species. Its scientific name literally means stone-seed, and there was no need to explain why to anyone who had ever bitten down upon one: the bread that ancient Finns ate often contained corn gromwell's rock-hard seeds. A purple dye could also be obtained from the root, and women would use this e.g. as rouge. It has a long tradition of being used in this way - at least 20,000 years according to finds. Despite this endearing usage, the species has primarily been a weed in Finland.

  • Like many other field weeds, L. Arvense is a follower of rye. Nowadays it is much rarer than it used to be and has almost disappeared in many areas, mainly due to changes in methods of agriculture. Its decline began with the development of land-use methods and more efficient seed-cleaning. Mechanical ploughs, field fertilization and weedkillers made sure of its disappearance. Like many other field weeds it is probably native to the steppes of south-eastern Europe, although this is only an educated guess. It spread all over Europe with the grain trade and reached Finland in the Middle Ages at the latest. It still clings on tenaciously on rocky outcrops and beside roads in south-western Finland. Even rarer than L. Arvense is L. Officinale (Common Gromwell), which grows in southern Finland. It can be recognized by the fact that is abundantly haired, and by its shiny china-white carpels.

    false alkanet - anchusa barrelieri


    Anchusa barrelieri, Barrelier's bugloss or false alkanet, is a species of plant in the Borage (Boraginaceae) plant family. It is sometimes used as an ornamental plant. No references have been found on being edible. A. barrelieri is a perennial. Very little information is available regarding this species.

    green alkanet - pentaglottis sempervirens

    GREEN ALKANET - EVERGREEN BUGLOSS (Pentaglottis Sempervirens)

    (Green Alkanet is also known as Pentaglottis viridis. Binomial name Pentaglottis sempervirens L.)

    Pentaglottis sempervirens (green alkanet, evergreen bugloss or alkanet) is a bristly, perennial plant native to Western Europe. It grows to approximately 60 cm (24 inches) to 90 cm (36 inches) in height, usually in damp or shaded places and often close to buildings. It has brilliant blue flowers, and retains its green leaves through the winter. It is suitable for light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH is acid, neutral and basic soils, although the plant has difficulty growing in acidic soil (it is calcicolous). It can grow in full shade (deep woodland), semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. Note that the name "Alkanet" is also used for Dyer's Bugloss (Alkanna tinctoria) and Common Bugloss (Anchusa officinalis). Green Alkanet is an introduced species in the UK, meaning it is not native. Plants can self-sow to the point of nuisance. The tap-root is brittle and resprouts readily making eradication difficult.

    The Evergreen Alkanet (A. sempervireus) is also found in Great Britain. This is a stout bristly plant, with deep green, ovate leaves, and long-stalked axillary, crowded clusters of rather large flowers, which are of an intense azure blue and have a short tube to the corolla. It is not generally considered a native, but it is not an uncommon hedgeplant in Devonshire. It is a perennial and flowers from May to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects. It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. The genus name Pentaglottis is Greek, meaning "five tongues", and the species name sempervirens is Latin, and means "always alive", or "evergreen". The flowers are edible and are eaten raw. They have a mild flavor and mucilaginous texture and are mainly used as an ornament in fruit drinks and salads. No medicinal uses are known.

    yellow alkanet - anchusa ochroleuca


    Alkanets have been grown for the dye their roots produce which has been used as a substitute for henna. The name Alkanet is believed to have come from the Arabic Al-hinna, which refers to the dying properties of the plant. The true Alkanet is said to be Anchusa officinalis (anchousa comes from the Greek meaning to paint). Alkanets are members of the Boraginaceae family of plants to which borage (goazban) belongs.

    Tisanes of the leaves and roots are thought to relieve persistent coughs and promote sweating during fevers. They are also supposed to be able to lift depression and banish melancholia. The expressed juice from this alkanet was good they say for pleurisy. The tisane can be used on the skin for any irritation or rash and soothes and softens it. It can also be used as an astringent for wounds. In traditional medicine it is used as a blood purifier to expel toxins from the body with its diuretic action.


    The leaves and young tops of this true alkanet are used like spinach both cooked and in salads although it is advisable to blanch them for a minute before draining and rinsing in cold water. Alkanet leaves and flowers can be dried and used in pot pourris and the fresh leaves smell a little like wild strawberries. Alkanets typically have blue or violet flowers which are a little like the more common Forget-Me-Nots (in the UK). There are about 50 plants in this species, most of which are indigenous to the Mediterranean region.

    There is an evergreen Alkanet called green alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens, (roughly translated meaning five tongued, living for ever). This is one's flowers are used for decorating cocktails and salads.

    Alkanna tinctoria has anti-bacterial and astringent qualities and can help to staunch the blood flow from fresh cuts. Externally it is used for varicose veins, ulcers, itchiness and other skin irritation. The roots of tinctoria produce a red dye and it has been used for lipsticks, lip balms and soap.


    Dioscorides believed (1st century AD) that the plant was useful for snake bites, while Culpeper (17th century) believed that a decoction in wine would strengthen the back and stop back pains. He also said that it was good to get rid of internal worms. He also recommended it for chicken pox, measles, bruises and wounds. He says that it was good for leprosy too, and "yellow jaundice, spleen and gravel in the kidneys", so the plant used to be something of a cure all in Britain, where it is also known as Bugloss, Anchusa and Orchanet.

    Alkanna orientalis has yellow flowers and grows in the Indian subcontinent including in Pakistan. It has much the same properties and has been used for similar illnesses as those already described. The root of this alkanet may be what gives Indian food its red color, as it seems that the root is ground is grown in Kashmir and used to colour food such as Rogan Josh. At one time in Europe it was used as a dye to make wood look as though it was the more expensive rosewood or mahogany. Clearly it had a lot of uses, and it is still cultivated for the dye it produces.



    Alkanet tea is still used today in folk medicine for treating melancholy. The tea is also used to ease coughs and bronchitis, and helps break up phlegm. Alkanet tea also promotes sweating for the purpose of breaking a fever. In homeopathy, this plant is used in the treatment of stomach and duodenal ulcers. Externally, Alkanet is used to soften and soothe skin, and in treating cuts, bruises, and phlebitis.

    Alkanet root is primarily used as a dyeing and coloring agent, especially for fabrics, soap, and lip balm.

    Alkanet root is primarily used as a natural dyeing agent, and it imparts a ruby red color to natural fibers, wool, wood, stone, lip balm, lipstick, ointments, salve, soap, lotion, and to tint oils, vinegar, tinctures, varnishes, or wine. In the past, Alkanet root was used to improve the appearance of low quality wines and ports, and to give an aged appearance to wine corks. However, Alkanet root is now mainly used as a dyeing agent, and is not recommended for internal use. In soap, Alkanet root will yield shades of pink, blue, and purple, depending upon the amount used, types of oil used, and the alkalinity of the soap.

    Culpepper says: 'It is an herb under the dominion of Venus, and indeed one of her darlings, though somewhat hard to come by. It helps old ulcers, hot inflammations, burnings by common fire and St. Anthony's fire... for these uses your best way is to make it into an ointment also if you make a vinegar of it, as you make a vinegar of roses, it helps the morphy and leprosy... it helps the yellow jaundice, spleen, and gravel in the kidneys. Dioscorides saith, it helps such as are bitten by venomous beasts, whether it be taken inwardly or applied to the wound, nay, he saith further, if any that hath newly eaten it do but spit into the mouth of a serpent, the serpent instantly dies... It also kills worms. Its decoction made in wine and drank, strengthens the back, and easeth the pains thereof. It helps bruises and falls, and is as gallant a remedy to drive out the smallpox and measles as any is; an ointment made of it is excellent for green wounds, pricks or thrusts.'



    Alkanet comes in various forms and is an ingredient in many products. For best results, read and follow product label directions.

    Alkanet root is the part used in traditional dye crafts. It is not recommended for internak use. For external use only. Do not apply to broken or abraded skin. Do not use when nursing.

    For oil based products, infuse oil by placing approximately 1 tablespoon in 1/4 cup of oil. Shake or stir daily for a few days, then strain out the root. Heat may be used to help speed up the process. Ratio of Alkanet to oil will need to be altered according to product being made. Adjust amounts as necessary.



    Alkanet (Batschia canescens / Lithospermum canescens / Dyers Bugloss) is for external use only. Do not apply to broken or abraded skin. Do not use when nursing.

    There are no known safety issues associated with Alkanet (Anchusa officinalis) when taken in the recommended doses.

    There are many species of Alkanet plants. Be sure you known which species you are working with. Some are edible and some are not and useful for making dyes and other purposes. Research your plant before making any medicinal remedies and taking it internally or applying it externally. For any herbal supplements, follow usage directions.


  • Alkanet Herbal Products


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    Alkanet root is primarily used as a natural dying agent, and it imparts a ruby red color to natural fibers, wool, wood, stone, lip balm, lipstick, ointments, salve, soap, lotion, and to tint oils, vinegar, tinctures, varnishes, or wine. In the past, Alkanet root was used to improve the appearance of low quality wines and ports, and to give an aged appearance to wine corks. However, Alkanet root is mainly used as a dying agent now, and is not recommended for internal use. In soap, Alkanet root will yield shades of pink, blue, and purple, depending upon the amount used, types of oil used, and the alkalinity of the soap.


    Starwest Botanicals: Alkanet Root (Alkanna Tinctoria), Cut & Sifted, Wildcrafted, 1 lb.


    Kalyx: Alkanet Root (Alkanna Tinctoria), Cut & Sifted, Starwest Botanicals, 1 lb. (C)


    Amazon: Alkanet Herbal Products

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  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: The Micronutrients: Vitamins & Minerals
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Avoid Overcooking Your Foods
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Phytochemicals
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Increase Your Consumption of Raw Produce
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Limit Your Use of Salt
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Use Proper Cooking Utensils
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Choosing The Best Water & Types of Water


  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Information Index
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  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Therapy: Preparing Produce for Juicing
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Information: Food Additives Index
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  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy For Back Pain
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  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Chart of Essential Oils #1
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Chart of Essential Oils #2
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Tips
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Uses
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health Index
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  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health: Touch & Movement Therapies Index
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health Therapy: Touch & Movement: Aromatherapy
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  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health: Therapeutic Massage
  • MoonDragon's Holistic Health Links Page 1
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  • MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Nutrition Basics Index
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  • MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Therapy - Herbal Oils Index

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