Essential oils are most commonly associated with aromatherapy and they have a wide range of benefits, from the physical to the emotional. We’ve put together an essential guide on what you need to know.
Aromatherapy and Essential Oils
Aromatherapy works in a number of ways. To start with, the skin absorbs approximately the same amount of substances that the digestive system does in one day. In this way, the skin provides a direct link to the bloodstream for the substances in essential oils to take effect on the body. Inhaling essential oils creates an emotional response from the limbic system located within the brain and also a systemic physical response. As well as healing and tonifying the internal organs, essential oils can do the same for all of the systems of the body. In this way, it is able to treat a range of physical ailments.
Essential oils can also be used to guide and change moods, heal emotions, and enable the deep healing and transformation of a person. They can be used to rebalance weaknesses in the aura and re-align the electromagnetic fields in the body.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are concentrated oils that contain volatile aroma compounds from plants. They are also referred to as volatile oils, ethereal oils, or as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted such as oil of clove. The term “essential” simply means that the oil has a distinctive scent of the plant. Essential oils are extracted from plants by a number of means including distillation, expression, and solvent extraction.
Essential Oils and Carrier Oils
Because essential oils are so concentrated, they generally should not be applied to the skin in an undiluted form. This is because they can cause irritation or even provoke allergic reactions. Rather, they are blended with a carrier oil before being used. A common ratio of essential oil to carrier oil is 0.5 to 3 percent. Most are less than ten percent. The ratio will depend on the purpose of the oil.
Carrier oils are most often cold-pressed vegetable oils that come from the fatty portions of the plant. Unlike essential oils, carrier oils do not evaporate or have a strong odour. The most common carrier oils used are:
- sweet almond
- apricot kernel
- macadamia nut
- evening primrose
- wheat germ
Mineral oil is not used in aromatherapy as it is not a natural product and can actually block the absorption of essential oil into the skin.
Carrier oils, as well as carrying essential oils, have a range of health benefits of their own. They contain vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, and many carrier oils actually soften and improve the condition of the skin. Some of them are also fantastic for treating skin conditions such as eczema, and psoriasis, as well as helping to reduce wrinkles and scar tissue.
While essential oils do not go rancid, carrier oils can. It is best to buy carrier oils that are natural and unadulterated, with the exception of those that have natural vitamin E added as vitamin E acts as a natural preservative. Where possible, buy an unrefined oil, rather than a refined one.
Properties of Essential Oils
Essential oils have a huge range of uses and we have put together a short guide on which essential oils are good for what use. Please be advised that this is by no means an extensive list!
- Analgesic – bergamot, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, peppermint
- Antibacterial – cypress, lavender, lime, rosemary, tea tree, thyme
- Antidepressant – basil, clary sage, geranium, ylang ylang, rose, neroli
- Antifungal – lavender, lemongrass, lime, tea tree
- Anti-inflammatory – bergamot, chamomile, lavender
- Antiseptic – basil, eucalyptus, fennel, geranium, lemon, peppermint, tea tree
- Antispasmodic – aniseed, clary sage, bergamot, fennel, lavender, marjoram
- Concentration – basil, lemon, rosemary
- Digestive – basil, chamomile, fennel, ginger, mandarin, peppermint
- De-stressing – bergamot, lemongrass, patchouli, petitgrain, rosewood
- Detoxifier – basil, fennel, juniper, lemon, rosemary
- Energising – basil, lemon, peppermint, rosemary
- Insect repellent – cedarwood, citronella, eucalyptus, lemongrass, tea tree
- Nerve relaxant – basil, clary sage, marjoram, melissa, neroli, vetiver
- Insomnia relief – basil, chamomile, lavender, neroli
- Relaxing – bergamot, clary sage, frankincense, jasmine, lavender, patchouli
- Stimulant – aniseed, cypress, lemon, fennel, peppermint, rosemary, thyme
- Tonic – basil, fennel, ginger, grapefruit, rose, sandalwood, thyme, vetiver
- Warming – ginger, marjoram
- Wound healing – bergamot, chamomile, geranium, lavender, tea tree
Bath and Massage Oils
It is easy to make your own bath and massage oils. They are made by adding the essential oils to a carrier oils. Use cobalt or amber glass for your oils and keep out of direct sunlight. Do not use plastic bottles. It is also best not to store your oils in the bathroom due to the amount of heat that is produced by showering etc.
Essential oils added to a bath are a great way to enjoy their therapeutic benefits. Using a carrier oils help the essential oils to disperse throughout the water and onto your body. A lighter oil is best as they will disperse more readily. Simply add about two teaspoons of bath oil to the water.
Massage oils can be made using many different carrier oils, so it is best to choose the oil based on what you want from it. A lighter oil will readily absorb into the skin while a heavier oil will remain on top of the skin. You can also choose the carrier based on the part of the body to be massaged. For example, jojoba oil is perfect for the face while sweet almond oil is perfect for a foot massage.
Vaporising Essential Oils
The most often used method of vaporising essential oils is through the use of an oil burner. These work by using a candle to heat a suspended dish that contains about ten to fifteen millilitres of water with a few drops of one or more essential oil. An oil burner is a great way to deodorise or disinfect a room, or to simply fill it with scent. Electric diffusers are also available. These are safer than burners that use candles and do not require water. To clean these vaporisers, use pure lemon or eucalyptus oil to get rid of any residue.
Vaporisation can also be done by using very hot or recently boiled water. After the water has boiled, pour it into a bowl and add a couple of drops of the oil or oil blend you wish to use. Cover your head with a towel and then lower your head over the bowl. This is ideal for treating congested sinuses and upper respiratory problems.Originally published on Jul 18, 2008