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The Essentials of Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Aromatherapy is a herbal medicine which uses the healing effects of essential oils, absolutes, floral waters, resins, carrier oils, infused oils, herbs and other natural substances as treatment for physical and mental conditions. Aromatherapy is based on the concept that different scents have different effects on the mind and body.

Essential oil, is a liquid volatile aromatic compound, extracted from plants. Essential oils are used in aromatherapy, cosmetics, perfumery, incense, for flavoring food and drink, and cleaning products. Essential oils are referred to as “oil of” the plant from which it was extracted. Examples are oil of antimony, oil of clove, oil of eucalyptus. The term essential means that the oil is the fragrant essence of the plant from which it is extracted.

Medical use of essential oil in aromatherapy The medical use of plant oils has a long history. Aromatherapy is currently one of the most popular ays of de-stressing. The origins go back thousands of years. Essential oils are concentrated, they generally should not be applied directly to the skin undiluted. Some can cause irritations or allergic reactions. Essential oils should be diluted before being applied. Olive, hazelnut, grapeseed are often used as carrier oils. Organically produced essential oils are best particularly if you are going to use it on your skin.

Aromatherapy is often used with massage therapy, acupuncture, reflexology, herbology, chiropractic and other alternative therapies. In an Aromatherapy massage, essential oils may be blended to suit the individual needs of the client. Aromatherapy massage is for anyone who appreciates a massage, the importance of skin care, and stress relief.

Essential oils are extracted from flowers, seeds, roots, leaves, wood, bark, or peel.

Most of the common essential oils are distilled using water. Raw plants are put into an alembic over heated water. As the water is heated the steam passes through the plant material, extracting the volatile compounds. The vapors are condensed back to liquid and collected. The liquid recondensed from the distillation process is called herbal distillate, plant water essence or hydrosols and is sold as a fragrant product. Examples of distilled oils are lemon balm, rose water, lavender water, clary sage or orange blossom water.

Citrus peel oils are usually cold-pressed, due to the large quantities of oil in the peels.

Volatile oils from flowers are delicate, carbon dioxide is used to extract the waxes and the essential oils that make up the concrete. Concretes are a mixture of essential oil, waxes, resins, and other plant material. The concrete is then processed with liquid carbon dioxide to separate the waxes and resins from the essential oils. When the pressure is reduced, the carbon dioxide reverts back to a gas, leaving no residue. This is a lower temperature process that prevents the decomposition of the essential oils.

Oil from the same plant can have a different name when a extracted in a different way. Rose oil is extracted from the petals of Rosa damascena and Rosa centifolia.
Steam-distilled rose oil is known as “rose otto” while the solvent extracted rose oil is known as “rose absolute”.

Essential oils must be treated like medicines. It is advisable that you exercises caution and consult a qualified aromatherapy practitioner before using aromatherapy for medical use. The internal use of essential oils should be fully avoided during
pregnancy without consulting with a licensed professional, as some oils can be abortifacients. Read safety precautions before you use them. Some very common oils such as Eucalyptus are extremely toxic internally. The smoke from burning essential oils may contain potential carcinogens, never smoke essential oils of any kind. Essential oils should always be kept out of the reach of children. Some oils can be toxic to some animals, particularly cats.

When it comes to feeling better, rejuvenating your spirit, stimulating your mind, and boosting your physical prowess, aromatherapy is the ultimate.

Harvey Robinson is a long time grower of herbs and webmaster of and
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