T he essential oils of plants and flowers have been used across many cultures for thousands of years to improve both physical and emotional well-being. Interest in Aromatherapy has recently been re-ignited as it has become obvious that the natural plant extracts called essential oils have the power to influence your moods and feelings, healing the body, mind and spirit.
What are essential oils
Essential oils are natural plant extracts which give the plant its vitality and health. These oils contain the ingredients that nourish, energize, defend and regenerate the plant. When the pure oils are extracted from parts of the plants (leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds or roots), they still possess these active ingredients.
The essential oils are also aromatic in nature and this is in part responsible for the healing. The body and mind are healed safely and naturally and actually take part in the healing process with no side effects.
Pure oils are extracted from particular varieties of plants which are grown especially for this purpose. Not all plants and species contain essential oils and some plants contain more than one. If this is the case, the oils from that one plant will contain common properties as well as some individual properties.
Each plant has unique characteristics and its own molecular make up giving the different fragrances of each essential oil. The plants used in Aromatherapy have been cultivated over many years and contain billions of active cells, some producing oil. The plants are carefully harvested and the oil is extracted and nothing else is added to it.
Essential oils are different to fragrant oils, the latter has synthetic substances added to it and is only for pleasant smells. Essential oils are potent and powerful, having many therapeutic properties. They are antiseptic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, sedative and stimulating. They should also not be taken internally.
The majority of essential oils are extracted from the plants by steam distillation which is a highly scientific and precise process. The plant material is put into vats and steamed creating a water and essential oil mix of vapour. As the steam is cooled down the water separates from the essential oil. This gives floral water and pure essential oil. Not all oil will be used for distribution and some will be of differing qualities.
Some other essential oils are extracted through cold pressing. This will get the oil out of rinds of fruits. Pressure is applied to the rind which causes the essential oil to seep out.
How does it work
Aromatherapy works in two ways: physically as the essential oils enter the body in tiny quantities by going through the various layers of the skin to the bloodstream where they can work to heal. And emotionally via your sense of smell.
The fragrance of the oil effects the section of the brain which controls your feelings and emotions. These two actions combined, provide a potent healing effect on the human body and mind.
Buy only pure oils
There are oils on the market that have not been extracted correctly and are best avoided as their healing properties are questionable. They may also have undergone additional processing or have additives in them. The oil must have AustL or AustR on the label. This indicates that it meets with Australian standards.
It must also be 100% pure essential oil and be packed in a dark glass bottle. Some oils will be more expensive that others but be weary if they are too cheap - the quality may be compromised.
When to use Aromatherapy
You will get the most out of Aromatherapy when it becomes part of your life. There are many ways to use your essential oils - as treatments, in your beauty regime, when under stress, insomnia, to help studying teenagers, to uplift and seduce. Aromatherapy is a way of taking charge of your vitality and well-being.
Choosing Your Aromatherapy Essential Oils
You can choose your oils looking at their different qualities, and traditional uses. Then when you have chosen a good sample of oils start sampling their aroma to see if you feel comfortable with those particular ones. Your feelings about the aroma affect the benefit you will receive from the oil. So choose instinctively out of the selected range.
If you try all the oils at once you may become overwhelmed and confused. You will respond to a select few more easily.
Aromatherapy oils are divided into 3 types for ease of use. These are
Top notes - which are more volatile and evaporate quickly. They are uplifting , light, refreshing, clearing and emotionally stimulating. The top notes are Basil, lemongrass, bergamot, mandarin, clary sage, orange (sweet), eucalyptus, palmarosa, fennel, peppermint, ginger, petitgrain, grapefruit, rosewood, lemon, tea tree oil.
Middle notes - are a medium evaporation. These oils are emotionally balanced, fragrant and harmonising. They include black pepper, marjoram, camomile (German), myrtle, clove bud, neroli, cypress pine, geranium, rose, juniper, rosemary, lavender, ylang ylang.
The base notes - are the least volatile. They are heavy, sedating, calming and grounding. They include cedarwood, frankincense, patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver.
Things you should know about essential oils
Massage is a very relaxing and effective way to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy. You will be benefiting both emotionally through your sense of smell and physically as the oil penetrates your skin.
Your skin is your largest organ and is subject to abuse from pollution, toxins and the like. With aromatherapy massage, the oil is absorbed into the body within 30 minutes to 2 hours and any excess is excreted out via the urine, sweat glands or exhaled through the air.
To make your own blend for a massage use 5ml of essential oil to every 10ml of carrier oil. If you use cream as the carrier use the following ratio - 8g to 1 drop of essential oil.
Some good hints for massage blends -
For a body massage use almond or apricot oils as the carrier.
For a facial massage, you can use carrier oils such as jojoba, apricot, peach or olive.
Add 5 drops of your chosen essential oil to your bath just before you turn the taps off. This type of therapy is ideal for sore muscles or a tired psyche. It is perfect for relaxing baby just before sleep (see comments above about age of children). You can even add some bubble bath. You do not need the carrier oil in this instance.
This is a very popular method of using essential oils as it adds a lovely aroma to your office or home. This is excellent for relaxing, aiding sleep, stimulating your mind before study or to create a sensual night to remember.
To use, fill the vaporizer with water and put about 6 drops of essential oil into the water. Light your candle underneath the burner and the heat will enable the aroma to carry into the air.
Always place the burner on a plate to avoid staining any surfaces and never use near open windows or draughty areas. Also do not use these types of vaporizers while sleeping in case an accident occurs and they catch fire. There are electric vaporizers available these days which are highly effective and inexpensive to run.
This is a wonderful way to relax tired feet. Just fill a large bowl or bucket with warm water, put your favourite essential oils into the water (up to 5 - 6 drops) and place your feet in it for as long as you wish. Some nice suggestions are to choose ylang ylang and patchouli.
This is an ideal way to gain relief from respiratory problems such as colds, flu, sinus etc. Add 5 - 6 drops of essential oil into a large bowl of hot water. Cover your head with a towel, lean over the bowl and breathe in. Ensure your eyes are shut. Good oils to choose for colds and flu are - cedarwood, ginger, lemon, myrtle, palmarosa and peppermint. If your nose is blocked try - peppermint, rosemary and lemon.
Another method which treats common problems effectively is to use a compress. Compresses are good if you suffer from arthritis, rheumatism, sore joints, period pain, headaches or any other muscular type pain.
Fill a bowl with warm water to which you add 6 drops of essential oil. Dip a hand towel into the water and wring out, place over the affected area. As the compress gets cold, repeat the process. Another more effective option is to add a plastic wrap around the warm compress. This makes the oil more potent and keeps the heat in longer.
For arthritis try a few of the following - basil, black pepper, chamomile, clove, eucalyptus, fennel, ginger, juniper, lavender, lemon, marjoram, peppermint, pine, rosemary.
You can swish one drop of essential oil in half a glass of water around in your mouth as a gargle - particularly for sore throats. Use 1 drop of either lemon, sandalwood or tea tree oil.
Blending and looking after your oils
Remember these few points before you start on your way:-