Aromatherapy for Beginners

The use of oils to help affect a person’s mood and well-being has been practiced for thousands of years. The oil from various plant species is extracted and concentrated to form what are known as essential oils. These essential oils are basically concentrated versions of the plants fragrant essence and are typically about 100 times as fragrant as the corresponding dried plant.

The nature of essential oils and carrier oils

Most often, a pure concentrate of an essential oil is far too strong to be used alone. Typically, these essential oils will evaporate if exposed to air so they must be stored in airtight containers. Essential oils do not have the same properties as fatty oils such as olive or almond oil. However, they are soluble in fatty oils. For this reason, these types of fatty oils are often used as carrier oils to create a usable form of the aromatic essential oil. Almond oil is a very common carrier oil for making massage oil and most essential oils are used at 2-5% strength, requiring a large quantity of carrier oil due to the high concentration of the essential oil.

When used in massage, the oils are thought to penetrate the skin and enter the tissues and bloodstream in a matter of minutes or hours, depending on the essential oil. From here, the oil goes to work to help rejuvenate and regenerate dead or unhealthy cells. However, as the term aromatherapy implies, the aromas are often received through smell alone, whether it be through candles, scented oils, shampoos or other personal care products, and transmit a signal to our brain to create an emotion, feeling or response from us.

Essential oils to consider

Basil oil - Basil essential oil is typically extracted from the basil plant through a steam distillery process. The oil itself can be useful in treating a number of different chest related sickness such as colds, bronchitis, flu, coughs and rheumatism. It can also be used as an effective insect repellent or as a treatment for bites. However, basil should be avoided by pregnant women and should never be taken in large doses.

Sandalwood oil – Sandalwood oil is reminiscent of a forest like floral scent and is often used to treat depression, stress and a variety of skin problems such as stretch marks, scars, oily skin or dry skin. Sandalwood oil is very high in demand and very scarce due to many species sandalwood trees being endangered. For this reason sandalwood is often imitated or diluted and it can often be very hard to tell the real thing from the fake.

Spanish Sage oil – Spanish Sage is an evergreen shrub and can produce an uplifting aroma to treat circulation, arthritis, acne, asthma, coughing, laryngitis as well as stress, headaches and exhaustion.

Vetivert oil – Vetivert oil is derived from a perennial grass and has woody, smoky scent with sweet undertones. This oil typically mixed well with more common scents such as sandlewood, sage or jasmine. Vetiverts therapeutic qualities can be used as a treatment for depression, tension and insomnia.

Tagetes oil – Tagetes oil is derived from its flowering annual counterpart and is used primarily as a treatment for skin conditions such as corns, calluses and bunions although it may also be used to treat fungal infections. Occasionally, contact with too high of a concentration of tagetes oil can cause dermatitis so use should be discontinued immediately if any adverse reaction is seen.