What are essential oils?
Essential oils are concentrated hydrophobic liquids containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, aetherolea, or simply as the “oil of” the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove. An oil is “essential” in the sense that it contains the characteristic fragrance of the plant that it is taken from.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in many cultures for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits. There are more than 90 essential oils, and each has its own health benefits. Most essential oils blend well with other essential oils in terms of function and odor, which allows herbalists to prepare a vast repertoire of aromatic essential oil combinations.
The potential danger of an essential oil is generally relative to its level or grade of purity. Many essential oils are designed exclusively for their aroma-therapeutic quality; these essential oils generally should not be applied directly to the skin in their undiluted or “neat” form. Some can cause severe irritation, provoke an allergic reaction and, over time, prove hepatotoxic.
Essential oils should be blended with a vegetable-based carrier oil (as a base, or “fixed” oil) before being applied. Common carrier oils include olive, almond, hazelnut and grapeseed. Only neutral oils should be used. A common ratio of essential oil disbursed in a carrier oil is 0.5%–3% (most under 10%), depending on its purpose. Some essential oils, including many of the citrus peel oils, are photosensitizers, increasing the skin’s vulnerability to sunlight.
How are they made?
Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. Other processes include expression, solvent extraction or cold pressed.
How are they used?
They are used extensively in aromatherapy for many health issues and are being explored more and more by the scientific community for the treatment of a number of diseases such as leukemia, asthma, heart conditions, cancer and many more conditions. Oils are volatilized or diluted in a carrier oil and used in massage, diffused in the air by a nebulizer, heated over a candle flame, or burned as incense.
Aromatherapy, also referred to as Essential Oil Therapy, is the use of essential oils extracted from herbs, flowers, resin, woods and roots through steam distillation or cold pressing to balance, harmonize, and promote the health of the body, mind and spirit. Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years. The Greeks, Romans and ancient Egyptians all used aromatherapy oils. The Egyptian physician, Imhotep (first physician known by name in written history) recommended fragrant oils for bathing, massage and for embalming their dead. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used aromatherapy for baths and massage.
Archaeological evidence of aromatherapy has been found in many ancient civilizations including China, India, Japan, Korea, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. They were also used in cosmetics, perfumes, drugs and for spiritual, therapeutic, hygienic, and ritualistic purposes.
A French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, discovered the healing properties of lavender oil when he applied it to a burn on his hand caused by an explosion in his laboratory. He then started to analyze the chemical properties of essential oils and how they were used to treat burns, skin infections, gangrene, and wounds in soldiers during World War I. In 1928, Rene-Maurice founded the science of aromatherapy and wrote a book “Aromatherapie.” By the 1950s massage therapists, beauticians, nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, and other health care providers began using aromatherapy.
The oils are used extensively in aromatherapy for many health issues and are being explored more and more by the scientific community for the treatment of a number of diseases such as leukemia, asthma, heart conditions, cancer and many more conditions. Oils are volatilized or diluted in a carrier oil and used in massage, diffused in the air by a nebulizer, heated over a candle flame, or burned as incense.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is particularly suited to stress-related conditions or conditions with an emotional component such as depression
Stimulates the immune system
Reduces fluid retention
Restores balance in the body
Increases blood circulation
Increases energy levels
Promotes healing and recovery
Eases digestive issues