Essential oils are derived from a variety plants which grow throughout the world. Not every plant is capable of producing an essential oil - for example there is no essential oil for Strawberry. 100% pure essential oils are as natural as the scent of a flower, herb or plant. Approximately 350 essential oils exist worldwide, although not every country can produce the highest grade of oil. For example - France is renowned for producing the finest Lavender oil, Australia for Eucalyptus and Tea Tree oil, Italy for Bergamot oil and India for Sandalwood oil.
Pure essential oils are highly concentrated liquid extracts from plants. Whole plants (such as Geranium) or specific aromatic parts of plants (such as the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree) are distilled. Aromatic selections of plant varieties include leaves, roots, seeds, stems, fruit, peel, buds, flowers, wood, bark, saps (resins) and herbs. The essential oils are released as an aromatic liquid during the process of distillation or expression.
The amount of essential oil that can be extracted from a plant can vary from 0.01 to 10% of the total organic matter distilled or expressed. For example - one tonne of rose petals produces one litre of Rose oil. Factors such as: the rarity of the plant, country of origin, conditions the plant is grown and harvested; quality standards of the distiller and whether government permits are required (such as Sandalwood oil), storage, transportation and currency fluctuations all influence the price of an essential oil.
Essential oils, contrary to the word "oil", are not oily to touch. They vary in colour from clear, orange, yellow, red, brown and green, depending on the plant.
Essential oils are NOT the same as fragrant oils or perfumes. Essential oils are derived from natural botanical plant species.
Fragrant oils are synthetic; they are commonly made in laboratories. They are designed to mimic nature and were developed primarily for the perfume industry. Today there exist over 3000 fragrant oils. Fragrant oils being synthetic have little if any therapeutic use. They usually cost approximately USD$1.50 for a 15ml bottle. Reputable essential oil companies never use fragrant oils.
Aromatherapy is a sensory experience that utilizes the sense of smell to promote a feeling of wellbeing. True Aromatherapy is committed to only 100% natural and pure essential oils. The sense of smell is attached to the limbic area of the brain which controls memory. As an example when you smell Lime essential oil, you may associate the smell with things you know, such as sweets, cordial, iced drinks. This may then remind you of your childhood or a hot summer's day.
Aromatherapy involves using essential oils in a number of ways which involves the senses of touch, sight and smell.
Absolutes are similar to essential oils and are highly aromatic. They differ in the way in which they are extracted or distilled. Absolutes such as Rose or Jasmine are obtained via solvent (alcohol) distillation. This process requires little if any heat to extract the flowers liquid essence. After distillation the liquid is further processed to remove the alcohol, this requires a minimal amount of heat. Absolutes are generally rare or delicate plant species, particularly the flowering plant varieties. Flowering plants promptly lose their sweet scent when excessive heat is applied, this is why they are difficult and expensive to obtain. Absolutes can vary from a liquid composition to a paste or even a solid depending on the plant variety.
Carrier oils such as: Almond, Apricot Kernel, Hazelnut, Macadamia nut are the base oils of nut, plant or vegetable origins which are cold pressed. Carrier oils are fatty in texture; they do not readily evaporate like essential oils and have a low scent. Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils for safe application on the skin. Almond oil is the professional oil of choice for massage. Combinations of other carrier oils are beneficial for conditioning particular skin types. Jojoba oil is commonly used to dilute expensive or potentially hazardous essential oils for use in Aromatherapy. Jojoba oil is technically a wax and therefore doesn't oxidise. When essential oils are blended with Jojoba oil the level of dilution should always be stated on the label. As an example: Rose absolute is often blended with Jojoba oil due to expense. Reputable Company's shall also offer the essential oil 100% concentrate for sale.
Essential oils should never routinely be diluted with any carrier oil and sold as pure essential oils (other than as discussed above). This unfortunately is practiced in some companies and countries - and then the product is still sold as 100% pure essential oil. Peanut and Grapeseed oils in particular are used in order to cheapen the end product. If you notice a poor shelf life of your essential oils, or they are going rancid - this may indicate dilution. Quality essential oils should not have an oily texture to touch like olive oil.
Peanut oil is cheap cooking oil and should never be used in Aromatherapy. Mineral oil is also never used in quality Aromatherapy as it is a petroleum derived product. Mineral oil is molecularly large and therefore inhibits essential oils from being administered effectively via massage.
The quality of essential oils can vary from season to season and company to company. The best way to select quality is to:
- Purchase from a reputable Aromatherapy company. If products are of premium quality - then the company is likely to place quality as a priority.
- Buy oils from outlets which allow you to smell the oils prior to purchasing. Essential oils placed behind glass are difficult to assess, you must be able to smell them.
- Quality Aromatherapy companies will allow you or even invite you to bring in your oils to compare. After all if their quality is superior to others, this will show by simply comparing products.
- Avoid any company that also sells fragrant oils as this is a contradiction to the field of quality Aromatherapy.
- Quality Companies will label their products with the common name of the oil, the latin or botanical name, the country of origin and the part of the plant used along with the volume. They will also give directions of use. The more information that a company can give you, the more educated you will become about different oils.
Over time you will learn to understand the importance of this in regards to establishing the quality of your essential oils. By routinely smelling essential oils you will quickly learn to detect the quality essential oils from the low grade essentials oils. All companies will say that their product is the best; only by smelling them will you know. The higher the quality of essential oil the less you will need to use.
Technically essential oils should never go off. They consist of many natural chemical constituents, some of which are plant alcohols, (terpenes and hydrocarbons etc) which are natural components within the oil. When stored properly, in less than 30°C, out of direct sunlight, your essential oils should last you for many years. If a seller of oils advises you to routinely store your essential oils in the refrigerator, you may wish to reassess the quality of the product. Best practice related to quality control will see essential oils batched and expiry dated. This is done in order to trace product, and facilitate company guarantees of quality standards within a measurable time frame. However the life of quality essential oils will extend beyond this time for years.
Yes. It is perfectly safe to vaporise ANY essential oil whilst pregnant or planning for a baby. DO NOT USE essential oils on your skin in the first Trimester (first three months of pregnancy). It is highly recommended that you seek medical advice prior to use. Should you choose to use essential oils during pregnancy, labour or post natal, as a general rule, you should avoid all flower, spice and herb oils. Remembering these three types is far easier than trying to remember which individual oils you should not use.
Vaporising is the safest method of using oils when breast feeding. Essential oils on the skin are not recommended as they are absorbed through the skin and can be carried in the breast milk.
Essential oils should only be used on the skin when added to carrier oils such as Sweet Almond oil or a base cream or lotion. Quality pure essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts and should always be diluted prior to application on the skin. Some essential oils are skin irritants, therefore seek advice or refer to a good aromatherapy text prior to use.
Vaporising is the most common method of using essential oils. Vaporising is easy and highly affordable.
- Candle Vaporiser: Fill the bowl with water add up to 10 drops (maximum) of any essential oil/s of your choice. Light a quality tea light candle and place in the space provided. Do not leave room unattended whilst candle is lit.
- Electric Vaporiser: fill the bowl with water add up to 10 drops (maximum) of any essential oil/s of your choice. Turn on the power.
SAFETY: Always follow the manufactures directions and use quality tea light candles such as Palm wax tea lights. Avoid tea lights which smell like kerosene or contain paraffin.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and should always be diluted when used on the skin.
Sweet Almond oil (carrier oil) is the professional oil of choice for massage. Measure out 10mL of oil. Add up to 8 drops of your essential oil/s of choice. Massage in. As you massage in the oil, the warmth of the body will vaporise the essential oils to gently absorb into the skin. Different essential oils can be used for different effects.
SAFETY: We recommend that you should never exceed 3% of essential oil to carrier oil. 1% essential oil is generally suitable if you are using quality pure essential oils. For the face do not exceed 0.5% essential oil to carrier oil. In a measured volume: 20 drops = 1 mL. Therefore for every 10ml of carrier oil add 20 drops total of essential oil for body massage. When using quality pure essential oils, you do not require large amounts. More is not necessarily better. Avoid using grass, spice or citrus essential oils on the skin as they can cause some irritation.
Bath and spa
Add 8 to 10 drops of any essential oil/s to your bath or spa water. Having a bath or spa after a tiring day is refreshing. Whether it's a full body bath, spa or just feet and hands, you can feel your body unwind in the warmth of the water. The large volume of water acts to disperse the essential oils as they wash on and off the skin. You may add the essential oils to milk prior to adding to the bath however this is not necessary given the dispersion of the oils over the vast surface of the bath.
SAFETY: Avoid using grass, spice or citrus essential oils on the skin as they can cause some irritation.
Place 5 drops on your handkerchief or tissue and place near your nose and inhale. The tissue may also be placed in a shirt pocket near to your face throughout the day. Essential oils ideal for this application are: lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus and tea tree.
Hotel / Motel rooms
Often when travelling you may wish to vaporise oils and not have a vaporiser with you. Simply run the hot tap or boil the kettle and add the hot water to an allocated cup or saucer. Add 8 drops (maximum) of any essential oils of your choice. This will scent the room and reduce musty hotel odours.
SAFETY: Keep out of reach of children and ensure that the allocated cup is not drunk from.
Bed, linen and ironing
- Bed: Add 6 drops to a corner of the bedding out of contact with your skin.
- Ironing: For ironing add a few drops to a spray bottle, fill with water, shake well and spray clothes then iron.
- Linen & Clothes: Add a few drops to a tissue and place in linen cupboard and wardrobe draws.
Avoid strong coloured oils which may stain.
- Laundry: Add 6 - 8 drops to wash when water is loaded for a fresh smelling wash. Eucalyptus oil is ideal.
- Floors: Mop: Add 6 - 8 drops to mop water when cleaning the floors (lemon myrtle is excellent for freshening the home).
- Vacuum Add 5 drops to air filter prior to turning on the vacuum cleaner.
- Toilet Fresh Add 6 drops in the top of the toilet cistern for a natural toilet freshener.
- Drains: Add 6 - 8 drops directly down the drain and rinse immediately with warm water.
Essential oils are potentially dangerous if used incorrectly and therefore should be treated accordingly. By following these general safety guides you will insure correct use and long term storage of your Aromatherapy products. Always follow the manufactures directions of use and purchase a good Aromatherapy book. Aromatherapy is a complimentary / alternative medical field, we strongly recommend that you consult your physician as to which oils you are using and do not discontinue any medication prescribed by your physician.
- Adult use only.
- Keep out of reach of children. (Above 1.5metres [4 foot 10 inches] or in a locked box)
- Never take internally or orally.
- Dilute prior to use on skin (see massage use).
- Consult your physician and or Aromatherapist prior to use: if pregnant, using on children, kidney failure, low blood pressure, high blood pressure, epilepsy or on any medication.
- Avoid contact with broken skin, eyes, genitals and mucous membranes.
- Do not place on skin prior to sunbathing or direct sunlight (may cause photosensitivity)
- Store below 30°C and away from direct sunlight.
- Use as per directions or sparingly. More is not necessarily better. Essential oils are highly concentrated.
- Store with lids firmly closed (minimises spillage and evaporation)
- Purchase essential oil with dropper inserts in the bottle (reduces spillage and allows safe and accurate dispensing).
- Avoid contact on varnished; lacquered or painted surfaces (may lift paint).
- Purchase a good Aromatherapy book and refer to when guidance is required.