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Aromatherapy Basics

Definition of Essential Oils

An essential oil is a fragrant, volatile oil which makes up the essence of the plant. Essential oils are derived from various areas of the plant including fruit, seed, bark, flower, root and stem. The molecules of essential oils are very powerful and have been used for healing purposes over thousands of years.

Methods of Extraction:
Expression: used mainly to extract essential oils from the rind of citrus fruit. The surface of the fruit skin is broken and the sacs that hold the essential oils are extracted.
Distillation: Through a process of condensation essential oils are collected through the distillate.
Enfleurage: Mostly used for exotic flowers that are very fragile. A glass surface is coated with odourless fat and oil and the flowers and blossoms are placed on these oils. As the flowers wilt, they release their fragrance and it is absorbed into the fat, then extracted. 

 Evolution of Aromatherapy
 
Ayurvedic medicine has been used from 3000 – 5000 BC. Practised in India, plant extracts were used to achieve a balance between the body, mind and soul. It was believed that each person should be treated individually for their aliments.

In ancient Egypt, aromatic substances were used for their medicinal purposes, perfumes and in cosmetology. Herbs were used for incense and oils and resins were used for embalming. The Greeks brought essential oils to Greece after visiting Egypt. They started to incorporate oils into celebrations, rituals and religious traditions. The Greeks were instrumental in advancing the use of aromatherapy for medicinal purposes as they had discovered that the use of aromatherapy had a significant impact on the internal organs.

In the 1500′s the foundation of modern medicine was laid and although both traditional and holistic practitioners used essential oils and herbs, medicine began to advance towards chemical science and synthetically mimicing the healing properties of the essential oils. 

Methods of Essential Oil Application
Compress:
Essential oils are dissolved in a solution and applied to wounds, bruises, abscesses or pressure points.
Inhalation: Direct inhalation is when you inhale the aroma of essential oils directly.
Massage: 1% – 5% is diluted in a carrier oil and the oil is rubbed into the skin.
Toiletries: In lotions and creams, essential oils are absorbed into the body via the skin, and also through inhalation.

Essential Oil Families 
Citrus: Lemon, Lime, Grapefruit, Tangerines etc.
These oils are known to be highly antiviral and they fight cold and flu germs that are in the air. They are uplifting oils that can be used for their antidepressant qualities, as natural diuretics and to reduce cholesterol levels. You should avoid being in direct sunlight when using these oils.
Herbs: Rosemary, Peppermint, Thyme
Herbs are known for their analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also good for the respiratory tract, for muscle and joint pain and for hives and itchy skin. Antifungal and antiseptic.
Woods: Patchouli, Sandalwood, Cedarwood 
These are grounding oils and are used as aphrodisiacs for eczema, psoriasis, chapped and cracked skin. Good for varicous veins and circulation.
Flowers: Jasmine, Rose, Lavender, Geranium
Natural antidepressants, hormone balancing, tension relieving, sedative. If you like florals, these essential oils are among the most luxurious oils in the world. Natural antibiotics.
Root and Spice: Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove
Digestive aids and promote circulation. Analgesic and antiseptic, antifungal, antihistamine, antibiotic.