BACKGROUND OF AROMATHERAPY
Essential oils are extracted from a wide variety of plants, using either the flower petals, seeds, leaf, root or wood (e.g.: it takes 30 cultivated roses to produce 1 drop of essential oil and several kg’s of lavender to produce a small bottle of essential oil).
Each oil has its own unique fragrance and healing property. One essential oil may contain over 100 different chemical constituents. The oils, in their natural state have been found to possess a natural synergy, i.e.: the therapeutic quality of an unadulterated natural oil is more effective than a synthetic, partially reconstituted equivalent.
The oils are extremely volatile and will evaporate without trace if left open to air. They do not dissolve in water. They work in synergy with each other and on a holistic basis: to promote healing on physical, mental and emotional levels.
They work by the absorption of minute particles of the oil through the skin, and through inhalation or the aroma. In 1937 a French chemist, Rene Gatefosse, was working in a perfume laboratory when there was a small explosion and he burnt his hand quite badly. He plunged it into the nearest bowl of liquid, which just happened to be lavender oil. His hand healed with exceptional speed and virtually no scarring. As a chemist, he realised that the healing and antiseptic qualities of Lavender were much greater than any of the synthetic equivalents available to him. He then named it “Aromatherapy” and started his research.
In WW2 medical supplies were low and aromatherapy oils were used extensively. Many doctors are learning about Aromatherapy and its benefits; thousands of doctors in France use them.
Proper use of aromatherapy oils promotes a more balanced lifestyle. There is less likelihood of succumbing to everyday illness and the effects of stress, which causes 90% of illness.
Balancing the mind promotes vitality and better ability to cope with potentially difficult events, like exams.
They can stimulate the immune system, helping with colds and flu and keeping them at bay.
OBTAINING ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils are obtained mainly by distillation and a few by solvent extraction.
The essential oils are obtained from different parts of the aromatic plant: –
- Seeds (Fennel)
- Flowers (Jasmine)
- Fruit peel (Orange)
- Grass (Lemongrass)
- Leaf (Geranium)
- Root tuber (Ginger)
- Wood (Sandalwood)
Large vats are filled with the plant matter which is processed by steam distillation. The essential oils are separated from the cooled condensed water producing, for example, Lavender essential oil and Lavender water.
Some plants produce several oils as different parts of the plant are processed, e.g.: Orange.
- Peel (Orange essential oil)
- Leaves (Pettigrain)
- Flowers (Neroli)
This process is used for fragile flowers like Jasmine. The heat from distillation would destroy them. The flowers are placed in layers of wax and solvent to macerate and are renewed daily. They are then put through a centrifuge and distilled at very low temperatures.
This process can take up to 20 days to complete and it is for this reason that these oils are more expensive to purchase. The result is called an absolute.
As with food, organic is best. That way one knows there are no chemicals involved. Always trust a reputable source, i.e.: not Dischem or Clicks.
They are stored in dark bottles to protect them and avoid evaporation. Plastic containers would damage them. The top must always be tightly secured to avoid evaporation. Store in a cool area, away from direct sunlight.
Most oils have a 2-year lifespan. However citrus oils: Grapefruit and Orange may only be effective for up to 6 months. They will go cloudy through oxidation. And some age like fine wine and cheese, like Sandalwood and Frankincense. Oils that are blended remain effective for up to 3 months if stored in a cool place or refrigerator (never in the freezer). Do not use them after this time as they could irritate your skin or cause an allergic reaction. Any changes in the way the oils look, feel or smell, throw them out.
Extra virgin cold pressed high-quality oils should be used. These come from the first pressing. Later extractions use heat or solvent processes which destroy trace minerals and vitamins. Avoid mineral and baby oils at all cost.
Sweet Almond is most popular and an excellent choice.
Almond oil diluted with 10% Avocado oil or Wheatgerm is great for dry skin. Other carrier oils include: Grapeseed, Apricot Kernel, Peach Kernel, Olive, Soya, Sunflower Seed and Sesame Seed, Jojoba, which is a wax, may also be included in a blend.
NEVER USE DIRECTLY ON YOUR SKIN
NEVER USE INTERNALLY
Injured or inflamed skin can cause irritation
- The oils are powerful catalysts. Always respect the indicated maximum dosage amounts. You may think more is better but all it will do is harm you and irritate your skin.
- It is safe to use less than the recommended dosage. A more diluted blend can sometimes be just as effective, while you get familiar with the oils.
- It is best to try a tester area on a small surface of your skin, to be sure you do not have a reaction to the chosen oils first, prior to a full application or bath.
- The oils are gently stimulating the body’s natural healing ability.
- They may work a little slower than conventional remedies. Depending on the process used, they can take seconds to several minutes or hours to be absorbed into the body’s system, depending on how they are administered.
- The oils are non-addictive and non-toxic, yet highly volatile and extremely potent. They must therefore be used with great care.
Take the amount of ml of base oil, example: 12ml of Grapeseed oil base.
Halve it = 6. That is the amount of aromatherapy drops (in total) to put into the blend.
So, if using Chamomile and Lavender – 3 drops of each is perfect. Or 3 Lavender and 2 Chamomile.
Be aware that the fragrance of some oils are much stronger than others. It may be required to use smaller amounts so as not to dominate the blend with their aroma. Example: Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Peppermint. Only 1 drop of those oils, if in a blend, will suffice.
BABIES, INFANTS & CHILDREN
Much smaller amounts of the oils are required than that for adults.
Babies 0-12 months 1 drop Lavender or Chamomile
- Room fragrance
- Dilute 1 drop into 15ml Sweet Almond Oil for massage or bath
Infants 1-6 years 1-3 drops of Tea Tree, Lavender or Chamomile – used as above
Children 7-12 years Use as per adults but ½ the number of drops than an adult
Children 12 plus Use as directed for adults
Use ½ the dosage at this special time.
Stimulating oils to be avoided for the full 9 months include: Basil, Camphor, Clove, Cinnamon, Hyssop, Juniper, Marjoram, Myrrh, Parsley seed, Sage and Thyme, Wormwood, Oak moss.
To be avoided for the first 4 months: Fennel, Peppermint and Rosemary.
Keep essential oils away from the eyes. Should it get to the eyes, wash with plenty of water and seek medical advice.
Consult your homeopath first if on homeopathic treatments. Avoid the following: Black Pepper, Camphor, Eucalyptus and Peppermint. They may nullify the homeopathic treatment.
SENSITIVITY & ALLERGIES
People with allergies to perfumes may be helped with aromatherapy. It’s a beautiful substitute.
Tester dosage: 1 drop of aromatherapy oil to 4 drops of base oil. Apply a coin size amount to a patch of skin on the inner arm.
The more stimulating oils can sometimes irritate a sensitive skin. It will generally disappear within 1 hour. Applying plain Sweet Almond Oil over the area will help it subside. A women’s skin can be more sensitive prior to her menses, due to hormonal changes in the body. If sensitivity occurs, avoid use for a further 10 days. If you wish to continue, dilute to ¼ of the original amount and test on a small area of skin. The best area to test is the sensitive skin of the inner arm, as you would test the heat of a baby’s bottle. If there is no further reaction, continue using with that dosage.
Caution and consult an Aromatherapist when using: Cinnamon, Clove, Hyssop and Sage.
METHODS OF USING AROMATHERAPY OILS
This is one of the most effective ways of using the oils. They need to be blended into a base oil (see instructions on dosage).
Another effective way of using the oils. Your skin is the most absorbent part of the body. And the heat assists in the absorption. This can be done in 2 ways:
- Diffusing 5 drops (maximum) of essential oils into a teaspoon of milk. Or a cup, if you would like more of a Cleopatra style bath. Add Epsom Salt.
- If using a blend, add 5ml of the blend to the bath.
Close all windows. Soak for 15-20 minutes minimum. Avoid splashing in the eyes.
Very useful for congestion, easing catarrh and soothing the respiratory tract.
- The age-old method of towel over the head. Pour boiled water into a bowl. Add 10 drops of Eucalyptus. Agitate the water. Close your eyes. Place a towel over your head. Inhale the vapours for a few minutes at a time, for up to 10 minutes, or as long as comfortable. Repeat as many times as necessary.
- A facial steamer can also be used, but with 3-5 drops of essential oil.
1-2 drops essential oil into the water. Gently lay the material onto the surface of the water to attract the film of essential oil. Place the compress on the affected area.
Ring a warm wash cloth out, place 2 drops of essential oil onto it. Lay it onto the affected area.
A great way to bring ambience into your home/office. Also, a great way to ward off illness when a family member is ill.
- Essential oil burner – Fill the reservoir at the top with water. Add 5 drops of your chosen essential oil. Light a candle and place it under the water, inside the burner. The heat from the candle at the bottom heats the water causing gradual evaporation, filling the room with the aroma. Example: Lavender for sleep and relaxation. Tea tree to ward off illness and promote healing. The aroma inhibits infection by airborne bacteria and viruses. It can help with asthmatics and those with chest conditions too.
- Light fittings – Put a few drops of neat essential oil on a cold light bulb. The fragrance will gradually permeate the room as the warmth of the bulb vaporises the essential oil.
Vaporiser / humidifier / diffuser:
5 drops of essential oil placed into a humidifier or you can place a bowl of water with the essential oil in on top of a heater. Essential oils will not work well with plastic devices, so ensure it’s clay or glass.
Popular Essential Oil Diffusers:
- lamp rings
- reed diffuser
Cloth / tissue:
Put only 1-2 drops of the chosen essential oil onto the tissue and inhale when required. Example: peppermint for when you need to concentrate. Lavender when you need to relax. This method is great for when travelling too, and other methods are not convenient.
Make the blend as per dosages. And apply as necessary. Frankincense makes a great fixative for your blend.
Good for dandruff, lice and hair treatment in general
- Prepare the chosen blend
- Cover / protect the eyes
- Massage into the scalp
- A plastic cap will aid absorption
- Leave on the hair for half an hour to 2 hours
Always monitor children – not to pull the cap off or get it into their eyes
Bath time is a good time for scalp treatment as the heat aids the absorption
- To remove the blend – remove the cap
- Apply neat shampoo to the oily hair as is
Then wet and shampoo as normal.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR PETS
Ratio of oil blending: 1 drop of essential oil per 1.5 tablespoon of base oil. Apply the blend.
Diffuser dosage: 1-2 drops of essential oil into the water. Place away from the dogs normal resting place and out of their reach. Only have them in the presence of the diffuser for 10 minutes maximum.
Do not apply to their paws!
Remember to move smaller house pets away from the area.
Do not use the oils anywhere near their eyes, nose, anal or genital areas.
Good base oils for dogs:
Almond: light texture; pleasant scent
Apricot Kernel: mild scent; light texture
Avocado: nourishes their skin and fur
Coconut: moisturising; anti-microbial
Hazelnut: good for oily skin
Sesame: good for dry skin
Rosehip: good for skin conditions
Essential Oils ok to use for Dogs:
Eucalyptus – Anti-viral, Anti-inflammatory, Respiratory, Fleas
Frankincense – Immune system booster, Stimulates blood flow to the brain, Reduces tumours and external ulcers
Ginger – Motion sickness, strains/sprains, Arthritis, Indigestion
Lavender – Calms the nervous system, Separation anxiety, Allergies, Burns, Ulcers
Peppermint – Motion sickness, Nausea, Digestive aid, Itching, Pain, Injury/sprain/strain, Arthritis, Insect repellent
Ratio of blending the oils: 1 drop of essential oil per 2 tablespoons of base oil.
Essential Oils ok to use for Cats:
Eucalyptus – Respiratory
Frankincense – Antiseptic, Anti-inflammatory, Digestive, Disinfectant
Lavender – Calming, Dermatitis, Stress, Flea allergies
Rosemary – Stress related alopecia