What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Sometimes it’s called essential oil therapy. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health.
Aromatherapy is thought of as both an art and a science. Recently, aromatherapy has gained more recognition in the fields of science and medicine.
Medicines Out of Earth
Essential oils provide us with a fragrant pharmacy full of remedies and delights for all aspects of our lives. This is an extraordinary fact. Already we know the earth provides us with food and water, but to realize as well that nature offers us a huge variety of plant essences capable of solving so many problems, and in addition giving us so much joy — well, that is something to rejoice in.
People have always found around them a number of plants that can heal — medicines out of the earth. But we live in a specially blessed time because we can look around the global village and take from around the world a huge variety of aromatic essential oils distilled from healing plants. This is new. We have a vast selection to choose from, never before available to humankind. Essential oils are extracted from certain varieties of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, roots, fruits, and flowers. The oil is concentrated in different parts of the plant. Vetiver oil is made from the roots of the grass species Vetiveria zizanoides; bay oil is extracted from the leaves of Laurus nobilis.
Geranium oil comes from the plant’s leaves and stalks, cumin oil comes from the seeds, and ginger oil comes from the rhizomes, while rose oil comes from the fragrant petals of the rose flower. Myrrh, frankincense, and benzoin oils are extracted from the resin of their respective trees. Mandarin, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and bergamot oils are extracted from the peel of the fruits, and pine oil comes from the needles and twigs of pine trees, while sandalwood comes from the heartwood of the sandalwood tree. If you were to look at lavender under a microscope, you’d see the smooth round glands that contain the essential oil, surrounded by a forest of spiky nonsecretory trichomes. Many varieties of plants have similar sessile secretory glands that appear as round, distinct units with a cuticle, or outer membrane, protecting a package of secretory cells. In other species of plants, the essential oil–producing glands look like microscopic stalks. In seeds, the essential oil is stored in vittae, little pockets on the outer surface. In orange and lemon, oil cavities are found in the outer portion of the peel. In clove, a multitude of endogenous oil glands lie just beneath the surface, while in frankincense, resin globules are released from oil ducts.
In ginger, the essential oil is found in secretory cells of parenchyma tissue, while in cedarwood the secretory cells line resin ducts. The oil is extracted from the plant by a variety of means, depending again on the particular species. The most common method is steam distillation; other methods include CO 2 extraction, expression, enfleurage, maceration, and solvent extraction. There are hundreds of species of eucalyptus tree, but they’re not all used for the production of essential oils. Likewise, there are innumerable varieties of geranium, most of which are wholly unsuitable for essential oil extraction. Having said that, aromatherapy is a science that’s expanding. New plants are being distilled into essential oils, adding to our assets in the fragrant pharmacy. Each oil has its own medicinal and other properties.
Research has confirmed centuries of experience of using the plants from which essential oils are derived. We now know that the fragrant pharmacy contains essential oils that are antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antineuralgic, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, antivenomous, antitoxic, antidepressant, sedative, nervine, analgesic, carminative, digestive, decongestive, expectorant, deodorant, restorative, circulatory, diuretic, vulnerary, and much more besides. There is a wide range of methods of using essential oils for therapeutic purposes, including external application, inhalation, oral ingestion, and suppositories. Their small molecular size means essential oils can be absorbed extremely easily and quickly. Methods used externally include body oils, compresses, gels, lotions, and baths — including hand and foot baths. Inhalation methods include diffusers, room sprays, vaporizers, and a whole range of other environmental methods, as well as simply inhaling directly from the bottle or from a tissue.
Although the food and drink and drug industries add essential oils to products that are ingested orally, they are seldom used this way for medicinal purposes in the home unless under the direction of a qualified healthcare practitioner. The method of use that’s chosen will determine both the rate and extent of absorption. Other factors to consider include a person’s age, size, diet, and genetics. The rate of healing may differ too if a person has a metabolic disorder or a condition affecting the heart, liver, or kidneys. Each essential oil has its own story to tell. In the case of jasmine, each flower is picked by hand on the very first day it opens, before the sun becomes hot, whereas the sandalwood tree could be thirty years old and thirty feet high before it’s considered ready for distillation. Between these two extremes, a whole range of growing and picking conditions apply to the plants that will ultimately provide the precious essential oils. The price of each oil reflects these conditions; because it takes around 4 million hand-picked jasmine blossoms to produce 1.1 pounds of oil, you can understand why that is one of the most expensive oils on the market.
Rose otto essential oil is also costly because it takes around 4,500 pounds of rose flower heads to make 1 pound of oil, while lavender oil is cheaper because it takes only 150 pounds of flower heads to produce the same amount. Obviously, yields vary from location to location, and this too can affect prices. The trade in essential oils is worldwide, with consignments passing between the United States, France, China, Brazil, Bulgaria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Réunion, Australia, Argentina, Israel, the United Kingdom, Japan, Thailand, South Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, Guatemala, Egypt, Somalia, and Spain, among many other places! On average, an essential oil contains 100 chemical components.
The main components fall within broader groups, such as alcohols, esters, ketones, phenols, terpenes, and aldehydes. But each oil also has a number of smaller trace compounds that even today cannot be identified. It’s these mysterious compounds that distinguish essential oils from a simple collection of chemical constituents and gives them their complexity and unique properties. Think of it like this: the human body is 60% to 73% water, having a higher percentage at the obese end of the body mass spectrum — yet when we look in the mirror we don’t see a big puddle of water. Likewise, an essential oil could be 30% to 60% linalyl acetate, but that’s just the beginning of its story. Some essential oils have as many as 300 components, some as yet unidentified, and the idea that all the known phytochemicals could be put in a pot and made into that essential oil is as presumptuous as thinking a person can be reduced to a number of molecules, starting with the largest in terms of volume, water. Essential oils are not complex just in terms of their chemistry.
They have a whole range of interesting properties that together make them hugely vibrant. In terms of their electromagnetic frequency or vibrational signature, some have a higher megahertz reading than others. The electrical properties of essential oils are defined in terms of positive-negative and polarity. An aroma molecule might be negative and polar, negative and nonpolar, positive and polar, or positive and nonpolar. And even individual components have their own electrical characteristics. Some essential oils have optical activity and rotate light clockwise; some, counterclockwise — being dextrorotatory and levorotatory, respectively. Their components are crystalline in structure. Put all these things together alongside the body of a human being who also has these properties, and there can be a marriage of harmony and potential. Essential oils are hugely versatile and also come in the most convenient form to exploit that versatility.
A few drops of pure lavender oil applied to a minor burn effects the most remarkable cure as the skin returns to normal within days, whereas without it there could be a blistering patch and, eventually, a scar. You can return to the same small bottle when you have a headache — one drop rubbed on the temples often brings relief. And because lavender is a natural deterrent of mosquitoes and moths, among other insects, it can as easily be dabbed onto a ribbon and hung at the window to deter the former, or put on a cotton ball and placed in the wardrobe to deter the latter. The natural antibiotic and antiseptic qualities of lavender oil make it a highly effective wash for cuts and grazes and also a good addition to the wash water for cleaning tables, tiles, and floors. Its fresh aroma makes lavender a delight to use anywhere and any time, and it’s great to include in an air freshener. One little bottle, used with different methods, can attend to issues both physiological and environmental, and just because lavender can be used as an air freshener that’s not to say it wouldn’t be of huge benefit to burn units in hospitals. Indeed, I can’t think of anything that would be more appropriate to use as an air freshener in burn units! That’s the thing about essential oils — they can do more than one thing at a time. Plants are chemical factories inhabiting the interface between light and dark, sun and earth, drawing energy from each and synthesizing this into molecules of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They provide our food, and the food of the animals we eat. Plant cells are similar to ours in that they have membranes, DNA, and a range of organelles including Golgi bodies and mitochondria. We’re family. We’ve evolved together.
We can’t think of plants as inferior to us, because while they can live without us, we can’t live without them. That’s the relationship between us. So turning to plants for help is like turning to our extended family. We’re all increasingly aware of the number of synthetic chemicals in our lives today, whether we like them or not. They leach from carpets, flooring, and furniture. They’re in home cleaning products. They’re used in the production of food, in our public water systems, and in the products we put on our faces, hair, and bodies. They’re in the very air we breathe. It may seem that escape from this onslaught of synthetic chemicals is impossible. However, for some jobs around the home we can replace the usual shop-bought products with essential oils, and we can make our own entirely natural body, hair, and face products, perfumes, and air fresheners.
We can use essential oils in the garden to encourage plant growth and protect our plants from insects. We can use these powerful natural essences on our bodies to alleviate all manner of physical problems, and we can use them for the well-being of our family and friends. You can see from the contents of this book that essential oils are useful and effective in a staggering variety of ways. And each time we use them, we avoid using synthetic chemicals in our lives because we’re lucky enough to have been given natural alternatives. We have been given a huge gift from Mother Nature, and essential oils are something we can feel confident about using if we treat them with the respect they deserve. It might be easy to suppose that because they’re so sweet smelling, the value of essential oils is their charm. This would be a mistake. Scientists in labs all over the world are discovering that when they compare the effects of a complete essential oil to those of its main chemical constituents, the essential oils come out on top. They might smell sweet and lovely, but they’re potent and work very hard too.
Essential Oils — Not So New
Don’t think there’s anything unusual about essential oils — they’ve been around a long time. The original recipe for Coca-Cola, invented by John Pemberton in 1886, included the essential oils of orange, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, and neroli. Chewing gum would never have made it off the ground without peppermint and spearmint essential oils. Today, essential oils are widely used in the food and drink industry to give natural flavor and aroma, and they are also used as preservatives. Essential oil components are even put in packaging film to protect food from deterioration. Manufacturers of cosmetics have long appreciated the cell-rejuvenating and beautifying properties of essential oils, and no respectable spa treatment would be without them. Indeed, the essential oil ingredients in products are often their chief selling point.
In the past, the entire perfume industry was based on essential oils, although, unfortunately, today they’ve largely been replaced by synthetic ingredients — which is perhaps why so many people have negative physical reactions to modern fragrance products. Essential oils are truly holistic in that they affect mind, body, and spirit. The mood-enhancing properties of certain essential oils ensured their inclusion in old-style perfumes. Put simply, they made people feel better. Also aromatics have always been used in spiritual practice — think about the frankincense and myrrh resin burned in huge quantities in certain churches, with great plumes of aromatic smoke engulfing the congregation. Native Americans put fragrant sage and cedar on hot rocks in the sweat lodge for ritual purification and spiritual connection.
At the coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the essential oils of neroli, rose, cinnamon, jasmine, and benzoin were included in the coronation oil with which she was anointed, the act that set the seal of God’s approval. Today there are around 300 essential oils easily available, but a well-chosen starting selection of around 10 essential oils will provide enough choice to meet the requirements of most home practitioners. Essential oils should be treated with respect, but also with confidence.
When the combination is more than the sum of the parts, there’s a synergistic effect. Mixing together two or more essential oils creates a compound that’s different from any of the component parts, and these blends can be very particular and powerful. A blend can increase potency without increasing the dosage. For example, the anti-inflammatory action of chamomile essential oil is greatly increased by adding lavender in the correct proportion. The interaction of particular essential oils with each other gives a vibrancy and dynamism to the whole that might not be achieved by using a single essential oil on its own. The important point about synergistic blends is that the proportions should be correct, and sometimes it’s necessary to prepare more, in volume, than initially needed so that the smallest component oils can be incorporated into the whole in the right proportions. Diluted in a body oil, you may have a component part that is only 0.001% of the whole, and yet that minuscule amount is integral to the whole.
Several essential oils act as metabolic regulators. These adaptogens, as they’re called, will instigate a reaction in the body that is appropriate to achieving a state of homeostasis, or balance. The reactions affect the autonomic nervous system, the endocrine system, and blood pressure, among others. For example, lemon essential oil works on the autonomic nervous system, acting as a sedative when needed, or as a tonic. Peppermint is another oil that might be found on both “relaxant” and “stimulant” lists, and this apparent contradiction can cause confusion unless you understand that these are adaptogens. Interestingly, there are other natural products that fall into this group, including the herb mint and the root ginseng.
The same species of plant can produce essential oils with different chemical components when grown under different conditions, such as variations in soil type, climate, and altitude. For example, the common herb Thymus vulgaris produces several essential oils for medicinal use. Generally, thyme can be a skin irritant and should be used with care, but thyme linalol, which is usually grown at high altitudes, can be used safely in the blends mentioned in this book and is the only chemotype of thyme that can be used in the treatment of children. Because one species of oil-producing plant can break down into several chemotypes, each with different medical potentials, the list of useful plants is more extensive than first appearances might imply.
The Timeless Apothecary
The huge volume of scientific research being carried out all over the world today into the healing properties of essential oils is a revival of work carried out in Europe in the 1880s. The “anti-contagious” properties of distilled plants were of course hugely important when no antibiotics were available. Then, around the turn of the twentieth century, there was a change in attitude, dismissing all things old and becoming excited at all things new — including chemistry and new drugs. We have in a sense come full circle because we now recognize that the essential oils once dismissed as old-fashioned are, in some cases, more effective for certain conditions than even the newest of drugs. And all the essential oils are being revisited in the hope they can inspire the development of new pharmaceuticals. In 1888 two doctors from Lyons, France, Célestin Cadéac and Albin Meunier, published a paper in the annals of the Pasteur Institute proving the antibacterial power of the essential oils of cinnamon, clove, and oregano.
This was just a few years after another scientist had shown that thyme was, likewise, a powerful antibacterial agent. It’s interesting that these men should choose to work with these particular essential oils because we know today that they’re among the most powerful antibacterial agents around. In Germany, essential oils were distilled by apothecaries for their medicinal use, as can be seen in the frontispiece of the 1557 herbal Kräuterbuch by doctor of medicine Adam Lonitzer. This work followed an older tradition. For example, Hieronymus Brunschwig’s first “small” book of distillation, published in 1500, was followed by his “big” book in 1519 — and that came out in 608 editions, being translated into every European language. The book contained a section advising which essential oils could be used to treat various illnesses, including lavender, rosemary, and pine. His own special recipe, no doubt a powerful one, was a combination of clove, cinnamon, mastic, and frankincense.
Glove makers used aromatic oils, probably to prevent mold, and it’s reported that only they and others who used fragrant oils and herbs were guaranteed to survive the ravages of the plagues that struck Europe during these centuries. People throughout time have realized the protective and healing nature of certain plant materials, and they were valued for that as much as for their sweet aromas. It’s not just any plant that finds itself in the pages of herbals or in perfume history. For example, stock lists from the Venetian trader Francesco Pegolotti, dated between 1310 and 1340, itemize “spices” any aromatherapist would recognize today, including anise, rose water, cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, cumin, camphor, lemon, clove, fennel, ginger, spikenard, frankincense, mastic, nutmeg, pepper, pine resin, and sandalwood.
Another item on his list was the delightful “sugar fragranced with rose and violets.” Venice was a city-state monopolizing trade routes to the East, from where much of the more exotic aromatic material came, and Italy became the first perfume-making center in Europe, especially at Florence. The craft was taken to France by Caterina de’ Medici, the pope’s niece, when she married the son of King Francois I in 1533, and it was especially promoted by Caterina’s personal perfumer, Renato Bianco, after he set up shop in Paris. One of history’s most famous physicians was Ibn Sīnā, who worked in the Persian Empire in the early eleventh century. He wrote over 100 books, the first of which was on the beneficial effects of rose, which he prescribed for digestive problems.
Rose had been distilled in Arabic countries from at least the ninth century, and rose water was produced long before that. It was traded into China, as recorded in Chao Ju-Kua’s book of 1225 called Records of Foreign Peoples and Their Trade (Chu Fan Chih). One manufacture process was described in a Chinese book dated 1115: the roses were heated to produce a vapor that condensed and formed a water. From various sources, we can see that rose petals were being processed at this early date to produce rose oil, rose water, and attar of roses. Distinguishing the three products can sometimes be difficult to establish, along with the meaning intended for the terms rose water and rose dew, but we do know that adulteration was a problem even in these early times. In Chao’s book of 1225 he suggests that to distinguish pure rose water from “counterfeited,” the liquid should be put in glass bottles and shaken to see if bubbles move up and down — if they do, it’s genuine.
Neroli essential oil, so valued today for its exquisite perfume and other valuable properties, is mentioned in a Chinese book dated 1233 by Chang Shih-nan. He says that the perfume exceeds that of all other citrus flowers or fruits, and, interestingly, it’s thought he was referring to the same flowers from which neroli is distilled today — Citrus aurantium. Chang then goes on to explain how perfumed wood shavings were made: alternate layers of orange blossom petals and wood shavings were placed in a tin steamer, causing “drops of liquid” to collect and be siphoned off to a container the old flowers were taken out, the distilled liquid was put back onto the wood shavings, and fresh petals were put into the still. The whole process was repeated three or four times. The wood shavings were then dried and put into porcelain vessels, producing a perfume Chang describes as “extraordinarily elegant.” Records of neroli being distilled in tin stills in China go back even further, to Han Yen-Chih’s Orange Record of 1178, and Wang Shih-Pheng’s Mei-Chhi Shih Chu of 1140, in which it is recorded that the distilled flowers make a perfume that also keeps insects away from clothes. Although this all sounds very early, records show that steam-distilled peppermint oil was certainly known in China in 982, and even as early as 659, according to a book called the Hsin Hsiu Pen Tshoo.
The orange tree, still used in Chinese medicine, was carried from China to Europe by Arab traders in the tenth century, while the ninth-century trade between China and Indonesia is known to have included aromatic medicines. The so-called father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, said in the fourth century BCE that “the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day,” and certainly the Greeks, and later the Romans, took this advice to heart. Hippocrates also recognized that burning certain aromatic substances offered protection against contagious diseases. The ancient Greeks had a very high opinion of aromatics, attributing sweet smells to divine origin. In ancient myths, gods descended to earth on scented clouds, wearing robes drenched in aromatic essences. The Greeks believed that after death the virtuous went to Elysium, where the air was permanently filled with a sweet-smelling aroma that rose from perfumed rivers.
The holy anointing oil that God directed Moses to make from “flowing” myrrh, sweet cinnamon, calamus, cassia, and olive oil would have been a powerful antiviral and antibiotic substance, the use of which gave protection and treatment to all those to whom it was administered. Cinnamon is a powerful antiviral and antibacterial agent; myrrh is an effective antiseptic and is cicatrisive — that is, it stimulates cellular growth — and its healing effects on open wounds, ulcers, and boils was legendary even before biblical times. The ancient Egyptians used aromatics for incense, embalming, and perfume. These included frankincense, myrrh, mastic, cinnamon, juniper berry, mint, and pine resin. Most aromas were of the base note type, thick and cloying, although lotus flower had a much lighter fragrance. The aromatic material was incorporated into different mediums, depending on the purpose. Linseed oil was used in embalming, for example, while honey or honeycomb wax was included into incense, and perfumes were carried in animal fats.
The Ebers Papyrus of 1500 BCE described many recipes for health using aromatics and also outlined the earliest known recipe for making a body deodorant. The Egyptians described remedies for mental health issues including manias, depression, and nervousness. Aromatic unguents were stored in fabulous, elaborately carved containers made from alabaster (calcite), often decorated with animals that, curiously, have their tongues poking out of their mouths. Cuneiform clay tablets from Babylonia dating from around 1800 BCE detail an import order that included the aromatic wood of the cedar tree, myrrh, and cypress — all used as essential oils therapeutically today. Myrtle too was a favorite. The Assyrians also loved aromatics, going so far as to perfume the mortar of their buildings. The first known perfumer was a woman, Tapputi, an overseer at a palace in Mesopotamia in the second millennium BCE .
Clay tablets tell us that she used oil, reeds, flowers, resin, and water to make perfumes by a process of distillation and filtration. Throughout the Middle East, perfume was valued and written about by Islamic scholars over hundreds of years, and the appreciation continues today when the walls of mosques and other holy places are washed with rose and oud. One of the earliest pieces of written evidence that perfume was a commodity commonly available to the man or woman in the street comes from an Indian epic of 2000 BCE , the Ramayana, which includes an episode in which the hero-prince, Rama of Ayodhya, returns after a period of exile to a triumphant homecoming in his village. Everyone, we’re told, pours into the street cheering, including the lamp makers, jewelers, potters, bath attendants, wine sellers, weavers, sword millers, perfumers, and incense sellers.
Some people might suppose that perfumes were used in early times to cover up bad smells caused by lack of hygiene, but apart from the fact that nature provided unpolluted rivers and streams long before the Industrial Revolution produced internal plumbing, there’s evidence that early civilizations were as concerned with cleanliness as we are. Around 3000 BCE the people in the city of Mohenjo Daro, in modern-day Pakistan, were obsessed with cleanliness according to archaeologists, who found plumbing in every house, a covered municipal drainage system, and a communal bath measuring 39 by 23 feet. Some of the oldest temples in India were built entirely of sandalwood, ensuring an aromatic atmosphere at all times. The oldest archaeological site of a perfume-making center is at Pyrgos-Mavroraki on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Dating back over 4,000 years, a wide range of materials have been discovered there, including stills for distilling plant materials and small perfume bottles made of translucent alabaster.
From residues remaining at the site, archaeologists believe that lavender, bay, pine, coriander, rosemary, parsley, myrtle, anise, and cinnamon were processed at the site. All these plant materials are produced as essential oils today. And at that time, like today, fragrant plant material was used not only for cosmetic and pharmaceutical purposes but also in religious ceremony. The only reason we’re here now is because our ancestors survived in conditions far harsher than we will ever have to experience. They had no pharmaceutical drugs and could use only the natural plant materials they found in their environment. Clearly, any useful medicinal plant was remembered because it was so important. In this way, humanity built up knowledge of the medicine chest growing around them. And that chest is remarkably like our own, because even if times change, the healing power of certain plants does not.
Methods of Use
What follows is an A–Z list of general guidelines for using essential oils with a variety of methods.
GENERAL: Diluted 3–8 drops or Undiluted 1–4 drops – Run the bath as usual. Keep the door closed to keep the aroma in the room. Essential oils can be used neat — in their concentrated form — or diluted in carrier oil, milk, milk powder, vegetable glycerin, seaweed powder, herbal powders, baking soda, salt, or Epsom salts. To avoid skin sensitivity, dilute the essential oil first in a little carrier oil. Essential oil can also be dropped directly onto the water in the bathtub and dispersed by agitating the water with the hand before getting into the bath.
SITZ – 2 or 3 drops per sitz bath – A sitz bath is a bath in which you immerse the lower part of your torso in water, from the waist to upper thigh, to treat specific conditions. Run a bath to hip level or use a bowl that is large enough to lower your behind into. Add the essential oil to the water, and then disperse it well with your hand to avoid large globules that may come in contact with delicate mucous membranes.
FOOT: 5–8 drops in a bowl of water, diluted or undiluted – Fill a large bowl with warm water and add the essential oil, dispersing it well with your hand. For a really relaxing foot bath, place some round, smooth pebbles in the bottom of the bowl and rub the feet gently back and forth over them. Rock or sea salt or Epsom salts can also be added. Soak the feet for a maximum of 20 minutes, adding warm water as needed. If globules of diluted essential oil are floating on the surface of the water, you can gather them in your hands and massage the oil into the feet.
HAND: 2–4 drops in a bowl of water – Fill a small bowl with warm water and add the essential oil, diluted in a nourishing carrier oil, and disperse it well with your hand. Leave the hands in the water for a maximum of 10 minutes. If globules of diluted essential oil are floating on the surface of the water, you can massage them into your hands.
1 drop diluted in ½ teaspoon carrier oil – Use warm water. Then add the diluted essential oil and disperse it as well as possible to avoid irritation of mucous membranes.
1 or 2 drops – Many essential oils can mark clothing, depending upon the material, so use this method only when necessary and on clothes you’re prepared to see stained. This method is useful for repelling insects, especially midges and mosquitoes. Put the essential oil neat (undiluted) on socks, on the bottom of shorts or trouser legs, or on the collar, sleeves, or cuffs of shirts. To keep insects away from your head, apply the oil to a hat, hair band, or head scarf.
3–10 drops – Compresses can be applied hot or cold. Broadly speaking, hot compresses are used on muscular aches and pains, while cold is used for any inflamed or swollen areas, including sprains and strains. Hot increases circulation to the area, while cold can decrease circulation. Always use 100% natural material, unbleached if possible.
1 or 2 drops – Put the undiluted essential oil onto the cotton swab and apply directly to the affected area.
Cotton Pads or Balls
1 or 2 drops – Put diluted oil on the cotton pad or cotton ball, leave to dry, and place in clothes drawers or closets. Infused cotton pads or balls can be placed around the home to deter insects.
As desired – A wide range of diffusers are available. Some rely on a heat source — a candle or electricity — to heat the essential oil molecules and disperse them into the atmosphere. Other types work in entirely different ways — using a fan, for example, to disperse the molecules. Diffusers are designed for both room and vehicle use. Pottery diffusers should be nonporous to allow cleaning. With diffusers using water, ensure that the water level is maintained so the essential oils don’t burn. Nebulizers or oil vaporizers, which issue a fine spray of essential oil into the atmosphere, were designed for clinical use and are often difficult to clean between uses of different blends of essential oils.
1–6 drops applied directly onto a dressing – This method is used to prevent the spread of infection and promote wound healing. Add the essential oil directly onto the dressing that will cover the affected area — such as bandages, lint, cotton, or the fabric part of adhesive bandages. If the area is already dressed, apply the essential oil on the exposed skin around the dressing.
1 or 2 drops per 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of face mask – Essential oils can be added to any natural face mask. Base your choice of essential oil upon your skin type and the action on the skin you want it to achieve — whether as a treatment for acne, as a general stimulant, as a cleanser, as a purifier, rejuvenator, etc.
8–15 drops in 1 fl. oz. (30 mL) of carrier oil – Use the same method as for making a massage oil. However, use a more skin-nourishing carrier oil, with additional restorative nut or seed oils, depending on your skin type. Use only a small amount for each application.
8–15 drops in 3½ fl. oz. (100 mL) of water or hydrolat – Use spring or distilled water or hydrolat. Combine the oil and water before filtering through an unbleached paper coffee filter. Hydrolats make excellent face tonics and can be used as purchased, or diluted with 20% water.
20–30 drops to 1 fl. oz. (30 mL) of alcohol – Friction is a term that is often used to describe the action of quickly rubbing a part of the body, a treatment often utilized by sports therapists. For friction, essential oil can be added to ethyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) — which has traditionally been used in sports remedial care. Shake the mixture well before use. An alternative to the alcohol would be a light, easily absorbed carrier oil. This method should not be used on the face or delicate mucous membrane areas.
1 or 2 drops in a gallon (4 liters) of water – Certain essential oils can be very effective as plant misters for microbial infection or to deter insects. Add the essential oil to the water, shake vigorously, and leave to blend for 24 hours, before filtering through a paper coffee filter. Essential oils should never be combined with chemical gardening products, but they can be used with other natural organic methods.
Up to 8 drops – Add the essential oil to the water and disperse it well with your hand. Essential oils are not water soluble and may leave a residue in or around pipes.
Up to 8 drops per pint (475 mL) of water – Add the essential oil to the water in the humidifier. For humidifiers that hang over radiators, just add the essential oil to the water. More complex machines, however, may be damaged by sticky residue, so assess each humidifier to make sure it can be used in conjunction with essential oils.
(as a vapor from a bowl) 3–5 drops per bowl of water – Put steaming hot water in a bowl and add the essential oil. Cover the head with a towel, which should be large enough to reach over the sides of the bowl. Keep the face 12 inches (30 cm) away from the water and shut both eyes. Inhale the steam through the nose, with each inhalation lasting around 2-3 seconds. Repeat as needed but for no more than 5–10 minutes per session.
(from a tissue or handkerchief) 1 or 2 drops -Simply put the essential oil onto a tissue or handkerchief and inhale through the nose when required.
Up to 8 drops – Add the essential oil to the Jacuzzi water, then disperse it with the hand. Essential oils are not water soluble and may leave a residue in or on the pipes.
LOTIONS AND CREAMS
(for body) 5–20 drops to each 1 fl. oz. (30 mL) of natural, unfragranced lotion or cream – Use an unscented lotion or cream, made of organic natural ingredients. Add the required number of essential oil drops and mix in well. Use as you would a normal body cream.
(for body) 10–30 drops to each 1 fl. oz. (30 mL) of carrier oil – Use a dark-colored glass bottle. Measure the carrier oil. If using a single essential oil or a pre-prepared blend, add it to the carrier oil. If making your own blend of essential oils, first combine them, then add the required number of drops to the carrier oil. Use no more than the amount required to cover the area being massaged.
Between 15% and 30% of the total perfume – Absolutes and essential oils are the original perfume materials. To create a natural perfume they can be blended together and incorporated into a carrier oil, liquid wax base, or alcohol.
1–3 drops – Essential oils can be applied on pillows to assist breathing in cases of respiratory infection or sleeping problems. Simply place 1–3 drops of essential oil on the corner or underside of a pillow, away from the eyes. Alternatively, put the essential oil on a cotton ball or tissue and tuck it under the corner of the pillow or inside the pillowcase — behind the pillow. Ensure that the essential oil is located in an area away from the face, especially the eyes.
As desired – Add the essential oils to the potpourri in the same way as you would add a commercial synthetic potpourri-refresher product. Single essential oils or blends can be used. Essential oils may cause color changes to potpourri material that has been colored.
As room purifier: 10–20 drops per pint (475 mL) of water, As general fragrance: 8–10 drops per pint (475 mL) of water – The quick and easy method is to use a new plant mister. Add the essential oil to about a pint of warm water in the mister, avoiding the thicker viscous types of essential oil as these may accumulate around the nozzle. Shake vigorously each time it’s used, as essential oils are not water soluble. Avoid spraying over fine furniture, wood, fabrics, and anything that could be damaged by water.
2–5 drops per 2 pints (950 mL) of water – Only use this method if the sauna uses water to induce heat. Add the essential oil to the water, mixing as best as you can, and filter the mixture through a paper coffee filter before placing on the hot coals or rocks. Use essential oils of juniper, cypress, pine, or eucalyptus. Essential oils are flammable and should never be placed on a heat source unless diluted in water and filtered.
5–10 drops in ½ fl. oz. (15 mL) of carrier – A variety of base carriers can be used for scalp treatments. These can include natural (botanical), ready-made scalp treatments, to which the essential oil can be added. Or the essential oil can be added to aloe vera gel, water, or jojoba oil, and massaged into the scalp. Use 2–3 drops of your prepare mix for each application. Alternatively, simply add the essential oil to a bowl of final rinse water after washing the hair.
5–10 drops in 3½ fl. oz. (100 mL) – Essential oils can be added to any unscented shampoo that is composed of organic natural ingredients. Ensure the essential oils are well distributed. Choose essential oils that can be used on sensitive skin.
1–5 drops – Wash as usual. Then drop the essential oil onto a washcloth or sponge and rub it briskly over the body as you continue to stand under the running water. Breathe in the aromatic steam through your nose. Avoid the face and delicate membrane areas.
SILK (FAUX) FLOWERS
As desired – Open the flower completely and place the essential oil right at the center. Close the flower again if desired. Remember that essential oils may cause discoloration, so try this on one flower before proceeding with the others. Essential oils can also be placed on paper that is put in the bottom of the vase.
SPRAYS AND MISTS FOR FACE AND BODY
For body: 10–20 drops to each pint (475 mL) of water, For face: 2–5 drops to each half pint (240 mL) of water – Add the essential oils to warm water or a hydrolat, shake thoroughly, pour through an unbleached paper coffee filter, and place in a spray container. Cool before using. Shake before each use. This method is useful for body or face. Keep the eyes closed when spraying the face.
15–32 drops in ½ pint (240 mL) of warm water – A wash is a prepared mixture for washing infected areas, such as wounds, grazes, and cuts. Mix the essential oils and water together in a bottle and shake well. Keep stored in the fridge for no longer than 14 days, and shake before each use.
(room diffuser) 2–10 drops per pint (475 mL) – Boil a pint (475 mL) of water and put the steaming water in a heatproof bowl, then add the essential oil. Place on the floor or on a heatproof surface, ensuring that it’s not within reach of children or pets. Close doors and windows to keep the aroma molecules inside.
Methods of Use to Be Avoided by the Home Practitioner
Professional aromatherapists and healthcare providers use several methods that may not be appropriate for use by the home practitioner. Professional medical practitioners might suggest the use of essential oils orally, for example, but always in extremely low and precise dosages, because ingesting essential oils involves the rigors of the digestive system. Home practitioners should avoid the oral use of essential oils unless under the direction of a professional healthcare provider. On the very rare occasions when this method is suggested, the directions must be followed exactly. For example, a single drop of an essential oil — usually one that’s found in food products, such as peppermint — might be recommended, given on a sugar lump or in a spoonful of honey and then diluted again in some form of liquid to avoid irritation of the membranous lining of the esophagus. It’s increasingly being recognized that taking anything orally may have its disadvantages, and skin patches and inhalation methods have been developed to avoid the oral route. For example, nasal sprays are now employed to deliver inoculation against influenza in children, and insulin in a crystallized form can be inhaled by diabetics.
The Basic Care Kit
Essential oils are versatile — each one can perform a variety of functions. There are 10 essential oils in the Basic Care Kit, which between them will manage a huge number of problems. The short profile of each of these oils that follows may help you decide which to include in your kit, and which to add as time goes on. The choice will very much depend on your own requirements.
(Lavandula angustifolia) Lavender is an indispensable essential oil — it’s not only useful to have at home but many people won’t leave home without it. In a sense, it’s the mother of all essential oils: incredibly versatile, yet powerful. The aroma doesn’t suit all tastes, but when someone suffers a minor burn or scald, a cut or graze, an insect bite or a headache, a tooth abscess or sleeplessness, it’s lavender they call for. Not only is lavender a spectacular healer that also prevents scarring, it’s a mood tonic that brings calm, relaxation, and stress relief. Lavender oil is a natural antiseptic, antibiotic, and slightly antifungal agent that’s also a sedative and antidepressant. Although not known specifically as a circulatory stimulant, lavender oil certainly seems to allay the effects of clinical shock. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that could be applied undiluted to the skin in certain acute conditions.
(Pelargonium graveolens) Geranium is deceptively charming. If the quality is good, the aroma of geranium essential oil is clean and floral and enjoyed by most everyone, including children and teenagers. The sweet aroma of geranium masks the fact that this is an antiseptic and antibacterial oil, making it a good choice to include in anti-infective blends, while also being an analgesic. Geranium is indispensable in the treatment of circulatory and blood disorders; it will help chilblains to disappear and help alleviate the effects of frostbite. Geranium brings hormonal balance and is a vital component in addressing female reproductive conditions, including menstrual and menopausal problems and infertility. Geranium oil is excellent in body care and brings a radiant glow when used in skin care. Its astringent properties contribute to its general usefulness. It also works profoundly on the emotions, serving as a nerve tonic and as a sedative. It’s fantastic in blends because just one drop used as a back note will mask a healing aroma that might otherwise be too medicinal. Aromatically, geranium is an equalizer, making everything smell a bit better, and as such it is a great all-rounder in room fragrances.
(Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool) There are several types of Thymus vulgaris essential oil available, but the chemotype (ct.) linalool is preferred because it’s versatile, has a long history of use in clinical aromatherapy, and is more compatible with skin applications because it’s considered nonirritating. Thyme linalol is like a valued warrior, having powerful antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Few oils are as useful as thyme linalol when there’s an internal infection of some sort, or when “flu” or other contagious conditions are a threat. Even one or two drops of thyme linalol used in a room diffuser mix of, for example, geranium, lemon, and cardamom will add purifying anti-infectious protection. The antimicrobial aspects of thyme linalol are enhanced by other properties attributed to this oil, such as its immune stimulant and diuretic properties. Thyme linalol is excellent in the treatment of soft tissue and joint conditions, including rheumatism. It’s also used in cases of neuralgia and fatigue and in hair- and skin-care regimes, including those for acne. In addition, thyme linalol is a good brain stimulant, boosting the capacity for analytical thought.
(Anthemis nobilis) There are several essential oil–producing plants called chamomile, but the two most commonly used in aromatherapy and known as the true chamomiles are chamomile roman, which is included here, and chamomile german (Matricaria recutita), which is distinguished by its beautiful deep-blue color, due to a high azulene content. Chamomile roman is an excellent anti-inflammatory oil, which makes it valuable in a wide range of conditions. It is also antiseptic, antibacterial, and when combined with other oils, analgesic, and it is used in recovery from burns, including sunburn, as well as for asthma, sprains, strains, diarrhea, nausea, and fever. It is also used for a variety of skin care issues, including in rejuvenation treatments. Chamomile roman is calming and sedative — particularly effective in the treatment of nervous conditions, depressive states, and insomnia. It has a balancing effect in blends. Chamomile is a strong but humble oil that works on the mind, body, and spirit, the psychological as well as the physical. As it’s essentially a soothing oil, chamomile roman is good to use with children, and also with the inner child in adults. This is an oil with many subtle levels.
(Rosmarinus officinalis) Rosemary is a good analgesic essential oil, useful in the treatment of all muscular problems, as well as joint conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. It’s used both for respiratory tract issues and, in small amounts, for conditions of the liver and kidneys. Rosemary is a very stimulating essential oil, having an effect on both the physical body and the analytical mind. All these attributes make rosemary energizing when facing an exhausting, mentally challenging day, or following a physically stressful one. Rosemary is an aid to memory — whether required for enhancing the ability of the brain to function well or exploring long-term emotional memory. It’s also used in the treatment of depression, migraine, headaches, anxiety, and stress. Rosemary is helpful in a variety of beauty treatments, including those for cellulite, acne, and hair care. For the sportsperson, cook, or gardener, rosemary is invaluable.
(Mentha piperita) Peppermint is hugely helpful in all problems of the digestive tract, including indigestion, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach-derived halitosis. It’s also useful in certain conditions of the respiratory and circulatory systems and as an all-round tonic. Peppermint is an analgesic, antiseptic, cooling, anti-inflammatory oil with some antifungal properties. It has a place in the treatment of catarrh, headaches, migraines, skin irritations, rheumatism, toothache, and fatigue. In small amounts, it can be incorporated into complex perfumes or room blends, providing a subtle back note. It has a unique place in cookery, while also being able to keep ants, fleas, and mice away. Peppermint is a multipurpose oil, and a useful addition to the Basic Care Kit.
(Elettaria cardamomum) Cardamom has layers of healing ability, starting with its calming effect on the digestive system, making it a good choice when dealing with flatulence, stomach or abdominal cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohn’s disease. Cardamom is antibacterial and antifungal, as well as analgesic and anti-inflammatory. It helps ease muscular cramps and spasm and, as an adaptogen, has a calming yet stimulating effect. Cardamom can also be used for most types of coughs and is useful for respiratory problems, as well as for certain types of food-related infection. As if all this were not enough, cardamom can be used in cases of exhaustion — whether physical, mental, or emotional. It’s stimulating in cases of tiredness or fatigue, yet has a calming effect on the mind and nerves during times of stress. Cardamom has a balancing and harmonizing effect on the body and mind. It’s also a gentle ingredient in skin preparations and can be used in cooking.
(Citrus limon) Lemon essential oil has a tonic action on the lymphatic system and a stimulating action on the digestive system. It can be used to alleviate bilious attacks, and when combined with other essential oils, it can contribute to the treatment of verrucas, insect bites, and tension headaches. Lemon can assist the metabolic function and is useful in skin care. Although slightly sedative and calming, lemon essential oil greatly aids focus and concentration, especially when part of a blend. The fresh, clean aroma of lemon is universally liked, making it highly useful as a synergistic addition to room fragrances and perfuming blends. This antiseptic and uplifting essential oil has a place in household care and, of course, is invaluable as a flavoring agent. Lemon essential oil can be used for so many things — as a water purifier, in skin care and body treatments — it is a true all-rounder.
(Eucalyptus radiata) Eucalyptus radiata has been chosen for the Basic Care Kit because it’s the species of the genus Eucalyptus that can safely be used on those with long-term chronic conditions, while also being a strong and effective essential oil. Eucalyptus radiata is perhaps best known for its effectiveness against respiratory tract infections, but it has many other uses too. This is an antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral, and analgesic essential oil, with anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and deodorizing properties. As part of complex blends, eucalyptus radiata can also be helpful in the treatment of cystitis and candida. It cools the body in summer, while also treating sunburn and deterring insects, and it is warming in the winter, while keeping infection at bay.
(Melaleuca alternifolia) Tea tree essential oil is antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal — making it useful for a wide range of conditions. It’s used in the treatment of various infections, including candida, ringworm, and athlete’s foot, as well as for toothache, sunburn, cuts and grazes, and various skin conditions, including acne. It could also be incorporated into mouthwashes and hair shampoos. Tea tree oil is widely used as an insect repellent and to treat insect stings. Although the aroma is not to everyone’s taste, it can easily be disguised with other essential oils for use in room diffusion methods when someone in the household has a contagious airborne infection.