Aromatherapy is an art as well as a science

Introduction to Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is an art as well as a science

Aromatherapy is an art as well as a science

“A sound mind in a sound body” (Latin: Mens sana in corpore sano) is a quotation from the writings of Juvenal dating back to the first century AD and speaks of the harmony and relationship of mind to body and vice versa.

A person’s state of mind isn’t only about thoughts and emotions but affects physical condition and function. This concept forms the whole basis of alternative medicine, (often called “holistic medicine” because it relates to the whole person, not just the physical) including aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that makes use of fragrant plant materials called essential oils, along with other aromatic compounds. The purpose of this therapy is to positively affect a person’s mind, mood, cognitive function or physical health leading to an improved level of wellness. This occurs partly due to the influence of aroma on the brain, particularly in the limbic system via the olfactory system, and partly through direct pharmacological effects by absorption. To benefit from this, a simple guide to aromatherapy should be followed.

Essential oils are used in aromatherapy for their therapeutic effects in many conditions such as for fungal skin irritations, lowering of cholesterol and blood sugar level, thinning the blood and so much more.

Although some medical authorities doubt the effectiveness of essential oils in alleviating medical conditions, the effects of aromatherapy are well known to be beneficial by many others. This is the reason why more and more people are gaining an interest in aromatherapy.

Learning aromatherapy starts with how it’s done

There are many methods including aerial diffusion, direct inhalation, and topical applications by various means.

  • Aerial diffusion can be used for environmental fragrancing, aerial disinfection, to aid respiratory disorders and as a mood changer.
  • Direct inhalation is mainly used to promote respiratory relief via respiratory disinfection, decongestion and expectoration.
  • Topical application methods include general massage, baths, compresses and poultices, and the preparation of blends, creams and ointments for therapeutic skin care.

Aromatherapy materials

You’ve probably heard of essential oils, but there are other materials which can be employed in aromatherapy. The essential oil is just the most well known, though other substances known as absolutes and concretes as well as some gums and resins which are also used. All these are extracted from plants via steam distillation, expression or solvent extraction.

It’s important when buying essential oil to use a reputable supplier and to check that what you are buying is 100% pure essential oil (or whatever type of product you are purchasing).

Carrier oils are used to dilute neat essential oils for topical use, and there are quite a number to choose from, though the most popular, probably, are sweet almond oil, light olive oil (particularly for skin and hair care blends), grapeseed oil (cheap and cheerful, but short-lived) and sunflower seed oil (better for aromatherapy than for frying, as you don’t get trans fats with aromatherapy). There are also carrier additives for various purposes.

Undiluted oils are sometimes used for direct inhalation or added to bath water, while blended ones are used for topical purposes eg. on the skin.

Things to be aware of

Although it’s not something everyone is aware of, essential oils are “not just a pretty smell”, but are medicinally active, and so you need to follow a few basic precautions:

  1. Most importantly, essential oils should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.
  2. Bear in mind that the term “essential oil” has been misappropriated by certain suppliers (dating back to the old hippy era, when the term was synonymous with “perfume oil” in many people’s minds). So take care to look for a reputable supplier such as my shop which sells only 100% pure essential oils and blends, unadulterated with chemicals and other things. Blends are sold for your convenience, and in the case of the most expensive oils make them more affordable.
  3. Remember that most essential oils should not be used on the skin without diluting them first with a suitable carrier oil. You need a mixing bottle, to which you add the carrier oil first, and then the correct number of drops of essential oil to make a safe and useful blend of the oil/s you are using. There are a few oils that can be used neat, but even in these cases, it’s best to do a patch test first, to check that you don’t get a bad reaction.
  4. Check out the properties, recommendations and contra-indications before using any essential oil. Some are safe for pregnant women to use, but most are not. Some should not be used on children below a certain age or by people suffering from certain conditions or using certain medication. And St John’s Wort and most citrus oils are phototoxic, so should not be used on skin which will be exposed to the sun or tanning equipment in the following 48 hours. You need to know these things before you use it.
  5. Don’t buy more of any particular oil than you can use within a year (for some oils, only 6 months), either of essential oils or carrier oils. You may well find that a good sniff of your purchase more than a year later is less pleasant than you expected. The only solution at this point is to throw them away, so it’s best to buy what you need and no more.

Finally, be aware that essential oils may need particular precautions . For example, Find out the precautions for the oil/s you are considering and take these into account before you use them.


Whether you buy organic or not, it's important that you buy 100% pure essential oils

Pros and cons of organic essential oil

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Whether you buy organic or not, it's important that you buy 100% pure essential oils

Whether you buy organic or not, it’s important that you buy 100% pure essential oils

I’ve been asked to explain the difference between organic and non-organic essential oils, so that’s what this post is about.

Before I get into the subject I should remind you that whether you buy organic or not, it’s important that you buy 100% pure essential oils. This is the grade you should always use, because it means the oil hasn’t been adulterated with other inferior and potentially dangerous additives. You should also avoid so-called “fragrance oils” which may contain no essential oil at all, and will almost certainly include dangerous substitutes.

Remember that aromatherapy oils are medicinal, and like conventional medicines there are cowboys and counterfeiters trying to make cash out of the market by selling stuff that either has been watered down using what they might refer to as “nature-identical” chemicals or just made from scratch in some factory. They might even label their products “100% pure” or “organic” – but some lowlifes label fake heart tablets just like the real thing, too.

Please note that essential oils should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Make sure you buy your oils from a reputable supplier. That way, you can be sure that the products you buy are what they say they are.

Needless to say, at the current state of human knowledge, the only nature identical product you can get is that actually produced naturally, not in a lab or factory. Manufactured (as opposed to real) oils might smell quite like the oil you thought you were buying, but the effects will almost certainly be totally different – they may even make a condition you are trying to treat worse.

So, to get back to the main point of this post: the pros and cons of organic essential oil. In one sense, of course, all essential oils are “organic” in that they’ve been produced naturally by plants. This is what organic used to mean when I was a kid (I’m sure that dates me, lol), but nowadays the term means a lot more – that the plants have been grown without the use of chemicals in clean soil that hasn’t seen a chemical fertilizer or pesticide for many years (the actual number of years differs from country to country).

On my herbal medicine posts, I always advise readers to grow their herbs organically. This is because, if you drench your herbs in chemicals it’s in the nature of plants to draw them in through the roots and leaves. Conventional farmers rely on this behavior, but if you’re going to use a remedy made from a plant which contains unnatural substances, the results may be completely different from what you expect.

The same applies to aromatherapy oils, which are highly concentrated extracts of plants. Normally, they’re used in quite high dilution as discussed in other posts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and get the purest variety you can find.

So that’s the pro for organic essential oils. And it’s a biggy. But what are the cons?

There are basically two: price and availability.

If you look through the lists of essential oils on sale, you’ll probably notice that not every oil is available in an organic version. This is because organic certification is quite tricky, and many oils are sourced from parts of the world where these things are rarely paid much attention to. That doesn’t mean that the oils aren’t produced using organic methods – they may be – but getting them certified as such is difficult, particularly when the oil or resin is sourced from plants growing naturally within the forest.

The other problem is that organic essential oils, even when they are offered, are almost invariably much more expensive than oils not certified as organic. This can be an important factor, particularly with the more expensive oils.

So there you have it. When buying essential oils, always buy from a reputable supplier, buy 100% pure essential oil, and if you can find it and afford it, your best choice is organic.

I’ve done my best to find a good source of organic essential oil, but despite my best effort, I can only find a few (27 at the time of writing, plus one blend). I do have a wide range of more than 300 essential oils and some 24 essential oil blends, some of which are organic, in my online store.


This beautiful damask rose is Quatre Saisons

Rose essential oils, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

This beautiful damask rose is Quatre Saisons

This beautiful damask rose is Quatre Saisons

Rose oil comes in two main types, rose absolute and rose otto. They are both used for the same purposes.

Because rose essential oils are costly, you may find that they are offered diluted. These are usable, but they will not keep for any length of time. If you are likely to use them up in 6 months, by all means buy the diluted variety, otherwise bite the bullet, buy the undiluted, and look on it as an investment.

You should take especial care to ensure that the rose oil you buy (or the rose oil content of a blend) is 100% pure, because there are very many cheaper products which smell like rose oil, but have more association with the factory than the garden. Additives and substitutes intended to bulk up or replace rose essential oil while maintaining a high scent impact may be actively dangerous in oils intended for therapeutic use.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Rose essential oil is not the same as rose geranium oil, though both are attributed to Venus in the tables of correspondences used for centuries, before what we now consider conventional medicine arrived.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, rose otto is the more expensive of the two. sometimes called attar of roses, it has been used since ancient times. It is usually extracted by steam distillation from Rosa damascena, the Damask Rose (occasionally Rosa centifolia, sometimes called Rose Maroc) and is a pale yellow or olive green oil with a very rich, spicy floral scent. 100% pure rose otto will keep for as long as you need it, provided you keep it in a cool dark place. There are reports of rose otto produced in the 1940s which is still good.

Rose otto is the best type of rose essential oil for aromatherapy, though because of the cost, some people use rose absolute instead. On the other hand, rose otto is extremely heady, and you will probably find that you need to use much less in a blend than is normal with other essential oils.

Rose absolute is extracted by solvent extraction. This yields a reddish orange or olive green oil with a lighter floral scent, more like you would instinctively expect from a rose oil. It is much more viscous than rose otto and solidifies at quite high temperatures, so much so that you may need to warm it in your hands before use.

You might come across two other rose oils, rose leaf absolute, which is used purely for flavor and fragrance, and rosehip oil, a carrier oil effective in treating burns, scars and wrinkles, and promotes tissue regeneration. Rosehip oil has recently become popular after Kate Middleton revealed she uses it for her stretch marks. I offer rosehip oil in my online shop.

Both rose otto and rose absolute are used for the same purposes.

Uses of rose essential oil

Rose oil is often said to be mainly used in skin care, but I’ll give you the list and you can decide:

Skin care: ageing skin, broken capillaries, cold sores, combination skin, dry skin, eczema, elasticity, herpes, mature skin, rejuvenation, sensitive skin, thread-veined skin, toning, wrinkles.

Other: addiction, allergic headache/migraine, allergies, anger, antibacterial, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, anxiety, aphrodisiac, astringent, balancing, bereavement, calming, circulatory disorders, cooling, decongestant, detoxifier, digestive tonic, diuretic, emmenagogic, endocrine system, fear, grief, hangover, hay fever, heart tonic, hepatic, labor, laxative, menopause, menstrual disorders, pmt, regret, rejuvenating, relaxing, sadness, sedative, stress, tension, terror, tonic, uplifting, uterine tonic, well-being, worry about the past.

I offer a wide range of rose aromatherapy products including several different types of essential oil in my online shop.


Lavandin, Lavandula x intermedia

Lavender essential oil, benefits and uses 3

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Lavandin, Lavandula x intermedia

Lavandin, Lavandula x intermedia

I’ve already discussed the different types of lavender aromatherapy oil available in my first post in this little series, and in the second post I went into the uses of lavender aromatherapy oils on the skin. This post covers other uses.

As I already said, lavender is so incredibly versatile that it really should be included in everybody’s aromatherapy kit. Great for emergencies such as burns, it’s also useful for calming and relaxing both mind, body and doubtless spirit too (though there isn’t any way of proving the last of these)! This is not just a nebulous “oh it makes me feel good” thing I’m talking about. Lavender essential oil is well known for dealing with anxiety and mood swings, as well as nervous tension.

As with all essential oils, none of the lavender essential oils should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Looking at this in more detail, it helps to relieve symptoms of fear, including apprehension, negative thoughts, panic attacks, paranoia, post traumatic stress, stage fright and worry of all kinds. Since bed wetting is often caused by underlying anxiety it’s not surprising that lavender is often used to treat this, as well.

Lavender also helps to get strong emotions under control, such as hysteria, impatience and irritability. Its general relaxation properties make it useful for treating insomnia and an aid to restful sleep, also for exhaustion and overwork; on the physical side it can also help to soothe and relax stiff, swollen and painful joints.

Migraine is a very variable condition which seems to be caused by a narrowing of the arteries in the head, though the underlying reasons are still not definite. Lavender has been shown to help in many cases, and with a condition as debilitating as this, it’s definitely worth trying, though as causes seem to differ from person to person, it’s obviously not possible to guarantee it 100%. You can either use it in an oil burner, on a handkerchief or the pillow, or dab it neat direct onto the temples.

For most of the other conditions mentioned here, you can use your lavender aromatherapy oil either in an oil burner or electric diffuser or by adding drops to your bath. For a standard oil burner, I would recommend 5-6 drops of lavender essential oil, or a similar quantity added to your bath. Don’t forget that when using essential oils in the bath, it should be added after the bath is ready to get into, as otherwise all the fragrance will have dissipated before you get the opportunity to benefit by it.

Even though in most cases described here you wouldn’t be using lavender essential oil directly on the skin, it’s still important that you obtain 100% pure essential oil, as the therapeutic properties are not delivered by the fragrance alone, but by volatile components which come along with it. To get the benefit of real lavender essential oil, you have to use real lavender essential oil, not a man-made substitute that smells similar to it.

I offer true lavender essential oil and organic true lavender essential oil in my online shop.


True lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender essential oil, benefits and uses 2

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

True lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

True lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender aromatherapy extracts are incredibly useful, which is why I recommend it as one of the first two essential oils you should buy.

In my previous post, I discussed the differences between the different types of lavender products used in aromatherapy. As mentioned in that post, for most purposes the three essential oils are interchangeable, though lavandin is the best one to choose for respiratory. circulatory and muscular disorders, if available.

As with all essential oils, none of the lavender essential oils should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Lavender is also used in herbal medicine, and was a favorite with grannies when I was a kid to scent the underwear drawer. When my own son was in nursery, one of the things he made me for Mothers Day was a little bag stuffed full of lavender, for just this purpose. I still have it, and amazingly, some 16+ years later, if you put it to your nose and sniff, you can still catch the scent of lavender!Lavender is quite good at holding its scent, as this true story illustrates, but when we are talking about essential oil for therapeutic use, it’s important to store it correctly, inside the dark colored glass bottle in which you purchased it, somewhere cool and out of the sun. This way it will retain its usefulness for at least 6 months, and possibly longer. Even though aromatherapy sounds like it’s all about the scent, there are other components which may be lost if any oil is kept for too long, or in the wrong conditions.

When buying any aromatherapy oil, it’s very important to ensure that what you are buying is 100% pure essential oil, and even though there’s no real shortage of lavender it’s still necessary to check the label to make sure this is so, because not all manufacturers adhere to the best quality standards. You don’t want something that has been adulterated with fake products, because it will most likely not work correctly, and may be dangerous if used therapeutically. Don’t expect anything called a “fragrance oil” to be useful for aromatherapy.

Lavender is one of the very few essential oils which can be used directly on the skin without diluting it with a carrier oil first. Of course, it’s going to work out a lot cheaper if you do take the time to make a blend before use, but in an emergency – for example if you need to treat a burn or an insect sting quickly – you can use it neat with no worries. The chemist who brought aromatherapy to the modern world actually discovered the value of essential oils when he suffered severe burns and plunged his arm into the nearest liquid to hand – a vat of lavender essential oil – subsequently noticing that the burns healed much more quickly than usual and with virtually no scarring.

You will have gathered from this that one of the uses for lavender oil is to treat burns, for which it is usually used undiluted. Other uses which might come under the heading of “skin care” include abscesses, acne, allergic reactions, athlete’s foot, boils, bruises, dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, inflammation, insect bites and stings, lice (cooties), psoriasis, scabies, sunburn, small cuts and wounds, and zits. For most of these, you would make a blend with a suitable carrier oil and apply it directly to the area to be treated.

I recommend one of the lighter carrier oils, such as sweet almond oil, for most of these blends, though olive oil would be a better choice for a dandruff cure or to treat head lice/cooties. If you want to keep the blend for more than a few days, you will need to use a dark colored glass bottle, brown or blue, to make it in (you can get these in various sizes from most good suppliers of essential oils). Plastic bottles are not suitable for this purpose, because the oil breaks down the plastic, and the contents end up being contaminated by nasty chemicals.

Measure the quantity of carrier oil for the size of bottle you’re using in millilitres (if you don’t have a metric measuring beaker, you should get one of these when you buy your first mixing bottles, as in general aromatherapy is based on the metric system because of its European origins). Pour it into the bottle and then add up to 1 drop of lavender essential oil for every 2ml of carrier oil. eg. if you have a 50ml bottle, measure out 50ml of carrier oil and add up to 25 drops of lavender oil. Put the lid on and give it a good shake to mix before using it.

In my next post I will list the other uses for lavender aromatherapy oils.

I offer various types of true lavender essential oil in my online shop.


Spike lavender, Lavandula latifolia

Lavender essential oil, benefits and uses 1

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Spike lavender, Lavandula latifolia

Spike lavender, Lavandula latifolia

Lavender aromatherapy oil is one of the first essential oils you should get when you’re starting to use aromatherapy. Nobody who practises aromatherapy seriously should be without a bottle of lavender essential oil.

Having said that, when you check out the options available from most suppliers of 100% pure essential oil, you will almost certainly find that there are at least two different types of lavender oil on offer, plus another oil called “lavandin” which is in fact a type of lavender as well. So let’s look at what’s available and talk about the differences first of all.

As with all essential oils, none of the lavender essential oils should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.
Lavandin, Lavandula x intermedia
Lavandin is a hybrid lavender, a cross between true lavender and spike lavender. It is available as a regular essential oil, and you may also find that concrete and absolute are offered. These are all from the same plant, but the difference is that the concrete and absolute oil are extracted by solvent extraction, whereas the essential oil is created by means of steam distillation.

Even though it’s usually cultivated, lavandin can be found growing wild in areas where its parents both grow, principally southern France.

Lavandin has a sharper and more penetrating scent than true lavender, making it especially useful for respiratory and muscular conditions or those affecting the circulation.

Spike Lavender, Lavandula latifolia
Spike Lavender is a mountain lavender, found across Europe and the Western Mediterranean. It is usually offered as an essential oil, extracted by water or steam distillation.

Culpeper, the 17th century herbalist, said of this plant: “the oil of spike is of a fierce and piercing quality, and ought to be carefully used, a very few drops being sufficient” (the oil he was referring to bore little resemblance to our modern preparations, however, being mixed 1:3 with turpentine).


True Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
True lavender is the plant most of us are familiar with from the garden as English lavender. You might also find it labelled Lavandula officinalis. Like spike lavender, it’s also found growing in the Mediterranean, but in lower parts. You may also come across a true lavender concrete or absolute.

It’s difficult to describe the scent, but it’s almost certain you already know what it smells like in any case!

I offer true lavender essential oil and organic true lavender essential oil in my online shop.

Which one you buy is up to you, though you are most likely to be constrained by availability rather than choice. All three are used for similar purposes, though as mentioned lavandin is particularly good for circulatory, muscular and respiratory conditions. There is really no need to worry, I would go either by price or by your preferred fragrance. True lavender may not be popular with some men due to the connotations that go with it, so that may also be a factor for some.

Lavender is one of the most useful essential oils, but it is also extremely volatile, meaning that it will not keep for a long time. So it’s best not to buy more than you need for about 6 months, and once it arrives, keep it somewhere cool and out of the sun to ensure that it stays fresh for as long as possible.

Look how long this post is, and I haven’t even covered the uses of these oils yet! Not to worry. In my next post I will give you chapter and verse. Watch out for the next instalment.


Helping Hand Oil Burner, Black - click for more information

Guide to Aromatherapy: An Overview

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Helping Hand Oil Burner, Black - click for more information

Helping Hand Oil Burner, Black – click for more information

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oil and plant resins to treat conditions, which can range from emotional problems like depression to skin and hair treatments and physical difficulties like exhaustion.

If you’re interested in aromatherapy you’ve probably already come across spammy “spun” articles that talk about “important oils”, but this is a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word essential when used with oil.

So what does essential oil mean, if not important oil? Actually the word essential in this context is talking about the essence (in French it means an extract or concentrated form of something – hence its use to describe gasoline/petrol).

Unlike homeopathy, where ingredients are diluted over and over again until almost nothing remains, aromatherapy uses oils that are at the highest possible concentration. Of course, you do have to dilute these before you use them, but what you buy is highly concentrated.

Please note that essential oils should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

It’s vital to check the label to make sure what you’re buying is 100% pure essential oil. Some oils have always been in short supply, and others like sandalwood have become so, due to unsustainable horticulture – or not bothering to cultivate them at all, but collecting from the wild. This has led to unscrupulous suppliers substituting or bulking up with other ingredients which do not have the same properties.

Make sure that you always buy essential oils from reputable sources, and check labels, and you will be on the right track.