Carrier Oils Derived From Nuts

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Clockwise from 12 o'clock: almond, arachis (peanut/ground nut), coconut, hazelnut

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: almond, arachis (peanut/ground nut), coconut, hazelnut

There are a surprisingly large number of carrier oils which are obtained from nuts, including sweet almond, arachis, coconut (fractionated), hazel nut, kukui, macadamia, pecan and walnut. There may well be others, but these are the ones I know about. The first four are covered here, and the remainder will be dealt with in a later post.

Anyone with a nut allergy should avoid all oils derived from nuts, even if they are labelled “refined”.

Strictly speaking, from a botanical viewpoint there are many “nuts” which are not true nuts at all. Many of them are actually drupe kernels. A drupe is what most of us would probably call a stone fruit; the kernel is the fleshy meat inside the stone. To conform with common parlance, I will just refer to them all as nuts. Basically if we usually ignore the fruit itself and eat the kernel instead, most people would consider them to be nuts – so that’s what I’ll call them.

Sweet Almond oil has already been covered in a previous post.

Arachis oil is just a “posh” name for peanut or groundnut oil, derived from the botanical name of the plant from which it is extracted, Arachis hypogaea. Although some production methods are believed to remove the toxin which causes peanut allergy, for obvious reasons people afflicted with this disorder would be wisest to avoid this oil entirely and to advise any masseur or other therapist who uses oil that they are allergic to peanut oil.

Arachis/peanut/groundnut oil is heavy and expensive. For these reasons, it’s usually mixed 50:50 with something else, such as almond oil. Used undiluted, it leaves an oily film on the skin, although this will be absorbed after a time. It is most often used in blends for skin care, arthritis and for sports massage.

Fractionated Coconut (botanical name Cocos nucifera) oil is extracted from coconut meat and then further refined by steam distillation. It is a light oil, and has antioxidant and disinfectant properties. It does not have an oily feel even though it’s extremely slippery. Due to its price it is usually used as an additive at 10% dilution. However, unlike most other oils used in aromatherapy its shelflife means that you can keep it pretty much indefinitely so long as it’s kept in a cool dry place.

Fractionated coconut oil is so pure it can even be used on babies, and is included in treatments for nappy rash. Its most common use in adults is for skin conditions including inflammation and psoriasis.

Coconut oil is also used in cooking, although it’s rare for fractionated oil to be used in this way.

You may find claims for a product called “virgin coconut oil” (or even extra virgin), which is claimed to be superior to fractionated oil. However, the term virgin in relation to oil production means the first extracts by cold pressing. In the case of coconut oil, this results in a butterlike substance, which then has to be refined to produce fractionated oil. I have found that claims which do not make sense (like “virgin coconut oil is superior”) are usually false, so my advice in this case is not to let yourself be bamboozled.

I offer fractionated coconut oil in various sizes from 100ml to 5 litres in my online shop.

Hazel nut oil is extracted from the hazelnut, Corylus avellana, which is the only true nut included in this post. It is high in essential fatty acids and vitamin E, which can be absorbed by the skin. It also has a pleasant nutty flavor and is used in gourmet cooking and in salad dressings.

Hazelnut oil is a light astringent oil which does not feel oily. Easily absorbed, it is an excellent massage oil and a great toner/moisturizer for all types of skin, including mature skin and broken capillaries. It’s especially useful for oily skin, but can be mixed with other carrier oils for other types. Studies in Chile have revealed that it is a strong natural sun filter, so it is also often included in sun protection creams.

Another use for hazelnut oil is as a way to increase the duration of hair color and strengthen the hair. The oil is rubbed into the hair before shampooing and helps to reduce the stripping effect of the detergent in the shampoo.

I offer aromatherapy quality hazelnut oil in sizes from 100ml to 5 litres.

Almond oils – carrier oil (and its toxic sibling)

An almond tree

An almond tree

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

There are two types of almond oil: sweet almond oil and bitter almond oil. Only sweet almond oil is used in aromatherapy, in fact bitter almond oil is toxic and should be avoided. Just be a little bit careful when buying almond oil from a new supplier, checking the label to ensure it says “sweet” almond oil.

Sweet almond oil is extracted from the dried kernels of the fruit of Prunus dulcis (syn. Prunus amygdalus, P. communis, Amygdalus communis and A. dulcis). The almond isn’t a true nut, but a close relative of peaches and apricots. However, even though almonds are not technically nuts, anyone with a nut allergy should avoid using their oil for any purpose.

Bitter almond oil is extracted from kernels of Prunus dulcis var. amara, which contains cyanide and is therefore poisonous.

Sweet almond oil is a light, easily absorbed carrier oil with a pleasant fragrance and a shelf life of about 2 years (due to its vitamin E content). It is a very good and economical base oil for most aromatherapeutic purposes. It can also be used alone for skin care, particularly helpful for dry skin, helping to relieve irritation, soreness, rashes and burns, and is often included in skin care products.

When I was first starting out in aromatherapy, sweet almond oil could be most easily found in large chemists (pharmacies). Nowadays I tend to order it along with anything else I need from an aromatherapy supplier. The price may be a little higher, but I’m assured of its quality.

No aromatherapy cupboard is really complete without a bottle of sweet almond oil (unless you’re allergic to nuts).

I offer sweet almond oil in sizes from 100ml to 25kg and various other almond products, including Almond Exfoliating Herbal Soap in my online shop.

Guide to aromatherapy carrier oils

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Green glass bottle, 10ml with pipette

You will need at least one mixer bottle made of colored glass

This guide to aromatherapy carrier oils (also called base oils) explains the differences between the most popular oils to help you choose the right one when creating a blend for massage or any other use where it will be applied directly to the skin.

There are many carrier oils available with which to dilute your essential oils. They range from the inexpensive, such as grapeseed and sweet almond oils, to the costly, such as apricot kernel and avocado oils.

Some carrier oils have properties in themselves and are used on their own outside aromatherapy. Sweet almond oil is sometimes used as a basic massage oil, for example, and avocado oil is used to treat dry skin.

Although single carrier oils are normally used, sometimes you may wish to mix them, for example, avocado oil works well mixed with one of the lighter oils, which will also help to reduce the cost.

Some of the carrier oils are:

Sweet almond oil, available in many drug stores, though you may have to ask for it at the counter. This is the oil used by many beginning aromatherapy and is a good general purpose carrier oil with a pleasant neutral scent. It’s the best oil to use on young children and babies. Good for relieving itching, soreness, dry, inflamed or wrinkled skin and for nourishing, softening and revitalizing all skin types. Organic sweet almond oil is also available.

Grapeseed oil is cheap and cheerful. My local supermarket sells big bottles of it alongside the other edible oils. Grapeseed oil is fine for general use, but as it has a short shelf life, it’s best to reserve it for blends which are to be used up within a few weeks.

Wheatgerm oil has a strong smell of its own unless you buy the refined variety and should never be used on its own; add a small quantity to a lighter oil to make a blend when treating premature aging of the skin, eczema and psoriasis. Not suitable for children or anyone suffering from Dermatitis herpetiformis, celiac disease, Lyme disease or any auto-immune condition.

Olive oil is another oil which can be used; use the lightest variety to avoid the overpowering aroma of olives in extra virgin and other full strength olive oil. Olive oil is particularly useful for scalp and hair treatments.

Jojoba oil is a good choice. It is in the expensive range, but has a long shelf life. It does give a lovely finish to the final mixture, so is worthwhile using if you are creating a gift for a friend, perhaps. Jojoba oil is good for any skin, even inflamed, dry or mature skin and can safely be used on skin affected by eczema, psoriasis or acne.

Avocado oil is another of the more expensive oils, available in two types: refined and unrefined. The refined oil is odorless and has a longer shelf life than the unrefined. Avocado oil is particularly useful for dry and dehydrated skin.

Finally, apricot kernel oil, and in particular organic apricot kernel oil is used for anti-ageing. It used to be very expensive but has come down in price in recent years. It can be used on all types of skin, especially elderly, inflamed and dry skin. Because it is light and easily absorbed, apricot kernel oil is particularly good for use on the face.

All of these are available in my online store, along with a few more!

There are other oils, but this is a good representative selection.

Having chosen your carrier oil, you should pour a measured quantity into a dark colored bottle and add the right quantity of your chosen essential oil/s.

As a broad rule of thumb the amount of essential oil to be added is calculated by dividing the quantity in ml by two. So if you had 10ml of carrier oil, you could add a total of up to 5 drops of essential oil – using a single oil or more than one to make a blend.

Even if you are using more than one essential oil, the total number of drops added should not be more than you have calculated (1 drop for every 2ml of carrier oil or as specified if you are using a published recipe). Having added your oil, replace the cap and shake to mix the essential oil with the carrier oil before use.