The Guide to Aromatherapy

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INTRODUCTION

Aromatherapy has been around and has been practised in one form or another since the beginning of civilisation. It is the art, and science, of using oils extracted from aromatic plants to enhance health and beauty. Apart from the physical benefits, essential oils can have subtle effects on the mind and emotions. The essential oils taken from plants and used in Aromatherapy have been described as their "life force" - they are essential to the plants' biological process, as well as being the substance which gives them their scent. Synthetic oils, even if chemically similar, will lack all the natural elements, and that vital life-force, that make essential oils so valuable therapeutically.

Another reason why synthetic oils are not acceptable is that the minor constituents are never identical. The addition of synthetic chemicals is not normally disclosed in the essential oil business, so unless there is a declaration that the oils are natural, pure and unadulterated, assume otherwise.

Essential oils are extracted from flowers; herbs; spices; woods and fibres, usually by distillation, expression and solvent extraction. Solvent extraction is only acceptable for aromatherapy if the solvent used is completely removed after the manufacturing process

How to use the oils
Think of the Whole Person

MASSAGE

This is the most effective method of using the oils, combining their properties with the therapeutic power of touch. The oils should not be used undiluted, but should be diluted with an odourless carrier oil, (see section on carrier/base oils), such as grapeseed, sweet almond or peach kernel. A dilution of 3% essential oil to carrier oil is a recommended starting point. (Less if using on sensitive skin such as babies). This is approximately one drop essential oil to two millilitres of carrier oil. (6 drops in two teaspoonfuls). But in all cases less can be definitely more!
Contrary to popular books, essential oils are not absorbed through the skin. Saying that oils go through the skin is a myth that needs to be exposed. Just because some books have said that oils go through the skin does not make it so. There is no scientific evidence that oils are absorbed through the skin and then into the bloodstream. Sylla Shepperd-Hanger in the book "The World of Aromatherapy" has shown that there is _no_ evidence, from proper aromatherapy experiments that have the person having the oils put on the skin and have a seperate air supply, that significant components of the oils go through the skin. Dermatologists who have done similar experiments also show that oils do not go through the skin. "Some" chemicals in EOs do show up in the blood in very small amounts but is is not proven that the amount is of thereaputic value.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and is designed to keep out contaminants not let them in. Medical patches use specially designed synthetic compounds to go through the skin. It has been shown that those oils that do have penetrative affects are also those that are likely to be sensitisers or irritants thereby showing that the skin is working in stopping contaminents getting through the skin.

Use of the sense of smell and fragrances of various kinds = "Aromachology". Use of essential oils and our sense of smell (along with our other senses), AND use of eo's on the skin/hair, etc. is Aromatherapy ... at least that is how most people see it.

BATHS

Using oils in baths is a simple, effective and pleasant way to relax and receive the therapeutic effects. - Water itself has therapeutic value which enhances the powers of the oils. To use, add 6 to 10 drops of essential oil, (or a blend), to the surface of the water which has already been run, add no other substances, e.g. foam or bath oil, then immerse yourself for about 20 minutes, whilst you inhale the vapour. (Again reduce the amount of oils used in baths for babies).

Take care with plastic baths as some oils may cause staining.

COMPRESSES

Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil to 100ml of warm water then soak a piece of clean cotton in the water, wring out the excess and place the cloth on the affected part.

INHALATIONS

Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil into a bowl of steaming water, then place a towel over your head and the bowl and inhale the vapour for a few minutes.

VAPORISATION

All essential oils are antiseptic and evaporate easily, so they make very good air-fresheners. Different oils create different atmospheres, so experiment! For example, relaxing Sandalwood or Clary Sage are good for parties; or Peppermint clears your mind when you need to work. There are many vaporisers on the market, from the simple bowl of water on the radiator with a few drops of oil on the surface, to vaporiser light bulb rings and specially made vaporiser bowls which sit above candle holders. There is even the "Aromastone"TM which is an effective electric vaporiser dispensing fragrance from a low heat source, thereby making the water and the oils last longer than usual.

The best way of dispersing essential oils is to use a diffuser or the Aromastream TM, as most other forms of vaporiser drive off the most volatile "high notes" first, leaving the slowly evaporating "base notes" to linger.

I personally believe that vaporising rings on light bulbs should be used cautiously, though I have not heard off anyone having a fire through using one.

PERFUMES

Make your own distinctive "Natural" perfume by blending different oils. (Many commercial perfumes use synthetic concoctions for their scent.) Try experimenting with different combinations, which can be mixed with a carrier oil or non-fragrant alcohol.

HYDROSOLS What are they? A short article by Dr. Christoph Streicher at AMRITA AROMATHERAPY, published in Scensitivity:

STORING ESSENTIAL OILS

Because essential oils are affected by sunlight they should be sold and stored in dark glass bottles, with stoppered caps. Make sure that the cap is on securely and the bottle stored up-right in a cool dark place. The oils should be stored out of sight and the touch of children. Remember that children, especially small ones, are very inquisitive. Never store essential oils in plastic bottles. Good Essential oils should keep for several years if properly stored, though the oils of orange, lemon and lime will not keep as long. Patchouli is at the other extreme and actually gets better as it ages.

MIXING ESSENTIAL OILS

It is strongly recommended that you use a dropper so that you can measure the actual number of drops easily. Use a different dropper for each oil to avoid cross contamination.

The Droppers supplied in bottles should be in different sizes according to the viscosity of the different oils. Good internal droppers have a grove on one side. With the grove uppermost you will get a "slow drip", with the grove downward you will get a "fast drip".


Drawing of flowersIllustration by Diana Lambourne
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