Aromatherapy 101 - The Basics

Posted by Jacqui MacNeill on

What is Aromatherapy?

  • Aromatherapy is the science and art of using 100% genuine and authentic plant essences for healing body, mind and spirit.
  • It is the treatment of ailments (therapy) with aromas (essences or essential oils of aromatic plants)
  • Aromatherapy is one of the techniques of holistic, complementary or natural medicine. It treats the “whole” body – emotions, physiological body and the spirit.
  • Aromatherapy can be as much preventative as curative.
  • Aromatherapists, armed with a technical understanding of oil’s constituents, artfully blend essential oils to produce new aromas.
  • Results of aromatherapy are very individual.
  • While there is general agreement about the actions of certain oils, aromatherapy texts vary in their descriptions of the properties and characteristics of an essential oils
  • No two persons are affected by the same essential oil in exactly the same way. Even the same person can be affected differently by the same oil depending on surroundings, time of day or mood.


What is an Essential oil?

  • Essential oils are the concentrated essence of the plant. Essential oils do not exist in plants as free-moving substances but are stored in microscopic cellular containers. They are then extracted from varied parts of the plant: the root, seed, trunk, and leaf, fruit and/or flower.
  • Each essential oil has a unique chemical composition consisting of botanical vitamins, hormones and antiseptics.
  • By learning about the properties of the many oils, you can use them to effectively treat a wide range of conditions. From headaches and muscular pains to depression, insomnia and stress, essential oils provide us with very effective solutions to many different physical and emotional ailments.
  • Essential oils contain the odour, taste and medicinal properties of the plant itself, but in very concentrated form, with no base oil, alcohol, water or diluents added.

Characteristics of Essential oils?

  • Although called an “oil”, most are actually more like the consistency of water; they mix with vegetable oils however and do not emulsify in water.
  • Volatile - this means that their molecule size is small enough to evaporate if left uncovered.  They are also considerably smaller than water and oil molecules. Each essential oil has its own volatility rate, measured on a scale of 1 – 100. (one means evaporates very rapidly). Citrus oils have the fastest evaporation rate.
  • Are easily absorbed into the bloodstream via inhalation and topical application due to small molecular size.
  • Are anti-septic to varying degrees; some have antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties
  • Come in many different colors and viscosities and some have stronger scents than others do e.g. chamomile blue is blue and is very liquid with a very strong scent; sandalwood is light amber, is very thick and has a very mild scent
  • Come from all over the globe; like wine, some regions grow superior crops. Weather/Soil/Pollution/Production method (quality) also affects.
  • Are different from herbs; they are the concentrated essence derived when the herbs are steam distilled. Essential oils are approximately 100 times stronger than the dried herb from which it came which is why they irritate the skin.
  • A cabinet stocked with about 15 essential oils will usually cover individual needs. (For example, geranium helps to both relax if stressed and energize if tired – therefore it is often found in blends that affect different moods.)
  • It takes 50 pounds of eucalyptus, 150 pounds of lavender, 500 pounds of rosemary, and 1,000 pounds of jasmine and over 2,000 pounds of rose to make a single pound of essential oil. The price of each essential oil is directly related to the amount of plant material needed for distillation.
  • Each has their own specific safety data and contraindications; make sure to read what they are before using.


Quality, Storage & Care of Essential Oils

  • Some essential oils will get better with time, like most of the resinous oils (benzoin, myrrh, and frankincense) and even though they are not resins, patchouli and sandalwood.
  • Essential oils and essences do not go rancid like vegetable oils; they just loose their potency and can smell “off”
  • Citrus oils or essences are the first to lose their potency- if opened regularly they could lose their potency in 5 – 12 months.
  • Avoid touching the essential oil dropper to the skin, this could cause a build-up of bacteria, causing the oil to become less potent as well as causing its scent to change.
  • Keep essential oils in a dark place out of direct sunlight or any direct source of heat.
  • Not critical but shelf life can be extended by keeping them in the fridge.
  • If properly cared for, essential oils can have a shelf life up to seven years.


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