The term “aromatherapy” was coined in the 1920′s by a French perfumer named Rene Gattfosse. The word therapy in and of itself implies the need for treatment of an illness or disability. While it is true that all four of the above mentioned areas of application could and oftentimes do manifest themselves as acute or chronic conditions that require treatment which the essential oils can be effective in treating, we would also like to encourage the use of aromatherapy for everyday pleasure and well-being.
What Are Essential Oils
Essential Oils are highly concentrated and potent oils extracted from plants, leaves, flowers, roots, buds, twigs, rhizomes, heartwood, bark, resin, seeds and fruits. Essential Oils are found in special secretory glands or cells within plant life. The aromatic substances are formed and stored in certain organs of a plant as a by-product or because of its metabolism. Each essential oil has it’s very own blueprint that is absolutely unique. The combination of the plants blueprints, the energy of the sun, soil, air and water gives each oil its individual perfume and beneficial healing properties. The same species of plant can produce an essential oil with different properties depending on whether it was grown in dry or damp earth, at high or low altitude, or even in hot or cold climates. According to the International Organization for Standardization, essential oils are a “product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.”
Unlike vegetable oils expressed from nuts and seeds, essential oils are not actually oily. Some essential oils are viscous; others are fairly solid and most are somewhat watery. Worldwide there are 3000 different essential oils with only about 300 commonly used. Essential oils are the most concentrated form of any botanical. It takes at least one pound of any given plant to create one drop of essential oil. Essential oils provide a concentrated dose of nature’s vast pharmacological active ingredients in a single drop of oil. One hundred percent pure unadulterated essential oils are distinguished by a remarkable diversity of substances that only nature could produce.
Plants smell for two main reasons, defense and attraction. The aromatic oils promote a plants growth, aid in reproduction by attracting insects, repel predators and protect them from disease. Some leaves, roots and barks have smelly molecules that are unappetizing or sickening and inhibit the growth of neighboring plants, molds, fungus’ and to defend against being browsed or chewed. Flowers and fruit need to attract animals and insects for pollination and seed dispersal, so they have a sweet tempting and attractive fragrance. Plants communicate through these chemical signals, messages of scent.
Humans and animals depend on plants. A sick sheep will eat yarrow, lizards eat chamomile to relieve snake bites, cats and dogs chew on grass for stomach problems and bears will eat bear garlic as a spring tonic upon awakening from hibernation. The “therapeutic” action of essential oils is attributed to the naturally occurring chemical within the plants. There are a variety of uses for plants from essential oils, spices, teas, to beautify our environment and for herbal remedies. Plants are chemical factories, which draw energy from light, darkness, sun and earth for synthesizing these into molecules of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are the “crude fuels” that humans and animals break down to produce adenosine triphosphate, our “high-grade fuel”, when we ingest foods. Essential oils are the “high-grade fuel” of the plants themselves, the purest and highest form of the plants structure.
What is Aromatherapy and Aromachology?
Aromatherapy is the art of treating the body, mind and spirit with natural aromatic substances harvested from nature’s rich store. “Aroma” refers to the aromatic substances that give essential oils their characteristic smell. “Therapy” refers to the fact that essential oils have been used for healing for centuries. Aromatherapy also refers to the use of essential oils for beauty and body care treatment. Aromatherapy is one the most popular beauty treatments worldwide in clinics and spas throughout Europe.
Aromatherapy also refers to the medical practice of using essential oils in some countries. Finally, aromatherapy refers to the layman’s use of essential oils for personal home use of essential oils and products containing pure unadulterated essential oils. Aromachology is the study of psychology and odors. The terms aromatherapy and aromachology are often used to differentiate the science, study and theory (aromachology) from the application by clinicians and aromatherapists (aromatherapy).
Inhalation of Essential Oils; The Psychology and Physiology
Essential Oils enter the body through the skin and nose. They have tiny molecules, which disperse into the air and reach the nose. When inhaled the oils reach the olfactory epithelium, a small patch at the top of the nasal cavity, which contains about 5 million receptor cells. Odors are converted into messages, which are relayed to the brain for processing.
Brain activity has been observed and documented by brain scans and other imaging techniques. Smell triggers psychological and physiological responses in the body. Smell receptor cells transmit impulses about the smell to the olfactory area of the brain in the limbic system, which is linked, to memory, emotions, hormones, sexuality and heart rate. These impulses trigger neurochemicals and endorphins that can stimulate, sedate, relax, produce gratifying sensations, restore emotional equilibrium, or cause euphoria, thereby bringing about a mental and a physical change. The limbic system plays an important role in provoking feelings and memories and can assist in stimulating learning and retention. The limbic system works in coordination with the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus area of the brain to regulate the hormonal activities of the endocrine system, triggering the production of hormones that govern appetite, body temperature, insulin production, overall metabolism which influence immunity, stress levels, sex drive, conscious thoughts and reactions. In the limbic system is the amygdala where we process anger, the septum pellucidum, where we process pleasure sensations and the hippocampus, which regulates how much attention we give our emotions and memories.
Additionally, smells have a powerful effect on the sex drive. One out of every four people who suffer from anosmia, a loss or impairment of smell, lose interest in sexual activity. Smells trigger a memory response. Smell memories may trigger changes in body temperature, appetite, stress level and sexual arousal. There are no short-term memories with odors, that is why a whiff of a familiar perfume can bring back a flood of memories so vivid it brings tears of joy because of the direct physical route which exists between memory and smell. Smells can transport us through time and distance. Have you ever walked into a room and smelled the exact smell your Grandmother wore, and found yourself smiling warmly without even realizing it. Conversely if you come across a smell that floods you with negative memories you may find your heart rate racing and a nauseous feeling at the pit of your stomach. Smell has a chemical response to stimuli, which explains the wave of chemical response to your stomach when confronted with a negative smell. A yummy smell may make you hungry because it sends a chemical reaction that stimulates your gastric juices. Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell.” The average person takes about five seconds to breathe, two seconds to inhale and three to exhale. During an average year, we breathe 6,307,200 times and with every breath, we smell. The human body is capable of registering and recognizing thousands of different smells. Smell is ten times more sensitive than taste. Although smell is incredibly precise, it is almost impossible to describe a smell to someone who has not smelled it. It only takes 0.5 seconds to respond to smell as compared to 0.9 seconds to react to pain. We all have our own genetic encoded odor print as individual as our fingerprints and only identical twins smell alike.
Additionally, women who live together have the tendency to menstruate at the same time every month. This is attributed to a natural scent regulation of women living in close quarters who pick up a subtle glandular odor allowing their bodies to regulate themselves by using the pheromones.
Absorption of Essential Oils through the Skin
Skin is the largest organ of the body, weighing in at an average of 9 lbs. Our skin is a living, dying and rejuvenating organ, constantly on the move. Ill treatment of the skin can take 3 to 4 months to have an effect and visa versa. Skin is the packaging that keeps us warm, stops our insides from falling out and keeps the rain out. It is our outer warning system, alerting our brain about the environment we encounter. Skin is mostly waterproof, however it does allow substances with small molecular structures and low molecular weight to penetrate it. Molecules of essential oils pass through the skin’s epidermis and are carried away by the capillary blood circulating in the dermis. They are then taken into the lymphatic and extracellular fluids at which point the therapeutic ingredients of the essential oils are broken down and used by various regions of the body. After the essential oils perform healing functions they are metabolized and eliminated with the bodies other waste. Skin is our largest elimination organ. It takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 7 hours for skin to fully absorb essential oils, depending on body fat. Essential Oils are eliminated from our bodies within 3 to 26 hours through our saliva, urine, feces or sweat in a healthy adult. Essential Oils work as rubbish collectors, attaching themselves to toxins, free-radicals, cell debris, heavy metals, renegade cells, fungi, bacteria, viruses or other debris and taking them to the exits for disposal. Because of this, in an unhealthy adult, it can take up to 14 hours for the essential oils to pass through the body. The human body takes the most vital properties of essential oils and uses them to bring itself into balance and is left in a healthier state without side effects.
It is easy to test the absorption of essential oils. If you were to smear lavender essential oil onto your cheek, you would taste the lavender inside your mouth. Garlic essential oil can be smeared onto your ankle and the aroma will soon appear in your breath. Components of essential oils can be found in a blood sample taken after an application of essential oils. Essential oils can stimulate circulation to the surface skin cells, encourage cell regeneration and the formation of new skin cells. Some essential oils calm inflamed or irritated skin, release muscle spasms, soothe sore muscles and relieve muscular tension. Many scientist believe that essential oils stimulate the body’s own natural defense systems. The positive effect of essential oils on blood circulation is well known. Studies have found that basil, tea tree and thyme essential oils can encourage the production of white blood cells, boosting the immune system of the body.
Essential Oils at Work
Certain essential oils act as natural balancers. They become adaptagens and will instigate a reaction in the body that is appropriate to achieve a state of homeostasis or balance. These reactions affect the autonomic nervous system, the endocrine system, blood pressure, hormone balance as well as many other systems. They respond to the human bodies need at any given time. For instance, if the system is stimulated the essential oil will have a relaxing effect. If the system is worn down and sluggish the essential oil will have a stimulating effect. The human body is able to take from the essential oil that which is good. Essential oils also work as phytohormones. The molecules mimic some of the hormones naturally occurring in the human body. They act as messengers or keys to the related systems.
When a combination is more than the sum of the parts, a synergetic effect has been created. Mixing together two or more essential oils creates a chemical compound that is different to any of the component parts. Synergetic blends are very powerful and potent.
Extraction of Essential Oils
The majority of essential oils are produced by steam distillation. Through steam distillation, the oily components of the plant are separated from the watery ones. The oily, volatile components are the basis of the plants scent. Through steam distillation, the essential oils are extracted from special glands or ducts of the plant. During the process of steam distillation, plant material is heated with water and brought to a boil. The steam, which contains the volatile essential oil runs through a cooler, it condenses and the oil is separated from the water and collected.
Other methods of extracting essential oils are sometimes used. Enfleurage, an old method of extraction involves immersing the flower petals in a fat so that the fat pulls the essential oil from the petal and becomes saturated with it. Then the fat and essential oils are separated. Maceration, a similar method of extraction involves heating the fat to about 60 degree Fahrenheit, which breaks down the plants cells containing the essential oils. Expression is the method used to extract essential oils from the oil sacs contained in the rinds of fruit (i.e. orange, lemon, lime, bergamot, mandarin and tangerine) using a machine to press the rind. Carbon dioxide extraction puts carbon dioxide under a high pressure to transform it into a supercritical state, making it exhibit qualities of both a gas and a liquid. This process runs at a lower temperature and it is very expensive. The phytonic process uses non-chlorofluorocarbons to extract essential oils at even lower temperature. However, the majority of essential oils today are extracted through steam distillation.
Properties of Essential Oils
Each essential oil has it own therapeutic uses and other properties. Many essential oils have antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antineuralgic, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, anti-infectious, antiparasitic, diuretic, antivenomous, antitoxic, antidepressant, sedative, nervine (relieves nervous disorders), analgesic (reduces pain sensation), hypotensol, hypertensol, digestive, expectorating, deodorizing, granulation stimulating, circulatory stimulating and diuretic qualities.
Musk is produced from a sack in the abdomen of the male musk deer and today it is scarce and costly. As a result, all musk oils are synthetically produced. There is no such thing as gardenia or vanilla essential oil and all products claiming to be pure essential oils can easily be identified as fakes by checking for musk, gardenia and vanilla fragrances. It takes 6,000 pounds of jasmine pedals to produce one pound of jasmine essential oil. In addition, Jasmine can only be picked 3 months out of the year between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. It takes 4,000 pounds of rose pedals to produce 1 pound of rose essential oil. Roughly translated that means it takes about 30 roses to produce 1 drop of essential oil.
Plants have an amazing living power in them, Essential Oils. Plants use Essential Oils to protect themselves and send chemical messages to each other. For example, a tree can produce a chemical called tannins, which can deter and even kill predators. In Africa a study was done to see how much extra tannin a tree would produce if it was whipped to stimulate a deer eating on it. Some tree produced up to an 94% increase in tannin after only 15 minutes, after an hour they showed a 282% increase. The trees used airborne chemical messages to nearby trees to alert them of danger. The surrounding trees all increased their tannin level. It then took the trees up to 100 hours to return to their natural state.
Because of this amazing living power of essential oils that remain intact, when extracted nature became the original source of inspiration for modern medicine. 70% of all anti-tumor drugs are derived from native plant medicines. Morphine was isolated in 1806 from raw Poppy; Codeine is a derivative of morphine. Now chemist make “chemical cocktails” that have very little to do with the natural inspiration. The new molecular structure is different. All the years of trial of the natural product are lost in the new chemical structure. Representatives of all the drug companies are searching the jungles and far corners of the world for new ideas and sources. It is impossible to patent cures and natural remedies, and so they go unapproved by the FDA. For example Lavender Essential oil works miraculously on burns. It can return severally burned skin to it normal condition quickly. Scientist have been unable to break the incredibly complex compound of Lavender essential oil to discover the secrets. And so people in burn units suffer untreated by the best-known remedy known to man for burns.
1.Direct Application. Apply the oils directly on the area of concern using one to six drops of oil. More oil is not necessarily better since a large amount of oil can trigger a detoxification of the surrounding tissue and blood. Such a quick detoxification can be somewhat uncomfortable. To achieve the desired results, one to three drops of oil is usually adequate. A few guidelines for direct application of the oils are as follows: ◦The feet are the second fastest area of the body to absorb oils because of the large pores. Other quick absorbing areas include behind the ears and on the wrists.
◦To experience a feeling of peace, relaxation, or energy, three to six drops per foot are adequate.
◦When massaging a large area of the body, always dilute the oils by 15 to 30% with the fractionated coconut oil.
◦When applying oils to infants and small children, dilute with fractionated coconut oil. Use one to three drops of an essential oil to one tablespoon (Tbs.) of fractionated coconut oil for infants and one to three drops of an essential oil to one teaspoon (tsp.) fractionated coconut oil for children from two to five years old.
◦Do not mix oil blends. Commercially available blends have been specially formulated by someone who understands the chemical constituents of each oil and which oils blend well. The chemical properties of the oils can be altered when mixed improperly, resulting in some undesirable reactions.
◦Layering individual oils is preferred over mixing your own blends. Layering refers to the process of applying one oil, rubbing it in, and then applying another oil. there is no need to wait more than a couple of seconds between each oil as absorption occurs quite rapidly. If dilution is necessary, the fractionated coconut oil may be applied on top. The layering technique is not only useful in physical healing, but also when doing emotional clearing.
◦The FDA has approved some essential oils for internal use and given them the designation of GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe for internal consumption). Oils without this designation should never be used internally.
2.Reflex Therapy: a simple method of applying oils to contact points (or nerve endings) in the feet or hands. Then a series of hand rotation movements at those control points create a vibrational healing energy that carries the oils along the neuroelectrical pathways. The oils help remove any blockage along the pathways or travel the length of the pathway to benefit the particular organ. (See the book Modern Essentials, the book Healing for the Age of Enlightenment, or the video, Vita Flex Instruction for more information on Reflex Therapy.)
3.AromaTouch Technique: a simple technique for applying certain oils along the entire length of the spine and on the feet. This application of 8 essential oils as been shown to help achieve feelings of stress reduction, immune enhancement, inflammatory response, reduction, and homeostasis. (See the book Modern Essentials for more information about the AromaTouch Technique.)
4.Auricular Therapy: a method of applying the oils to the rim of the ears. (See the book Modern Essentials for more information about the Auricular Therapy.)
5.Perfume or Cologne. Wearing the oils as a perfume or cologne can provide some wonderful emotional support, and physical support as well–not just a beautiful fragrance.
1.Basin. Fill a wash basin with two quarts of hot or cold water and add the desired essential oils. Stir the water vigorously then lay a towel on top of the water. Since the oils will float to the top, the towel will absorb the oils with the water. After the towel is completely saturated, wring out the excess water (leaving much of the oils in the towel and place over the area needing the compress. For a hot compress, cover with a dry towel and a hot water bottle. For a cold compress, cover with a piece of plastic or plastic wrap. Finally, put another towel on top and leave for as long as possible (one to two hours is best).
2.Massage. Apply a hot wet towel and a dry towel on top of an already massaged area. The moist heat will force the oils deeper into the tissues of the body.
1.Diffuser. The easiest and simplest way of putting the oils into the air for inhalation is to use an aromatic mist diffuser. Diffusers that use a heat source (such as a light bulb ring) will alter the chemical makeup of the oil and its therapeutic qualities. A cold air diffuser uses room-temperature air to blow the oil up against some kind of a nebulizer. This breaks the oils up into a micro-fine mist that is then dispersed into the air, covering hundreds of square feet in seconds. The oils, with their oxygenating molecules, will then remain suspended for several hours to freshen and improve the quality of the air. The anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antiseptic properties of the oils kill bacteria and help to reduce fungus and mold. Essential oils, when diffused, have been found to reduce the amount of airborne chemicals and metallics as well as help to create greater spiritual, physical, and emotional harmony. The greatest therapeutic benefit is received by diffusing oils for only 15 minutes out of an hour so that the olfactory system has time to recover before receiving more oils. The easiest way to do this is by using a timer that can be set in 15 minute increments over a 24 hour period.
2.Cloth or Tissue. Put one to three drops of an essential oil on a paper towel, tissue, cotton ball, handkerchief, towel, pillow case or inhaler and hold it close to your face and inhale.
3.Hot Water. Put one to three drops of an essential oil into hot water and inhale. Again, heat reduces some of the benefits.
4.Vaporizer or Humidifier. Put oil in a vaporizer or a humidifier. The cold air types are best since heat reduces some of the benefits. (Some diffusers, like the Whisper, are designed to disperse oils through mist.)
5.Fan or Vent. Put oil on a cotton ball and attach to ceiling fans or air vents. This can also work well in a vehicle as the area is so small.
1.Bath Water. Begin by adding three to six drops of oil to the bath water while the tub is filling. Because the individual oils will separate as the water calms down, the skin will quickly draw the oils from the top of the water. People have commented that they were unable to endure more than six drops of oil. Such individuals may benefit from adding the oils to a bath and shower gel base first. Soak for 15 minutes.
2.Bath and Shower Gel. Begin by adding three to six drops of oil to 1/2 oz. of a bath and shower gel base and add to the water while the tub is filling. The number of drops can be increased as described above under bath water. Adding the oils to a bath and shower gel base first allows one to obtain the greatest benefit from the oils as they are more evenly dispersed throughout the water and not allowed to immediately separate.
3.Wash Cloth. When showering, add three to six drops of oil to a bath and shower gel base first before applying to a face cloth to effectively cover the entire body.
4.Body Sprays. Fill a small spray bottle with distilled water, and add 10-15 drops of your favorite oil blen or single oils. Shake well, and spray onto the entire body just after taking a bath or shower.
Dishwater, Clothes Washers, and Dryers
The anti-bacterial properties of essential oils can effectively promote greater hygiene. Add a couple drops of lemon to dishwater for clean dishes and a great smelling kitchen. Use lemon or Citrus Bliss to take gum out of clothes. A few drops of Purify in the wash water will kill bacteria and germs in clothes. Put Purify, Elevation, or another oil on a wet rag and place in dryer; or mist from a spray bottle directly into the dryer.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Put a few drops of lemon, Purify, or white fir oil on a dust cloth or ten drops in water in a spray bottle to polish furniture and to clean and disinfect bathrooms and kitchens.
To effectively remove paint fumes and after smell, add one 15 ml bottle of oil to any five gallon bucket of paint. The Purify blend or citurs single oils have been favorites, while Citrus Bliss and Elevation would work just as well. Either a paint sprayer or brush and roller may be used to apply the paint after mixing the oils into the paint by stirring vigorously. Oils may eventually rise to the top if using a water-based paint. Occasional stirring may be necessary to keep the oils mixed.
The information on this page is from AromaTools’ Modern Essentials.