“The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.” Hippocrates
Aromatherapy is the art and science of using plant oils (essential oils) in the treatment of the mind, body and spirit of the patient. Essential oils are extracts from certain varieties of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses and flowers. The oils are concentrated in different parts of the plants. The most common method of extraction is called steam distillation. On the average essential oils contain 100 components, most of which include terpenes, alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, and phenols.
The originator of this healing modality was the Frenchman Rene´ Maurice Gattefosse who studied the therapeutic properties of essential oils in the 1920’s. Rene was playing around in his parent’s perfume factory. He accidentally burned himself, so stuck his hand in the coolest vat of liquid, which happened to be lavender oil. The next day he noticed that the burn was healed, and so aromatherapy began–so he thought.
Archeologists have found traces of plant material (identified by the their fossilized pollen) in the burial tombs and living areas of early humans. During early times, hospitals burned thyme and rosemary in the sick wards as a disinfectant. Egyptians used aromatherapy 3000 years before Christ both medicinally and cosmetically. It was also used in the process of embalming.
What do essential oils do? Essential oils bring oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and assist in efficient disposal of carbon dioxide and other waste products produced by cell metabolism. They improve the effectiveness of the immune system and decrease the blood viscosity to help with circulation. Because the aromatic chemicals found in essential oils are derived from phenylpropane, they are linked to every cell of the body because phenylporpane is actually a precursors of amino acids which make up protein–the building block for most of our body parts. Another common component of essential oils are terpinoels which are formed from acetyl-coenzyme A. Acetyl coenzyme A plays a crucial role in the production of hormones, vitamins and energy production. Can you see how powerful smells are to us?
How are Essential Oils used? Essential oils are added to lotions, used diluted in massage oil, used neat (straight–undiluted), put into bath water or foot baths, used as flavorings in the food industry, used in the cosmetic industry, put in hair rinses, used in inhalation therapy, incorporated in candles and used as drops of the pure oil put onto little pieces of felt which is then inserted into a small heater like thing (called a scent ball) you can plug into an outlet. The aroma that is emitted acts on the nervous system and organs of the body to move energy through it for various health and emotional concerns. I add a few drops of essential oil to a small spray bottle of distilled water and use is at a room freshener.
One of the best things about essential oils is that they enter and leave the body very rapidly and with great efficiency, leaving no toxins behind. They are excreted through the urine and feces, perspiration and exhalation. This process can take anywhere from 3 to 14 hours depending on how much fatty tissue is in your body as essential oils follow fatty tissue (just like toxins!)
One disadvantage to using essential oils is that all the people in the house can smell it. Occasionally when we would be doing a Raindrop Therapy at our center, we would get a negative response from someone waiting for their appointment. “What is that awful odor?” they would say.
If you don’t like one of the oils, it’s hard to get away from it in that situation. In my dream healing retreat center I will have a room especially for aromatherapy along with a good ventilation system for after the treatment.
Why are some essential oils, like Absolute Rose, so expensive? Some essential oils are made from flower blossoms that cannot be steam-distilled. When this is the case the company uses a process called Enfleurage. Enfleurage is a time-consuming, expensive technique of making fine perfumes from delicate flowers. Glass trays are lined with lard and scattered with flowers picked early in the morning. The flower petals rest in the lard overnight. The next day the flower petals are removed from the fat and replaced with fresh ones. This cycle is repeated for 4 to 5 weeks! The lard is then scraped from the trays and mixed with alcohol, which removes the fat. This alcohol is then distilled off leaving the highly scented essential oil (also called absolute) behind.
How expensive is it? Of course it depends on the company and how high quality the oil is and if they have diluted it with carriers. I get my oils from a highly reputable company, Starwest Botanicals (www.starwest-botanicals.com) . Rose Absolute (used for stress, grief, pain and anti-aging) runs about $36 for 1/6 ounce, Helichrysum (used for pain, mental clarity, sinuses and mood uplifting) about $24 for 1/6 ounce, Neroli Orange Blossom (for nerves, ADD, sleep disorders) about $52 for 1/6 ounce.
Most of the oils I end up sending home with my clients are under $10.00 for 1/3 ounce. They don’t often come up as necessary in normal treatment protocols, but if someone loves aromatherapy and asks me a specific question like, “which aromatherapies will give me a boost in the afternoon or help me to relax, or…” then I can muscle-test the appropriate oils and recommend them.
Case Study: I once tested that tangerine oil was needed for a scar and that the client should mix it in with a small amount of peanut oil and massage the area 3 times/week. After calling her to see how her treatment was coming along, she shared with me that she had only done the treatment one time, but that the scar had reduced to half the size. She was so pleased. She shared that even her brother noticed it when he came home for break. Let me tell you, that scar was a big honker and it was tying up the tissues underneath her arm preventing her from using the arm effectively. I was amazed!
There is a network marketing company called Young Living Essential Oils where you can also obtain many single oils and combinations of oils as well. Pretty expensive stuff, but I like some of their combination oils. Look for a distributor in the phone book or check them out on the web. They have lots of great information and resources on how essential oil products work and have scientific experimental evidence to back up the validity of using essential oils in healing.
- Aromatherapy: A-Z by Patricia Davis
- The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood
These are the Essential Oils available through Starwest Botanicals: www.starwest-botanicals.com
- Balsam Fir (Peru)
- Bay Leaf
- Birch, Sweet
- Black Pepper
- Calamus Root
- Camphor, white
- Carrot Seed
- Chamomile, German
- Chamomile, Roman
- Cinnamon, Cassia
- Clary Sage
- Clove Bud
- Dill Weed
- Eucalyptus, Globulus
- Fennel, Sweet
- Fir Needle, Siberian
- Juniper Berry
- Lavender Flower
- Marjoram, Sweet
- Neroli (orange Blossom)
- Orange, Bitter
- Orange, Sweet
- Pine Needle
- Rose Absolute
- Sage, Dalmation
- Savory, Summer
- Tea Tree
- Vanilla Oleoresin
- Ylang Ylang, 3rd
- Ylang Ylang, Extra
One source of the Essential Oils Desk Reference – there is a new 4th edition, is
- ESP – Essential Science Publishing
- 1216 South 1580 West, Suite A
- Orem, Utah 84058