What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the practice of using volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being.
Essential oils which are the pure “essence” of a plant, have been found to provide both psychological and physical benefits when used correctly and safely. There are many essential oils. The Essential Oil Profiles area details over 90 essential oils. Absolutes, CO2s and hydrosols are also commonly utilized in aromatherapy. Click on the links to learn more about them. The term “essential oil” is often used as a blanket term to also include CO2s and absolutes.
It is important to note that perfume oils also known as fragrance oils or “fragrances” are not the same as essential oils. Perfume oils and fragrances contain unnatural chemicals and do not provide the therapeutic benefits of essential oils. Unfortunately, many companies improperly use the term aromatherapy on products that contain unnatural and perfume oils, so it’s important to look at the ingredient label when seeking true aromatherapy products.
The Benefit of an “Aroma”
Essential oils that are inhaled into the lungs are believed to offer both psychological and physical benefits; not only does the aroma of the natural essential oil stimulate the brain to trigger a reaction, but the natural constituents (naturally occurring chemicals) of the essential oil are drawn into the lungs and can also supply physical benefit. If not done correctly and safely, however, the use of essential oils can also have severe consequences.
The Benefit of Physical Application
Oils that are applied to the skin are believed to be absorbed into the bloodstream. The components of the various oils are believed to aid in a variety of health, beauty and hygiene conditions. Since essential oils are so powerful and concentrated, they should never be applied to the skin in their undiluted form. To apply essential oils to the skin, “carrier oils” which are pure vegetable oils are used to dilute the essential oils and “carry” them to the skin. Common carrier oils include sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil and grapeseed oil. A more detailed definition of Carrier Oils is found on the What are Carrier Oils page. A detailed list of carrier oils and their properties can be found on the Carrier Oils Used in Aromatherapy properties page.
Essential Oils can supply other benefits as well. Some oils, for instance, act as a natural repellent and pesticide. You may recall using “citronella” candles during the summer to keep mosquitoes away. Citronella essential oil is the ingredient in the candles that provides this benefit. Visit the Essential Oil Uses page for more information on the variety of ways that you can use essential oils.
Essential Oil Blends
Essential oils may be blended together to provide an especially pleasing aroma. Oils can be blended together to also provide a specific therapeutic action. A synergistic essential oil blend of the correct oils in proper proportions is considered to be greater in total benefit than each oil working independently. AromaWeb’s Recipes area offers a variety of recipes and synergies.
About Aromatherapy Products
Not all ready-made aromatherapy products labeled with the word “aromatherapy” are pure and natural. Products that contain artificial ingredients do not provide true aromatherapy benefits. At worst, they provide no benefit. At best, they provide only a fraction of the benefit that natural products supply. Buyers seeking true aromatherapy products must look at the ingredients within a product to ensure that the product does not contain fragrance oils or unpure (chemical) components. A general rule-of-thumb is to be wary of products that do not list their ingredients and those that do not boast of having pure essential oils (look for products that contain pure essential oils on their ingredient list and avoid those that have words like fragrance). A note, however, is that some sellers of good-quality aromatherapy blends do not list their ingredients because they are worried that others may copy their creation. By asking the seller more about the blend, and listening to how they respond, you should have a better idea about the quality of the blend being sold. Good suppliers really should be happy to tell you the ingredients when asked as some people should avoid particular oils due to health problems.