Tag Archives: aromatherapy

Getting started: A beginner’s guide to essential oils

Essential oils have become the trend of the times. After going through a phase of near-extinction in the late 19th centuries, they have come to rule the world of alternative medicine. They are found everywhere – in health stores, grocery shops, drug stores and in all pharmacies, both online and offline. With so many essential oils in vogue, a beginner is baffled when it comes to choice and use of essential oils. Forget about the choice, the beginner does not know where to start with regard to knowing about essential oils. This article will provide a brief guide on how to use and choose essential oils and also will detail on the nature of oils used in aromatherapy.

Essential oils – A clear definition: Essential oils are not vegetable oils or fatty oils or fragrance oils. They are plant oils that are extracted from plants, seeds, flowers, roots, bark, stems, fruits and various other plant parts through extraction methods like steam distillation, solvent extraction, cold-pressing and extraction with alcohol. High on nutritional and healing value, essential oils are more potent than the plant from which they are extracted. This is because often a whole plant is needed to create just a single drop of essential oil.

Essential oils are easily absorbed: Some link essential oils to filmy and greasy oils like olive oil, almond oil, peanut oil etc. Those are thick oils whereas essential oils are thin, clear and easily absorbed by the skin. Unlike base oils, essential oils evaporate quickly at room temperature. An oil’s chemicals are present in body cells within minutes of its application. This is why essential oils are used to treat illnesses in aromatherapy.

Therapeutic grade of essential oils: Essential oils work only if they are within the therapeutic grade. Some marketers and shops sell watered down essential oils which do not work effectively in treatment of ailments. Most of these are inexpensive and diluted versions of original oils. When you buy an essential oil, you need to check if it is within the therapeutic grade of usage.

Categories of essential oils: Essential oils are classified under major categories based on their extraction/production methods. This is because only the chemical composition of an oil determines its quality and effectiveness. An essential oil contains about 80-400 nutritional chemicals of the plant body. Since several things are common to plants as well as humans, essential oils are useful in treatment of many ailments and disorders.

Apart from the classification based on production methods, essential oils fall into three categories based on their levels of evaporation: Top Notes, Middle Notes and Base Notes. Oils under Top Notes evaporate very quickly and have a greenish, fresh aroma. Oils termed as Middle Notes help with body’s metabolism and functions. Base notes oils have a lovely, warm aroma and have relaxing and sedative properties.

Essential oils storage: Essential oils are generally sold in tinted glass bottles. This is because they are sensitive to light and should be stored in cool, dark places. Since essential oils evaporate quickly, the lids of their bottles should be screwed tightly to avoid evaporation and damage of oils.

Essential oils usage: Essential oils can be used in baths, for cleaning, can be inhaled and applied or massaged on the body. When massaged, essential oils are not used directly, but they are mixed with carrier oils to make massaging easier and effective. Sometimes essential oils can even be worn as perfumes or cologne by rubbing them directly onto the skin.

The scent of life: 10 generic uses of Essential Oils in aromatherapy

In this modern world of complexities, we rush to do things. We do everything in such a rapid pace that we forget even to take care of ourselves. Result: One fine day, our body revolts to keep up to our speed and breaks down, refusing to cooperate further. We become deceased and resort to medications. It is then that we realize that we have missed several things in life. We realize that we have failed to lead a holistic life and instead, concentrated on pursuing only goals, ambitions and dreams. But then, it maybe too late for us to start afresh. We may have to accept our condition and become a chronic victim of diseases.

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils: Aromatherapy is all about holistic living. A medicinal system that is as old as life on earth, aromatherapy cures people through essential oils. Essential Oils are basically plant extracts that are obtained from a wide assortment of plants. Everything including stem, bark, roots, flowers, fruits, or whole plants are cold-pressed or steam-distilled to prepare essential oils. These extracts are highly concentrated and help in physical, emotional and psychological well being of people. These extracts are often the life-blood of plants, protecting them from diseases, infectious attacks and enhancing their immune system. They do the same with humans.

Essential Oils and ailments: Aromatherapy uses essential oils in treatment of different types of ailments from treating pains, aches, injuries and discomforts to relieving depression, anxiety, stress and nervousness. Essential oils are extremely useful in causing a sedative and soothing effect on people, bringing in relaxation, happiness and peace to even the most restless mind.

Below are a few uses of essential oils in treating health-related ailments and conditions:

1. Topical antiseptics: Essential oils are topical antiseptics that treat cuts, wounds, insect bites, reptile attacks, bruises and gangrene. They were used for these purposes right from ancient times. The ancients applied essential oils in treating war bruises of soldiers.

2. Muscular problems: Healing oils or plant extracts can be used in treating muscle related disorders or ailments like muscular pain, stiffness, rheumatism and muscle spasms.

3. Hair fall:
Plant extracts are useful in controlling hair loss in people. There are plenty of oils which help in nourishment of thick and healthy hair.

4. Blood circulation: Essential oils used in massages treat poor circulation problems and regulate blood circulation throughout the body. Through this, they stimulate and energize the body.

5. Dental hygiene:
Gangrene or other such conditions in teeth can be treated with oils. Some plant oils also act as good mouth fresheners, fighting bad breath and bacterial conditions.

6. Fungal infections: Skin care or topical problems can be eliminated by use of essential oils. Aromatherapy can reduce common skin allergies through application of certain plant oils.

7. Digestion and Nausea: Problems related to digestion like flatulence, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, vomiting or diarrhea can be treated through aromatherapy.

8. Impotence or sexual dysfunction: Problems related to sexual dysfunction in men or women can be cured with essential oils. Vaginal Candida can also be treated with such plant extracts.

9. Fatigue: Over-tiredness, chronic fatigue or constant dehydration or drop in energy levels can be reduced with use of essential oils.

10. Depression:
Oils are a great cure for treating depression, anxiety and other related problems. With their soothing and calming effects, they relax the mind and eliminate stress from the human system.

Born of the Sun: Aromatherapy, color therapy and vibrational healing

Almost everything in this universe derives energy from the sun and plants or petals are no exception to this. Since the sun has all the colors of the rainbow in it, plants have a special mechanism to absorb color vibrations in our system. Contrary to synthetic substances that are lifeless and do not change, pure essential oils are full of life. In fact it is said that they contain the “life-force” of plants in them. They have living and pulsating vibrations that make them engage in color therapy too. This way aromatherapy is connected to other forms of alternative medicinal systems like color therapy and vibrational healing. This article will throw light on what it means to use color vibrations of oils for healing.

Aromatherapy and color therapy: Aromatherapy can be made vibrational like color therapy. Vibrational medicine is the form of medicine that uses vibrations of the electromagnetic spectrum to heal the body. Often this electromagnetic spectrum is what is referred to as aura. By gaging the aura of an individual, one can know the physical, spiritual and mental state of the individual along with his or her energy levels. Essential oils can also be infused with color vibrations to treat illnesses. To create a blend that is a perfect medium to practice color vibrational healing, you need to mix essential oils in complementary or similar colors. You can even use color as a guide to blend essential oils.

Below are a few colorful blends of essential oils. These blends are therapeutic in two ways – they contain pure, healing essential oils; they carry color vibrations that react with the life-force in the oils to bring about a solution to the illness.

1. Orange Skin Tonic:
Orange is always a rejuvenating color. It can refresh, uplift and keep you in high spirits. Blend 16 drops of Orange essential oil with 4 drops of Neroli and 100 ml of Orange flower water. You can use this blend as a body cleanser anytime to lift your mood or to relax after a hard day. These are citrus oils and should be used with care as some oils are photo-toxic. Better to not use this blend if you are pregnant. Also, it is not advisable to go out in the sun for 72 hours of using this oil.

2. Yellow/Violet Balm for skin care: A combination of complementary colors always work in color therapy. Yellow and violet belong to that category. Mix 2 drops of Lemon essential oil and 1 drop of Lavender with 6 drops of Evening Primrose oil. Spread on to your acne or affected skin area two times a day. Since this blend contains photo-toxic oils, do not go in sunlight for at least 72 hours.

3. Violet Tonic for skin: Lavender is a great source of violet and this violet tonic contains just that. Use 12 drops of Lavender with 100 ml of Lavender water to cleanse the affected area.

4. Bath mix with vibrational energy: Combine 30 ml of Almond oil with 2 drops of Lemon and one drop of Sandalwood essential oil. Add to your bath and relax for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also create a blend of different kind with oils that represent different colors. Use Cajeput for white; Sandalwood for red; Patchouli for gold color; Citronella, Lemongrass, Evening Primrose, Lemon and Camphor for yellow color; Geranium oil for pink blend; and Lavender, Violet, Rose, Rose Geranium, Juniper for violet color.

Aromatherapy and Native Americans: Smudging rituals to keep bad spirits at bay

Ancient rituals used aromatherapy as a means to fight against negativity and evil. Our ancestors believed that good aromas ward off evil beings and keep bad creatures at bay. Essential oils were used to eliminate things that were not good for health or human well being. It was strongly opined that aromatherapy had a profound effect on one’s life and hence should be mandatory in all kinds of cleansing – physical, emotional, spiritual or psychic. Right from the ancient Egyptians to Greeks, Hindus, Romans and Persians, everyone advocated aromatherapy as an alternative kind of medicinal system.

Native Americans and Aromatherapy: Native Americans, like the ancient civilizations, have been using essential oils in their daily routine and spiritual/domestic rituals for a long time. They possess a respect for mother earth and use everything natural in their day to day life. They believe that essential oils, with their strong aromas, can fight against evil spirits and enhance their well-being. Native American practices use fragrant herbs and oils for cleaning a space. They have faith in aromatic herbs like Sage, Sweetgrass, Juniper, Cedarwood, Pine/Pinion needles to help cleanse and clear the air of negative influences and attract positivity into life.

But why should we talk about the Native American way of aromatherapy? Reason: It is simple, useful, primitive and natural. They have a wider sense of aromatherapy than most aromatherapists and know which oils or herbs are the best to ward off intense emotions, mental havocs and other bad energies from life. Most of the herbs/oils used by the Natives are common to all and can be purchased from aromatherapy stores or online. Though they do not make attractive blends (like popular aromatherapists do), they use herbs in their most natural form – as herbs with aromas. Below are a list of herbs preferred for use by aromatherapists.

Native American essential oil recipes: The natives do not follow any particular recipe except the use of smudging sticks or what is called the smudging ritual. Tying together sage sticks into bundles, the Natives use them as smudge sticks. As sticks, Sage is often used as a form of incense. The aroma of Sage cleanses the space and frees the air of negativity.

Sweetgrass is another commonly used herb/oil by Native Americans. They believe that Sweetgrass will cleanse a room, scent and purify a space. Unlike smudge sticks, Sweetgrass is generally made into a braid of about 12 inch thickness. Several other herbs or oils are also used by Native Americans, but most of them are burned raw, without addition of any other synthetics. Another way to use Sweetgrass or Sage or Juniper etc. is to use them as hydrosols. This not only saves money, but also reduces the intensity of the aromas. On the other hand, such hydrosol usage should be checked for any additional synthetic additions.

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: A historic overview

The history of Essential Oils is as old as the history of civilization. Essential Oils have been in practice in almost every ancient civilization known to the human race. Before we proceed to chart a historic timeline about the usage of essential oils, we need to know what exactly does the term “essential oil” means.

What are Essential Oils?
Essential Oils are basically extracts from flowers, plants, seeds, leaves, stem, bark, roots of herbs, bushes, shrubs and trees. They are volatile and aromatic liquids which are used in various treatments as healing oils. An essential oil is the soul or blood of a plant. It takes a whole plant to create a single drop of an essential oil. Highly concentrated, they protect plants from diseases and cankerous attacks and are expected to do the same in humans. Essential oils are indeed the oldest form of medication known to man and were considered more valuable than gold or gems by the ancients.

Historic Timeline of Essential Oils:
The history of essential oils dates back to 4000 B.C., though the term ‘Essential Oils’ and ‘Aromatherapy’ are pretty modern (coined only during the 20th century). The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese and Indians were known to have practiced aromatherapy using essential oils in their medicines for centuries.

Egyptians: Ancient Egyptians were one of the first practitioners of essential oils. They used plant extracts in cosmetics, for relaxation, for embalming their bodies and for their mummies. The Egyptians kept a gradually-melting cone in their headdresses that released oils into the head and also kept the fragrance of people alive. The Egyptians used distillation methods to extract plant oils.

The Greeks learned about healing oils from the Egyptians. They used herbs and therapeutic oils for healing, relaxation and even in surgery. Asclepius in 1200 BC and Hippocrates in 400 BC were the famous physicians to have used plant oils in aromatic baths, remedies and healing therapies.

Indians and Chinese: Ancient Indians used aromatherapy in surgeries, for healing diseases, wounds and other injuries. Essential oils are an integral part of the age-old Indian medicinal system called Ayurveda. The Chinese too, on their part, is believed to have used healing oils in their medicinal practices.

Romans: After the Greeks, it was the Romans who took up the practice of healing oils in medicine. They borrowed medication practices using essential oils from Egyptians and Greeks and then, developed techniques to extract and distillate plant oils. Claudius Galen (150 AD) is said to have treated hundreds of wounded gladiators using healing oils and botanical remedies. He was also the personal physician of Emperor Marcus Aurelius to whom he advocated essential oil treatments.

Persians: Though the Persians borrowed essential oil practices from Romans and Egyptians, Persian physician Avicenna (1000 AD) is the first world physician to have discovered a steam pipe to distillate plants and produce essential oils instead of floral waters.

Dark Ages: During the dark ages, the Catholic Crusaders brought healing oil practices to Europe. However, there was no significant progress as the Church ruled out disease as a punishment of God and those who were diseased as sinners. Owing to this, essential oil practice did not see any growth during this time. When Black Death wiped out half the population of Europe, botanical remedies were used but without much success.

Later periods: After Europe started exploring the East, they once again started practicing aromatherapy. Many wealthy people in Europe used aromatic handkerchiefs to ward off unpleasant smells and for microbial protection. Sometimes essential oils were used to fumigate hospitals and keep germs at bay. Apothecaries and herbalists engaged in formulation of pharmaceutical remedies, essential oils, fragrances and herbs. These remedies treated people of several ailments from headaches to injuries.

Aromatherapy: French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse was the first person to coin the term ‘Aromatherapy’ in 1928. Following him, French army doctor Jean Valet used essential oils to treat wounded soldiers in the Second World War.  An Austrian biochemist named Marguerite Mary used essential oils for cosmetic benefits whose research results are still considered the basis of aromatherapy all over the world.

First book: The first book in aromatherapy and essential oils was written by Robert B. Tisserand in 1977. Titled ‘The Art of Aromatherapy’, the book details on the basics of aromatherapy and the therapeutic value of several herbs. From then on, aromatherapy and essential oils have become popular worldwide as an alternative medicinal treatment.