Helpful Information

Question and Answers about Aromatherapy.

What is aromatherapy? Aromatherapy is a gentle healing art that uses essential oils to help relieve a wide variety of emotional and physical problems.

How can it benefit me? While aromatherapy is a completex subject that requires years to master, you can quiclky and easily learn the basic principles and apply them immediately to help yourself and your family.

What are essential oils? Essential oils are plant extracts gleaned from roots, seeds, blossoms, flowers, bark and peels. They capture the "essence" of a plant's characteristics and therapeutic properties. Essential oils have an herbal effect similar to the original plant, but are up to 100 times more concentrated and should be used with care.

How long will these oils last? Most oils will last 5 to 10 years if properly stored. In fact, many oils actually improve with age. Always keep the bottle tightly closed and store the bottle out of direct light. Citrus oils are the exception to this rule. They will only last 4 to 6 months unless refrigerated. But keep them in the fridge and they will last for 3 or 4 years.

Why are some of these oils so expensive? The amount of oil that can be distilled from a plant varies widely from one species to another. Some plants produce very little oil and are very expensive. For example, to make one pound each of these oils, it takes ...

  • 50 pounds of Eucalyptus leaves.
  • 150 pounds of Lavender flowers.
  • 500 pounds of Rosemary plants.
  • 1000 pounds of Jasmine flowers.
  • 2000 pounds of Rose petals.

How do these oils work? Two ways. First by our sense of smell which is hard wired to our primitive brain. We react to aromas before we identify them. Second, by passing through the skin and into the bloodstream. This has an effect similar to many pharmaceuticals.

Are essential oils safe? Oils are very safe if used properly. They should always be diluted before application to the skin. We do not recommend taking the oils internally even though the practice is quite common in many parts of Europe. As with most medicinal products, greater care should be take with the very young and very old.

How do I get started? Try just a few oils or blends at first and see how you react to them. Remember, we are all individuals and respond differently to the oils. Not everything you try is going to work perfectly all the time. Aromatherapy is not exact and predictable, but then again, neither is life itself.

Eight Ways to make aromatherapy work for you.

TAKE A SNIFF: Inhale directly from the bottle or put a few drops on a tissue and sniff. Almost every essential oil will have some effect when used in this manner.

TRY A DIFFUSER: Diffusers range from simple evaporative devices to sophisticated nebulizers that infuse the air with microscopic droplets of pure essential oil.

TAKE A TUB BATH: Make this a warm bath because you want the oils to soak into your skin, not sweat out. Add 6 to12 drops of essential oil to a filled tub and swish the oil around with your hand so it is evenly disperesed.

USE A COMPRESS: Add 4 to 15 drops of oil to 1 quart water. Mix then soak a washcloth or small towel. Wring out excess water and apply to affected area. Warm for arthritis, cramps, muscle pain. Cold for tension, bruises, headaches.

MAKE A SPRAY MIST: Take a small spray top bottle, fill it with distilled water (or rose water) and add 5 to 10 drops of the essential oil. The spray quickly adds a wonderful therapeutic fragrance to the air in any room.

RUB YOUR FEET: Add 15 drops of oil or blend to one teaspoon of Jojoba. Massage onto bottom of feet and let soak in (about 10 minutes). Be extra careful when you stand or walk.

ENJOY A MASSAGE: Add 8 to 12 drops of essential oil to 1 oz. of massage oil for a general whole-body massage, or 15 to 20 drops oil to 1 oz. for intensive action to relieve a specific, smaller area of discomfort.

TENT YOURSELF: Add 4 to 10 drops of essential oil to 1 quart of very hot water in a glass bowl. Cover both head and bowl with a towel and deeply breathe the vapors. Do not let face touch the hot water.

Working with Essential Oils.

Sensitivity to an Essential Oil.

If you are concerned about sensitivity to an essential oil, try a patch test.

This is a sure way to tell if you are allergic to an essential oil. Just place a drop of the essential oil on your forearm. (If you have very sensitive skin, first dilute the oil by half with a carrier). Loosely cover the area, wait 24 hours. No redness or burning means you are not sensitive to the essential oil.

Conversion Table.

Carrier to Essential Oil Percentages
Carrier 2 Percent 7 Percent 10 Percent 15 Percent
1/6 ounce
(1 Teaspoon)
2 drops 7 drops 10 drops 15 drops
1/2 ounce
(1 Tablespoon)
6 drops 20 drops 30 drops 1/2 tsp
1 ounce
(2 Tablespoons)
12 drops 1/2 tsp 60 drops 1 tsp
2 ounces
(1/4 Cup)
1/4 tsp 1 tsp 1-1/2 tsp 2 tsp
4 ounces
(1/2 Cup)
1/2 tsp 2 tsp 3 tsp 1 T
8 ounces
(1 Cup)
1 tsp 1 T 1-1/2 T 2 T

Most common oil distillation techniques.

Steam Distillation - Plants and water are placed in a closed vessel and heated to the boiling point. The rising steam is collected and then condensed back into a liquid containing both the volatile plant oils (essential oils) and the carrier water (hydrosol). The essential oil is then removed.

Cold Pressed - Used primarily for citrus oils, this process applies mechanical pressure to break the oils glands found in the outer skin of the fruit. In commercial production, a centrifuge (expellar) is used to create greater oil yields.

Supercritical CO2 - Extraction A process using carbon dioxide at low temperature, but high pressure, to distill oils. The distillation time, temperature and pressure are precisely controlled yielding an oil more complete in its constituents and more similar to the actual plant.

Absolute - This process uses hexane (or similar chemicals) to dissolve the oil out of the plant material. The aromatic oil is then removed with alcohol and then the alcohol is removed by vacuum distillation. Also called solvent extraction, it produces a greater yield of oil and thus lower prices. The best example of this is Rose oil.