- Hello My Lovely
- Why Is Aromatherapy So Therapeutic?
- Aromatherapy Oils Are Extracted From Plants
- The History Of Aromatherapy
- Essential Oils Were Considered Extremely Valuable
- Aromatherapy Is An Incredibly Ancient Practice
- The Myth Of The Latter-Day Discovery Of Aromatherapy
- This Is Not Entirely Accurate
- Can Aromatherapy Cure Serious Diseases?
- Aromatherapy May Offset The Symptoms Of Ailments
- Health Benefits Of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
- Is Aromatherapy A Placebo Effect?
- Many Essential Oils Can Be Toxic Unless Diluted
- The Use Of Essential Oils For Children
- Some Examples Of ‘Neat’ Oils Include:
- Getting Started With Aromatherapy Oils
- 8 ‘Starter’ Essential Oils And Their Uses
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a qualified Aromatherapist. This post represents some research and the personal experiences of myself and others. If you are unsure about how to use any essential oil safely, please consult a qualified Aromatherapist.
Hello My Lovely
I’ve always been fascinated with essential oils and the amazing therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy since reaping the benefits of an incredible massage a few years ago.
I felt so fantastic afterward that it made me want to research this ancient form of ‘medicine’ and how it’s used. Maybe you don’t know much about it either.
So, in this post, let’s discuss the history of Aromatherapy, how essential oils are used, why their properties are so beneficial, and I’ll suggest 8 great oils to get you started.
Why Is Aromatherapy So Therapeutic?
Let’s start by explaining what aromatherapy is, as it’s the basis of what essential oils are mainly used for.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essentials oils for therapeutic benefit and has been used for centuries. These oils can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
The scent molecules travel from the olfactory nerves straight to the brain and impact the amygdala which is the emotional center of the brain.
This can result in changing our mood, and stimulating various parts of our bodies, generating feelings of well-being, and helping to relieve symptoms of certain illnesses and afflictions.
Aromatherapy Oils Are Extracted From Plants
The most common way to extract essential oils is via a process called distillation, mainly by steam or water. This process can last between 1 and 10 hours.
The amount that is distilled varies depending on the length of time, temperature, pressure and the type of plant being used. This produces a very concentrated extract that retains the natural smell or flavor (essence) of the plant.
The pure plant essence molecules are so small they can be absorbed directly through the skin tissue and can have a rapid effect.
This makes them extremely potent.
In most cases, this is achieved by diluting the essence with carrier oil as most essential oils are too potent to place on the skin directly.
The History Of Aromatherapy
The Egyptians were probably the people we first associate with using plant resins during their famous process of embalming the dead but it is believed to be even more ancient.
The Egyptian mummification process required resins and oils that would prevent air from getting to the bodies. The most commonly used was Myrrh and probably Frankincense since some jars of it have been found in excavated Egyptian tombs.
You will likely associate these essential oils with the Christian story of 3 Wise Men visiting the newborn Jesus, bringing them as offerings. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were considered so precious and thereby suitable gifts for the ‘King of the Jews’.
The ancient Egyptian priests also burned incense called Kyphi in the temples, which was a heady mixture of Myrrh, Frankincense, Cardamon, Lemongrass, Juniper, and a lesser-known oil called Benzoin.
Essential Oils Were Considered Extremely Valuable
Down through the ages, many oils were considered more valuable than gold due to the lengths they had to go to obtain them and were considered befitting to honor their gods.
Much of the Egyptian knowledge of using plants for medicine was passed on to the Greeks. Hippocrates who is considered to be the father of modern medicine chronicled the use of essential oils to help fight the Black Plague.
He was the first to consider disease to be a natural part of life, as opposed to a supernatural phenomenon, and encouraged the doctors of the day to look at the physical causes using objective observation.
This was revolutionary and lead to breakthroughs in understanding that not all illnesses were ‘in the mind’.
Aromatherapy Is An Incredibly Ancient Practice
It’s believed that Ayurvedic practices in India using essential oils is much older..possibly as far back as 5000 years. The Romans were influenced by the Greeks, and there is evidence that China was using essential oils in their medicine as for back as 2700BC.
Also 5000 years ago the ancient Mesopotamians used essential oils in ceremonies and rituals. They believed they had spiritual qualities. If you think about it, they probably did in the minds of people in those days.
Slowly, down through the ages, the knowledge has progressed to an understanding that different herbs and flowers can be used either alone or blended, for specific benefits.
The extracted oils are estimated to be 80 times more potent than the dried form of the plant. This means they need to be treated with great respect and care.
The Myth Of The Latter-Day Discovery Of Aromatherapy
One of the most well-known discoveries regarding plant oils was made by a French chemist called Rene Maurice Gattefosse. He is widely considered to be the founder of modern Aromatherapy.
However, this popular story has been somewhat romanticized over the years. You can read the full account here if you’re interested.
The story goes that he was working in his laboratory when he burnt his hands due to an explosion. After extinguishing the flames, he used lavender essence to prevent infection.
It’s widely believed that he discovered to his surprise, that lavender essence had amazing healing properties, leaving him with no burn scars on his hands.
This Is Not Entirely Accurate
Gattefosse was a chemist and was already studying essential oils as it was his company’s job to produce raw materials for making perfumes and drugstore products. He had been studying plant essences long enough to understand the healing power of lavender.
In his subsequent book, it’s long been believed that it was the first time the word ‘Aromatherapy’ was used.
However, this hasn’t been supported over the years other than related in aromatherapy circles. There’s no real proof that it’s accurate. But it all makes for a nice description of aromatherapy history and I like to think it’s true.
Apologies if I just burst a bubble for the ‘romantics’ reading this…I prefer the original version too!
There is also an account of Dr Jean Valnet a French surgeon who was a colleague of Gattefosse, treated the wounded during the Indo-China war from 1948-1959. He used the oils after running out of antibiotics and found they fought infection and saved many lives.
Can Aromatherapy Cure Serious Diseases?
We are all bio-individuals, meaning we are all different and what works for some people may not work for others…and whilst I truly believe in a holistic approach to life and health, and I would love to be able to answer Yes to this question…
But, the simple answer is NO
There is a place for various different types of therapies BUT, they should not take the place of treatment for serious conditions like cancer or other life-threatening diseases without careful consideration.
After years of scientific research conducted to genuinely determine whether this is so, there is still no definitive evidence to suggest that you can cure yourself of serious illnesses with essential oils alone.
The use of essential oils can and does ease the symptoms of side effects from various treatments and can be used in conjunction with, but NOT in place of, the medical treatment supplied by your specialist physician.
Your body has the amazing ability to heal itself given positivity, a peaceful mind, and the ‘will’ to do so. Even in cases of serious illness, but the reasons why are not yet fully understood.
Our brain is so complex.
Therefore, this will always, and should be, a personal choice with a full understanding of the possible consequences.
Aromatherapy May Offset The Symptoms Of Ailments
Although Aromatherapy is now becoming a more accepted bridge between cultures and differing healthcare modalities, it is still not universally accepted in modern medicine. One can only speculate as to why but I have my own private thoughts.
Yes, looking at YOU big Pharma!
Essential oils are mood-changing and can bring about intense feelings of well-being. The oils are potent enough to even induce labor by helping to stimulate contractions and to relieve menstruation discomfort.
And, while essential oils are a great complement to other forms of medicine, an effort should always be made to determine the cause of the problem before choosing to mask the symptoms. This applies to all forms of medication.
Therefore, please be aware…
If you choose to rely solely on treatments like aromatherapy for serious illness, do so with a clear understanding that this alone may not be enough.
Health Benefits Of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
You can gain relief from many ailments by using essential oils such as:
- Treat headaches & migraines
- Digestive issues
- Promote hair and nail growth
- Eases stress, anxiety & agitation
- Improve sleep and relaxation
- Reduce inflammation
- Soothe sore joints and muscles
- Alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy
- Relieve the discomfort of menstruation & menopause
- Ease the pain of osteoarthritis
- Ease feelings of nausea
- Help to balance hormones
- Ease discomforts of labor
- Increase circulation
- Relieve congestion
- Fight bacteria/fungus infections
Is Aromatherapy A Placebo Effect?
Personally I don’t believe the placebo effect where essential oils are concerned. But, there is no doubt that our minds are amazingly powerful and control our senses and emotions.
A placebo is where your mind is so convinced that you are receiving a real medication or treatment, that you experience the benefits even though you may have only been given a sugar water pill or injection.
Your Brain Is Amazingly Powerful.
It controls our senses, thoughts and and emotions. Don’t underestimate your brain’s ability to make you believe that you are healing and therefore you do!
This has been proven in all different types of scientific medical experiments, even where a placebo has been used.
There are well-documented cases where people are so convinced that they are healed that there is no longer any evidence of the original illness.
Magic, faith, determination…who can say?
This is what’s so fascinating about the human mind/body/spirit connection. It’s definitely holistic.
However, in the case of aromatherapy, my own belief is that whether the essence is truly working is somewhat irrelevant in the grand scheme of things so long as you get relief.
I have personally experienced some fantastic results using aromatherapy for relief from headaches, nausea, stress, allergies, sleeplessness, and menstruation issues.
If it was a placebo effect…frankly I don’t care because I still experienced the relief I needed.
And, when you’re in full-blown menopause, relief is all you care about…I’m sure you agree!
My personal favorite is mixing a few drops of lavender essential oil into non-fractionated coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature), and making a wonderfully moisturizing and soothing balm.
Try massaging it into your temples for headaches, stress relief, and particularly sleeplessness.
Many Essential Oils Can Be Toxic Unless Diluted
It’s not sensible to experiment with recipes unless you fully understand the effects of certain combinations. I recommend that you follow tried and true versions…keeping it simple until you gain more knowledge.
PLEASE do not ingest (swallow) any oil without doing research first. Personally I would never ingest an oil as they are so potent that you can’t anticipate how your body will react.
For more advanced knowledge, my advice is to consult with a Certified Aromatherapist. Or consider studying to become one yourself.
Because essential oils are derived from plants and herbs and are highly concentrated. The molecules are so small that they can pass through the pores of your skin. As a result, most oils should not be used directly on your skin.
Due to the potency, this can not only create an allergic reaction on your skin but in some cases, they can be poisonous to your body in an undiluted form.
Use a carrier oil for all essential oils that are not considered ‘NEAT’.
Neat oils can be used without a carrier oil but still test them on a small area first in case you get a reaction. We’re all different so best to be sure.
It’s essential that you use the oils according to the recommendations made for each oil, the purpose, and most importantly the quantities per recipe.
The Use Of Essential Oils For Children
Please don’t give essential oils to children under the age of 7 without the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist.
For children over this age, use oils diluted with a carrier oil, or a drop of neat oil depending on the ailment (see suggested ‘neat’ oils below)
Once again, the only oils that don’t need to be diluted are ‘neat’. These are considered to be mild enough to be applied directly onto your skin usually without causing an allergic reaction.
However, where children are concerned, if in any doubt, consult a qualified Aromatherapist.
Some Examples Of ‘Neat’ Oils Include:
- White Angelica
Getting Started With Aromatherapy Oils
You will find there are so many wonderful essential oils available and once you start to understand their uses and experience the benefits I’m sure you will be hooked. Look for good quality oils that will always be in brown glass to minimize evaporation.
There are obviously many companies selling them, and some are MLM companies.
I have narrowed the companies I prefer down to a small handful and in another post, I will cover them in detail. For now, so you can get started…
My personal favorite is: Edens Garden
Edens Garden produces high-quality, 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils, that don’t contain synthetics, fragrances, fillers, or toxic chemicals. They are ethically and sustainably sourced, and voted as the No.1 non-MLM essential oil company.
But one of my main reason for preferring this company over all the others is that the CEO and founder’s name is Grace Martin and her company is run by women.
I love to see women forging ahead in what is quite often a man’s domain. I’m not sexist…but I love promoting female-owned companies where possible.!
Take a look and see what you think, but ultimately you choose based on your own research.
8 ‘Starter’ Essential Oils And Their Uses
All 8 of these oils are ‘Neat’ so they can be used directly on your skin and/or sniffed from the bottle. That’s why they make great starter oils.
However, as with anything new to your body, it’s good practice to test on a small patch of skin first, and be careful letting your nose touch the bottle…particularly with Peppermint and Lemon.
Also, take care not to touch you eyes after contact with any essential oil.
This has to be the most well-known and versatile essential oil. It’s used for so many applications and it usually the first essential oil people invest in.
Primary active compounds – Linalool & Linalyl Acetate
Healing minor burns and helping to prevent scarring
Reducing stress by inducing a calming effect.
Pain relief. It can soothe headaches, lower abdominal pain and menstrual cramping.
Relaxation. Add 2-3 drops in a bath and soak away the day’s worries. Don’t have the water too hot.
Assist with sleeplessness. Place a little sachet of lavender under your pillow and feel the insomnia melt away.
Wound healing due to its wonderful antibacterial properties.
Scalp health and hair growth. Mix 1 drop with your shampoo each time you wash your hair.
Alleviate anxiety, stress and mild depression.
As this is an astringent oil, take care not to get any oil directly on your nose as it may cause irritation.
Primary active compounds – Menthol & Menthone
Relieve the congestion from a cold or flu by adding a few drops to hot water and inhale the fumes.
Prevent or help to reduce nausea by adding 1-2 drops to a glass of warm water and sip on it.
Soothes muscle and joint pain. Add a few drops, usually 3-7 into a nice hot bath and soak for a while.
Relieve tired feet. Add 2-4 drops to a bowl of warm water and sit reading while your feet soak.
Alleviate headaches and digestive issues such as heartburn.
Reduce stress and anxiety, and help boost your concentration by taking a few sniffs from the bottle.
Removed redness and soothes itchiness from insect bites.
Use in a diffuser to freshen the air and create a calming atmosphere.
Prevent or help to reduce nausea or the symptoms of a cold/flu by adding 1-2 drops to a glass of warm water and sip on it.
This ancient oil has been used for a variety of ailments for centuries. It is unique among essential oils in that it’s created from the resin/sap of the Boswellia Sacra tree as opposed to flowers, bark or leaves or fruit.
Primary active compounds – Boswellic Acids
It promotes a health immune system and supports an healthy inflammatory response in skin cells.
Improving mood by reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Use a diffuser and fill the air with its aroma.
Frankincense can be used directly on your skin, but a better option is to use a carrier oil and rum the mixture onto your affected area.
As a hormone balancer, it may help to regulate menstruation and possible even delay the onset of menopause. Sniff from the bottle a couple of times…but don’t overdo it.
Aiding digestion and stomach discomfort. It has been used to help with Crohn’s disease and ulcerated colitis. Use 2-4 drops in a water diffuser.
Reducing swelling, inflammation and pain. It’s particularly beneficial to ease the discomfort for sufferers of Arthritis. Add 3-7 drops to a hot bath and soak. Don’t have the water too hot.
You can also blend Frankincense with a carrier oil and massage it into the affected areas.
Primary active compounds – A-santalol & B-santalol
This is also an ancient essential oil and is a central healing agent used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
It can be one of the more expensive oils to produce. This is due to how slow-growing the trees are, and sadly this has led to unsustainable farming practices in may parts of the world.
As a result, it is becoming difficult to find the ‘real oil’ and has given rise to fake synthetic versions on the market.
To avoid paying a high price for a rubbish oil, always buy from a reputable supplier such as Edens Garden. That way you will be guaranteed to receive real Sandalwood oil.
Although Sandalwood is considered a ‘neat’ oil and therefore can be used directly on your skin, like some oils it can provoke a mild allergic reaction for some people.
We are all different so it’s always best to do a small patch test with any oil you haven’t used before.
Treating bronchitis, fever, fatigue, anxiety, high blood pressure, indigestive issues, low libido and urinary tract infections. Many of these affect older people so for those of us later in life, this may become our go-to oil of choice!
To assist in lowering blood pressure, add 3-4 drops to a diffuser, or add to a bath and soak. It’s best never to have the bath water too hot if you have any heart or blood pressure issues, as the heat may cause you to faint.
Over the centuries it has also been widely used as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic agent.
Sandalwood can promote deeper healthy sleep. Use 1-2 drops in a diffuser in your bedroom, or mix with coconut oil and dabb onto your temples before going to bed.
Strangely, despite its calming effects, Sandalwood also appears to aid with mental alertness. Just one of the many surprises when using essential oils.
5. MELALEUCA (Tea Tree oil)
Although this is a ‘neat’ oil and can be used directly on your skin, it is quite a strong oil, and can cause some allergic reaction in some people. Test a small area first.
Primary active compound – Terpinen-4-ol
This oil is used predominantly for its antiseptic properties, making it an ideal treatment for insect bites, nettle stings, and to alleviate a skin reaction caused by contact with other toxic plants.
It is fantastic for minor cuts and abrasions, helping to prevent infection and promoting wound healing. This is an all-round useful oil to have in your medicinal arsenal.
Applying it to the affected area of a bee sting, and particularly mosquito bites to reduce the itching.
Melaleuka is a natural hand sanitizer and deodorant.
Primary active compound Terpinen-4-ol
This oil can act as an effective decongestant. Add 2 drops to hot water and inhale the vapors.
This same active ingredient has excellent anti-fungal properties which can treat and prevent nail fungus, especially prevalent in a hot, humid climate. Massage the oil into your finger and toenails on a regular basis.
Also, in hot, wet climates wounds don’t heal well and can easily become infected. Dabbing Tea Tree oil on the area will greatly speed up the healing and offset the chance of an infections.
6. WHITE ANGELICA
Due to the number of different flowers required to produce White Angelica is one of the more expensive essential oils. Over 30 pounds of blossoms are needed to produce just 1ounce of oil.
It’s historically considered to be an aphrodisiac due to the sweet, warm, floral fragrance from so many blossoms.
Add it directly to your wrists and neck as a perfume. Or inhale from a diffuser to feel the calming effects.
This oil is unusual as it is believed by many to promote spiritual strength and protection. This may be due to the calming effects, and reducing aggressive thoughts and behavior.
Regular users of this White Angelica feel that it protects the wearer from negative energy, thereby creating a sense of safety, and helping to calm emotions.
It can also assist with relieving coughs, sinusitis and nasal congestion.
Use it during yoga or meditation to promote a feeling of calmness, and enabling a sense of being ‘grounded’ and relaxed.
This will help in stressful situations, aiding in the release of negative emotions to allow for clearer judgement.
7. LEMON OIL
This is another of the oils that everyone should have in their essential oil kit. It’s so versatile and used for so many different applications.
Primary active compound – Limonene
The most obvious is as a nasal decongestant. Add 3-4 drops to a diffuser and let it permeate the air. Or sniff straight from the bottle. Take care not to actually touch your nose with the bottle…trust me, it will sting.
Soothe sore throats by sipping lemon tea…1-2 drops added to green tea or hot water. This is my personal favorite drink. (next to coffee that is!)
I’m sure that over the years you have used a citrus-based product to remove those pesky labels from objects. They just refuse to come off. This lemon oil is perfect for that.
Lemon oil is also wonderful for removing grease from surfaces, particularly in the kitchen. It will deodorize as well as clean the area, leaving behind a fresh scent.
Inhaling lemon oil can aid in reducing anxiety, depression and stress. Once again, inhale from the bottle or use in a diffuser.
Another well-known use is for alleviating the symptoms of morning sickness during pregnancy. Sipping on hot water with 2-3 drops of lemon oil added. Not too much all though!
The fresh aroma will help to energize you and uplift your spirits. Sniff directly from the bottle or add 2-3 drops to hot or cold water.
One of the best uses for lemon oil is as an anti-bacterial. You can use it directly on to wounds to ease inflammation and reduce the chance of infection. Obviously, seek medical advise for serious wounds.
Last but not least, make your own cleaning products. Add lemon oil to Bicarbonate of Soda and use to clean and kill off bacteria on surfaces, leaving behind that wonderful scent.
8. OREGANO OIL
This oil has wonderful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties like Tea Tree oil,
Primary active compound – Carvacrol
It is often used to treat Athlete’s Foot and fungal nail infections. Also it’s been shown to be effective against yeast infections.
Note: Oregano essential oil should never be taken orally. Use the oil topically, or choose an Oregano supplement which will not be as strong and therefore won’t cause serious issues.
Dilute it with a carrier oil (1 teaspoon/5ml) and apply directly to your skin. It has shown to have very beneficial effects on digestive issues such as Leaky Gut, and killing off gut parasites should you be unfortunate to be infected. Gut health can improved by including fresh oregano in your food.
The antibacterial properties means that applying it directly to small cuts and abrasions helping them heal faster.
Oregano oil has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant helping to combat the effect on the body of free-radicals.
Whilst, fresh oregano can be added to salads and other meals, the essential oil should not be taken orally due to the high concentration of the active ingredient Carvacrol.
Rubbing the oil onto your skin will discourage insect pests such as mosquitos, and if you are bitten before you get the chance, the oil will ease the itchiness.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it’s given you a much better understanding and appreciation of the history of Aromatherapy, and the benefits of essential oils.
Remember to always treat these super potent essences with the respect they deserve, while reveling in the amazing benefits you will gain from incorporating them into your life
In the next post, I’ll discuss carrier oils in detail and how you should blend them with the oils that are not considered ‘Neat’.
There are so many wonderful essential oils and in the coming weeks, I will delve into more in greater detail, including CBD and its amazingly under-used properties and benefits.
Have you used essentials oils in your life? If so which are your favorites and why?
Please leave me a comment below. As always, I would love to hear from you.