ARTICLE & VIDEO | Beginner’s guide to Aromatherapy.

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Part 1

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]romatherapy is the use of plant oils in treatment. Although the word aromatherapy was first used in 1937 the principles on which it is based are very, very old. The use of infused aromatic oils, made by macerating dried plant material in fatty oil, heating and then filtering date back to the first century.

The lungs and the skin are both vital to the practice of aromatherapy, as these are the two routes by which essential oils enter the body.

Essential oils evaporate on contact with the air, so when breathed in they are carried with the inhaled air through the nose and into the lungs. The two primary bronchi, which first bring air into the lungs, divide into smaller passages, which in turn divide and subdivide into tubes of every decreasing size The smallest being called the bronchioli. The bronchioli then lead to the even smaller alveolar ducts, which look like tiny balloons or bunches of grapes. These alveoli, supply oxygen to the blood and remove waste matter in the ‘exchange of gases’. The walls of the alveoli are made of the thinnest tissue in the body, and through this fine membrane fluids can pass. The surface of the membrane is always moist, so that oxygen and other soluble particles dissolve before passing through it.

The importance of this process is to understand that the particles of essential oils that have been breathed in can pass directly through these thin-walled structures, and enter the bloodstream for circulation to other parts of the body.


What are essential oils?

Essential oils are the base materials of the aromatherapist. They are the pure cells of a plant extracted by distillation.

We use the term essential oil loosely to describe all the oils used in aromatherapy, but strictly speaking only those extracted by distillation should be called essential. Some oils are extracted by pressure (most citrus oils) and should be called “Essence of”. Some are solvent extracted (most floral oils) and should be called “Absolute of”.

Carrier Oils from Mountain Rose Herbs

Essential oils are very highly concentrated, and should only rarely be used undiluted. They are very volatile and evaporate quickly. They should be kept in airtight bottles in a dark and quiet place. They are damaged by sunlight, temperature changes and even loud noise.
Even though they are called oils, they are light and non-greasy. They dissolve easily in fatty oils, but not in water.

Essential oils are highly complex chemically and this makes them both versatile and safe, since many properties act together to balance them out. Some people are surprised by the many therapeutic properties mentioned for a single oil, but this reflects the complicated chemistry of the oil.

How you apply essential, or aromatherapy, oils has an impact on their healing capabilities. Because they are so highly concentrated, it is not often recommended that you apply essential oils in their pure form directly to the skin.

Baths- A few drops of oil directly in water

Massage- A few drops of essential oil added to massage oil or any carrier oil (almond, jojoba, coconut etc)

Vapor Inhalation- 5 drops in steaming water. Inhale the steam using a towel tent over the head

Lotion/Cream/Salve- Essential oils added to these products are absorbed through the skin

Compress-Add essential oil to warm water. Dip in a cotton cloth and wring it out. Place this on the body.


If you don’t know where to start with aromatherapy, I buy all of my supplies from Mountain Rose Herbs. You can find them on my blogroll. Enjoy!

Part 2: the dark side

Although essential oils are natural products, it is still necessary to follow certain precautions when using them. Essential oils are very concentrated and volatile, this is why they work so well! There are certain essential oils that should never be used in aromatherapy. They are all either narcotic, toxic, capable of causing miscarriage, likely to provoke epileptic seizures or can seriously damage the skin.

Dangerous Essential Oils

These oils should Never be used:

• Aniseed Pimpinella anisum
• Arnica Arnica montana
• Boldo Leaf Peumus boldus
• Calamus Acorus calamus
• Camphor Cinnamomum camphora
• Cassia Cinnamomum cassie
• Cinnamon Bark Cinnamomum zeylanicum
• Costus Saussurea lappa
• Bitter Almond Prunus amygdalis
• Bitter Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
• Elecampane Inula helenium
• Horseradish Cochlearia armorica
• Jaborandi Leaf Pilocarpus jaborandi
• Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
• Mustard Brassica nigra
• Origanum Origanum vulgare
• Origanum (spanish) Thymus capitatus
• Pennyroyal (European) Mentha pulegium
• Pennyroyal (North American) Hedeoma pulegioides
• Pine (dwarf) Pinus pumilio
• Rue Ruta graveolens
• Sage Salvia officinalis
• Sassafras Sassafras albidum
• Sassafras (brazilian) Ocotea cymbarum
• Savin Juniperus sabina
• Savory (summer) Satureia hortensis
• Savory (Winter) Satureia montana
• Southernwood Artemisia abrotanum
• Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
• Thuja (cedarleaf) Thuja occidentalis
• Thuja Plicata Thuja plicata
• Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens
• Wormseed Chenopodium anthelminticum
• Wormwood Artemisia absinthium

fir tree essential oil
Geranium Oil: Do not use during Pregnancy

In addition to the above list, there are a number of oils that do have valuable therapueutic properties, but need to be used with caution.

Oils that should not be used by people with epilepsy

• Fennel (Sweet) Foeniculum vulgare
• Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
• Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis

(plus Sage and Wormwood, from the previous list)

Geranium Oil: Do not use during Pregnancy

Oils that should not be used during pregnancy

• Basil Ocimum basilicum
• Birch Betula alba, B. lenta, B.alleghaniensis
• Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica
• Clary Sage Salvia sclarea
• Cypress Cupressus sempervirens
• Geranium Pelargonium asperum
• Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
• Jasmine Jasminium officinale
• Juniper Juniperis communis
• Marjoram Origanum majorana
• Myrrh Commiphora myrrha
• Nutmeg Myristica fragrans
• Peppermint Mentha piperata
• Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
• Tarragon Artemisia dranunculus
• Thyme Thymus vulgaris
• Camomile Anthemis nobilis, et al.
• Lavender Lavandula vera
• Rose Rosa centifolia, R.damascena

Lemon Oil: Do not use for prolonged periods

Essential oils with a risk of chronic toxicity

Do not use these oils for more than a few days at a time

• Basil Ocimum basilicum
• Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica
• Cinnamon Leaf Cinnamomum zeylanicum
• Eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus
• Fennel (Sweet) Foeniculum vulgare
• Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
• Lemon Citrus limonum
• Orange Citrus aurantium
• Nutmeg Myristica fragrans
• Thyme Thymus vulgaris

Clove Oil: Can irritate the skin

Skin Irritants

Always dilute these oils to 1% before using
• Angelica Angelica archangelica
• Black Pepper Piper nigrum
• Cinnamon Leaf Cinnamomum zeylanicum
• Citronella Cymbopogon narus
• Clove (all parts) Eugenia caryphyllus
• Ginger Zingiber officinalis
• Lemon Citrus limonum
• Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus
• Lemon Verbena Lippia citriodora
• Orange Citrus aurantium
• Nutmeg Myristica fragrans
• Peppermint Mentha piperata

Bergamot Oil: Can cause sunburn or sun damage

Photosensitising oils

Do not use on skin before sun exposure
• Angelica Angelica archangelica
• Bergamot Citrus bergamia
• Lemon Citrus limonum
• Orange Citrus aurantium

I certainly don’t mean to scare anyone away from using essential oils, but I think a lot of us (myself included) think we can just go around using essential oils without a care in the world, without realising that they are incredibly strong and can have harmful effects if used improperly. It’s easy to think of the as just fancy scented oils, that you can add to whatever you want. For example, if you add lemon or orange oil to your body lotion recipe and use it every day, you run a risk of toxic levels building up in the body over time. Also be careful about gift giving. I was going to make peppermint shower scrub as a Christmas gift last year, until I researched peppermint oil and found it can cause spontaneous abortion!

Honestly if you are nervous, I would contact a Certified Aromatherapist(which is where I got these lists). I have been using essential oils myself for many years, with no ill effects, but I always research an oil before I use it.

Article source part 1.

Article source part 2


Aromatherapy Massage Techniques – Complete Series

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