Aromatherapy is a subtle healing modality that uses essential oils that are derived from plants. There are many ways to use the essential oils - both for yourself, and for others.
This course is unique in the way that it incorporates plant knowledge and essential oil production, as well as properties of essential oils, how to use essential oils, creating therapeutic blends, and safety aspects.
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
Essential oils, with a few exceptions, should never be put directly onto the skin. Two exceptions are the use of lavender oil to relieve a burn - using a maximum of 2 drops for children between 3 - 12 and 4 drops for adults, and the use of Tea Tree oil on cold sores. In this instance, a single drop may be applied to the centre of the cold sore, 3 or 4 times each day.
The reason for the use of carriers is to ensure that the essential oil is applied evenly and not concentrated in one spot. Using essential oils directly on the skin can cause irritation and discomfort. Additionally, application in a thin layer rather than in droplets on the skin is more effective. Combining essential oil with a carrier will also ensure faster results, as this helps expedite absorption into the skin. Vegetable oils are the most familiar oils in aromatherapy and have a few different properties and benefits. Most factories clean, crush and cook the seeds which are used for oil.
Sweet Almond Oil
This oil stores well and is idea for dry or chapped skin. Almond oil is very nutritious and studies have shown that it is twice as effective as olive oil in reducing cholesterol levels.
Apricot Kernel Oil
This oil is very high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Because it has a light texture it is suitable for facial massage and dry, mature skin.
This oil is very rich in chlorophyll and many nutrients. It has very high moisturising properties and is good for sun damaged skin, eczema and nappy rash.
This oil is also known as Rapeseed oil and is generally used for food preparation. The oil has a very high content of unsaturated fat, and is light in texture.
As detailed in the chapter on Safety, also be aware that essential oil must NEVER be taken internal or used on any mucous membranes such as the eyes, mouth or genitals.
Using essential oils in a burner is probably the most common way that people use aromatherapy. It gives any room a pleasant atmosphere and is a gentle way of imparting the oil and obtaining the desired benefits. Aromatic oils can also be used in an oil burner, and while they will give a room a nice fragrance, they do not have any therapeutic benefit.
When using an oil burner, make sure you fill the bowl with water first, then add the desired oils. As long as the water is not allowed to boil out completely, you can add additional water, without having to add more oils, for about 4-5 hours. The oil enters the air as steam, so adding warm (not boiling) water will initially get the steam moving more quickly.
There are a myriad of burners available and selecting the right one is really a matter of choice. The smaller the bowl, however, the more often you will have to add water, to ensure that it doesn't burn. This is usually about every 1/2 hour for small burners. On the positive side, smaller burners heat more quickly, and so you will benefit from the scent sooner. Larger bowls allow more water to be added and do not have to be checked as often. Cautions to be observed with using oil burners are the same as with all open flames:
Never leave a room unattended with a burning candle
Make sure the burner is not allowed to "boil dry"
Place in a safe place, away from children and areas where they may be knocked over
Using an oil burner, as detailed above, is the most common type of inhalation method. There are, however, several other inhalation methods that can be used.
A few drops of oil can be added to water and kept in a spray bottle. This is an ideal way to keep oils at hand, as a quick air moisturiser, and can be used in areas where a burner is not convenient such as in the office or on an aeroplane.
This is an excellent method, especially for colds, sinus, headaches and other head congestions. Add a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot, not boiling water and inhale the steam. A tent can be made over the bowl, using a bath towel, but use extra caution to prevent steam burns. When using this method, in general, it is best to use a half of the suggested dosage, as the heavy steam and oils combined can cause discomfort.
Essential oils blended into lotion or cream is an excellent way to have, literally, the oil right on hand. This is ideal especially at bedtime. The oil will be on your hands and can be sniffed as needed.
Tissue - A few drops of oil on a tissue will last for several hours. Especially useful for people with colds or allergies, the tissue can be sniffed as needed. In cases of insomnia, the tissue can be put between the pillow case and the pillow. This ensures that the oil is being inhaled and protects your fabrics from possible staining.
Essential oils in the bath are a good way to benefit both from contact with the oils, allowing them to enter the blood stream, and from the aroma. Ensure that the oil blends with the water by putting the oil first into a carrier which will mix with water. Otherwise, the oils are likely to lay as a cluster on top of the water and will not be absorbed. The essential oils may also cause discomfort if they come into direct contact with the skin. This would occur if it is lying on top of the water and not blending in. Carriers that are ideal for use in the bath include:
Milk - add essential oil to 1/2 cup of milk and swish into water
Powdered milk - make a paste of 2 tablespoons of powdered milk and essential oils and swish into water.
Vegetable oil - any of the vegetable oil carriers that can be used in massage can also be added to the bath. Many aromatherapy blends on the market are already blended with vegetable oil and these can be added directly to the bath.
It is best to avoid using resin or absolute oils in the bath, as the solvents used for the extraction may not blend with the water.
Carrier Oils, Creams and Lotions
Carrier oils, creams and lotions are ideal carriers for essential oils. They can be used for massage, as hand creams and body lotions and can be applied daily or when needed, without having to create a blend for each individual use.
Carrier oils refer to vegetable oil. It is preferable to avoid using animal based oil products, as they tend to leave a sticky film on the body and are not easily absorbed, and mineral oils, while very moisturising, are not easily absorbed either. If using oil for a massage, vegetable oil will allow the hands to glide smoothly over the body and allows the essential oil to be absorbed more quickly.
There are a range of vegetable oils available for use and many have their own beneficial properties. A single oil can be used, or a combination of oils, but they must always be cold pressed. Some oil carriers include:
Sweet Almond Oil
Calming to eczema and a good, light moisturising oil. This is the most commonly used carrier oil and is a good base with which to blend other types of vegetable oils.
Apricot & Peach Oils
Both are closely related to Almond oil. They are generally more expensive so are best used as a blended oil - 25% Apricot, 75% Almond or Sunflower oils.
Grapeseed oil is very good for oily skin, as it leaves the skin satiny, not greasy. It cannot be found as a cold pressed oil, but is ideal for those with skin problems, so should not be discounted.
Excellent for dry and mature skin, it should also be used in combination with other oils.
These are just a few of the many vegetable oils that can be used as a carrier. Keep in mind that some oils, such as Peanut oil and Olive oil, can be used, but they do impart a smell of their own and some people may find them cloying or unsuitable. Macerated oils can also be used, and are best blended with light oil such as Sweet Almond. A macerated oil is one in which a plant, such as calendula, has been soaked in the oil. The host oil picks up the beneficial "qualities" of the plant, which in turn is passed on to the person. For instance, calendula is anti-inflammatory and is beneficial for skin problems. So, if you are treating yourself for a skin condition, an ideal essential oil treatment would include the appropriate essential oils in a mix of 25% calendula, 25% grapeseed - if skin is oily or 25% wheatgerm - if skin is dry and 50% sweet almond.
Creams and lotions are also ideal carriers. A basic, unscented sorbolene cream, found at most chemists, is the preferred cream to use, or a basin white, unscented lotion. In this case, it really is a matter of preference and the needs and dryness of the skin. Cream can sometimes be too heavy for oily skin, so lotion is preferable. Cream however, can be very soothing, especially when used on children. If using a cream, lotion or any other type of carrier, be aware of keeping it away from areas of mucous membrane as mentioned in the opening.