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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Essential Oils

How Do Essential Oils Work?

Essential oils work in many ways. Scientists have been especially interested in how fragrances can trigger memories and in how pheromones--fragrant, hormone-like substances, influence physical attraction.

The nose connects to the olfactory bulb, the only place in the human body where the central nervous system is exposed directly to the environment. The cells of the olfactory membrane are literally brain cells.

Fragrant substances, like most essential oils, pass on to the limbic system without being registered by the cerebral cortex. Even before we become aware of an aroma, our subconscious reacts to it.

How Can We Use Essential Oils?


Massage is one of the more popular ways to use essential oils. Because they are so concentrated, it's usually best to dilute (almost always) essential oils with a neutral carrier oil, such as sweet almond, jojoba, coconut or olive, to avoid irritating the skin.

Even such oils as lavender, tea tree, sandalwood and rose should be diluted before use on the skin because undiluted use may lead to sensitization and the inability to get the healing benefits of those oils when they are most needed.

When working with essential oils, keep them away from the eyes and mucous membranes.

Because people's associations with oils and scents vary, always allow someone to smell an oil first before using it in a massage. If someone has a negative reaction to an oil's scent, you are better off finding an oil with similar properties that is more to their taste.

Because skin types and chemistries vary, you must watch carefully for adverse reactions.
There are many benefits to massage, including relaxation of the muscles and movement of the lymph fluids.


Inhalation of essential oils can be both a simple and fairly complex process. Special (and expensive) electronic aromatherapy diffusers will spread a scent throughout a room. A few drops of oil placed on a clay light-bulb diffuser will also do the job.

Using candles scented with essential oils can release the aromas into a room as the flame warms the wax, which in turn moves the fragrances into the air. Scenting the water in potpourri pots with essential oils is another way to gently lighten up a room.

By using a sprayer you can disinfect or perfume a room very quickly. Fill a spray bottle with water and a dozen, or so, drops of your chosen oil(s). Shake the bottle and then spray. As essential oils do not actually mix with water, make sure you shake the bottle to blend it (temporarily) before spraying.

Even putting a few drops of essential oil in a humidifier can do the job.


A few drops of an essential oil in bath water, just before you step into the tub, can do wonders for your mood. Bathing with essential oils gives you a double benefit--contact with your skin and inhalation of the scent as it rises from the water.

Because essential oils are not soluble in water, that is, they do not mix with water, it's best to add your essential oil to milk or a carrier oil before adding it to bath water. The last thing you want to do is put sensitive body parts on top of undiluted essential oils floating on top of your bath water.

Hand or Foot Baths

If you're going to perform reflexology on someone, soaking his or her feet or hands in a bowl of warm water scented with the appropriate oils can be very relaxing as well as antiseptic.

Again, use only one or two drops of essential oil dispersed into warm water. Check the water yourself to make sure that it is not too hot before allowing your subject to put his or her hands or feet in the soak.

Dispel Headaches

Both the inhaled scent and physical application of lavender essential oil (three drops of the essential oil to a 1/2 teaspoon of sweet almond or olive oil) to the outside of the sinuses and forehead can also help dispel headaches. Use only a finger's dab of this blend to apply to your sinuses and forehead. Repeat, if necessary, in a half hour or so.

Others find inhaling peppermint oil to be indispensable to ridding themselves of such pain.

Sweet Dreams

I also know many people who burn lavender stick incense at night to help them sleep peacefully.
The herb itself has been burned in rooms where a woman is going to give birth. More than one midwife wears lavender oil to set up soothing and calming energies.

• Store essential oils in a cool, dark place
• Always keep out of the reach of children and away from any pets.
• Avoid using directly or near the eyes or mucous membranes. Use whole milk or vegetable oil to help flush out any essential oil that might have splashed into the eye. Remember, essential oils are NOT soluble in water, so water is not the best medium for removing them. If problems persist, seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

• Do not use the same essential oil every time, whether for skin application or inhalation. Rotate your essential oils to avoid becoming sensitized and to avoid overexposure to any one essential oil.
• Remember, just because an essential oil is derived from a plant, it cannot be used in the same way as the plant. (Herbalists will note similarities with the use of many essential oil as to traditional uses of herbs, but essential oils and the herbs themselves are NOT interchangeable.)
• If you develop a skin rash, stop using it right away.
• When working with essential oils, make sure you have adequate ventilation. Open up windows, put on the exhaust fan. This is especially important for practitioners, who will tend to be exposed to essential oil fumes more than the average individual.
• Do not use essential oils internally UNLESS you get much more training!
• Always dilute essential oils before using them on the body.

If making a one-ounce massage oil blend,
remember the following:

• 1 oz. equals approximately 30 ml
• 1 teaspoon equals about 5 ml
• 1 tablespoon equals about 15 ml or 1/2 ounce

*One percent essential oil in a one-ounce blend would be about 10 drops.
*Two percent essential oil in a one-ounce blend would be about 20 drops.
*Three percent would be about 30 drops.

Because essential oils are so concentrated, it's usually best to dilute (almost always) them with a neutral carrier or base oil, such as apricot kernel, jojoba, coconut, emu or olive, to avoid irritating the skin.

Even such oils as lavender, tea tree, sandalwood and rose should be diluted before use on the skin because undiluted use may lead to sensitization and the inability to get the healing benefits of those oils when they are most needed.

Carrier oils are referred to as such because they carry the essential oil onto the skin or in the product that they are used in. Different
carrier oils offer different properties and the choice of carrier oil can depend on the therapeutic benefit being sought.

Carrier oils are generally cold-pressed vegetable oils from the fatty portions of the plant. Cold pressing means that no external heat has been used while the seed is being pressed.

The following essential oil is often used in “sensual” massages because it has a reputation as an “aphrodisiac.”

Take out your notebook and bottle of patchouli essential oil. Put one drop on a tissue paper and inhale its scent. (Inhaling directly out of the bottle may be too intense.) Before you read further, consider the following questions and note your responses in your notebook. Be sure to list the full name of the essential oil as well as the day and date of your notations.

Now, consider the following: How were you feeling before you sniffed the oil? How are you feeling now that you have sniffed the oil? Do you like the scent? Why? Why not?

Once you have written down each question and your responses, continue reading.

Patchouli, Pogostemon cablin

Many people think of patchouli as a "hippy's herb" from the 1960s. During that time of "love fests" and heavy use of marijuana, patchouli incense was often burned to cover up the scent of the burning drug. Then a lot of people who weren't using drugs found they liked the scent.

But most people don't know that patchouli was rather popular in the 1860s as well. In the 1860s, Britain imported cashmere shawls from India. The shawls were packed with patchouli leaves to discourage moth infestation.

British merchants found that if they had cashmere shawls that were not packed with patchouli leaves, that they could not sell them. However, once they scented the shawls with patchouli, they did sell.

In addition to being known as an aphrodisiac which heightens sensuality, this relaxing scent is also known for its antidepressant and antiseptic properties.

Patchouli essential oil can help prevent viral infections and aid in the healing of wounds. The oil used to treat yeast infections both in the mouth and the vagina. As pointed out above, it is used in Asia as a moth repellant.

Anxiety: Clary Sage, geranium, juniper berry, lavender, lemon balm (Melissa), neroli, Roman chamomile, rose otto, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, ylang ylang

Mental Fatigue: Clary Sage, juniper berry, rosemary

Relaxing: Chamomile, lavender, lemon balm (Melissa), geranium, neroli

Uplifting: Clary sage, eucalyptus, juniper berry,

Euphoric: Jasmine, sandalwood, ylang ylang

Muscle aches: Birch, eucalyptus, juniper, rosemary

Respiratory problems: Eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, pine, spruce

Depression: Basil, clary sage, geranium, lavender, melissa, rose, ylang ylang.

Headaches: Eucalyptus, lavender, lemon balm, peppermint, Roman chamomile, rosemary

Insomnia: Roman Chamomile, lavender, neroli

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