Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Aromatherapy: handle with care

Aromatherapy, the use of essential plant oils for health care and pleasure is an increasingly popular technique in alternative and complimentary health care. As a certifed Aromatherapist I have used and enjoyed essential oils for several years and taught classes on the safest, best practices.

There are many books available and more places than I can count in the world wide web with information on aromatherapy. Some are good sources but others are very inconsistent with safe and best practices. The text that I have used for my classes and have found to be very practical is "Aromatherapy for Bodyworkers" by Jade Shutes and Christina Weaver.

This text is not just for bodyworkers (massage therapists, reflexologists, etc) but for anyone interested in the science of aromatherapy.

You also need to carefully consider what brand of EO you purchase. Look for cold expressed, or steam distilled Essential Oils - not fragrance oils. Also consider the source. Does the label tell country of origin? Is it organic? Due to possible pollution of the soil and water in many parts of the world this is needed information.  There are many honest purveyors of essential oils but you do need to do your part in researching the product you pay for.

One source you should consider staying away from is Young Living. These oils are widely available and sale people are everywhere but the founder of the company has a very unsavory reputation and the quality of the product is in doubt. From more information, please go to
Take time to be an educated consumer.

What Essential Oils should you have? We keep Lavender, Tea Tree, Rose Geranium, and Eucalyptus on hand. Lavender and Tea Tree EO's can be applied neat and are kept in the kitchen for quick a. pplication to cuts and burns. They are also great for cleaning because they are both anti funal and anti bacterial. Rose Geranium is analgesic, antiseptic and helpful as an anti depressant. All Essential Oils with the exception of Lavender and Tea Tree must be mixed with a carrier oil: olive oil, jojoba, walnut, etc... Each oil has it's own helpful quality. I generally use olive oil because good quality is usually readily available and I like the anti inflammatory properties. As you study individual EO's you will decide which to keep in your personal kit.

What are good, safe sources of EO's. Locally I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs Your local Fred Meyer and Wild Oats has a "natural" or "health" department where some EO's are available. Ask questions and do your research before buying as EO's of good quality can seem expensive. It is good to know that a little bit will go a long way.

As with all natural products Essential Oils have a shelf life limit. The general rule is 2 years. After that time the oils may still smell good but have lost some of their medicinal properties.

Can you make your own Essential Oils? The quick answer is "yes", but... you need the proper equipment.
A great tutorial is available here.

We make infused lavender and calendula oils for salves and infused vinegars for cleaning and cooking.

Interested in learning more about the sense of smell? Read here:

The history of Aromatherapy:

René-Maurice Gattefossé is considered the founder of modern Aromatherapy. His text "The First Book on Aromatherapy" has been translated to English and is available at

Essential oils are a pleasure to use and can be helpful in maintaining your optimum health. The more knowledge you have the better off you will be. The continuing study of Aromatherapy and Herbalism can part of a happy, healthy life.

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