Aromatherapy is a real buzz word these days, for both natural beauty and holistic health. It was discovered in the western world after a French parfumier burned his arm, and plunged it into the nearest liquid, which was a vat of lavender oil. It miraculously healed with no scars, and the rest is history. For personal use, you usually use a base oil and dilute a few drops of essential oils into it.
The Family Guide to Aromatherapy will show you how to mix the right oils to help everything from acne and anxiety, to indigestion and insomnia. Learn about the honest limitations and potential risks, along with aromatherapy for every life stage, and each chapter includes safety watch-outs. Includes a glossary of 30 common essential oils.
Essential oils are very powerful, so use sparingly. In Egyptian times, bodies were massaged with myrrh to preserve them as mummies. In Tasmania, a man bitten by a deadly spider saved his own life, by using the local tea tree plant – both only live in the same area on earth – nature is telling us something?
Safety Tips for Aromatherapy Oils
- Natural does not always mean safe. Essential oils should be avoided for pregnancy/nursing. Many oils are not safe for medical conditions like epilepsy and asthma. And people with high blood pressure should avoid rosemary, citrus and sage oils.
- Unless under supervision of a qualified holistic vet, essential oils should not be used on pets. Essential oils should also not be used (or burned in diffusers or candles) when pets are around, as they have very sensitive noses and it could cause irritation. Cats in particular cannot break down essential oils in their liver, so never use them in the bedroom, if cats sleep on your bed (air rooms before allowing pets back in, if diffusing essential oils). Other creatures that are particularly negatively affected by essential oils are ferrets, reptiles and birds.
- Essential oils should also not be used on babies or young children (unless under supervision of a qualified aromatherapist).
- Don’t take aromatherapy oils internally, unless under guidance of a qualified aromatherapist.
- Many base oils are based on nuts (like almond oil). So never use these on skin, unless you are sure there are no nut allergies.
- Some aromatherapy oils (lime, lemon, orange, bergamot, angelica root and a few others) are photo-toxic, so you should avoid going out in the sun after use, as they could cause skin reactions. Wait a few hours before you venture outside.
How to Use Aromatherapy Essential Oils
- For a bath, swish a few drops into a full bath, then move the water around. This is good for relaxing before bed.
- You can blend a few drops into an amber glass bottle of base oil, to use for massage. This is especially good for aching joints, and you can massage yourself quite easily, if you know how. A general 3% solution for adults would be 3 drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of base oil.
- As long as it’s not around pets or children (and you have no medical conditions, see above), you could burn them in an electric diffuser (safer than candles). This permeates the air with fragrances that can help relaxation, study or ailments, depending on what you need.
- You can use them as compress, by diluting essential oils in water, then adding to gauze to apply to parts of your body. For example, lavender is good for burns, so many people find relief to apply to burns or sunburned skin.
- Steaming is popular, especially if using essential oils to heal colds or acne. Just place a towel over your head and then steam over a bowl of water with 1 to 2 drops of essential oil. Close your eyes (not for children, and use swim googles to protect eyes, if wished).
Which Essential Oils are Not Sustainable?
- Rosewood is from a severely endangered tree, yet used extensively in aromatherapy and also found in some major brands of perfume. Skincare brand Willowberry experimented to find the nearest alternative. Although Ho Wood is similar, they found that coriander seed was the best replacement.
- Some of the popular oils are unsustainably if not harvested correctly. So when choosing Indian sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh or agarwood, always ensure they are from organic companies that promise to sustainably source their oils.
- Eucalyptus oil is popular for medicinal use. However, there are reports that (like with orangutans and palm oil), koalas are being harmed by machinery for tree harvests. So if you use it, only use from companies that guarantee this does not happen. Eucalyptus trees are also very flammable, so over-use can lead to planting too many trees together, and this can lead to wildfires.
Choosing the Right Base Oil
For massage, you’ll need to dilute essential oils in a base oil, which is usually sold in a glass amber bottle. Once you’ve mixed the solution, you’ll have to use it up quickly, so only go for smaller bottles, unless you use them a lot (say a beautician). Green Tulip Organic Cold Pressed Oils are sustainably sourced, and organic or Fair Trade where possible.
- Jojoba oil is one of the most popular, as it’s closest to human sebum, so is less likely to cause irritation. Also good for hair (so ideal for a scalp massage), it comes from an American tree, and is the natural answer to whale oil, which used to be used in beauty care years ago.
- Grapeseed oil is another good all-rounder that is higher in vitamin E than olive oil, so very good for your skin.
- Almond oil is very nourishing, so good for dry skin. Yet unlike olive or coconut oil, it’s not greasy so easily sinks in, during a massage.
- Rosehip oil is more expensive, but good for very dry and ageing skin, and also good to help reduce and heal scarring.
The Basic Essential Oil Toolkit
There are dozens of aromatherapy oils. Here are the most popular:
- Peppermint oil is very refreshing and ideal in foot massage treatments.
- Lavender oil is very relaxing, so good for anxiety and before sleep. It’s also a natural painkiller and good for burned skin. Bergamot, marjoram and ylang ylang are also good for stress.
- Tea tree oil has a strong medicinal scent. It’s too strong for some people, but a few drops in a shampoo may help relieve dandruff, and it’s good in a massage for acne (though should not be used directly on the skin, as it’s too harsh).
- Rose oil is very expensive, but good for dry skin. The income is so high that there are charities trying to get farmers who presently grow opium for the cocaine industry to switch over. There is high demand, and this would give farmers a good income, without supplying drug dealers.
Green Tulip Cold Pressed Aromatherapy Oils
Green Tulip Organic Cold Pressed Oils are ideal to use with essential oils for massage on the body. Cold-pressed oils retain more plant nutrients and these are also free from pesticides and solvents. All items are sustainably sourced, and organic or Fair Trade where possible. Choose from jojoba, sweet almond or argan.
- Woody Pure Essential Oils are in 3 fragrances: cedar atlas, clove bud and frankincense
- Pure Floral Essential Oils are in four fragrances: geranium, lavender, ylang ylang and rose absolute (20%) in jojoba oil. Use 5 to 10 drops to carrier oil for a massage oil or in baths. Best within 24 months of opening.
- Pure Medicinal Essential Oils are in 5 fragrances: lemongrass, tea tree, patchouli, peppermint and rosemary.
Other Ways to Use Essential Oils
Essential Oil Mist Diffuser is a plug-in retro yet modern design with a shell-like exterior made from bamboo. In light grey, pink or lavender grey, it’s fitted with a standard plug that complies with British safety standards. It also has a timer function to set for 1, 3, 6 ours. Just place on a flat surface, remove the shell and fill the container to the maximum water mark level. Do not use this around pets, babies or during pregnancy/nursing. Air rooms before allowing back inside.
Add 5 to 10 drops of pure essential oils, then pop the shell back on. Plug in, switch on and enjoy a fine scented mist throughout your room. The diffuser will automatically switch off, when the water container is empty. Full instruction leaflet on use and maintenance included. Sold in a kraft card gift box, with some plastic packaging (recycle with household waste or at supermarket bag bins).
These aromatherapy pulse point roll-ons are expertly blended and made by hand in Kent. Made from a base of safflower oil and an aromatic blend of pure essential oils. To use, just roll into your wrists, neck or any pulse point and reapply as desired, through the day. You can buy them individually (better than a set, as a few have rosewood oil, which is from an endangered tree). Ones to try are:
- Sleep (lavender, chamomile, vanilla, sandalwood, verbena)
- Serenity (sandalwood, frankincense, lemongrass, ylang ylang, clary sage)
Natural Lavender Wheat Warmers
Small Country Birds Lavender Wheat Warmer is ethically made from pure cotton. Filled with real lavender and wheat grains, heat in the microwave for effective pain relief, to mold to any part of the body. The Parus design reflects the splendour and charm of Britain’s Romanticism area. The cover can be machine-washed. Also in long tail birds design with cherry blossoms and birds drawn by hands, inspired by Japanese fashion trends in 19th century Britain.
This lavender & cherry stone aromatherapy pillow is made with organic lavender and natural cherry stones, to you to relax, unwind and restore peace and calm. Made in the UK, it’s good to relieve aches, pains and tensions, and also idea for a yoga meditatin practice. Made from unbleached calico cotton, it has a cotton inner bag and also contains organic lavender flower buds and natural cherry stones. Sold in cardboard sleeve packaging, and made with wood sourced from sustainably-managed forests.
Good Books on Aromatherapy
- The Aromatherapy Companion is a book by two leading voices, to learn the science of how essential oils interact with our sense of smell, brain pathways and skin. The guide includes over 35 plant profiles plus recipes and blends for health and beauty. Included are remedies for digestive health, immunity and women’s health concerns. Recipes include a Hand & Body Wash for Flu Recovery, Tummy Massage Oil for indigestion and Self-Love Botanical Perfume.
- Just the Essentials is a well-written book by natural beauty expert Adina Grigore. She was sceptical of the benefits, until she began to research them, and now offer a full history and tips to use them for acne & tooth infections (tea tree oil), circulation, pain & headaches (cinnamon oil), and digestion and cleaning (peppermint oil). If you have heartburn, peppermint can actually make it worse by forcing food back up again as it relaxes your digestion system, but for other stomach problems, it sometimes helps.
- Essential Oils for Soothing Anxiety includes profiles on the 10 best essential oils for calming including bergamot, cedarwood and lavender, along with soothing rituals for massage, meditation and breathing techniques.
- The Ultimate Guide to Aromatherapy is a lovely introduction to this popular form of health and beauty. Aromatherapy involves steaming the oils from natural flowers, to produce oils that when blended with carrier oils, are often used for massage. You can also swish a few drops in a full bath. Includes recipes for a Hand & Body Wash for Flu Recovery, Tummy Massage Oil for indigestion and Self-Love Botanical Perfume.
The Natural Benefits of Lavender Oil
Lavender Fields by Hannah Cole for Whistlefish
Lavender oil is an aromatherapy essential oil that first came to international attention, when a French perfumier accidentally burned his arm. He plunged it into the nearest liquid he could find (a vat of lavender oil) and when it healed, it spurned the modern ‘medicine’ of aromatherapy, although lavender and other oils have been used for thousands of years, even before Biblical times. This post is one of a series looking at the beauty and medicinal benefits of the most popular aromatherapy oils, with tips on how where to find sustainably-sourced oils, how to mix them and how to use them.
Avoid aromatherapy oils for pregnancy/nursing and babies. Also avoid for medical conditions that could be triggered (asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure). Do not use essential oils near pets (air rooms before allowing them back). Cats in particular (along with reptiles, ferrets and birds) are negatively affected by them (cats cannot break the oils down in their livers).
Lavender oil obviously comes from the lavender plant, loved by bees and humans alike. The name is from the Latin verb ‘lavare’, which means ‘to wash’, and has been used since Egyptian times (when it was used to embalm bodies) and was also used to help ward off disease during the Bubonic Plague of the 17th century. Related to mint, Queen Victoria used to drink lavender tea for her stomach, and even had her furniture cleaned with a homemade polish made with lavender. It was even once used as a local currency in France.
The popular aroma and affordable price, means that lavender oil is one of the most popular aromatherapy oils to buy in shops. Due to its versatility (it can used for beauty and medicinal use, plus in drinks and cooking), it is only surpassed by basil as the world’s most popular herb. Native to the Mediterranean, not all lavender flowers are purple (some are white, pink, red and yellow, but most are. The many benefits of lavender oil include:
- To help you relax and sleep. This Lavender Herbal Sleep Sachet is filled with organic lavender buds and coloured with natural plant dyes. Ideal for anyone with insomnia. Just place under a pillow or near your nightstand. Squeeze the pillow now and then, to refresh the scent. Don’t use essential oils if you sleep with pets on your bed. It’s good to heal burns, woulds and scrapes.
- It’s good for skin and hair, especially acne and eczema (in mild doses).
- It’s good for pain. For a cold compress, fill a bowl with cold water and add 6 drops of lavender oil (or 3 drops with 3 drops of another oil). Dip a cloth in the water then wring it out, and apply it to the affected area. Leave for around 5 minutes, until it returns to body temperature. Repeat as needed.
How to Use Lavender Oil
Essential oils are made by distilling the properties into a small bottle. For a bath to help you relax or sleep, run your warm bath first (no other oils or foams), then add a few drops to the bath water, and swish with your hands. Soak for 20 minutes, then towel yourself dry and straight to bed!
The other main use for lavender is for a body massage, which can help anxiety and physical pain. You need to therefore mix the organic essential oil with a base oil. To do this, add 1 drop to each teaspoon of carrier oil (or add 12 drops to each 30ml of carrier oil if preferred), then store the bottle in a cool dark place. Once mixed, use the oil up within a few weeks, although essential oils should last much longer.
Looking Good with Lavender!
Bristol Made Organic Lavender Micellar Water is a no-rinse cleaner made with almond and rosehip oil, organic witch hazel and lavender to calm. Packed in glass with an aluminium lid.
Friendly Lavender Soap is made in Yorkshire, and sold in cardboard packaging. Free from palm oil, this soap uses olive and coconut oil with rich shea butter (not for latex allergies) for a rich lather to soak in the tub. Keep on a slatted soap dish to dry out between uses (lasts longer!) The same company’s lavender geranium shampoo bar is ideal for frizzy hair (just rub into a creamy paste and apply to your hair). For a liquid conditioner, mix the bar in a jug of 600g of boiling water, then cool the dissolved mix, and pour into a bottle.
Lavender Deodorants (from Isle of Wight)
Earth Conscious Lavender Geranium Deodorant (Isle of Wight) is made with organic coconut oil and shea butter, to melt into the skin. With a fresh uplifting scent, it’s sold in a cardboard tube, tin or Bare Bar.
Bloom Essential Oil is a beautiful blend of rose geranium, palmarosa and patchouli oils, made for home diffuers. Just add a few drops and breathe in the lovely aroma. Also as Glow (lemongrass & lime), Unwind (lavender bergamot), Revive (peppermint eucalyptus), Sunshine (grapefruit, bergamot, ylang ylang), Winter (sweet orange, cinnamon, clove, pine) and Forest (Siberian fir, eucalyptus, cedarwood).