This guide for essential oil use gives you information related to aromatherapy and essential oils, how they work, and how to use them.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy uses essential oils to promote health and well-being of the mind, body, and spirit. You will come across various definitions—for detailed discussions, see the "What is Aromatherapy" articles at AromaWeb and the Tisserand Institute.
Although aromatherapy implies that beneficial effects result from the scent, essential oils also work through other channels. See How Does Aromatherapy Work? You might also be interested in the History of Aromatherapy.
What is an essential oil?
Essential oils (sometimes inaccurately called aromatherapy oils) are concentrated liquid extracts made from plants. Depending on the specific plant, a plant may produce essential oil in various parts such as in the flower, seeds, bark, root, leaves, resin, or wood.
The word "essential" comes from "essence," as in the essence of the plant. For the plants, the components of these oils provide natural defenses against disease and pests. These components also have beneficial effects for people.
Unlike fatty oils (used as carrier oils), essential oils are volatile, that is, they are not "oily" and do not leave behind oil stains. However, some brightly colored oils, such as German chamomile or turmeric can cause a color stain.
What do essential oils do? Each essential oil has a unique combination of chemical components that gives the oil its own scent, properties, and benefits. See profiles of essential oils.
Are essential oils safe?
Used properly and according to accepted guidelines, most essential oils are safe for most people. Remember, anyone can have a bad reaction to anything. To use essential oils safely, learn about the ones you want to use and be aware of any cautions or contraindications. Seek professional advice if in doubt.
For more safety information, see:
Do aromatherapy and essential oils work?
Scientific studies are limited and incomplete, though you can find studies that support the efficacy of specific essential oils for specific uses.
Many people report receiving benefits from using aromatherapy and essential oils. But what works for one person may not work for you. The Healing Power of Essential Oils says it best:
What is the shelf life of essential oils? Do they expire?
Although pure essential oils don't go rancid in the way that fatty oils do, essential oils can oxidize and deteriorate over time, gradually losing their aroma and therapeutic value. Many factors affect the shelf life of an essential oil, including how it was distilled, the quality of plant material used, the care used by the suppliers in bottling, storing, and handling the oil, and how you store the oil after receiving it.
See this detailed information on shelf life from aromatherapy expert Robert Tisserand.
How can I find a qualified aromatherapist?
To find a qualified aromatherapist, ask about the person's training, experience, liability insurance, and what you can expect from each session. Also, know what you want from your consultations and determine if you feel comfortable with the aromatherapist. A qualified aromatherapist will ask about your health and medical conditions to make sure the suggested essential oils are appropriate for you.
Can I make essential oil at home?
See Essential Oil Distiller to learn how distillers work and where you can buy one for home use.
Any tips for choosing an essential oil diffuser?
See Aromatherapy Diffusers for descriptions and pictures of different types of essential oil diffusers.
You can also visit the other sections of this website and find aromatherapy essential oil blends for:
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