Essential oils are concentrated oils found in leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, wood, resin, bark and roots of aromatic plants. These oils are embedded within minute glands of the plant which evaporate to release a protective aroma around the plant and help insulate heat to protect from extreme temperature variations. The released aroma helps fight bacteria and fungi.
As ancient cultures have long known, essential oils also carry therapeutic qualities. Essential oils were rigorously used in Ancient Greece, Egypt, Middle East and India for medicines, body perfumes and food preservatives. The Ancient Greek physician Theophrastus wrote a study on these oils entitled “Concerning Odours”. His work laid the groundwork for what today is called Aromatherapy. The French chemist’s Professor Rene-Maurice Gattefosse work on essential oils catalysed the modern revival of this type of therapy, and has become very popular within the last century. For example, Lavender oil was used as an antiseptic in WWI and tea tree oil used extensively as an anti-septic in WWII.
Essential oils are extracted using complex and expensive processes. Most oils are either extracted using a sequence of distillation processes or by effleurage. These methods are resource, labor and time intensive and require expert skill and equipment to execute. The amount of material needed to extract minute amounts of oil are huge. For example, it takes 250 pounds (115kg) of rose petals to produce 1 fl oz (25 ml) of essential oil. For these reasons essential oils can be rather expensive.
When purchasing these oils, you should take care to not buy oils that have been displayed in hot or sun exposed environments. Essential oils should always be in dark airtight containers stored at a low temperatures (i.e. approx. 65ºF / 18ºC). Oils in clear glass containers should be avoided if possible. Many retailers label oils as “aromatherapy oils” which usually indicate that only a small volume of the liquid consists of the essential oil (e.g. like 2 %) and the remainder consists of a carrier oil (see below for carrier oils). Ideally, you should buy bottles of 100% essential oil to allow maximum flexibility for constructing custom blends. You will also need to acquire carrier oils for proper application.
The below table lists various essential oils and their properties.
Essential Oil Index
|Essential Oil||Properties||Used to treat||Blends best with|
|Basil||Uplifting, energizing, antidepressant||Anxiety, concentration, digestion, headaches, respiratory problems||Bergamot, geranium, hyssop, neroli, marjoram, Melissa, lavender.|
|Benzoin||Penetrating, warming||Stimulates circulation, aids respiration, soothes irritated skin, reduces nervous tension.||Cinnamon, coriander, cypress, jasmine, lemon, myrrh, rose, sandalwood.|
|Bergamont||Fresh, uplifting, antiseptic||Anxiety, depression, helps appetite, helps digestion, soothes lungs, oily skin.||Chamomile, coriander, cypress, geranium, jasmine, lavender, lemon, neroli, ylang-ylang.|
|Black pepper||Light, stimulating||Stimulates circulation, digestion, colds, coughs, muscular aches and pains.||Cypress, frankincense, sandalwood, spice oils.|
|Camphor||Cooling, highly stimulating||Depression, insomnia, shock, digestion, respiratory problems, oily skin, acne||Frankincense, neroli.|
|Cedarwood||Sedative, antiseptic, insect repellant.||Anxiety, cystitis, all lung conditions, acne, dandruff||Bergamot, cypress, jasmine, juniper, neroli, rosemary.|
|Chamomile||Refreshing, relaxing, pain reliever for small aches.||Depression, insomnia, digestion problems, menstrual problems, skin conditions.||Benzoin, bergamot, geranium, lavender, lemon, marjoram, neroli, rose, ylang-ylang.|
|Clary sage||Warming, soothing, nerve tonic.||Depression, insomnia, sore throat, digestion, menstruation, dry skin, insect bites.||Bergamot, cedar wood, citrus oils, cypress, geranium, jasmine, juniper, lavender, sandalwood.|
|Cypress||Relaxing, refreshing, astringent||Circulation, influenza, laryngitis, muscular cramps, mature skin.||Benzoin, bergamot, clary sage, juniper, lavender, lemon, orange, sandalwood.|
|Eucalyptus||Stimulating, antiseptic, anti-viral, insect repellent||Diarrhea, colds, viruses, respiratory problems, aches and pains, cuts and wounds.||Benzoin, hyssop, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, Melissa, pine, rose.|
|Frankincense||Warming, relaxing, tonic||Respiratory problems, aging skin, inflammation, wounds||All oils|
|Geranium||Refreshing, relaxing, astringent, insect repellent||Nervous system, digestion, liver and kidney problems, menstrual problems, normalizes and cleanses skin||All oils|
|Jasmine||Relaxing, sedative||Depression, uterine pain, respiratory problems, sensitive skin.||All oils|
|Juniper||Tonic, antiseptic, diuretic.||Depression, respiratory problems, eczema, acne, muscle aches.||Bergamont, citrus oils, cypress, geranium, lavender, rosemary, sandalwood.|
|Lavender||Refreshing, soothing, antiseptic, insect repellent, relieves sharp pains||Insomnia, circulation problems, indigestion, headaches, infections, muscular pains, cell renewal.||Most oils, especially citrus, chamomile, clary sage, geranium, pine, rosemary.|
|Lemon||Refreshing, invigorating, antiseptic, insect repellent||Circulation, respiratory problems, sore throats, oily skin, broken capillaries.||Benzoin, chamomile, eucalyptus, fennel, frankincense, geranium, juniper, neroli, ylang-ylang.|
|Lemongrass||Toning, revitalizing, antiseptic||Circulation, digestion, muscle tone, acne, oily skin.||Basil, geranium, jasmine, lavender.|
|Marjoram||Calming, warming.||Tension, insomnia, high blood pressure, digestion problems, colds, headaches, muscular cramps, respiratory problems.||Bergamot, chamomile, cypress, lavender, rosemary.|
|Melissa||Refreshing, anti-depressant||Tension, neuralgia, digestion, fevers, painful menstruation, respiratory problems.||Geranium, juniper, neroli, ylang-ylang.|
|Neroli||Ambrosial, antiseptic||Anxiety, insomnia, diarrhea, rejuvenates skin.||Most oils|
|Peppermint||Invigorating, antiseptic, pain reliever.||Fatigue, shock, digestion, travel sickness, headaches, toothache, skin irritations.||In small quantities with benzoin, black pepper, Melissa, marjoram, spice oils.|
|Rose||Relaxing, anti-depressant, astringent, antiseptic||Stress, circulation, digestion, headaches, for all skins.||Most oils.|
|Rosemary||Toning, invigorating, insect repellent||Fatigue, circulation, digestion, headaches, muscular pains, respiratory problems.||Basil, cedar wood, frankincense, lavender, lemon, peppermint.|
|Sage||Soothing, tonic, antiseptic||Fatigue, low blood pressure, respiratory problems, clears skin, firms tissue.||Bergamot, hyssop, lemon, lavender, Melissa, peppermint, rosemary.|
|Sandalwood||Calming, antiseptic||Fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, respiratory problems, dry skin.||Benzoin, black pepper, cypress, frankincense, jasmine, lemon, myrrh, neroli, ylang-ylang.|
|Thyme||Stimulant, antiseptic, nerve tonic.||Fatigue, depression, circulation problems, headaches, digestion problems, colds and respiratory problems, muscular pain.||Bergamot, citrus oils, Melissa, rosemary.|
|Ylang-ylang||Sedative, antiseptic, antidepressant||Anxiety, insomnia, frustration, regulates circulation.||Most oils.|
Essential oils are highly potent and are used in drops. When these oils are applied to skin areas they tend to rapidly evaporate due to the surrounding air exposure. This evaporation prevents adequate absorption and provides little benefit. To facilitate adequate absorption, it is necessary to dilute these drops into something called a “carrier oil”. Carrier oils are lubricating oils used in massage to allow smooth gliding of the hands over the skin. Good carrier oils are 100% pure, have penetrative qualities and should have little or no smell. Below are lists of carrier oils:
|Carrier Oil Index|
|Almond Oil: Has little smell, penetrative, contains proteins as is emollient and slow to become rancid. The mot popular carrier oil.
Apricot Kernel and Peach kernel oils: Same as almond oil but more expensive.
Jojoba oil: Gives a silky smooth finish, not oily or greasy, very fine and clear. Also treats acne.
Sunflower oils: Evaporates faster than other oils but contains vitamin F. An acceptable carrier oil.
|Grapeseed oil: Gives a silky smooth finish, not oily or greasy, very fine and clear.
Hazelnut oil: Most effective and deep penetration. Stimulates circulation.
Olive oil: Has claming qualities, relieves itching and skin ailments, good for rheumatism, overpowering scent.
Carrot oil: Is a tonic and rejuvenating, good for neck massages. Contains many vitamins.
Essential oils can be used in 2 ways.
Aromatherapy: this consists of using essential oils in lotions and inhalants to affect mood and promote health. Using essential oils in baths is the most common technique. This type of therapy can be executed with small amounts of carrier oil. Another more effective technique is to inhale an essential oil blend by mixing it with boiling water and inhaling the steam. Using a towel over the head to trap the steam is a common technique. Purchasing a steam inhaler device is another very effective technique although care must be taken to ensure the oil blend is not overly potent.
Massage: this consists of constructing a blend of essential oils combined with a carrier oil and applying onto the skin via massage. The purpose of this therapy is to absorb the oils directly into the system through the skin. Adequate absorption requires mixing a carrier oil. Massaging an appropriate essential oil blend onto the hands and forearms can bring relief to and help cure to RSI.
In the context of repetitive strain injuries, essential oils can provide relief and help cure as some RSI sufferers have claimed. The following blend was constructed from discussions with RSI sufferers (and improved through research). The blend relieves muscle aches, relieves muscle tension, helps repair muscle tissue, improves blood circulation and relieves stress and anxiety.
RSI Essential Oil Blend
|Oil||Drops / treatment|
Carrier oil: Almond oil
Mix ratio: 10% essential oil, 90% carrier oil.
Apply to front and back of hands and wrists.
Apply to inner and outer forearms.
Apply on both arms and hands.
Massage areas after application for 2 minutes.
For other conditions the following blends can be used.
|Blends for other symptoms|
|Anxiety: Jasmine, lavender, marojoram, nerolim, basil, bergamont, camphor, chamomile, frankincense, geranium, juniper, melissa, rose, sandalwood.
Muscle stiffness: Rosemary, thyme.
Arthritis: Benzoin, chamomile, cypress, sage, juniper, lemon, thyme.
Insomnia: Basil, chamomile, clary sage, juniper, lavender, marjoram, neroli, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang.
Shock: Camphor, Melissa, neroli, peppermint.