Aromatherapy is the art and science of using plant extracts to treat a variety for health and beauty problems.It is a complex science dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Archaeologists has discovered essential oils in animal fats in the mummy's tombs along with distillation pots. The Chinese and Indian cultures also used aromatherapy at an early age. It is the basis of the Indian practice of Aryuveda. It enjoyed popularity during the Renaissance.

Modern day aromatherapy was "discovered" in 1937 by French chemist Renee Maurice Gattefosse when he burned his hand while working in his laboratory. He immediately applied pure lavender oil and was amazed at the beneficial result in rapid wound healing.

Essential oils are prepared from the stems, bark, flowers and berries of plants and fruits and vegetables. They are used by the plants for infection control, humidity control, hormonal effects, wound healing and attracting and repelling birds, insects and animals. They are sourced all over the world, with some rare and expensive oils coming from Morocco and the Middle East. The cost of oils varies widely, depending on their source region and the method of preparation.

Essential oils can be steam distilled, expressed or produced through supercritical CO 2 e traction. This last method results in a product that is very close to the raw material. Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways. They can be applied topically, as skin is somewhat permeable. When used topically, heat and or massage will increase the absorption of the oils. They can also be inhaled through the nose and mouth, which is the fastest method of absorption. They can also be ingested, but great care must be taken, as many oils can be toxic to the liver and kidneys and they may interact with medications.

Inhalation through the nose or mouth introduces oils to the olfactory system, which includes organs and cells relating and contributing to the sense of smell. Airborne molecules interact with the olfactory organs and immediately impact the brain. The Lambic system, or emotional brain, is directly connected to the part of the brain that controls heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels and hormone balance. This relationship explains why smell often triggers emotions. For this reason, essential oils have very profound psychological and physiological effects.
You can use essential oils for a variety for health and beauty concerns.

Here is a list of common essential oils and their applications:

  • Lavender: minor burns, insomnia, pain relief, wound care
  • Tea Tree: anti bacterial, anti fungal, viral infections
  • Peppermint: headaches, fever, nausea, fatigue
  • German Chamomile: inflammatory skin problems
  • Bergamot: mild anti depressant and tonic, stimulating
  • Rosemary: stimulating, detoxifying, ant infection
  • Neroli: uplifting
  • Eucalyptus: respiratory infections
  • Ginger: nausea, inflammation
  • Lemongrass: anti fungal
  • Basil: insect repellant, anti parasitic
  • Black Pepper: detoxifying, swelling

When using an essential oil, with the exception of lavender and tea tree oils, they must not be applied directly to the skin. A carrier oil is required. Some good oils are sweet almond, grape seed, apricot kernel, jojoba, hemp seed, avocado and rose hips oils.

The essential oil should not exceed 3-5% of the solution. When using on infants, it should not exceed .25%. For toddlers, it should nor exceed .5%. Proper aromatherapy use begins with a complete consultation. You do not get the oil you like, you get the oils you need, like medications. Aromatherapy is more than sprinkling a few drops of lavender on your pillow, although that can be effective at times. An accomplished, effective aromatherapist studies for many months or years to perfect the art and science.

Much research has been done on essential oils by the food, flavoring, cosmetics and tobacco industries. They are most interested in flavor, mood alteration and preservative qualities. Some research on toxicity and safety has been published in trade journals, but much is proprietary.
There are some problems in researching essential oils.

Essential oils are not standardized.
It is difficult to conduct blinded studies with essential oils.
It is difficult to get approval and funding for research into essential oils.
It is difficult to tell what caused the outcome.

The FDA does not regulate essential oils and concentrations and quality varies widely.
In summary, essential oils are a powerful and highly effective method of treating skin and health problems. They should be used with caution under the direction of a trained aromatherapist.

To quote Helen Keller
"Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived."