Three Common Absolutes Used in Aromatherapy

Posted on: March 24th, 2014 by
2

Rose spp.: Photo Credit: Sharon Falsetto, All Rights Reserved

Rose spp.: Photo Credit: Sharon Falsetto, All Rights Reserved

Although some would argue that absolutes are more suited to natural perfumery products than holistic aromatherapy practice, there are a few absolutes that are commonly used in aromatherapy. Absolutes are made differently to essential oils but some (depending on the process used) can still hold therapeutic properties for aromatherapy use. This post looks at rose, jasmine and benzoin – and their use in aromatherapy.

Definition of an Absolute

An absolute is extracted from a plant using a solvent. There are various solvents used in this process, depending upon the plant and the extractor. In the past, more “volatile” (and carcinogenic) solvents were used, before people were aware of the dangers and outcomes of using such solvents. Today, closer attention is given to the type of solvent used in the process – but its still possible that some suppliers might “cut corners” with the type of solvent used.

The use of a solvent first produces a concrete; the concrete is then further extracted (often with the use of alcohol) to produce the absolute. The final product may contain trace amounts of the solvent used – the reason why absolutes are not seen as “pure” for use in therapeutic aromatherapy practice.

Jasmine in Aromatherapy

Jasmine is one of the few “essential oils” used in aromatherapy which is not technically a pure essential oil. Jasmine essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the absolute – not the actual plant. However, jasmine is used in aromatherapy practice for skin care, respiratory problems, stress and nervous disorders.

Rose in Aromatherapy

Rose is one of the most adulterated essential oils used in aromatherapy practice. Although rose does produce an actual essential oil from the plant, it is an expensive process. An absolute is also produced from rose and is sometimes substituted with rose essential oil in aromatherapy practice because of its slightly lesser cost. Both the essential oil and the absolute have therapeutic properties but may vary depending upon species and process. The aroma of the oil/absolute may vary, too.

Benzoin in Aromatherapy

Benzoin is technically neither an essential oil nor an absolute; as crude benzoin is a resin collected from the tree, it is more correctly described as a resinoid. However, resinoids and absolutes are similar in nature; resinoids are usually produced from the resin or tree sap, whereas absolutes are produced from fresh plant material.

Benzoin is used in therapeutic aromatherapy practice for skin care, respiratory problems and muscle pain. It is noted for its slight chocolate-vanilla aroma!

Absolute or Essential Oil?

Some aromatherapists may not use absolutes in true therapeutic aromatherapy practice. However, as this post attempts to explain, there might be an occasion where the use of an absolute is appropriate; understanding your product is the key to making an informed decision.

Study Aromatherapy with Sedona Aromatherapie

If you would like to learn more about the practice of aromatherapy, consider taking one of the home study aromatherapy courses with Sedona Aromatherapie. Visit the courses home page to learn more!

References:

  • Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons

  • Keville, Kathi, Green, Mindy, 2009, Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art (2nd Edition), US: Crossing Press

  • Author is a certified aromatherapist

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2 Responses to Three Common Absolutes Used in Aromatherapy

  1. Urs had this to say about that:

    Hello, this a very interesting article and a good website. I do believe, however, that the picture of jasmin depicted above, actually shows a philadelphus (mock-orange) not jasmin. In some countries mock-oranges is referred to as jasmin but they are not very closely related. Perhaps a picture of a true jasmin could be substituted here to prevent confusion. Cheers.

    • SharonF had this to say about that:

      Thank you for your keen eye! Unfortunately all stock photo sites list this image as jasmine, causing ultimate confusion. Very difficult to find a photo of a true jasmine unless you take the photo yourself (which I am starting to do because of this). In the meantime, a photo of rose spp. is holding :)