What is a Carrier Oil?

Posted on: June 19th, 2009 by
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Many people do not realize that essential oils are normally diluted in a carrier oil, due to the potency of an essential oil neat. It is common practice in the UK and the USA to use essential oils in an essential oil mix of a carrier oil. In France, essential oils are often used neat and administered in various ways, including by mouth, rectum or vagina but it is not common to do so (and not without considerable experience and knowledge) in the UK and the USA.

Therefore, the most common method of using essential oils in the UK and the USA is through the addition of a carrier oil. Carrier oils may take the following forms:

- vegetable oil (although not to be confused with those oils used for culinary purposes. NEVER substitute one for the other!)
- bubble bath
- shampoo
-milk
-honey
-water (although essential oils are not water soluble, so some aromatherapists don’t use this method)
- white lotion base (cleansing milk, moisurizing base, body lotion, foot cream).

There are many forms of vegetable oils but, for aromatherapy use, vegetable oils should be cold pressed. Vegetable oils hold therapeutic properties too, in addition to the properties held by essential oils, so hot pressed vegetable oils will not maintain the same properties as a cold pressed vegetable oil. Examples of vegetable oils include:

- sweet almond oil
- apricot kernel oil
- jojoba oil
- sunflower oil
- walnut
- evening primrose

and many more, some of which I will profile in my aromatherapy blog later.

Carrier oils have to be effectively combined with essential oils to make a synergistic essential oil blend; creating an effective essential oil blend takes practice and experimentation. However, it is quite simple to make simple essential oil blends for yourself of bubble bath, shampoo, lotions and oils if you take the time to study and practice!

If you want to read more on using carrier oils in essential oil blends, read my suite101 article – using carrier oils in aromatherapy blends. Also refer to the following books for a more comprehensive definition of what a carrier oil is, and, is not:

Price, Len 1999 Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy Massage UK:Riverhead
Price, Shirley 2000 Aromatherapy Workbook UK:Thorsons

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Essential Oil, Fragrance Oil or Hydrosol Article Link

Posted on: June 17th, 2009 by
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Following on from yesterday’s post, you may be interested in this article I published today at Suite 101 – Essential Oil, Fragrance Oil or Hydrosol? It really is a large area that deserves more exploration than the limitations of this article allowed, but this is a good introductory to the subject, I think!

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What is an Essential Oil?

Posted on: June 15th, 2009 by
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There is much debate in the modern world as to the historical use of essential oils. Essential oils as we know them today are not the same as essential oils as used by the ancient Egyptians and Romans. In fact, the very early essential oils used in history were not oils obtained by the distillation process we use today; the distillation of essential oils, with the use of the refrigerated coil, was first used by the Arab physician, Avicenna (AD 980 – 1037). Furthermore, ‘modern day’ aromatherapy is accredited to Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist, who ‘discovered’ the therapeutic properties of lavender through an accident in his laboratory in 1928.
However, the ancient Egyptians and Romans were using plants to make oils for both cosmetic and medicinal uses; albeit, it was in a different form than that we know today, but the medicinal properties of the oils were not dissimilar to the properties of the essential oils of today. It is also worth bearing in mind that the chemical components of an essential oil are a complex thing and the removal or addition of a component can alter the essential oil considerably, once extracted from the plant too. But that’s for a future posting…
So, how is an essential oil defined? An essential oil is basically the life blood of the plant and is actually stored and used by the plant in a number of ways, prior to its extraction. My article – botany and aromatherapy - explains this in more depth. An essential oil can be extracted from the flowers, roots, seeds, leaves, bark or fruits of a plant; depending on the actual plant this may be by steam distillation or cold expression. An essential oil, despite its name, is in fact non-oily. And essential oils don’t dissolve in water.
So what isn’t an essential oil? An essential oil is not synthesized or made in a factory or chemically altered in any way. Today, most manufactured perfumes are synthetic (man made) as are many fragrances and ‘pure’ essential oils which claim to be therapeutic but are in fact, sadly, not. Some essential oils are expensive to produce, such as Rose, so if you find Rose essential oil very cheaply, you are probably being sold a synthetic or ‘knock-off’ oil. Adulteration of essential oils is common by many large companies looking for a profit margin, rather than a therapeutic value.
The secret to identifying a pure essential oil is to study, study and then study some more! Learn to identify essential oils by their latin names (which relate to the botanical source). Research the history and reputation of the essential oil supplier. Know that most citrus oils are not steam distilled but are actually cold expressed. Fragrance oils (despite their popularity in the USA are of no therapeutic value in aromatherapy) and hydrolats (are of therapeutic value in aromatherapy) are not essential oils. Many items described as ‘aromatherapy’ products with ‘essential oils’ may not be what you think; that ‘essential oil’ may not be an essential oil…
As you can see, essential oils are very complex and take some understanding! Even more so, essential oils should only be used with experience and knowledge – and usually in carrier oils, which is coming up next….

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Aromatherapy or Massage?

Posted on: June 11th, 2009 by
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Most people are more familiar with the term massage therapist than aromatherapist. I have found this to be even more evident since I moved to the USA from the UK. In the UK, aromatherapy and the use of essential oils is becoming more widely accepted in the health field and some forwarding thinking doctors are even allowing the use of essential oils either at their practices or in the hospitals.
Traditionally associated with the beauty industry, this is a very positive move in recognising the importance of the use of essential oils and aromatherapy in their own right. Essential oils are so much more complex than ‘nice smells’ – and for that reason it is very important to know the power of essential oils and the reactions that the individual chemical components can cause. It is essential to consult a qualified aromatherapist; unfortunately, there are no rules or regulations in the USA to govern someone setting themselves up as an ‘aromatherapist’ – anyone can do it.
I have found many people (that’s not to say all!) in the USA are more familiar with fragrance oils than essential oils; although pleasing to the nose, fragrance oils do not possess the same healing powers of essential oils. And the USA appears to have some catching up to do in accepting essential oils in medical practice in the same way as in the UK; educating people about what an essential oil actually is may help spread the word.
One journal I can highly recommend for the serious aromatherapist interested in evidence based case studies and reports on random clinical trials carried out in the UK, Australia and some other select places is The International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy. The Journal presents some very interesting cases and non- biased evidence on the power of essential oils and the use of aromatherapy and is produced by Bob and Rhiannon Harris, both very experienced in their fields.
So what about massage? Should it be considered a separate discipline to aromatherapy? Both massage and aromatherapy are ‘stand alone’ therapies and one can work without the other. However, when aromatherapy and massage are combined they are even more powerful. Often, I have had clients who may have experienced a massage before but not aromatherapy. And I have never had a dissatisfied client yet! The power of essential oils when experienced for the first time is amazing! However, aromatherapy doesn’t have to be administered through traditional massage; for example, it can be inhaled or made into bath and body lotions. The magic is in creating a synergy of essential oils which have the ability to treat and heal.
So, in my next post I’ll go ‘back to basics’ and discuss what an essential oil actually is – and is not…

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Welcome to my aromatherapy blog!

Posted on: June 6th, 2009 by
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I have been asked a lot about aromatherapy advice, articles, links and news in my position as an aromatherapist! So, I decided to create an aromatherapy blog to try and address some of these issues. Here you will find essential oil profiles, links to my aromatherapy articles and other relevant articles, links to relevant aromatherapy forums and a whole lot of advice about aromatherapy and essential oils!
As I qualified in the UK but am now living in the USA, I am in the unique position of having an insight into two ‘different’ worlds – both from an aromatherapy point of view and a practical point of view! If you want to learn more about me and what I do, click on my ‘about me’ profile on the right of the page.
By writing ‘aromatherapy notes’, I hope to be able to pass on some very relevant and useful information about aromatherapy and the use of essential oils and try to separate the fact from the fiction in, what can be, a very confusing area! I have found this to be more true since moving to the USA. To get started, check out my latest aromatherapy article posted today at suite101 – helichrysum essential oil….
…And I hope you enjoy my very own ‘essential’ aromatherapy notes!

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