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Using Essential Oils

By Phylameana lila Desy, About.com

What is aromatherapy?

Use of plant aromatics for the holistic healing of mind, body, and spirit.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated aromatic plant extracts collected through a process of steam distillation. Aromatherapists also use essences extracted by expression of fruit peel of citris and absolutes obtained by enfleurage and solvent extractiom. (i.e. Rose and jasmine absolutes are used in the aromatherapy). Orange-flower water and lavender water are fragrants produced during oil distillation.

Ways to use essential oils

Common methods of using oils include inhalation, vaporization, massage, bathing, and compresses. Essential oils (except in rare exceptions) are not to be applied to the skin in an undiluted form.

Steam Inhalation: Add a two drops of essential oil to a bowl of steaming water. Covering your head and bowl of water with a towel, inhale the healing vapours.

Vaporization: Four to five drops of a single oil or combination of oils are sufficient. Too ascent a room place the drops in a vaporizer or in a small container of water set on a radiator. You can also place a drop or two onto a light bulb. For individual therapy you can place a drop or two of oil onto a tissue or pillowcase.

Baths: For relaxation, pleasure, stress relief, or soothing achy muscles, a soak in bath water that has been treated with a few drops of essential oils is a delight.

Personal Care: Treat yourself by adding romatic oils to your skin lotions, face creams, and mild shampoos.

Massage: Essential oils are blended into a base oil such assweet almond or grapeseed oil.

Compresses: Applying essential oil compresses is an effective way of relieving pain and reducing inflammation.

Feminine Care: Tea Tree oil is a common essential oil used to treat candia or thrush. Add it to water for use in a douch or sitz bath.

Extracting oil from plants

It is the essential oil content in aromatic products and extracts that gives them their aromatic quality. The method used in extracting the oil from plants depends on the plant material as well as the type of end product that is desired. Delicate plants that are subject to immediate deterioration are processed as quickly as possible after harvesting. Seeds and roots, on the other hand, can easily be stored for a period before processing.

Extraction methods used in the making of:

Essential Oils: Steam, water or dry distillation. This process isolates the volatile and water-insoluble parts of the plant. For therapeutic aromatic use distillation is the preferred process in extracting oil from plants that have a high-content of oil in them.

Concretes: Extraction by hydrocarbon-type solvents. Solid concretes normally contain 50 percent wax and 50 percent volatile oil. Liquid concretes normally contain 20 percent wax and 80 percent essential oil.

Resinoids: Extraction with a hydrocarbon solvent (petroleum ether or hexeme). Resinoids are prepared from dead organic matter. Resinoids are used in perfumery to prolong the fragrance effect.

Absolutes: Second process of solvent extraction from the concrete. Subjected to repeated treatment with alcohol resulting in highly concentrated viscous liquids. A trace of ethyl alcohol can remain in the final absolute making it at a disadvantage to essential oils for therapeutic use. Because the amount of remaining solvent is minimal, absolutes can be used in true aromatherapy with care, respect and knowledge. Absolutes are more concentrated than essential oils, a little bit goes a long ways.

Pomades: True pomades are produced using a process known as enfleurage, which is seldom done today. Freshly cut flowers are laid upon a layer of fat (chassis). The final step would be an alcohol extraction of the fragrance-saturated fat to produce the pure absolute or perfume.
Resource: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless

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