Introduction to Using Essential Oils in Aromatherapy

Updated on February 26, 2019
Elderberry Arts profile image

Claire has worked with crystals, herbs, and various aspects of paganism for over ten years. She has also studied reiki up to master level.

Essential oils are created from various plant materials.
Essential oils are created from various plant materials. | Source

Aromatherapy is a form of natural medicine that uses aromatic plant materials and oil to improve physical and mental well-being. It can be used on its own or alongside other conventional or alternative therapies and medicine. Aromatherapists use essential oils individually as well as by combining these into blends. These can then be used in a variety of ways for massage, inhalation and application to the skin.

However, as with many forms of natural medicine, aromatherapy is not safe for use by everyone and there are many plants and oils that should be avoided in certain circumstances such as during pregnancy or by people with some pre-existing medical conditions. One example of this is that rosemary, fennel, sage, eucalyptus, hyssop, camphor and spike lavender essential oils should be avoided by people who have epilepsy. This is because they can trigger a seizure in some people.

The therapeutic use of essential oils can be traced back to many ancient civilizations including those of Greece, Egypt and China. Oils were used in healing, spiritual and ritual practices and the Greeks and Romans also used them in cosmetics and perfumes. In past times, essentials oil were regarded as a luxury item and were sometimes used as payment for other items. The use of essential oils in healing was written about by the Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides in De Materia Medica. This five volume medical encyclopaedia details the use of 600 plants and their medical uses and is regarded as the prime historical source of information on the medicines used by the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome.

Essential oils can be added to personal care products.
Essential oils can be added to personal care products. | Source

Aromatherapy is believed to work in three ways: smell, inhalation and by absorption through the skin.

Smell: Our sense of small is linked to some of the most primitive areas of the brain and breathing in aromas has the ability to trigger emotional and physical responses and remind us of people, places and events in the past. When we breathe in, the aromatic molecules of the essential oils travel to specialised nerves cells, known as olfactory cells. The tiny hairs of the olfactory cells each recognise specific aromas and then send nerve impulses into the limbic system. It is believed that this nerve activity alters brain chemistry and can in term causes changes in mood.

Inhalation: Inhalation allows the essential oils to travel into the body where their beneficial properties can then be absorbed. This is especially effective for treating issues within the respiratory system, for example in the sinuses, throat and chest. There are many methods of using aromatherapy via inhalation such as using essential oils in oil burners and diffusers. When the oils are heated in either of these their molecules travel into the air where they can be freely inhaled by anyone nearby.

Absorption: The molecules of essential oils are small enough to be able to travel through our skin and down into the blood vessels. From here they can then travel throughout the body taking their beneficial properties with them. Essential oils can be diluted and used in massage or can be added to bath and body products for use on the body. Simple balms and salves can be made at home or if you prefer you can use unscented bought products.

Essential Oils in Aromatherapy

Essential oils can be used individually or combined to create blends for specific uses. The oils that you choose will depend on your desired outcome as each type has different beneficial properties. Essentials oil can aid us in health and well-being in many ways that include:

  • As a relaxant and for stress relief
  • As a decongestant
  • Aiding sleep
  • Relieving anxiety
  • For their antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial properties
  • Pain relief
  • Aiding digestion
  • Inhibiting free radical activity
  • Reducing inflammation

Essential oils also differ in whether they are stimulating or sedating and so this will also influence which are used in each situation. This is also taken into consideration when creating blends of essential oils as the oils used need to be balanced and suitable for the intended purpose. For example, if you are looking to create a soothing and calming blend for diffusing at home, you would not want to include any oils that are known to be stimulating such as lemon, peppermint and ylang ylang.

In addition to this, essential oils are classified by scent characteristics known as notes and these are divided into three groups: base notes, middle notes and top notes. When blending essential oils, these are generally used in combination with each other in order to produce a well-balanced fragrance. However, this balance can also be altered to suit the stimulating or sedating effects of an oil blend.

A typical stimulating blend of essential oils may contain two or even three top notes, one middle and one base note whereas a blend intended to create a calming atmosphere would contain only one top and middle note and two or three base notes. More oils can be used but using more types of essential oil in a blend does not always result in a better fragrance or more beneficial effect. One or two carefully selected oils will bring better results than mixing many scents that are less suitable for your need.

Essential oil diffuser are a great way to benefit from the oils healing qualities.
Essential oil diffuser are a great way to benefit from the oils healing qualities. | Source

Top Notes

This group of essential oils often have anti-viral properties and a light, refreshing scent. They tend to be uplifting and are the scent that you will smell first when heating an oil blend. Top notes tend to get into the air faster than other oils but last the shortest amount of time. These essential oils are commonly made from flowers, leaves and flowering herbs and can be very helpful in acute conditions due to the fact that they are fast acting. Top notes are the first scents to reach and stimulate the limbic system, starting the process of healing. They are useful in lifting emotion, lifting a heavy atmosphere and increasing awareness, focus and alertness. Some examples of top note oil include basil, eucalyptus, tea tree and verbena.

Middle Notes

These oils give body and balance to blends of essential oils and are the most commonly available. Middle notes are generally warm and comforting fragrances though they may not be immediately noticeable. They are very beneficial when used to assist and balance body’s major systems and are mainly created from spices and herbs. Middle notes are also effective when used to heal issues that stem from connections between the mental, emotional and physical states of being, for example when stress leads to physical symptoms within the body such as insomnia, irritability and anxiety. Essential oils that are classed as middle notes include geranium, cypress, fennel, melissa, rose, chamomile and black pepper.

Base Notes

Base notes are oils that have a tendency towards being heavy and intense. Their aroma lasts for a long time and can help to slow down the evaporation of other oils in a blend. These are rich and relaxing oils but are often more expensive than other types of essential oil. Base note oils are derived from resins and gums and possess properties of groundedness, support, solidity and stability. They are a good choice for any condition linked to anxiety, nervousness, chronic conditions and mental and emotional difficulties resulting from traumatic events. Benzoin, frankincense, neroli, pine, sandalwood, myrrh and vanilla are all considered base note oils.

Top
Middle
Base
Basil
Bay
Cedarwood
Bergamot
Black pepper
Cinnamon
Cinnamon
Cardamon
Clove
Clary Sage
Chamomile
Frankincense
Corriander
Fennel
Ginger
Eucalyptus
Juniper
Myrrh
Lemon
Lavender
Patchouli
Mandarin
Melissa
Rose
Verbena
Marjoram
Sandalwood
Peppermint
Rosemary
Valerian
Sage
 
Vanilla
Tea Tree
 
 
Thyme
 
 

Five Methods of Using Essential Oils in Aromatherapy

There are many ways that we can use essential oils to benefit from their healing and beneficial properties. Oils can be used at home every day or as needed using diffusers and when used in this way will also add a pleasant fragrance to our homes. There is a wide range of products available that can be used in this way including electrically powered diffusers as well as essential oil burners that heat the oils using a tea light candle.

When using these items, water is placed in a small dish or reservoir and then drops of essential oil are added to the water. This is then heated using a candle or electric warmer and the scents of the oils are released into the surrounding air. This method is a good way for several people to benefit from using the oils for example when you want to create a calming atmosphere at home or for relaxation before going to bed.

Even if you do not want to or cannot use a burner or diffuser, there are still many ways to use essential oils to benefit your well-being. Examples of common methods of use include:

  1. Simple Inhalation Method: Place a few drops of essential oil on to a hanky or tissue and place this nearby or hold close to your nose for short periods. Oils can also be dropped on to a piece of clothing or bedding but care should be taken with this as they may stain or damage some fabrics. If you have trouble sleeping a few drops of lavender or relaxing oil can be placed on a cloth or tissue and placed inside your pillowcase.
  2. Skin Application: Essential oils that are for use directly on the skin should be diluted using carrier oil such as sweet almond, jojoba or apricot kernel oil. Once diluted essential oils are commonly applied behind the ears or on the wrists and temples and can be used in place of perfume. Diluted essential oils can also be used in massage.
  3. Steam Inhalation: Care must be taken using this method as it involves using boiling water and so may not be safe for use by everyone. Boil 2-3 cups of water and pour this into a bowl. Add 2-5 drops of your chosen oil to the water and stir to distribute. Sit so that your face will be approximately 12 inches from the water and place a towel over your head and the bowl trapping the steam inside for inhalation. Steam inhalation can be very effective for easing the symptoms of coughs and colds or for clearing the sinuses.
  4. Use in the Bath or Shower: Your chosen essential oil can be added to your bath water where you can benefit from their effects via skin absorption as well as through any steam that is produced. For use in showers oils can be applied to a cloth or sponge. Essential oils can also be used to create your own bath and body products such as soaps or bubble baths and salts. These do not have to be complicated to make and a simple liquid soap/bubble bath can be bath using castile soap. Essential oils can also be added to Epsom salts which have their own range of beneficial properties to our health.
  5. Aromatherapy Jewellery: It is possible to buy jewellery that is designed for use with essential oils and this are generally found in the form of necklaces and bracelets. Oils are added to these and then the jewellery is worn as normal keeping the benefits of the chosen oil with you all day.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Claire

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, remedygrove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://remedygrove.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)