Learn about Essential Oils

What is aromatherapy?  Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy that uses essential oils to improve one's health and psychological well-being. Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from the aromatic parts of herbs, flowers, trees and grasses. Valued for thousands of years, they are totally natural substances that have the ability to positively influence the mind and body.

How are essential oils used?  Because essential oils are highly concentrated, they need to be used with care. Apply them by the drop. The general rule is to dilute them before using topically. They may be diluted in carrier oils, lotions and hair care products, added to a bath, diffused in the air using an aroma lamp or diffuser, or added to water in a spray bottle. Select essential oils with similar properties and blend together to create your own unique aromas.

How long do they last?  Most essential oils will last approximately one to two years or more if properly stored. To preserve your oils, always store them in a tight container in a cool place. Heat will cause the oils to evaporate and the light will alter them chemically, reducing their effectiveness.  Citrus oils are an exception; they will start to oxidize after a year. They can be preserved longer with refrigeration or adding Vitamin E.  There are some oils, such as Patchouli, Vetiver and Sandalwood, that only get better with age. 

What is steam distillation?  Steam distillation is the most common way to extract an essential oil.  The plant material is placed in the chamber of a still and subjected to concentrated steam; the steam passes through the aromatic capsules of the plant, causing them to release the essential oil.  The aromatic steam now carrying the essential oil droplets then passes through a tube surrounded by cold water which causes the steam to condense back to water.  Because of a difference in weight, the essential oil and distilled water separate and the oil is siphoned off.  The water is collected after this process is referred to as a hydrosol or floral water.  The quality of the final products are dependent on the quality of the plant material and the distillation equipment used as well as the skill of the person distilling. 

What is cold pressed?  Typically employed on citruses, the essential oil is mechanically pressed out of the rind of the fruit.  This method is also known as "expression." 

What is an absolute?  The exquisite fragrance of some flowers is spoiled by heat using steam distillation, therefore, other means of extraction are used.  An absolute is one of those means and is obtained by immersing the flowers in a solvent (usually hexane) which produces a waxy substance known as a concrete.  The solvent is then removed from the concrete resulting in a thick oil known as an absolute which contains the essential oil properties from the flowers.

Can I use essential oils internally?  No.  We never recommend internal use of essential oils.  Essential oils are very concentrated and, therefore, can be potentially toxic if taken internally.  Also, ingesting oil is very dangerous because some of the oils are skin and mucous membrane irritants.  Our oils are considered therapeutic and research indicates the concentrated nature of pure oils is more effective when used in a room diffuser or applied topically after diluting 1%-3% in a carrier oil.

Can I use essential oils if I'm pregnant?  Yes, however you should do so with caution. It is suggested avoiding the use of essential oils during the first trimester, and then use only a 1% dilution (or less) for the duration of the pregnancy.  Oils that are suggested as safe are Geranium, Grapefruit, Mandarin, Neroli, Tangerine and Ylang Ylang.

Are essential oils safe to use on children or the elderly?  Yes, but it is suggested that no more than 1% dilution be used due to children and elderly sensitivities.  Examples of oils which are safe to use on children are Chamomile Roman, Lavender, Myrtle, Neroli, Petitgrain and Rose. They can be diffused into a child's bedroom, added to the bath, or combined with a carrier oil or unscented lotion and massaged very gently into the skin.