Copyright © Essential Harmony 2012. Created by Etzacorp Consulting.
Definitely not. Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, as far back as the 4th Century BC said “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.” He believed that burning certain aromatic substances gave protection against contagious diseases.
Essential Oils were very much part of the lives of Ancient Egyptians. They used Cedarwood oil and other essential oils in the mummification process. Bandages were soaked in essential oils to embalm the bodies of the dead. Slight aromas can still be smelled on these mummies today. It was first used by priests, then physicians and surgeons. Wealthy women used it quite extravagantly, bathing in it and using it for perfumes on their body after bathing and also in their hair. They used it in cosmetics and used it as an insect repellent on papyrus leaves.
Today, it is well known that Essential Oils are:
Antimicrobial – antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral.
Antiseptic – prevents the growth of disease causing organisms and are usually applied to prevent infection such as after an operation and to treat infected wounds.
Aromatherapy means encouragement of good health through fragrance. It is the use of Essential Oils to maintain and promote physical and emotional well-being. Depending on the oil used; the benefits can be relaxing, stimulating, balancing, emotionally uplifting and healing.
Steam Distillation is the most common method of extraction. A container packed with plant material is heated and steam travels through the still. The steam containing both oil and water is then passed into a condenser. The oil is removed from the top and the remaining water is called flower water e.g. Rosewater. It is believed that this method of extraction was discovered in the 11th century by an Arabian physician named Avicenna but the earliest written record of the process was by a Spaniard, Amaldo de Vivanova in the 13th century.
Enfleurage is another method. Flowers are repeatedly placed onto purified fat on a sheet of glass until the fat is saturated with the essential oil from the flowers. The Ancient Egyptians were particularly fond of this type of perfume or ointment called “pomade”. Today alcohol is added to remove the fat and when heated, the alcohol evaporates leaving behind the pure essential oil.
Masceration is similar to enfleurage but in this case, the plant material is first crushed to rupture the oil cells before adding them to vegetable oil or purified fat which is left in a warm place to absorb the essential oils. This can be used for massage purposes or alcohol can be added to obtain pure essential oils.
Citrus oils such as lemon are usually extracted by expression from the rind but are sometimes distilled.
Some plants yield great amounts of Essential Oil. These oils are inexpensive to purchase. Others, such as Rose, require huge amounts of Rose petals to produce just a little Essential Oil. The quantity of plant material needed and the number of stages the plant goes through to obtain the essential oil also determines the cost of the essential oil. Rub some Basil between the fingers of your one hand and rub a few rose petals or Jasmine flowers between the fingers of the other hand. You’ll understand why the Rose and Jasmine essential oil is so expensive!
50kg Eucalyptus yield approximately 5 Litres of Essential Oil
50kg Lavender yield approximately 1.1/2 Litres Essential Oil
50kg Rose Petals yield approximately ¼ Litre of oil.
Essential Oils can be used therapeutically in our everyday lives by adding them to the Vaporizer, ceramic burner rings or the bath. They can be massaged into the skin after diluting them in a carrier oil such as grapeseed. Certain essential oils such as tea tree and lavender can be applied undiluted to the skin in certain cases such as insect bites, but dilution with a carrier oil is recommended. They can be added to creams to assist with certain skin conditions and a few drops added to a bowl of boiling water will act as an inhaler – allow the water to cool slightly, or the oils will be too strong. They can also be used on compresses which are placed directly onto the skin.
They can be made into room sprays either to simply freshen a room or to kill bacterial infections such as flu. Certain essential oils affect the Respiratory System when they are inhaled because they contain antispasmodic, expectorant and antiseptic properties which benefit sufferers of bronchitis, flu and hay fever.
Certain Essential Oils benefit the Muscular System as they are easily absorbed by the skin into the bloodstream. Application of these oils assist in removing toxins via the tissues, relieve inflammation and reduce swelling, in so doing help with sprains, cramp, arthritis, rheumatism and stiffness.
When working with herbs, it is common practice to use a number of herbs to create a specific remedy which may be used in a tincture or tea. The herbs have a synergetic effect upon one another – the therapeutic potential of a single herb is enhanced by the chemical combination with other plant material. The same applies to Essential Oils. They certainly can be used individually but often work better in a synergy, which is a blend of different Essential Oils, as some enhance the other ingredients, making them even more effective.
The table below gives a general idea of the percentage of essential oils to use when diluting in a Vegetable base (carrier oil) for adults. For the elderly, these measurements must be halved. Please note that only certain essential oils can be used for babies, toddlers and children and the amount of drops to be used is minimal. Never attempt to blend for others without supervision from a qualified Aromatherapist.