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Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

Aromatherapy involves much more than essential oils. Below are a few other important elements in an aromatherapy practice.

More Plant Extracts

While essential oils are probably the most common ingredient in aromatherapy products, there are three other main plant extracts that may be used: CO2s, absolutes, and hydrosols. The primary difference between essential oils and these other plant extracts is the way in which their essences are extracted.

Essential oils are extracted through either a steam distillation process (the steam carries the aromatic molecules to be separated and bottled) or an expression process (a machine presses the plant to release its essential oils).

CO2s are often labeled as essential oils–the main difference here is that the extraction process involves using carbon dioxide rather than water or steam. They are usually thicker than true essential oils, and are said to maintain more of their original components because no heat is used during the distillation process.

Absolutes are made when hot water or steam distillation would either harm the quality of the oil or simply not produce enough oil. They are very concentrated extracts and are produced using a solvent, which is later removed. Because of the possibility of trace solvent remaining in the absolute, they should not be used internally.

Hydrosols are the aromatic waters that remain after distilling essential oils. They are much milder than essential oils, but still contain many healing properties.

Carrier Oils

Also important in aromatherapy are carrier oils, which are fatty oils most commonly made from vegetables and nuts. As the name suggests, help “carry” essential oils (or CO2s, absolutes, or hydrosols) into your body.

One of the wonderful things about most carrier oils is that they have relatively small molecules. This means that these oils are unlikely to clog your pores or leave stains on your clothes. Their small molecules also allow the carrier oils to penetrate your skin and bring essential oils deeper into your body. This is one reason why it’s important to dilute your essential oils with some sort of carrier oil before applying them to the skin–the carrier oil actually helps the essential oil act more efficiently.

Yet carrier oils do much more than act as a means of transport. Each carrier oil also offers unique enhancements to the healing process. Here are just a few of our favorites at Essential Life Aromatherapy (ELA):

  • Sweet Almond Oil: an excellent emollient for chapped and dry skin
  • Apricot Kernel Oil: light and great for the face
  • Evening Primrose Oil: helps with balancing hormones, eczema, arthritis, inflammation, and regulating insulin
  • Jojoba Oil: a wonderful all-purpose oil, good for all skin types, healing for the scalp and hair, with a long shelf-life
  • Olive Oil: a highly nutritious oil, great for making ointments
  • Rose Hip Oil: one of my personal favorites, this oil helps reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging (it’s in our amazing face oil)
  • Sesame Seed Oil: long revered in Ayurvedic medicine, this is a wonderful warming and moisturizing oil
  • Fractionated Coconut Oil: great for moisturizing in general, this oil also has a long shelf life

A few other healing and infused oils we use in our ELA products are arnica (for aching joints and muscles), Calendula (for healing the skin and wounds), and argan oil (which is very nourishing for hair). We’re also experimenting with a few other fun ingredients, including a Saint John’s Wort infusion.

Just for Fun . . .

I thought I’d throw in a picture of a few products I use daily, which involve a variety of aromatherapy ingredients:

bedtime face routine © 2012, Juniper Stokes

On the left is a bottle of our amazing ELA face oil. I massage this into my face each night. It contains a variety of essential and carrier oils that are especially good for the face and skin, including carrot seed, jojoba, and rose hip oil . . . along with many other secret ingredients. (I make this for myself all the time, so the bottle isn’t labeled.) In the center is a rose/sandalwood hydrosol I made to use as a soothing face spritzer. And on the right is a small bottle of concentrated rose hip oil I brought back from a recent trip to Patagonia, where it was surprisingly popular. I massage a few drops of this directly into areas that need a little extra care (spots, wrinkles, all that). I love my all-natural aromatherapy nighttime ritual.

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Essential oils are only the surface of what aromatherapy can offer. An effective, well-trained aromatherapist will be able to take from the plethora of ingredients available in order to create the most healing products possible. If you have any questions about using these ingredients, please write! And again, if you’re interested in any of our products that use these ingredients, feel free to contact us at elaromatherapy@gmail.com.

Also, I’d love to hear if any of you have more ideas about how to use all these wonderful ingredients in your own aromatherapy practices. Do you have other ways that you use these carrier oils? A favorite absolute or hydrosol? Ideas for how we will use our new Saint John’s Wort oil? Share your wisdom and let us know!

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Essential Oils Box

Essential Oils (Photo credit: luxomedia)

Why do aromatherapists care about using essential oils rather than fragrance oils?

First, let’s review: Essential oils come from nature. Fragrance or perfume oils are manufactured in laboratories. Fragrance oils are not inherently bad–I love some of my fragrance oil perfumes, and occasionally use some of the perfume oils I’ve purchased during my travels to make myself body washes and lotions. They smell good, and that’s good.

Yet when it comes to my health and beauty regimens, I prefer to use true aromatherapy products. Fragrance and perfume oils may smell good, but they do not offer the healing benefits as essential oils. Essential oils have amazing healing abilities (which I discuss in my previous post, I ♥ Aromatherapy: An Introduction), and they smell wonderful, often in deeply complex ways that fragrance oils rarely achieve.

Going Natural

I like to compare essential oils to food–more and more people are recognizing that real food (coming from nature) is better for our health than processed food (with elements created in laboratories), and essential oils are no different. In his book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan discusses the importance of consuming real, whole foods. He notes that for years, most nutritional research focused on identifying the individual vitamins, minerals, and nutritional values of the various foods we consume. While this has been helpful in many ways, we are beginning to learn that the synergistic effects of the vitamins and minerals naturally occurring in a whole food, such as an apple, are far more healing than the same elements in isolation, as in a vitamin-fortified product. The truth is, modern science still seems a bit crude compared to the genius complexity of nature.

The same principle applies to essential oils. Over time, various plant-based healing components have been identified, extracted, and reproduced in laboratories, and this has brought us many important medicines (think of aspirin, from willow bark, for a common example). Yet isolating these elements and reproducing them in factories removes the true healing potential of the whole, natural oil. The wonder of nature never ceases to amaze me–as with food, the unique chemical components of each essential oil work together in a synergy we are just beginning to understand, and when we isolate these components, we risk losing the full potential of the essential oil. Not only that, but in subtle aromatherapy, it is said that the true essence of the oil, the key element, is lost when it is reproduced outside of nature.

How can you make sure you’re buying natural products?

As I’ve mentioned before, the United States does not regulate the use of the term “aromatherapy”, or “natural” for that matter. This means that it is up to us as consumers to be vigilant in deciding which products we purchase and use. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Read ingredients carefully–you’ll probably start to notice that many aromatherapy products contain a few essential oils, but also quite a bit of fragrance oil. I often see something like, “made with essential and fragrance oils” on labels. Or worse yet, “made with all natural fragrance oil”, which I hope you now know is certainly not natural at all.
  • Avoid products with “nature-identical essential oils”, which are not essential oils from natural sources.
  • Some flavors just don’t come from nature. This is especially true for popular food fragrances–I’m pretty sure your pina colada body wash and bubble gum lotion aren’t made with essential oils . . .
  • Many essential oils are incredibly expensive, and products using real essential oils will reflect this. If the cost seems too low, the product may contain only a minimal amount of essential oil. Depending on the product and its other ingredients, this may be fine, or it may not actually contain sufficient oils to bring about healing.
  • Floral oils, absolutes, and more exotic oils are particularly expensive, so if you find a “rose” lotion for a low price, it’s probably a fragrance oil.

As always, if you have any questions about this topic, I’d love to hear from you!!!

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