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Aromatherapy 101 - Let's Talk
Caroline L’Impératrice, MSC.D
Holistic Health & Wellness Associate
What is aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a method of therapeutic treatment based on the use of essential oils of aromatic plants. It's a natural biochemotherapy based on the relationship between the chemical components of essential oils & their therapeutic activities. It can be enjoyed in the form of massages, baths, body anointings & diffusions.
What are essential oils
Essential oils are non-water-soluble aromatic molecules, or plant extracts, called "aromatic". Among the 800,000 species of the plant kingdom, only 10% have the ability to synthesize an essence.
Thanks to their minuscule molecular makeup, these precious oils effortlessly penetrate into the dermis to nourish, revitalize & oxygenate skin cells.
How are the essential oils extracted
They're usually extracted by steam distillation, or by chemical extraction by solvents (alcohol, water, etc.). The aromatic essence of the plant contained in its micropockets is released by heat, driven by the vaporization of the most volatile elements, and subsequently condensed in liquid form.
How to choose essential oils
Use only 100% authentic essential oils. They are 100% pure, organic, natural & complete, free of chemicals, pesticides & carcinogens.
Essential oils offer a broad range of therapeutic properties: anti-infective, tonic, pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, mucolytic, antibacterial, anti-wrinkle, relaxing, healing, cardiac stimulant, digestive tonic, and more. Choose your oils accordingly.
They must also be selected according to their botanical specie, or more specifically, their identification sheet. One botanical specie can vary in its biochemical composition depending on the harvesting & distillation conditions.
The best way to identify a specific essential oil is by its latin name. Choosing "lavender" oil is too general. There are many variations of this flower genre: Lavandula latifolia (L. spica), Lavandula angustifolia (L. vera), Lavandula augustifolia (L. officinalis), etc. Using the latin name, you'll choose the exact essential oil you need.
Due to their highly concentrated nature, essential oils must be used correctly & with caution. Always educate yourself on the properties & contraindications of an essential oil before use. Some oils are dermocautistic, photosensitizing, can cause burns, or interact with certain medications too.
Another important precaution is to perform an allergy test: combine 1-2 drops of the essential oil with 1/2 teaspoon of a vegetable oil. Apply a dab on the underside of your wrist, inside your upper arm or even behind your knee, and wait up to 24 hours. If there is no irritation, the oil is safe for you to use.
Always dilute in a base oil unless you know it's safe to use neat. No matter what, don't apply in pure form on the genito-anal area, eyes & ears without competent advice.
If you rub or splash essential oil in your eyes or nose, immediately flush the affected area with an unscented, bland fatty oil. Do not use water. And in case of accidental ingestion of pure essential oil, taking 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil will reduce irritation of the digestive mucous membranes. If required, seek prompt medical attention.
How to keep essential oils
Essential oils retain their healing properties for 5 to 10 years if properly stored in a dark, dry, cool place.
When making your own oil blends, label them properly: note down the base oil used, the essential oils, the date it was made, and a "use before" date.
DIY essential oil blends
You will need: your "why", the corresponding essential oils, a carrier oil, a clean, dry, sterilized opaque or dark-colored glass bottle (eye dropper or single drop dispenser), a narrow mouth funnel, a label, and vitamin E (tocopherols) to slow down the rancidity process (optional).
First, determine your oil blend's "why": is it for a calming effect? to relieve muscle pain? reduce inflammation? soothe indigestion? Know your why & select the proper essential oil(s) to reach that goal.
Next, choose your carrier oil (virgin cold-pressed coconut, safflower, sunflower, apricot kernel, moringa, olive, almond, grapeseed, hazelnut, or jojoba oil).
Then, put it all together! As a general rule of thumb, use 1/8 of a cup of vegetable oil for about 5-7 drops of essential oil. Use the funnel to pour the base oil in the glass bottle, add the essential oil drops (and vitamin E), close the bottle & swish it a few times.
Prepare your label, stick it on the bottle & store it in a dark, cool space. Ideally, allow the blend to synergize for 24 hours if using more than 1 essential oil.
A few essential oils to start off with
This may be a lot of information to take in but once you know your way around the basics of aromatherapy, you'll open yourself up to the magic of nature's precious essential oils. Remember to research your oils, ask questions to your local aromatherapist, select authentic oils, and most importantly, have fun!
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