Aromatherapy refers to the ability of pure essential oils to affect humans on a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and sexual level.  

Aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years by ancient civilizations to affect any of the above moods, in rituals, ceremonies and celebrations.
Aromatherapy has been used as far back as fourth century BCE. It has been used in Egyptian, Indian, Arabian, Roman and Greek civilization. The scientific study of therapeutic oils was started in 1928 by the French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefose. He burnt his hand very badly in his lab one day and thrust his hand into the nearest cold liquid. This liquid turned out to be lavender oil. The pain was lessened, and he found his hand healed rather quickly with no scars. Hence, he dedicated his life to researching the essences of plants and coined the term "aromatherapy."


What are essential oils? Essential oils are oils or essences derived from parts of plants. They contain hundreds of biochemical. The oils are collected by either steam or water distillation extraction methods from leaves, petals, stem, bark, nut kernels, stalk, gum, resin and roots. The vital element in any aromatherapy treatment is the pure essential oil. These oils are very different from the heavy cooking oils. Pure essential oils are concentrated essences, much lighter than water and highly flammable. They are volatile oils as they evaporate quickly when they come in contact with air. So they are mixed with carrier oils to trap their effectiveness. Because they are so concentrated they are measured in drops (1). Essential oils can be divided into three components- relaxing or calming oils, stimulating oils and uplifting oils.

Commercial uses of essential oils:  Essential oils are added to incenses, candles, soaps, facial products, bath oils, massage oils, air freshener, food products, furniture polish, etc.,. Most commercial infusion of the above products used a small percentage of essential oils, as little as 1% of essential oil in a carrier base. Some companies use synthetic oils in their products. Make sure when purchasing that you are paying for pure oils not synthetic chemical derivatives. To check for purity dab a drop of oil onto tissue, pure essential oils will evaporate and dispense leaving no oily patch.
You can also add one drop of essential oil of Thyme, Basil, Rosemary, Clove, Cinnamon, and Lemon to cooked food or salads.

How do they work? Essential oils influence the brain and the nervous system.  Because of their small molecular structure they penetrate the skin easily and enter the layers of the epidermis and mix with the fatty tissue and the lymph system. As they evaporate, they are inhaled (entering the body) via the nasal passage affecting the millions of cells lining this mucus passage (2). Their smell molecules affect brain chemistry. As the nasal passage is directly connected to the brain, these oils send messages to the brain and affect the emotions via the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls the major functions of the body such as heart beat, circulation, digestion, etc.,. It is said that the fragrance of the oils also has direct effect on emotions, memory, and hormones via the brain's limbic system.

Aromatherapy is a powerful tool to restore balance and well-being as it stimulates the brain fluid (the brain floats in a fluid called cephalorachidan) and sympathetic reflex through fragrance and deep breathing. Because of the energy mechanism of each particular essential oil it is important to find essential oils that are suited to one personal psyche. Safe choices of essentials oils will make you feel euphoric, energized, relaxed. Avoid oils that cause anxiety, headaches, etc.

Basic safe methods to use essential oils for common ailments:  Essential oils can be mixed according to formula (see below) if you are going to use it often. You can place a 3 or 4 drops on a tissue or handkerchief to inhale. A couple of drops on a rim of lamp or ring burners that sit over the top of the bulb. Add a few drops to a bowl of hot water. Add a few drops to body lotion to rub on. For room sprays add 10 drops of essential oil to 7 tablespoons of water. To that add one teaspoon of vodka or pure alcohol as a preservative (this is optional). Add 5 to 10 drops onto scent ball plug in diffuser or vaporizer. In bath add 5 to 10 drops to suit your mood. For sensitive skin always dilute ahead with carrier oil. 
For dry skin in winter -mix 3 drops of your favourite essential oils to 2 tablespoons of carrier oil, massage into your damp skin or mix it with lotion and apply liberally over body.

Caution: Always remember essential oils are very concentrated so if in doubt of how much to apply directly to skin, play it safe and add 1 to 2 drops only. Or mix with carrier oil prior to application. Certain essential oils can cause burning of skin. Some oils contain a strong chemical called phenols which cause burning of skin and mucus membrane and liver toxicity. These are present in Bay leaf, Oregano, Clove, Cinnamon, Thyme, Eucalyptus, Lemon grass, Parsley, Savory. None of these oils should be applied directly to skin.
Another potent chemical is ketone.  A ketone is a chemical that can cause neurotoxic reaction.  In high doses it can cause convulsions or a reverse of the desired therapeutic effect.  Essential oils that contain higher levels of ketones are Cedar leaf, Hyssop, Cyprus, Caraway, Clove, Ginger. If you are allergic to any plant, herb it is only sensible to avoid that particular essential oil. Some essential oils can be toxic to cats even when diffused. Keep children and pets away from diffusers.

Oils to avoid during pregnancy: As the skin absorbs the essential oils directly into the body, avoid these oils if pregnant. These oil have strong diuretic properties or tendency to induce menstruation
Almond Bitter, Bay, Basil, Birch, Clary Sage, Comfrey, Fennel, Hyssop, Juniper, Marjoram (sweet and wild), Melissa, Myrrh, Oregano, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Sassafras, Savory Thyme, Wintergreen. If you have a history of miscarriage, avoid lavender and chamomile in the first few months.

Formula for mixing oils: All essential oils need a carrier oil. Do not use directly on skin except lavender.
Carrier oils are oils such as sweet almond oil, avocado, calendula, camellia, grape seed, jojoba, macadamia and wheat germ. If you are allergic to any nut oil, substitute with vegetable oils.

A dilute formulation is to add 6 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce (30 ml) of carrier oil. This makes a 1% concentration of aromatherapy oil. Depending on the use of the formula you can increase the concentration or decrease it by using the one percent formula. If you want to make a 3 % concentration add 18 drops to I ounce (30 ml). Never mix more than three oils in any one treatment as the synergistic effects are less predictable unless you have a time honoured formula.

Sweet almond oil is the best all purpose oil. It is neutral and non allergenic. Walnut oil is good for the nervous system. Sesame is good for stretch marks plus a cooling effect. Coconut oil is used for very dry skin plus a cooling effect. Apricot kernel oil, peach kernel, evening primrose , jojoba are excellent for cell regeneration and face and eye area. Walnut and evening primrose are good choices to alleviate menstrual problems. Wheat germ has antioxidant properties and will help preserve mixture. Only buy carrier oils that are naturally pressed. Best choice is cold -pressed (3).
Storage: Keep essential oils away from contact with heat, light, metal and air in dark glass bottles. Never store in plastic bottles as oil and plastic will perish. Most essential oils can last for years. Patchouli improves with age, while citrus oils deteriorate quickly when exposed to air. This deterioration also applies to other essential oils. Avoid contact with eyes.
Before and after Aromatherapy massage:  Essential oils are chosen according to a person's mental or emotional state plus the physical health. Each massage is an individual mixture of oils. In Aromatherapy massage, the massage movements drains the lymph glands in the armpits, the axillary glands. This movement relaxes the shoulder and disperses tension (4).
Before massage:  Shower before massage. Do not use under arm deodorant or body spray as this will block the effect of the oils.  Do not have large meal two hours before a massage. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks. Do not get a massage if you have flu or fever or other serious health ailments (5).
After massage:  Lie still for at least 5 minutes.  Drink a glass of water immediately after treatment.  Do not bathe or shower for 2 hours (if you can wait that long) after a treatment to allow oils to be absorbed by body and detox the body. Drink plenty of water to aid detoxifying. Avoid alcohol for 2 hours (6).
Emotional or Mental: Rub on temples of forehead, upper lips, a couple of drop on pillowcase or on tissue, insert into pillowcase. Always premix with carrier oil to avoid burns or if you have sensitive skin.

Lavendar for relaxation
Peppermint for clearing the mind for clearing the mind, tired feet, indigestion
Lavender, Clary sage for mood swings
Spikenard for deep emotional pain
Frankincense for letting go of pain, meditation, prayer
Geranium for depressed, improves circulation
Lemon for uplifting for uplifting
Rose, lavender for insomnia
Rosemary, Basil for mental fatigue
Ylang-ylang for calming, sedative effect

 Anxiety:  Basil and Bergamot (uplifting), Geranium (relaxing), Lavender (soothing), Neroli (sedative), Sandalwood (calming)
Depression:  Uplifting oils for depression; Bergamot, Cypress, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Sage
Soothing oils; Chamomile, geranium, Jasmine, Lavender, Marjoram , Neroli, Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood, Ylang-Ylang
Headache:  Lavender, Geranium( place a cold compress of either oil across forehead, 5 drops to a bowl of water). Headaches caused by muscle tension try a Sandalwood compress across neck.
Insomnia:  Take a bath or massage with three of these oils; Chamomile, Cedarwood, Frankincense, Hyssop, Lavender, Marjoram, Melissa, Neroli, Orange, Patchouli, Rose, Sage, Sandalwood, Ylang-Ylang.
Skin problems:  Can be mixed with carrier oil, body lotion or dab pure oil and apply to affected area.
The essential named below can be used for various skin conditions.
Tea-tree oil for herpes, shingles, Candida (mouth wash, add 2 drops to toothpaste when brushing, 3 drops to warm water to gargle)
Patchouli, Cinnamon -anti fungal
Lavender, Geranium, Hyssop, Juniper, Rosemary, Myrrh, Roman chamomile, Bergamot-eczema (when using Bergamot avoid the sun as it makes you photosensitive)
Chamomile, Hyssop, Lavender-dermatitis
Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender-Psoriasis
Flu, gastrointestinal and other ailments: Add 2 to 3 drops to carrier oil and massage on affected parts. At the onset of flu add 2 drops of lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary to a teaspoon of carrier oil rub on chest, neck and a dab under nostrils everyday till flu is over. On a tissue add a drop of clove, peppermint, Tea tree oil and eucalyptus, inhale periodically.
Peppermint for nausea, heartburn
Coriander for constipation, digestion, diarrhoea
Eucalyptus, Cajeput- respiratory
Lavender-muscle pain
Lavender, Eucalyptus, Lemon- headaches, flu
Basil, Thyme, Pine-flu, colds, cough
Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Juniper, Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme- arthritis/rheumatism
Oils for relaxation:  Basil, Bergamot, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Frankincense, Hyssop, Juniper, Lavender, Marjoram, Melissa, Neroli, Patchouli, Rose, Sage, Sandalwood, Ylang-Ylang
Oils for stimulation:  Cypress, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Geranium, Juniper, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Pine, Rosemary, Thyme
Oils for seduction:  Clary sage, Geranium, Jasmine, Neroli, Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood, Ylang-Ylang (mix 2 or 3 of the oils depending on the concentration of the scent you want to achieve)
Oils for dry skin:  Benzoin, Chamomile, Carrot, Geranium, Lavender, Hyssop, Rose, Pettigraine, Patchouli, Palmarosa, Sandalwood, Ylang-Ylang
Oils for sensitive skin:  Chamomile, Lavender, Myrrh, Neroli, Rose, Sandalwood
Oils for oily skin:  Bergamot, Cedarwood, Cypress, Lavender, Lemon, Geranium, Juniper, Nutmeg, Frankincense, Sage
Tea tree oil, the all purpose first aid remedy:  Tea tree oil was discovered centuries ago by the Aborigines of Australian.  It was know as an antidote for venomous snake bites. Tea tree oil is an effective broad spectrum antibacterial, anti fungal and mild local anaesthetic.  With recent resistance to antibacterial, tea tree oil is an excellent alternative for external bacteria infections.  It is safe and does not inhibit normal cell growth and rejuvenation.  For sensitive skins always dilute oil one part to ten parts carrier oil. If irritation occurs dilute further or discontinue use.  It can be used for all the ailments listed below. For blocked nose/sinus-use pure Tea tree oil in steam bath or vaporizer

  • mouth ulcers, sore gums, bad breath, plague-dab on Tea tree oil or add 3 drops to water and use as mouth wash daily.
  • cold sores and boils -dab on pure oil 3 X daily
  • insect bites-dab on pure Tea tree oil
  • nail infection-dab pure oil on nails for 5 minutes, massage in daily until infection clears
  • arthritis- 3 to 5 drops in carrier oil massage deeply in joints
  • athletes foot- apply Tea tree oil twice daily after washing and drying feet
  • smelly feet- 5 to 10 drops in warm water , bathe nightly for 5 minutes
  • face cleanser/acne- add 3 to 6 drops of oil to water to flush face or rinse (for acne ) Note: Tea tree oil can be drying to the skin , moderate use on skin  
  • congestion /coughs- add pure oil to vaporizer (inhale) and rub pure oil on chest and back. Add 2 drop on tissue insert into pillowcase or use 2 drops of pure oil to a teaspoon of honey and sip slowly.
  • sore throat- add 3 to 6 drops of pure oil to warm oil and gargle, 3x daily
  • warts- dab on pure Tea tree oil 3x daily

Ref:  Thursday Plantation Australian Tea Tree Oil, First Aid Brochure

Further reading

Dr. Mercola. The Top Five Essential Oils for Your Health

1 to 6 Carole McGilvery and Jimi Reed. Essential Aromatherapy. 1994
7. Valerie Ann Worwood. The Fragrant Pharmacy. 1990
8. Creative Uses for Essential Oils. Frontier™
9. More about Essential Oils. Healthy Way, Canada. Fall 1998

 Classes are available to learn of personal application of Aromatherapy. Refer to book a presentation.