A Study of Essential Oils

By Laura Gordon

Some people are saying the new medicine of our times is the use of essential oils in what is called aromatherapy. The fact is aromatherapy is becoming one of the fastest growing complementary health care modalities in this country as well as around the globe. What are essential oils, what is aromatherapy, and is it really a new medicine? We are going to take a snap shot look at that in this blog.
How are essential oils made?
Essential oils come from the distillation primarily by water or steam of bark, leaves, stems, flowers, seeds or roots at a specific life cycle of particular plants. Though it’s called essential oil, it does not have the viscosity of oils that are most familiar to us like massage oil or cooking oil. Essential oils are most generally clear with a thin and fluid texture that does not have the consistency of “oil” though a few are amber in color and have a thicker consistency, an example would be patchouli.
The over 400,000 known plant species can be divided into two groups: angiosperms (flowering plants) and gymnosperms (non flowering plants such as conifers). Both groups are used in essential oils. The end result in the distillation of plants has psychological and physical therapeutic benefits due to their molecular chemical makeup.
What makes essential oils special?
A quick look into molecular chemical makeup of essential oils takes us to how plants survive in nature. Without getting deeply into chemistry and botany, the layman’s approach is to understand plants release chemicals to attract insects for pollination and to protect themselves from predators. Compounds plants use in their survival are antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial in composition. When distilled along with the plant’s distinct aroma these compounds remain present and enhance the properties of the oil. Not all plants have high quantities of each of those compounds. Some have a higher quotient in one over another, some are high in two or more compounds.
A little history…
Throughout history people and plants have had a symbiotic relationship. Even today 80% of the population uses plants/herbs for poultices, teas, supplements, essential oils, etc. That leaves 20% using manmade chemical compounds. It’s starting to look like this is not going to be a study in “new” medicine, is it? In fact, according to one source, the Bible mentions essential oils 500 times! Can you remember what the three wise men brought the baby Jesus? Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Two out of three is pretty impressive for the humble plant kingdom.
Portals of entry
But back to essential oils, due to the quality of the distillation process, what remains of the plant, it’s “blood” as it’s called in some circles, is highly concentrated. That means a little goes a long way. In aromatherapy essential oils are often applied directly on the skin or added to a carrier oil and applied in massage. Besides the skin there are two other portals of entry for essential oils: through the lungs and through the blood brain barrier. The skin quickly absorbs the oil and sends the compounds throughout the body generally through the lymph system which is the most superficial; the lungs breathing in the aroma of the essential oil carries the molecules through the circulatory system leaving the last portal of entry, the blood brain barrier. Webster’s Dictionary defines the blood brain barrier as “a naturally occurring barrier created by the modification of brain capillaries that prevents many substances from leaving the blood and crossing the capillary walls into the brain tissues”. It’s a very complex barrier that the molecules of essential oils cross through where many other compounds cannot.
All these portals are of great benefit to the body allowing the refined and natural health giving properties of the plant to go where they are needed in healing the human body.
What is Aromatherapy?
Now you are beginning to see that essential oils do have healing properties. Let’s add aromatherapy into this mix. Basically aromatherapy applies the knowledge of what oils have what properties that best suits the needs of each individual client. The wonderful thing about these days and times is the extensive examination through fine instrumentation to which scientists now have access creating a broadened knowledge and understanding of the healing properties essential oils brings to the table for healing purposes and so aromatherapy was born.
Whatever the scientific reasons, there is another component that is equally, if not more, important. Aromatherapy, like other holistic therapies recognizes the individual as a whole being: mental/emotional, physical and spiritual/energetic. Properly understood and used, aromatherapy brings healing and balance to the individual on all levels of being.
A side note: Do not confuse essential oils with perfumes. Perfumes are created fragrances using synthetic substances from man-made chemical compounds and do not have the quality or caliber of essential oils. When shopping for aromatherapy products be sure to check the ingredients. If the essential oils are not listed then you can be sure that it is a man-made product.
Now it’s your turn to do some research! Pick three essential oils and write what properties each has and how and where a you would apply them on the client.

18 thoughts on “A Study of Essential Oils”

  1. All essential oils are not created equal. It’s important to use quality therapeutic grade oils from a reputable source. It’s also important to have a clear understanding of the effect the essential oil will have on the client. Just because it smells good doesn’t necessarily mean it is good.

  2. Vanilla: While vanilla is used mostly just for the smell, it is very pleasing and goes on my list as a favorite.
    Orange: This oil helps with digestion issues as well as stress, cold, and flu. Some people are allergic to citrus oils, so I would ask the client about that before using orange oil.
    Ginger: Ginger can help with muscle aches, nausea, poor circulation, and arthritis.
    I would use these oils by putting one or possibly more of them in my massage cream for a particular client.

  3. Rosemary oil has a clear, powerful refreshing herbal smell. It has a pronounced action on the brain and central nervous system. It helps with headaches, migraines, and mental fatigue. On the skin, it helps to ease congestion, puffiness and swelling.

    Lavender oil has a light fresh aroma. It has a soothing and calming effect on the nerves, relieving tension, depression, and is effective for headaches and insomnia. It is also beneficial for problems such as bronchitis, asthma, colds, laryngitis, throat infections. On the skin, it tones, revitalizes, and is useful for many types of skin problems.

    Eucalyptus has a clear, sharp, fresh and very distinctive smell. It has a cooling and deodorizing effect on the body, helping with fevers, migraine and malaria. It is useful as warming oil for muscular aches and pains, rheumatoid arthritis, sprains and poor circulation. In skin care it can be used for burns, blisters, cuts, and insect bites. It can also boost the immune system.

    I would use the oils as an aromatherapy treatment since many people are allergic to them, usually without the person even being aware of it. Maybe after testing the oils out, I would then try it mixed into whichever lubricant I was using during the massage.

  4. Sandalwood: is one of my personal favorites; it is good for Bronchitis, chapped skin, depression, dry skin, laryngitis, leucorrhea, oily skin, scars, sensitive skin, stress, stretch marks.

    Lavender: helps with insomnia, anxiety, stress, sleep; but if used in an excess amount it can also be used as a stimulant.

    Jasmine: helps with depression, dry skin, exhaustion, labor pains, and sensitive skin

    If a client were to be complaining about any of the things listed above I would add a couple of drops of the oil that suits his/her needs into the cream or oil I’d be using on them.

  5. Arnica oil – It is beneficial for muscle aches or injured muscles, sprains, bruises, dislocations, swelling due to fractures, trama to soft tissue, rheumatic pain, and inflammation from insect bites. It should not be used on pregnant women of any broken skin. You could mix this in with your lubricants if the client is experiencing inflammation or pain.

    Lavender – It can remove nervous tension, relieve pain, disinfect scalp and skin, enhance blood circulation, treat respiratory problems, and help you sleep. You could mix this in with your lubricants or you could put some on a tissue and lay it where the client is most likely able to smell it.

    Eucalyptus oil – It is an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, decongestant, deodorant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and stimulating oil that can be used in lubricants on a tissue for the client to smell.

  6. Lavender is my personal favorite essential oil it smells great, a nice floral scent. Also its known for its calming properties. it can help with a number of aliments such as Acne, allergies, anxiety, asthma, athlete’s foot, bruises, burns, depression, headache, labor pains, migraines, stress, and stretch marks… to name a few…
    Clove is oil I really like, it has a deep spicy yet sweet scent. . It has an antiseptic property to it and is often used to help with things like acne, and tooth aches.
    Tea tree oils has a fresh scent and is used to help a client suffering from Age Spots ,Athlete’s Foot, Burns, Dandruff , Itching, Sunburn, Urinary Tract Infections and Warts
    All oils have specific application procedures and can very depending on what your treating, skin type and oil type.

  7. I love the smell of peppermint oil and its good to use for its ability to treat indigestion, respiratory problems, headache, nausea, fever, stomach and bowel spasms and pain. The menthol in peppermint oil helps clears up respiratory problems.
    Lemongrass is another one I love. You could add it into facial lotion while your doing a massage because it helps with acne. It also helps with athlete’s foot, excessive perspiration, flatulence, insect repellent, muscle aches, oily skin, scabies, stress.
    The last one I chose is sandalwood. I think the smell is very refreshing. Also it helps with muscle spasms, and is said to strengthen connective tissue.

  8. – Ease headache pain by rubbing a drop of Rosemary/Lavender oil onto the back of your neck. Rosemary also promotes alertness and stimulates memory. Inhale occasionally during long car trips and while reading or studying.
    – Apply true Lavender oil and Tea Tree directly to cuts, scrapes, or scratches. 1 or 2 drops will promote healing.
    – Add 1 drop of Peppermint oil in 1/2 glass of water, sip slowly to aid digestion and relieve upset stomach.
    I think essential oils are amazing!

  9. Eucalyptus- one of my favorits and it is an antispasmodic,anit-inflammatory, decongestant, deodorant, antibacterial, antiseptic, and stimulating oil. You can put it under your nose if someone has smelly feet so you don’t smell them, and is great if you have a stuffed up nose.
    Lavender- is great for calming and relaxation. It helps for ache, anxiety, asthma, bruises, depression, migraines, stress, stretch marks,insomnia, colds and laryngiis.
    Cedarwood- fungal growths, muscular aches and pains, removing warts, rheumatism, skin afflictions, as well as cosmetics, perfumes, and scenting soaps. It is reputed to have antiseptic, anti-putrescent, anti-seborrheic, aphrodisiac, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, fungicidal, mucilytic, sedative (nervous), stimulant (circulatory) and tonic properties.

  10. Jasmine is one that you could add to your creams if you have a client with dry skin,it also helps with depression, exhaustion, and labor pains.
    Lemon eucalyptus oil used for Arthritis, bronchitis, catarhh, cold sores, colds, coughing, fever, flu, poor circulation, sinusitis.
    Carrot oil used for Eczema, gout, mature skin, toxin build-up, water retention.

  11. Tea tree oils has a fresh scent and is used to help a client suffering from sinus or congestion.
    Bergomont Oil is a fragrant fruit the size of a orange, with a yellow colour simular to a lemon. It has been used to treat malaria and very popular for aromatherapy.
    Mint oil is the herb of hospitality. is used for deodorizer

  12. Lavender is my favorite of favs! It is calming,relaxing and can help with anxiety, insomnia and has many calming factors. I think that this is great to use anywhere on the body but is also good to dab on the face cradle.

    Ginger is a wonderful scent. I love it because it has a freh clean scent that men seem to like. It is wonderful for muscle aches and helps a ton circulation and arthiritis. It also has antiseptic qualities also. I would use this on sore spots.

    Arnica is such a great oil to have if you have clients with bruising. I am hoping to work on referrals from a plastic surgeon so this is one I will for sure keep on hand. I love to use use this on any bruise, it makes your client feel like you took a little extra effort for them.

  13. Interesting I chose…
    Peppermint : it soothes, and helps with stomach pain and much more.
    Lavender : smells great and like Leah, said has nice floral smell which a lot of women like and It’s pleasant most of the time .
    Carrot seed (Daucus carota) essential oil has a mildly sweet aroma with earthy, herbaceous hints. Traditionally, it has been used for digestive complaints due to its tonic properties. This oil also has historical use in aromatherapy for joint conditions.* *Modern scientific research has not yet validated these traditional claims.

  14. Orange: Orange is an anti-depressant and also a stimulating and refreshing smell. Orange is also used as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and antiseptic purposes. It is sunny and radiant oil that helps bring happiness and warmth to the mind and also helps children to sleep at night. When orange is used in a cream or lotion, it assists the lymphatic system to help detoxify skin. When in oil, it helps with colds and the flu and helps to eliminate toxins.

    Jasmine: Jasmine is also an anti-depressant, antiseptic, helps boost self confidence, and it is also sedating. Jasmine can be blended into massage oil to help lift postnatal depression, promoting relaxation, easing muscle pain, soothing coughs, and helps reduce tension and stress. In lotion or creams, jasmine will help greasy or sensitive skin and also helps to reduce stretch marks and scars.

    Vanilla: Vanilla essential oil is very good for alleviating anxiety and can be used to help stress. Vanilla is also an anti-depressant, anti-carcinogenic, aphrodisiac, and also tranquilizing. The use of vanilla will help calm the nervous system.

  15. lemongrass has a fresh clean scent with a bite of citrus, it is an antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antifungal. I would use a small amount on the face to help clear breakouts, or on the feet to help with athlete’s foot. Sagel has a warm, earthy scent, it is an antifungal, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antioxidant. I would use this on the hands to help kill bacteria. Patchouli has a very deep sweet almost orange scent, it is used to heal the skin. It is an antiseptic, antideoderant, antidepressant, and astringent. I would use this on any part of the body that was dry or chapped.

  16. I first chose Sweet Orange oil. It has a light aroma. It helps in fighting winter time blues such as depression and cabin fever.
    Next, I chose lemon. It helps in the immune system. It can help fight headaches and migraines. It’s also good for clearing skin from acne an it’s a good fighter against infection.
    Last I chose Eucalyptus Oil. This oil is food for respiratory such as allwgerjes and asthma. Also fights coughs, colds, and congestion among many other benefits.