Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists define aromatherapy as "the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essence from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit." They continue to say, "it seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual's innate healing process".1

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils is a concentrated aromatic liquid which is extracted from the flower, fruit, fruit rind, grass, seeds, stems, needles, bark, roots, rhizomes, gum and resin of plants, flowers, trees, or trunk of trees. It is extracted by steam distillation, cold-pressing, solvent extracted or CO2 extraction.

The liquid constituents in the extractions is what we call essential oils. The constituents may have therapeutic action to provide our bodies to help heal itself. To find out what is inside of the constituents, a gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is performed. This will provide specific percentages of the therapeutic action of the essential oil. Or, it may provide if the essential oil has been altered.

It is also important to know the common name, latin, name, orgin, extraction method, and therapeutic components of the oil. This may help distinguish types of oils and its possible therapeutic actions.

For example:

When someone says "Lavender", what does that mean? There is many varieties of  genus and species of lavender plants. Lets use two types of lavender for an example.

Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia.

Lavandula angustifolia may have more calming and skin healing properties.

Lavandula latifolia may have more expectorant and analgesic properties.

There are many genus plants with many different species of plants, therefore, it is important to know this information when choosing a therapeutic action of essential oils. This is why it is important to consult with a certified or clinical aromatherapist when choosing essential oils for therapeutic results.

Science is now confirming what has been known for centuries: essential oils may have healing properties on both physical and emotional levels when absorbed into skin and inhaling through our nose. They have been considered among the most therapeutic and rejuvenating of all botanicals extracts through the ages.

1. Sell, Charles. (2010). Chapter 5: The Chemistry of Essential Oils. (Can Baser K H and Buchbauer G. Editors in the book Handbook of essential oils: science, technology and applications, (pp.121-150). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group 

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