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Essential Oils: Follow Your Nose

I was led to the store by the fragrance. The aroma was spicy, earthy, and mysterious. I had to locate the source of that exotic blend, so I followed my nose. It led me to an alternative healing store called Touch the Earth. When I asked the store owner about the scent, he told me it was a blend of the essential oils ylang ylang, frankincense, and black pepper. These oils had been placed in a diffuser. The fragrance filled the store with its delightful aroma and spilled out into the street. I was in heaven. I typically didnít like most perfumes because I could always smell the chemicals and they gave me a headache; however, this scent was different. It smelled lovely and I experienced no side effects.

I asked the store owner a lot of questions. It turned out that he was also an aromatherapy practitioner, an aromatherapist. My fascination grew as he talked about the healing properties of these precious oils. I was already using herbs in a variety of ways; ground powders, herbal tinctures, hair rinses, so I couldnít help thinking about the possibilities these essential oils might offer.

Observing my enthusiasm, he led me to a section of the shop and selected the book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. When I left the store that day, the book was clutched tightly in my hands. Based on the store owner's recommendations, I also purchased the essential oils tea tree and lavender. Thatís how I began my journey into the fragrant world of essential oils.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated liquids that have been extracted from a variety of flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, and trees. The amount of essential oils extracted from the materials varies depending on the plant materials used.

How are these liquids removed? There are a variety of methods used to extract the essential oils, the most popular being steam distillation. When the plant materials are distilled, only tiny molecules can evaporate from the plant. These tiny molecules make up an essential oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated, so you donít need to use a lot when creating products.

History of essential oils

Essential oils have been used for a very long time. It appears that the Egyptians were the first ones to use them extensively. Some of the earliest records of essential oils being used by the Egyptians date back to 3500 BC; crude distillation pots were found. Egyptians incorporated essential oils into their medicine, cosmetics, and religious practices.

The term aromatherapy was first coined by Rene' Gattefosse'. He was a French chemist. During his research, he discovered that essential oils take anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours to be absorbed completely by the skin.

Can essential oils heal?

Essential oils have been used to heal since ancient times. They contain medicinal properties that have been incorporated in a variety of therapeutic applications. Egyptians werenít the only ones to use essential oils in medical treatments. The Vedic literature of India proves that they used aromatic substances for more than perfumery. And we cannot forget the Chinese. They utilized aromatic fragrances for various therapeutic applications.

Rene' Gattefosse' became fascinated with the healing powers of essential oils by accident. During a lab explosion, he severely burned his hand. He quickly dipped his hand in a vat of lavender essential oil and noticed that the burn healed very quickly.

During the terrible trench warfare of the first world war, from 1914 - 1918, Rene Gattefosse, and others, used essential oils to heal the wounds of soldiers. Today, you can find many aromatherapy products that have therapeutic qualities. Science is still discovering the miracles of essential oils.


As a rule, itís best not to apply essential oils directly to your skin. They should be mixed with a carrier oil. The only exceptions are the essential oils lavender, rose otto, and tea tree. These are usually considered safe to apply directly to the skin; however, I recommend that you do a patch test to make sure you donít have a reaction.

Essential oils are sometimes adulterated

What are adulterated oils? They are essential oils that have chemicals or other essential oils added to them. Why are they adulterated? Some essential oils, like rose otto, can be extremely costly, over $100 per ounce. Others like lime essential oil can be purchased for a few dollars. Why the difference in price? It goes back to how much of the material is needed to produce the essential oil. For example with rose otto essential oil, it takes around 6000 petals (about 150 pounds) to make one ounce of rose otto. If you see a large bottle of rose otto for a few dollars, you are purchasing an adulterated oil. If you are unsure if an oil is authentic, follow up with an aromatherapist and ask them to give you suggestions about an appropriate brand.

I still have my copy of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils and, although I have purchased numerous books on essential oils, itís still a book I refer to often. If you are looking for more information about these precious oils, you will find a lot of content located in this resource. If you are looking for additional information, contact an aromatherapist in person or find one online. And when you do, ask a lot of questions and enjoy your fragrant journey.

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