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A Few Important Words About Aromatherapy and Essential Oils
Essential oils are the pure essences of healing and aromatic plants. They are the very soul of the plant, a precious extraction, and a true gift from nature. Genuine aromatherapy uses pure essential oils to enhance physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.
The terms "essential oil" and "genuine aromatherapy" imply that the source of the aroma must be 100% natural. If you are looking for therapeutic- and well-being-related effects, there is no alternative to "the real thing."
The majority of the manufacturers of aromatherapy and aromatic candles ignore this fact—calling "aromatherapy" any scent that smells like an essential oil. The terminology has not yet been legally defined, so the consumer is faced with the challenge to distinguish between the authentic and the imitation.
Pure essences are more expensive than the imitations, since it often requires hundreds of pounds of plant matter to extract even a tiny amount, such as an ounce, of essential oil. Additionally, essential oils require a little more care in their storage than do chemically produced fragrances.
Your Nose Knows
Why the concern about the use of a synthetic fragrance that is cheaper and easier to store? Synthetics may be close in scent to an essential oil; however, once you have been introduced to the authentic, natural essences, nothing else will do. Syntheticsare artificially produced and occasionally contain ingredients that are suspected to be carcinogen and responsible for various allergic reactions, and are toxic or reactive to the skin. Additionally, if you are looking to enhance your life with aromatic candles, do not settle for less than 100% pure essential oils. A pure aromatherapy candle is a very unique and precious object, well worth the effort and expense.
Even though the term "essential oil" should describe oil that is 100% natural essence, it is not uncommon for chemical/essential oil fragrance blends or essential oil blended with another "base" oil to be labeled "essential oil." You can use the following information to make certain that you are purchasing 100% natural essence oil:
Purchase oils from companies that have an established reputation in the aromatherapy field.
Read the essential oil label. Does it ensure purity? Does it state the botanical name, country of origin, form of extraction, and how the plant was cultivated?
If the essential oil supplier offers scents such as rain, lily of the valley, and raspberry, be wary. The manufacturer may value synthetic fragrances as comparable substitutes for the real thing.
Essential oils come in various grades and varieties, so you will need to sniff it out, "literally." Lavender oil, for example, can vary greatly in quality and scent, depending on plant origin, distiller's expertise, and the quality of storage.
Essential oils may be sold in dilution with natural base oil, since they are overly strong in their pure form, which is fine if they are labeled as such. If you have any questions as to whether or not the essential oil you purchase is at full strength, try placing a drop of oil on a piece of paper and allow it to completely evaporate. The remaining stain should not look like an oily mark, which indicates that the essential oil was stretched with a vegetable oil.
Most scents will fall into one of the following categories:
Camphorous: pungent, sharp scent—e.g. cajeput, eucalyptus, pine, tea tree
Citrus: fresh, clean scent—e.g. grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin orange, orange, petitgrain
Floral: flowery scent—e.g, jasmine, lavender, neroli, rose
Herbal: intense and herbaceous scent-e.g. basil, marjoram, rosemary, sage
Minty: cool, fresh scent—e.g, peppermint, spearmint
Resinous: gums or resins scent—e.g. benzoin, elemi, frankincense, myrrh
Spicy: piquant, sharp scent—e.g, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg
Woodsy: freshly cut wood scent—e.g. cedar, cypress, sandalwood
Some scents may be a combination of more than one category, so you may find yourself describing a scent as a combination rather than one type.
In an analogy to music, perfumers divide essential oil scents into notes:
Top (head) notes smell light, fresh, and airy. This is normally the first scent you will notice, but this scent also dissipates quickly.
Middle (heart) notes are more rooted than the top notes, but not extremely heavy in fragrance. These notes form the body of your blend.
Base notes are heavier and longer lasting, therefore they are dominant after the top and middle notes have evaporated. They may be described as "rich" and they "ground" the blend.
When balancing a blend, the tendency is to incorporate all three types of oil, which should result in a well-layered blend. Keep in mind that the oil blend will merge and alter as it matures. If you are not certain about a blend, allow it to age for a day or two and smell it again—you may be pleasantly surprised!
Blending Essential Oils
You need not be an expert to create your own beautifully scented blends, nor do you need recipes—although they tend to be useful in the beginning. All you need to know is what you like and enjoy, and what will work for you.
Treat yourself to an assorted selection of oils. Smell the oils, either passing the bottle directly below your nose, or by putting a few drops on a blotter paper or on unscented tissue. Then sit back and observe the feelings and images the single oil generates. Do you perceive them as calming, energizing, grounding, or sensual? Become acquainted with the individual oils by using them until you become familiar with the various dimensions and qualities that pure essential oils carry.
Making a blend will be like inviting your friends to a party. Your sense of smell will likely go into overload after a few minutes, so take a break or smell some roasted coffee beans. One of the beautiful aspects of making your own blends is that there will always be room for your knowledge and experience to expand. An unlimited bounty of olfactory adventure awaits you!
When blending essential oils you will need a clean glass bottle and separate droppers for each essential oil. Note: Make certain that you remember to use the correct cap and dropper for each oil, so you will not spoil the oils by mixing up the lids.
The following steps will aid you in the blending process:
Always keep detailed notes of the following:
Essential oils used and the number of drops of each oil
The therapeutic or personal reasons for the selected oils
Your perception of the blend, when freshly blended and after maturing
How the blend performs in candles of different sizes and wicking
It is requisite to take "note keeping" seriously as there is nothing more annoying and frustrating than to create your personal masterpiece, only to realize that you do not remember what you did. Keep a blending journal or notebook where all blends are noted and organized.
Scenting candles with essential oils requires a little more effort and expense than ordinary candlemaking. Essential oils show different characteristics when added to wax and can change from batch to batch. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the scent of the blend that you are using will be the same when the finished candle is burned. Candles made with essential oils may sputter, burn unevenly, or occasionally flare up. It is always a good idea to pour a few "test candles," such as votive size, and burn them down before using a blend in an elaborate and time-intensive candle project. Always keep in mind that a candle should never be left burning unattended—this is particularly important with an aromatherapy candle. The higher the concentration of oils used, the more important it is for one to test and carefully observe the candle as it burns.
The Essential Oils Chart on page 14-15, which was organized with the help of other candlemakers, will assist you in creating your own essential oil blends.
Essential Oils Tips
Store essential oils and blends in dark glass bottles and in a cool, dark place.
Always label oils and blends clearly. When labeling blends, be specific. If there is insufficient room on bottle for labeling, try numbering the blend with a corresponding number in your blend notebook.
Avoid storing your oils with rubber eye dropper tops since the oils may turn the rubber to gum, which will ruin the essential oils.
Always pay special attention to any safety information listed on the essential oil label. Some essential oils should not be used during pregnancy or with other medical conditions. This primarily applies to topical usage or if ingested, but something that you should be aware of.
Substituting Essential Oils
If you are looking for a therapeutic substitution, try one of the essential oils listed at the beginning of the chapter in conjunction with information from the Essential Oils Chart to help you determine a pleasing blend with the similar therapeutic values. However, if you would like to substitute oils with similar scents while keeping in mind that the therapeutic benefits may vary with the substituted scent, you could try the following:
|Benzoin (or Peru Balsam)
Jasmine (or Ylang-ylang)
Different Ways to Bring Aromatherapy and Candles into Your Life
Purchased aromatic candles can save some of the trouble that may befall a novice candlemaker, since the manufacturer has worked out some of the burning problems. The purchased candles can be used and decorated as desired—a timesaving alternative to beginning from scratch.
Combine candles with additional aromatherapy scenting sources, such as adding an aroma lamp or other diffuser with essential oils to your candle setting. Combining these aromatherapy sources can be an enjoyable experience.
Essential Oils Chart Legend
This legend will help when determining which oils to blend. There are over 300 different commercially produced essential oils today. The thirty-eight essential oils that are on the chart are the most popular and are more readily available. Keep in mind that these are only recommendations and that you can be more adventurous and rely on your sense of smell for what you like.
|Make the scent earthier
Make the scent more exotic
Freshen the scent
Make the scent more herbal
Heighten the scent
Make the scent spicier
Make the scent woodier
Some of the essential oils, marked with $, $$, and $$$ signs, are expensive and because of this, you may choose to use these oils in a diffuser or aroma lamp, rather than crafted into a candle.
A few supplies and materials are needed for candlemaking and the majority of them can be easily purchased at the local craft store or found around the house The essential oils may be purchased at the local health food or aromatherapy store, or mail-ordered through a reputable company Mail-order or the internet will generally be the most economical way to purchase essential oils, although the local health food store or aromatherapy shop may be more convenient
The following tools and supplies will be necessary for creating candles:
Candle or candy thermometer
Candle wick tabs
Metal pouring pot
If you are making aromatic candles, keep in mind that the softer the wax, the more fragrant the candle seems Soft wax does not seal its surface as tightly as hard wax does, so it allows the scent to permeate the atmosphere around it. However, soft wax is more appropriate for container candles—tapers or free-standing candies would lose their shape and melt into a pool of wax.
Most manufacturers of candlemaking supplies offer wax compounds that are designed specifically for containers, molds, tapers, etc. This takes some of the guesswork out of trying to determine which additives are necessary for the style of candle that you are making.
Beeswax is highly regarded among candlemakers because it burns beautifully with its own nurturing aroma. Beeswax is stickier than other waxes and requires a slightly larger sized wick. This may also cause problems when releasing a candle containing a high percentage of beeswax from the mold.
Beeswax works best when used in a container, dipped tapers, and rolled candles. Beeswax has a higher melting point (146°F) than most other waxes. It works well when mixed with lower melting-point waxes and used in container candles. Pure beeswax candles will burn directly down the center of the container, leaving much unburned wax on the container walls. Beeswax is available in its natural color or a bleached white and is the most expensive of the waxes. Colored beeswax is also available, but may be a little more difficult to find. If your sheets of beeswax form a dusty-looking film on the surface, remove it by slightly warming the wax surface with a hair dryer.
Vegetable-based waxes are available and made from different bases. Some are formulated from soybeans, jojoba beans, palm wax, and other vegetable bases. The majority of these waxes are made for container candles rather than pillars or tapers. They burn clean and are long lasting. These waxes may be more difficult to find at the local craft store; however, numerous requests by the consumer may help to make them more available in the marketplace. They are also available through mail-order and the internet.
Bayberry wax is obtained by boiling berries from the bayberry bush. The wax is a sage-green color with a spicy aroma and an equally spicy price. The majority of candles labeled bayberry consist of fragrance added to a regular wax base. When ordering or purchasing bayberry wax, carefully check your source to make certain that it is authentic. Legend says "receiving a bayberry candle as a gift and burning it down on New Year's Eve will insure many friends, good health, and excellent luck for the coming year."
Paraffin is made from mineral oil and there is argument among candlemakers as to whether or not it is a natural wax. The argument, that it is natural, is that it is an organic substance. Those on the opposing side say it is artificial and inferior because it is made from petrol that has been put through an elaborate refinery process.
Paraffin is inexpensive and readily available. It is harder and more brittle than natural waxes and is a good choice for molded candles. It has a lower oil content and thus a higher melting point. It is also translucent and a favored choice for over-dipping candles. However, paraffin is more likely to smoke and not burn as cleanly as the previously listed waxes. Some candlemakers have reported a nauseating side effect when melting paraffin. Some believe that the petroleum and carbon combustion ends up in the air we breathe and leaves a black soot on walls and surfaces.
Gel wax is convenient to use because of its melt and pour capabilities as well as its visual appeal. It is made from mineral oil that is combined with substantial amounts of thermoplastic resin and butylated hydroxy toluene. Gel wax is not the most appropriate choice of wax for an aromatherapy candle and is somewhat incompatible with the idea of using natural essential oils in an artificial wax.
A wide variety of wax additives are available, helping with a variety of candlemaking problems. They can increase luster, make wax more pliable, conserve the color, and aid in mold release. Most therapy-oriented candlemakers prefer to keep their candles as natural as possible and normally do fine without additives. However, if you are facing a particular problem in your candle creating, an additive might hold the answer.
Luster crystals provide a brilliant sheen and opaqueness, as well as a longer-burning candle. The recommended use is 1 teaspoon per pound of wax.
Microcrystallines are highly refined waxes and are used to change the properties of the carrier wax. A wide variety of microcrystallines are available and can be divided into two types. One type is pliable and is used to increase the elasticity of wax for modeling, as well as enhancing its ability to adhere. The other type makes the wax harder, increasing the durability of the candles. Adding more than 2% of the microcrystallines can cause wick and burning problems.
Snow wax makes candle wax opaque with a high luster and prevents hot-weather sag. It also improves the surface texture and the burning time. Recommended use is 1 teaspoon per pound of wax. It is recommended that snow wax be melted separately, then mixed into melted candle wax.
Snowflake oil is used for a decorative element and creates the beautiful snowflake effect common in many purchased aromatic candles. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the recommended amount.
Stearic acid is added to paraffin to improve the candle's burning time as well as giving it a more opaque appearance. The recommended use is 2-5 tablespoons per pound of wax.
Vybar makes candle wax harder, more opaque, and cuts down on the amount of shrinkage that takes place. It also serves as a fixative for the scent. Recommended use is no more than 2 teaspoons per pound. Begin with one teaspoon and do not exceed recommended amount.
Candle molds come in an endless variety of shapes and sizes and are made of acrylic, metal, plastic, or rubber. Molds are relatively inexpensive and they can be used repeatedly.
Common household items such as cartons and containers will also make excellent molds. Anything from paper milk cartons to smooth-sided aluminum cans can be used as molds. Simply make a hole in the bottom center of cartons and containers with an awl or drill to thread the wick through. Secure wick as you would for a purchased mold, following the instructions for Making a Basic Molded Candle on page 26.
Make your own mold from a piece of corrugated cardboard.
Candle molds should be clean and free from previous candle wax before using. Avoid scraping or scratching inside of molds when cleaning them, it will mar future candles. Glass, plastic, or metal candle molds may be cleaned in any one of the following ways:
Fill sink with hot water and add liquid dish detergent. Allow candle molds to soak in water for 10 minutes. Wash candle molds, rinse, and dry thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 200°F, and place paper toweling on a cookie sheet. Place the candle molds upside down on paper towels and place in oven for 7-8 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from oven and wipe all excess wax from the inside of the candle molds.
Clean metal molds with a candle mold cleaner, following the manufacturer's directions.
The wick must be carefully selected for the type of candle that you are making to insure proper burning. Wicks come in four basic types:
Flat-braided wicks are best used in dipped taper candles. Note: Always use this wick with braid v's facing to the top of the candle. This prevents carbonized balls from forming on the end of the wick.
Paper-core wicks are used for container candles, votives, and tea lights. However, they have a tendency to smoke more than other wicks.
Square-braided wicks are sturdier than flat-braided wicks and are used in pillar candles.
Wire-core wicks are primarily used for container candles, votives, and tea lights. Some wire-core wicks come pretabbed and need only to be anchored to the bottom of the mold or container. Caution: The metal core in these wicks is typically made from zinc, although you may find some with lead, and may contain hazardous fumes when burned.
Wicks that have been primed work best. Wicks can be purchased primed or unprimed. If the wicks are not primed, you can prime the wick by soaking it in melted wax for five minutes. Remove the wick from the wax and lay straight on waxed paper and allow to cool.
Size (or diameter) and length of the wick is usually determined by the diameter and length of the candle. Wick size is also determined by the type of wax that is used in the candle. Long-burning wax, such as beeswax or paraffin with hardening additives, will require a larger-sized wick.
The size of the wick is determined by the diameter of the finished candle, a small-sized wick for candles up to 2" in diameter, a medium-sized wick for 2"-3" candles, and a large-sized wick for 3"-4" candles. A smaller-sized wick may be used for votive candles.
The length of the wick is determined by measuring the height of the mold and adding 2". In some cases, you may wish to leave a longer wick that can be knotted or embellished with beads and charms for a more decorative effect or for gift giving.
Oftentimes, a poorly burning candle is caused by selecting the wrong wick for the diameter of the candle or the wax from which it is formed. To achieve consistent results, keep notes and document what works in the various candles you create.
Candle Wick Tabs
Candle wick tabs are small metal disks to which the wicks may be attached for secure placement in a candle. A small amount of melted wax is poured into the bottom center of the mold. The disk is then centered in wax and secured as wax cools. Remainder of wax is then poured into the mold.
Candle dyes are available in liquid, solid, and powdered form. Add the dye a little at a time until desired color is achieved, following manufacturer's directions.
Liquid dye is added to the melted wax and blends in quite easily.
Solid dye consists of concentrated color pigment and wax. The tablets (or chips) should be cut up, then added to the melted wax and stirred until fully melted.
Powdered candle pigments should be dissolved in warmed stearic acid before being mixed into melted wax. Powdered pigments are so concentrated that only a very small amount is required for coloring wax.
Adding Essential Oils
The information addressed at the beginning of this chapter covers many of the details concerning the use and benefits of essential oils. There are a few other details that need to be kept in mind when using essential oils:
Excerpted from AROMATIC CANDLES by Rosevita Warda. Copyright © 2001 by Rosevita Warda. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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