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The Essential Oils Complete Reference Guide
Over 250 Recipes for Natural Wholesome Aromatherapy
By KG Stiles
Page Street Publishing Co.Copyright © 2017 KG Stiles
All rights reserved.
Background Information on Essential Oils
Essential oils are the concentrated volatile or ethereal oils extracted from a single botanical plant source. The part of the plant that yields the maximum amount of volatile oil is what's used in the extraction process, for example flowers, leaves, stems, bark, seeds or roots of shrubs, bushes, herbs and trees.
When the substance of scent is still in the plant, it is called an essence. After distillation from the plant part, the volatile aromatic compound is referred to as an essential oil.
These subtle, highly aromatic plant extracts are found in the specialized cells or glands of plants. Through millennia, these plant excretions have evolved as protection for a plant from predators and to attract pollinators. Surprisingly, aromatic compounds are not found in all plants. Why this is so remains a mystery.
Pure essential oils are most often extracted by steam distillation. Other methods of extraction include cold pressing and expression, solvent extraction, absolute oil extraction and resin tapping. Essential oils are used in manufacturing perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, pharmaceuticals, incense and household cleaning products, as well as to flavor food and drink.
Essential oils have a long history of use as medicinals. Their wide range of use includes treatments for beauty and skincare, cold and flu prevention and treatment, as well as natural remedies to treat a variety of health issues from respiratory conditions to digestive complaints, insomnia and even cancer, and also aid in weight loss. Many of the reports are anecdotal in nature, though more and more evidence-based research is being done to corroborate their use. Some medical centers are incorporating essential oils as a part of an integrative health care system.
As the specific compounds and properties of essential oils are studied, there is greater understanding about why certain essential oils have particular actions and effects as natural health remedies.
What is Aromatherapy?
During the early twentieth century, a French chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé began researching the medicinal properties of essential oils. It is Gattefossé who is credited with having coined the term "aromatherapy."
The story of Gattefossé accidentally burning his arm very badly while conducting an experiment in a perfumery plant is well known. There are different versions about how Gattefossé on "reflex" plunged his arm into a large vat of lavender. Whether he knew it was lavender or thought it was water, the story goes that Gattefossé experienced rapid healing of his burns with very little scarring of tissue.
In his article "Gattefossé's Burn," aromatherapist Robert Tisserand recounts the actual story that Gattefossé reports himself of the incident in his 1937 book, Aromathérapie. According to Tisserand, Gattefossé tells how he was covered with burning substances in a laboratory explosion which he "extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn." Gattefossé tells how he rinsed both of his badly burned hands with lavender oil which stopped "the gasification of the tissue" that had started. Gas gangrene is a serious and often fatal infection with a 20 to 25 percent mortality rate. Gattefossé further reported that he sweated profusely after the treatment with lavender essence and that his hands showed signs of healing by the very next day.
As essential oils are highly aromatic, many of their benefits are obtained simply through inhalation. Our sense of smell is closely linked to memory, mood and emotion. It is well known that aroma reaches and influences our deepest primitive instincts. When essential oils are diffused and inhaled, aromatherapy not only delivers the calming benefits of fragrance, but also delivers many health benefits unique to essential oils.
The use of plants and herbs is the oldest form of healing disease and pain, and the medicinal effects of plants have been recorded in the oldest writings in history, myth and folklore. Records found in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts show that priests and physicians were using plant aromatics thousands of years before the birth of Christ to heal the sick and infirm.
In ancient times, certain plant balms and fragrances like frankincense and myrrh were considered more valuable than gold. There are numerous references to plant substances in the Bible. Now, with the advent of modern scientific research, we are beginning to investigate the incredible healing potential found in essential oils.
Virtually everything used today in modern drugs can be traced back to a botanical extract. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, taught that following traditional healing wisdom and common sense passed down to us for thousands of years in the use of botanical medicines is the best way to health and healing. He recommended a scented bath and daily massage.
Brief History of Aromatherapy
The use of aromatic plants has been around since Neolithic times. It is thought that "smudging" was the earliest form of aromatic treatment, and it is very likely that shamans and priests were the first aromatherapists and perfumers. Medicinal plants have been found inside graves dating back eighty thousand years; however, the use of pure essential oils as we know them today has only been available since the creation of distillation.
The earliest devices for distilling oils were found in the ancient Indus Valley dating to 3000 BC, where terra cotta distillation devices and perfume containers were discovered. Since that time, plant aromatics have been used in every aspect of Indian culture, including beauty treatments, perfuming, medicinal practices, cleansing and ritual bathing and religious ceremonies. Traditionally, Indian tantric practices have been used to anoint the body with oils to seduce and arouse the passions. The Vedas, the most ancient sacred texts known, contained formulas for plant aromatics. The Rig Veda contained instructions for how to use over 700 aromatic plants, including spikenard, myrrh, sandalwood, ginger, cinnamon and coriander. Humans were seen as part of nature, and the preparation of plant medicinals was considered a sacred art and practice. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest forms of medicine practiced continuously since ancient times.
In 1868, the first synthetic fragrance oils were produced. These synthetic fragrances were considered unsuitable for medicinal use. Chemists began to isolate the active ingredients within aromatic plants and manufacture them synthetically. Manufactured chemical drugs acted more powerfully and were cheaper to produce. As science became more sophisticated, herbs and essential oils were replaced by synthetic drugs.
By the nineteen hundreds, medical doctors became accustomed to using synthetic chemicals, and aromatic oils almost completely disappeared by the early twentieth century.
In the mid-twentieth century, there was a renewed interest in essential oils, and they were used extensively as flavoring, perfumes, cosmetics and household cleaning supplies. Essential oils were commonly used in medicine and in a wide range of pharmaceutical products to mask the strong odor of the chemicals.
In 1964, French ex-army surgeon Jean Valnet published The Practice of Aromatherapy, which was written for lay people as well as medical professionals. Valnet had used essential oils for treating wounded soldiers and found them to be highly effective for treating wounds and burns.
During this same time, Madame Maury, an English biochemist who was influenced by Valnet's research, wrote The Secret of Life and Youth, a self-help, holistic approach to beauty using aromatherapy.
Robert Tisserand's book, The Art of Aromatherapy, published in England in 1977, was the first book to combine medical and esoteric approaches to aromatherapy.
Since then, there has continued to be a renewed interest in aromatic oils, and aromatherapy is enjoying increased popular interest and use by the general public.
ADULTERANT: A substance that was not originally present in the oil at the time of distillation that is added to an essential oil. An adulterant can be artificial or natural.
AROMATHERAPY MASSAGE: A hands-on therapy in which essential oils are applied to the body for emotional and physical benefits.
CARRIER OIL: Vegetable or nut oils such as light coconut oil, jojoba, sweet almond and grapeseed, used to dilute essential oils.
COLD-PRESS EXTRACTION OR EXPRESSION: The cold-pressed method of extraction is one of the best methods for extracting essential oils as there is very little heat applied with this process. Cold pressing or expression applies a mechanical method of extraction in which no external heat is needed for the process. With cold pressing, essential oils are obtained by mechanically pressing the fruit peel. The downside of essential oils produced by cold pressing is that they usually have a very short shelf life. Citrus oils like grapefruit, lemon and orange are obtained by cold-press extraction.
DIFFUSER: A device that disperses essential oils into an area. The three basic types are clay, candle and electric.
DILUTE: Adding a small amount of essential oil to a larger amount of base oil to make it safe for use on the skin.
DISTILLATION: A method used to extract essential oil from the plant. Steam distillation is the most common form of distillation.
ESSENTIAL OIL: A highly aromatic substance found in specialized cells of certain plants. Technically, when this substance is in the plant, it is called an "essence." After distillation of a single type of plant, the aromatic substance is referred to as an essential oil.
EXPRESSION: See Cold-Press Extraction or Expression.
EXTRACTION METHOD: The method by which essential oils are separated from the plant. Common extraction methods include steam distillation, expression and solvent extraction.
FIXATIVE: A fixative is a plant or animal substance of low volatility that serves to draw together and hold the fragrances of other materials. It may be in the form of a liquid, such as an essential oil or fragrance, that will slow the evaporation process and preserve the aromatic scent of the blend, or it may be in the form of a botanical that will absorb and hold the various aromas. Using a fixative will create a more distinct and longer lasting product. Orris root, amyris, calamus root, angelica root and vetiver root are a few commonly used fixatives.
FOOD GRADE: Considered safe for use in food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
FRAGRANCE: Aroma products labeled as fragrances are not the same as essential oils. Fragrances are derived by synthetic means, while essential oils are completely natural.
GC/MS (GAS CHROMATOGRAPH/MASS SPECTROMETER): A device used by analytic chemists to determine the precise makeup of a given substance. It is used in aromatherapy to determine the precise chemical constituents of an essential oil and whether the oil is pure or adulterated with synthetic chemicals or other products.
HERBAL INFUSED OILS: A process of extraction of volatile oils of a plant which are obtained by soaking the plant in a carrier oil for approximately two weeks and then straining off the oils from the plant material. The resulting oil is infused with the plant's aromatic characteristic actions and effects and used therapeutically.
HERBAL MEDICINE, HERBALISM: Pertaining to natural botanicals and living plants in various forms or preparations. They are valued for their therapeutic benefits and sold as dietary supplements.
HYDROSOL: The name for the water left after steam or water distillation of an essential oil. It is mainly water with only a very small amount of water-soluble plant constituents.
INFUSED OIL: These are oils that carry the medicinal properties of certain herbs. Carrier oil is infused with the medicinal herb, the plant is strained off and the remaining oil can be used directly on the skin.
INSOLUBLE: Unable to be dissolved in a liquid such as water.
LINIMENT: Extract of a plant added to either alcohol or vinegar and applied topically for therapeutic benefits.
NEAT: An undiluted essential oil.
NOTES: As in top, middle and base notes. A type of classification system based on aroma to identify certain oils. Generally, essential oils from citrus peels are top notes; essential oils from flowers, leaves and stems are middle notes; and essential oils from roots are base notes.
OLFACTORY: Relating to, or connected with, the sense of smell.
ORIFICE REDUCER: A device used to reduce the size of the opening of a bottle, making dispensing the essential oil easier and more accurate.
PATCH TEST: A test to assess for sensitivity to an oil. To patch test an essential oil you haven't used before, add one drop of essential oil to a half teaspoon of vegetable carrier oil. Apply to the back of a knee or inside of an arm, and then cover with a bandage and leave it on for twenty-four hours. If any redness, swelling or itching occurs, don't use the oil.
PHYTOCHEMICALS: Chemical compounds or constituents that are formed in the plant's normal metabolic processes. Often referred to as "secondary metabolites," there are many classes of plant distillates. When isolated from the plant, these chemicals are considered pharmaceutical drugs.
PHYTOMEDICINALS: Medical substances that originate from plants.
POULTICE: Therapeutic topical application of plant material or plant extract, usually wrapped in a fine woven cloth for therapeutic benefits.
SEBUM: The oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands, which function to lubricate the skin and seal moisture into the cells. The level of sebum production determines whether your skin is normal, dry or oily.
SINGLE NOTE: An essential oil from a single botanical source without any other ingredients.
SOLUBLE: Able to dissolve in a liquid such as water.
SYNERGISTIC: A characteristic effect in which the sum total is more effective than the individual parts.
SYNTHETIC: An imitation or artificial reproduction of a naturally occurring substance.
VISCOSITY: Relates to the thickness or thinness of an essential oil.
VOLATILE: Describes how quickly a substance disperses (evaporates) into the air. In aromatherapy, top note essential oils may be referred to as "highly volatile," meaning that they disperse quickly out of the bottle and into the air.
VOLATILIZATION: The rate of evaporation or oxidation of an essential oil.CHAPTER 2
How Aromatherapy Works
As more and more research is being done that shows the effectiveness of using essential oils as an alternative health care system, there is a growing demand by the public for information.
At the same time, more and more people are taking responsibility for their health, which is fueling a growing revolution in the "Do-It-Yourself" movement. The practice of aromatherapy truly lends itself to this new holistic health culture that wants to freely choose the health care systems we use, spawning a new vision of health care in our future.
With new scientific studies providing evidence of the benefits of using essential oils, there is an increasing demand from people that hospitals and medical centers offer safe alternatives to allopathic drugs, which can produce harmful side effects. As a result, hospitals are beginning to offer integrative health care to patients.
Nurses and staff are receiving training and certification in the effective and safe use of essential oils as a comfort care measure for their patients and are reporting outstanding results.
Essential oils are super-concentrated plant extracts (one drop is equal to three to four cups [121 to 161 g] of raw plant matter). This super concentration means that only a single drop or two of an essential oil is needed for achieving therapeutic benefits, making the use of essential oils extremely cost-effective. In today's world of rising health costs, this is a significant benefit when deciding to use essential oils because a little goes a long way.
Research has shown that most of the therapeutic benefits from essential oils can be experienced simply by inhaling them. This makes the use of essential oils extremely efficient.
In the use of essential oils, the meeting of the elements of heat, light, air and moisture activates the release of their scent. Interestingly, scent bypasses your logical brain, which is not at all involved in your process of smell. You actually "feel" the scent of an essential oil.
Research has also shown that essential oils act as powerful chemicals to trigger the limbic part of your brain that controls emotions, memory and mood.
Upon inhaling the scent of an essential oil, the vapors enter through your nose and immediately stimulate your olfactory nerve. The olfactory nerve instantaneously signals your limbic system (control center for emotions), the amygdala and hippocampus (control centers for memory, learning and emotions) which then respond by releasing chemicals such as serotonin that produce a calming effect (refer to chart "The Electro-Chemical Effects of Aromatherapy").
At the same time, your limbic system sends a signal to your cortex (control center for intellectual processes) and to your hypothalamus gland, located at the base of your brain. Also known as the reptilian or old brain, the hypothalamus regulates many body functions including appetite, thirst, temperature, sleep and mood.
Excerpted from The Essential Oils Complete Reference Guide by KG Stiles. Copyright © 2017 KG Stiles. Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
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