The benefits of aromatic essential oils have been known for centuries. Physicians and healers on all continents have used aromatic herbs and oils since the beginning of recorded history. The dawn of modern aromatherapy was ushered in by what has become one of its most popular botanicals: Lavender.
Aromatherapy: Essential Oils 101
In the early 20th century, a French chemist named Rene Maurice Gattefosse burned his hand in the laboratory. As an experiment, he treated his wound with lavender oil. It worked. He publicized his findings. Not long after, Doctor Jean Valnet started using essential oils to treat injured soldiers. Soon chemists and doctors throughout Europe began experimenting with the healing properties of different herbs, and modern aromatherapy was born.
Today, aromatherapy is considered a complementary or holistic therapy. It may be combined with conventional medicine for physiological as well as emotional well-being. When it is practiced safely and correctly, aromatherapy may aid the healing process by augmenting the body’s natural abilities.
Classification Of Essential Oils
Essential oils are classified by one of three ‘notes’. The term note indicates the rate at which an essential oil evaporates. In other words, a note gives an indication of how long the fragrance or effect produced by an essential oil will last.
There are three types of notes:
- Top Note: These are highly invigorating and uplifting oils such as eucalyptus, peppermint, and lemongrass. Their effects usually last for up to 24 hours.
- Middle Note: These are chamomile, lavender, rosemary and other such oils that produce a less potent scent. Their effect usually lasts for two to three days.
- Base Note: These are the longest lasting essential oils and evaporate at a very slow rate. Examples include sandalwood, rose, jasmine, and clove. Their effects can last for up to a week, and according to experts, they have a relaxing effect on the body.
Warnings for Essential Oil
- Do your research. Gather as much information as possible about the oil in question, not just its potential benefits or healing properties, but also its side effects, specific warnings, and contraindications.
- Check for allergies and sensitivities prior to use to minimize adverse effects.
- Follow all safety instructions recommended for the particular oil.
- During blending, combine only those oils that have synergistic effects in order to maximize the desired outcomes.
- Most aromatherapists believe that synthetic versions of essential oils have little or no therapeutic value. Choose pure, organic, high-quality essential oils, and purchase from trusted vendors only.
Storage Of Essential Oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated and volatile substances. Many can be toxic if swallowed and painful if applied directly and undiluted to the skin. For both your safety and the quality of the oils, be sure to follow these guidelines.
- Be sure your containers are clearly marked with a warning against taking the oils orally.
- Essential oils are flammable. Store them away from fire hazards.
- Essential oils should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place, out of reach of both children and pets.
- Exposure of essential oils to direct sunlight can weaken their effectiveness. Store them in airtight, dark-colored bottles to protect from sun damage.