The use of essential oils, which is derived from the pure essence of a plant, is not new. Though the term aromatherapy was coined only in the 1920s (by Gattefossé in 1928), people knew of aromatherapy essential oils from the prehistoric times. Starting from the Chinese to Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Persian and Indian civilizations, each have added to the science of essential oils and to aromatherapy as a whole.
Research still continues in the field of aromatherapy essential oils, with new developments being made in the field. Aromatherapy and essential oils are no longer limited to cosmetic or aromatic uses only. Many of the essential oils have been proved to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits too. Take lavender oil for instance. French chemist Gattefossé would have been unaware of the properties of lavender oil to give instant relief without any scar in cases of burn, until he burnt his hand and accidentally put his hand in the jar full of the essence of lavender. Similarly, there are a large number of essential oils that have medicinal properties. The ‘tulsi’ plant or Indian basil, distinct through its strong aroma and taste, is considered “the elixir of life” since it is thought to bring longevity. The use of the plant’s extracts is made to treat illnesses like headaches, inflammation, heart disease, and malaria. The essential oils derived from ‘karpoora tulsi’ have found use in the manufacture of herbal toiletry.
Essential oils are derived from almost every part of the plant. Leaves, stems, flowers, roots, etc are distilled through steam or water to result into essential oils. Consequently, aromatherapy essential oils contain the true essence of the plant. In its purest form, a few drops of essential oil can give the same results that loads of that plant would have given. This is because essential oils are available in concentrated form.
Though referred to as oil, essential oils in aromatherapy do not give that oily feeing. Except for a few oils such as patchouli, orange and lemongrass, most oils are clear and see-through.
Aromatherapy essential oils must be differentiated from the perfume or fragrance oils. While essential oils contain the purest essence of the plant, fragrance oils are made of artificially created substances as a whole or a part of it. Fragrance oils may cause allergies or other skin reaction because of the use of artificial substances; but the use of essential oils brings upon no such allergic reaction.
Aromatherapy essential oils can be used by people either through inhalation or by applying them on skin in a diluted form. When essential oils are inhaled, they enter the bloodstream and lungs directly, thus producing an instant effect on the ailment.
Applying aromatherapy essential oils on the body is good for absorption. Since essential oils are available in a concentrated form, they need to be diluted using carrier oil. Sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grape seed oil, etc are blended with the essential oil; and the mixture is used on the body or the part that is afflicted.
One needs to be very careful while purchasing an essential oil. Though readily available, people are not well equipped to differentiate between the good quality and poor quality essential oil. The following checklist might be helpful to all those people who are on their way shopping for aromatherapy essential oils:
• A vendor who allows you to check the essential oil is preferred more.
• If the bottle containing essential oils has terms such as fragrance oils, nature identical oils; they are not essential oils.
• Never buy a bottle of essential oil that seems old. It might be adulterated or just might not produce the medicinal benefits.
• A clear glass bottle of essential oils allows light to come in, thus reducing its aroma therapeutic benefits. Avoid buying essential oils that are sold in clear glass bottles.
• Essential oils sold in plastic bottles too must be avoided as it dissolves plastic and becomes contaminated for use.