Introduction to Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is becoming increasingly popular as a valuable way to promote both physical and emotional well-being by using essential oils extracted from plants.  The benefits have been known for ages, however, it was not given a name until the 1920’s when the term aromatherapy was coined in France.

Essential Oils

An Essential Oil is defined as a product obtained from natural raw material, either by distillation with water and steam, or from the epicarp (outer layer) of citrus fruits by mechanical processing, or by dry distillation.  Essential oils are frequently referred to as the “life force” of plants. Unlike fatty oils, these “essential” oils are volatile, highly concentrated, substances extracted from flowers, leaves, stems, roots, seeds, bark, resin or fruit rinds. The amount of essential oils found in these plants can be anywhere from 0.01 percent to 10 percent of the total. That’s why literally tons of plant material are required for just a few hundred pounds of oil.

Essential oils have a specific affinity for the nerve tissues of the body. The olfactory membranes located within the sinus cavity is the most immediate point of nerve contact with essential oils.  The nerve membranes contained in these membranes, are responsible for our sense of smell.  These nerves connect directly to the olfactory bulb which is a part of our brain that has direct connections to many other areas of the mind.

One of these connections is to the hypothalamus, the stalk of the brain that controls the pituitary gland, which in turn controls the rest of the glandular system.  Therefore aromatherapy is able to have a powerful affect on our endocrine system.

The sense of smell is also intimately connected to that part of the brain called the limbic system which is known as the area of memory.  The limbic system involves responses such as fight or flight, pain and pleasure, and perceptions of bad and good.  Because of this the sense of smell also has a powerful and immediate affect on both memory and emotion.

Because only natural plants are able to convey the whole complex set of signs and complete information, the essential oils used for Aromatherapy must be truly natural and genuine.

To protect these benefits of genuine essential oils, please store them in a dark-colored glass bottle (never plastic) that is protected from heat or sunlight.

Preparation for Use

Suggested Dilutions for Essential Oil Blends

Carrier Oil

Essential Oil


1% dilution


2% dilution

(general massage)

4% dilution

(concentrated, local massage)

1/2 ounce

1 Tablespoon

15 ml

3 drops

7 drops

15 drops


1 ounce

2 Tablespoons


7 drops

15 drops

30 drops


2 ounces

4 Tablespoons

60 ml

15 drops

30 drops

60 drops


Base/Carrier Oils

Grapeseed is a light, non-greasy fruit oil, free of scent; it is easily absorbed, inexpensive and available in most health shops and supermarkets.

Sweet almond is a nut oil, light with a mild fragrance.

Coconut, native to Polynesia and Malaysia the coconut palm produces a light nut oil with a mild fragrance, it solidifies when cooled but readily melts in a hot hand.

Applications of Essential Oils


The use of essential oils directly on the skin without diluting them first with a carrier oil. Essential oils that can be applied to the skin neat include tea tree and lavender.

Always carry out an allergy test by placing one drop of oil in a teaspoon of water and rub into the arm near the elbow. Wait for two hours. If irritation occurs, find an alternative oil. The same test can be carried out with any base oil although there is no need to dilute first.


Essential oil blends can be inhaled gently yet directly from the bottle for a quick emotional lift.

For a deeper and more powerful inhalation, place 6-8 drops of your chosen essential oil or oil blend in a bowl of almost boiling water. Place a towel over your head and inhale for 5 minutes.


Draw your bath, then add 10 drops of your essential oil or blend to the bath. Agitate the water in a figure eight motion. Soak for 15 minutes. For a lightly bubbly, cleansing bath, add 1 teaspoon of Sunshine Concentrate. For relaxation, detoxification, or the folk remedy for sore joints, you can mix the oils with 1/2 to 1 cup of Epsom salts or sea salt and add to your bath water. To spread the oils evenly in the bath water, use it lecithin. Or try a sitz bath with just enough water to cover your lower body, and add 5 drops of essential oil.

Many pregnant women experience lower back pain due to the extra weight and changing posture. A simple way to enjoy aromatherapy is an aromatic bath, which can be enjoyed from 12 weeks onwards. This can be one of an expectant mother’s greatest luxuries.

In a relaxing bathroom setting enhanced by candles and music, run a tepid bath. Before entering, add two drops of neroli and two drops of mandarin essential oil, dispersing them into the bath water by hand. Once in the bath, close your eyes and concentrate on deep, rhythmic breathing, positive affirmations and relaxation. One drop of lavender can also be added as an alternative.


The best way to properly diffuse therapeutic grade oils is to use a cold-air nebulizing diffuser. I offer  quiet, high quality nebulizing diffusers of various sizes (ask for pricing).  This type of diffuser disperses a fine mist of essential oils sufficient to fill a room in a few minutes, without rendering the oils less therapeutically beneficial, by heating them.  Diffusing therapeutic grade oils, you will receive the therapeutic effects of the oils, plus they can (1) reduce bacteria, fungus, and mold in the room; (2) help relax, relieve tension, and clear the mind; (3) help in weight management; and (4) improve concentration, alertness, and mental clarity.

Place 10 to 25 undiluted drops of your chosen essential oil or blend into the diffuser.  When you cold-air diffuse, you should start out by diffusing the oils for only 10-30 minutes a day. As you become used to the oils and their effects, you can increase the time.


Mix approximately 21-25 drops of essential oil into 2 ounces (30ml) of base oil.  Apply externally, massaging towards the heart.


Put 10 drops of essential oil or oil blend into the water of the unit.

Spritz Spray

Add 10 to 15 drops of the essential oil or blend to 8 ounces of distilled water. Shake well before use.

Gargle or Mouthwash

Add 3 drops of an essential oil to a teaspoon of vodka or water and gargle.


Add 4 – 6 drops of an essential oil to 1 cup of hot water. Using a clean muslin cloth, soak in the infused water and apply to affected area four times daily. A good method for healing wounds and reducing inflammation.

Oil Burner

Using a ceramic oil burner, use 4-8 drops of essential oil in water and light the tea light. Burn for 15 minutes at a time.

Essential oils have many, many uses.  For some ideas of what to use them for please see our web page on essential oil use for the skin.

Charlotte Test, ND, MH


Nature’s Sunshine Products

The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood, ISBN 0-931432-82-0

The Scents of Health, A User Friendly Guide to Aromatherapy, L. Carl Robinson, ISBN 1-890855-08-1

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