The use of fragrance goes back thousands of years. Originally, people used herbs, and the oils derived from them, as a part of their spiritual or religious practices, and often as medicines. Fragrance is still used frequently today, and is most commonly found in the practice of aromatherapy.
Releasing the Scents of Herbs
It is relatively simple to burn the actual herbs themselves when using the herbs as incense. Simply light the appropriate herb on fire, or powder the herb and burn it on self-igniting coals. Either way, the scent of the herb is spread through the air. This is not generally considered aromatherapy.
It is also possible to release the scent of the herbs by pouring boiling water over them. This can be done to produce a tea, infusion, or steam inhalation. This is a gentler way of releasing the scents of herbs. While not aromatherapy in the strictest sense, this is still a valuable way to use the scents of herbs and flowers.
The use of essential oils is more complicated because one doesn’t just use the raw herb itself. In most instances, the ancient world's use of botanicals did not include the use of actual essential oils. Rather, many of the ancients used fats and oils infused with plant materials. Infused oils are not essential oils, though they are still a valuable way to release the scent of herbs.
Essential oils are oils produced directly from the herb itself. There are two main ways to do this — steam distillation and cold pressing. Both of these are difficult to do at home. Not only are the processes complex, but they require a great deal of plant material, usually more than most people have on hand. As an example, rose oil takes approximately 2000 pounds of rose petals. It's unlikely that you have 2000 pounds of rose petals sitting in your garage.
The Nature of Essential Oils
Essential oils themselves are found in various plant parts. Which plant part is used depends on the particular plant. Peppermint and patchouli oils are derived from their leaves and stems. Clove oil comes from flower buds. Jasmine and rose oils are derived from the open flowers. Essential oils are also derived from the seeds, wood, bark, roots, needles and skins of various plants.
Essential oils are less stable than fixed oils such as canola or olive oils. Since they are so much more volatile, they evaporate at a much faster rate. For this reason, they should not be left uncapped for any length of time. Always remember to seal your essential oils, even if you're only leaving them for a few minutes. You'll save oil, and so money, by capping your oils.
How are Essential Oils Used?
There are several ways in which essential oils may be used. They can be utilized for massage, inhalation, and bathing, to name just a few. How you use essential oils is mostly dependent upon your own preferences. In some cases, you will have to take allergies into consideration and remember to observe save aromatherapy practices.
There are many benefits to massage, including relaxation of the muscles and movement of the lymph fluids. Massage is probably the most popular way in which to use essential oils. Because they are so concentrated, they should be diluted in a carrier oil. The best carrier oils are sweet almond, jojoba, coconut, or olive. Grapeseed oil can also be used.
Inhalation of essential oils is a simple process. Special (and expensive) electronic aromatherapy diffusers will spread a scent throughout a room. A few drops of oil placed on a clay light-bulb diffuser will also do the job, and for a fraction of the price. You can also find 'melters.' These are designed to hold a tealight in the bottom while a glass or ceramic dish holds the oil above. As the candle warms the oil, the scent is carried on the air.
Using candles scented with essential oils can release the aromas into a room as the flame warms the wax, which in turn moves the fragrances into the air. Scenting the water in potpourri pots with essential oils is another way to gently freshen up a room. You could also toss essential oils into a fire for a quick burst of scent.
The use of a sprayer can disinfect or perfume a room very quickly. Fill a spray bottle with water and a dozen or so drops of the chosen oils. Shake the bottle and then spray. As essential oils do not actually mix with water, shake the bottle to blend it each time before spraying. Even putting a few drops of essential oil in a humidifier can help utilize the power of scent.
A few drops of an essential oil in bath water can do wonders for the mood. Bathing with essential oils gives both contact with the skin and inhalation of the scent as it rises from the water. Because essential oils are not soluble in water (they do not mix with water), it's best to add essential oils to a carrier oil before adding it to bath water. This helps to dilute the oil before bathing, reducing the chances of developing a rash from exposure to undiluted oils.
Essential oils can be hugely beneficial to the mind and soul. That their use is widespread throughout the world and is testament to their success.
Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.