Oxford Aromatherapy

Some information about Essential Oils and their uses


What is an Essential Oil ?

Aromatherapy is the art and science of using essential oils in a treatment. René Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, first coined the term ‘aromatherapy’ in the 1920’s. However, the knowledge of how to extract and apply essential oils is a very ancient art indeed. The ancient Egyptian, Persian, Indian, Chinese and Arab cultures made use of many aromatic oils.

Essential oils are the volatile, aromatic oils obtained by steam or hydro distillation of botanical material.  Most essential oils are primarily composed of terpenes and their oxygenated derivatives.  Different parts of the plants can be used to obtain essential oils, including the flowers, leaves, seeds, roots, stems, bark, wood, etc.   Certain cold-pressed oils, such as the oils from various citrus peels, are also considered to be essential oils but these are not to be confused with cold-pressed fixed or carrier oils such as olive, almond, grape seed, apricot kernel, borage, avocado, jojoba, evening primrose, etc. which are non-volatile oils composed mainly of fatty acid triglycerides.  Other aromatic, plant-derived oils, which technically aren't essential oils because they are solvent extracted, include Absolutes (hexane followed by ethanol extraction), CO2's (liquid carbon dioxide used as the solvent) and Phytols or Florosols (flouro-hydrocarbon solvent).

Essential oils are extracted from flowers; herbs; spices; woods and fibres, usually by distillation, expression and solvent extraction.

All the oils used are from recognised suppliers and have the scientific name of the plant on the bottle.

Oils are blended with a carrier oil such as almond oil or grape seed oil. The latter is used if the person is allergic to nuts.

See also: http://www.scenttherapy.com/index.asp

Some Aromatherapy oils and their benefits. This list and contents are being continually updated as information is obtained.

Information provided Oxford Aromatherapy on aromatherapy oils and blends is does not guarantee complete or accurate information.  The information is to be considered educational only.   Consult your doctor or trained aromatherapy practitioner before using.

A variety of Ginger, Spice Gardens, Penang, Malaysia Feb 04


Ylang-ylang, Spice Gardens, Penang, Malaysia Feb 04

Some oils are very expensive 10ml of Rose Oil costs £60  and Neroli £40 wholesale as both are made from rose and orange petals respectively. ( Up to 3,200 pounds of roses are used to produce one ounce of this oil. )


See also:      

http://www.aworldofaromatherapy.com/essential-oils-body.htm - oils recommended for various conditions


http://www.ascendinglight.com/ Provides a very good summary of oils and their uses despite the spellings








Safety Warning!


The above data is not complete. It has been compiled from books coursework and other literature that may not be correct. Oils should never be used on sensitive areas or genitals without guidance from a trained Aromatherapist.  Oils for massage must always be used diluted with carrier oil.  If used  in a bath mix the oil into the water before entering and never use more than 8 drops. Some may be used directly onto the skin with care.  These include Lavender, Niaouli and Plai. 


Oils must not  to taken internally unless under the guidance of an Aromatherapist.  However two or three drops of Lemon or Ginger is (say) a stir fry will enhance the flavour and not cause any ill affects and a few drops of Orange can be used in mulled wine. However never take an undiluted oil internally. 


Most oils are perfectly safe and have great benefits for our health and well-being.  It is recommended that you consult a trained aromatherapist or consult the recommended literature before using essential oils. 


Oils NOT TO BE USED in Aromatherapy: Almond (Bitter), Aniseed, Boldo Leaf, Calamus, Camphor (Brown and Yellow), Cassia, Cinnamon Bark,  Costus, lecampane, Fennel (Bitter), Horseradish, Jaborandi Leaf, Mugwort (Armoise), Mustard, Oreganum, Pennyroyal, Pine (Dwarf), Rue, Sassafras, Savin, Savory, Southernwood, Tansy, Thuja, Wintergreen, Wormseed, Wormwood.


PREGNANCY The following oils should not be used during pregnancy: Basil, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Fennel, Jasmine, Juniper, Marjoram, Myrrh, Nutmeg, Parsley Seed, Peppermint, Rosemary and Thyme. Lavender, Chamomile and Rose should be avoided during the first four months, and after that used only as a 1% dilution.


SKIN IRRITANTS: These oils may irritate the skin when used in the bath.   Fennel, Lemon, lemongrass, Melissa, Peppermint, Pine Needle, Thyme, Tea Tree. (Fennel may also affect some people when used for massage. Do not use a dilution stronger than 2%).


HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE:  The following oils should not be used by or for anybody suffering from high blood pressure: Rosemary, Thyme.

EPILEPSY:  The following oils should be avoided: Camphor, Fennel, Hyssop, Sage, Rosemary.


Other ways of using essential oils:

(From http://www.oscoda.net/bluemoon/aroma-frame.html)

Bath  or Sauna: 10-15 drops in warm water. Put drops into the water immediately before entering. Gently stir the water to disperse the oil. For sauna, dilute the oil with 90% water and spray on rocks or into the air.

Compress: Put 3-5 drops into a hot or cold basin of water. Cold water contracts the tissues and warm water relaxes the tissues. Fold up a clean cloth and dip it into the water. Squeeze out the excess water. Apply immediately to the painful area.

Facial Steam: One drop of oil per cup of boiling water. Put the drops into the basin after the water is drawn. Gently stir the water to disperse the oil. Immediately place a towel over your head and move your face as close to the aromatic steam as is comfortable.

Inhalation: Recommended for respiratory problems, colds, headaches, sinuses, and coughs. Use 3 to 5 drops of an essential oil on a tissue or handkerchief. Hold it under your nose and then breathe deeply.

Environmental Fragrance: Electric diffusers are a simple and effective way to fragrance a room for aesthetic and therapeutic benefits. Do not use carrier oils in diffusers as they will clog and not disperse. Use essential oils alone or use synergies of pure essential oils. Diffusers eliminate the need for aerosol fresheners.

50 ways of using essential oils

Recommended reading:

Patricia Davies - Aromatherapy an A-Z,  C. W. Daniel ISBN 0 85207 295 3 £12.99 

Valerie Ann Worwood - The Fragrant Pharmacy - Bantam Books ISBN 0 553 40397 4 £8.99

You can order oils from Essentially Oils at Chipping Norton: www.essentiallyoils.com

More information on essential oils http://www.kevala.co.uk/aromatherapy/remedies.cfm