What is Aromatherapy?

canstockphoto22921616The word “Aromatherapy” was coined by the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé after he soothed a bad burn with Lavender oil. That one incident started a plant-based practice that has evolved into the complementary modality of today that uses essential oils to improve and balance the body’s physical and emotional health


What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are the results of the steam distillation, the cold expression or in some canstockphoto10787674cases, solvent extraction of different types of plant material.(Which includes flowers, leaves,  roots, bark, citrus fruit rind, grasses & resins.) Simply put, it’s what’s left after the process; small amounts of highly concentrated therapeutic goodness, that are very versatile, with many different properties.

What is a Contraindication?

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the medical definition of a contraindication is “Something, like a symptom or condition that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable.

What are the contraindications for Aromatherapy?

Essential Oils are highly concentrated substances that should be used carefully. Even the most beneficial oils can be harmful under certain conditions.  Inappropriate use of essential oils may lead to adverse side effects. Check with your healthcare provider & aromatherapist if you take medication,  are pregnant or have epilepsy or a seizure disorder. Also, use caution when blending essential oils for children and the elderly.

How can you use Essential Oils?

Essential oils can be used for diffusing, inhalation or applied onto the skin for topical use.  And because essential oils are so concentrated, they should always be diluted before topical use.  With essential oils, less is always more.

How is the Sense of Smell & the Emotions connected?

The sense of smell is the only one of the five senses that are linked directly to the limbic part of the brain. This area of the brain includes the:

  • Hippocampus processes our long-term memories as well as our recollection of facts and events. dreamstime_s_31763752
  • Amygdala is involved in processing our basic emotions like joy, fear anger etc, our survival drives for food, water & reproduction and deciding which memories are stored & where.
  • Hypothalamus is considered the hormone control centre of the body, it works with the pituitary gland to stimulate different processes in the body like appetite, sleep cycles, your sex drive, and blood pressure among others.
  • Olfactory bulb which plays an important part in aromatherapy.


What is Inhalation?  How does It Work?

canstockphoto7200634With inhalation, the small essential oil molecules stimulate the “olfactory bulb or the nerves in your nose, which then send a signal to different parts of the limbic brain.



How safe is inhalation?

According to author & aromatherapist, Robert Tisserand ” (inhalation) from a safety standpoint presents a very low risk to most people”.

For Inhalation:

put 2 – 3 drops on a tissue and keep it under your pillow or in your pocket, using it up to 4 times per day as needed. You can also use a personal inhaler or my new favorite, smelling salts.

Inhalation is still the quickest method of absorption in therapeutic aromatherapy.  Topical applications come in second and should be applied to the areas of concern. “Amy Kreydin, The Barefoot Dragonfly.

Is there a correct way to smell Essential Oils?

It is actually best “not” to smell essential oil blends directly from the bottle, at least for the first time. Why? Because the lighter or “top” notes are what you will mainly be smelling, and you will be missing out on the lovely middle, and base notes, and you won’t get the “full effect” of the scent.  It is best to put a drop or 2 on a scent testing strip or you can use an unscented paper towel.  Sniff your tester at 15 – 30 & 60-minute intervals so you can smell the changes to, as well as the depth of the scent.

Why do Essential Oils sometimes smell different from one bottle to the next?

Because essential oils come from plant material, from nature, growing conditions like soil quality and weather conditions can affect the quantity as well as the quality, and yes, the scent of your favorite essential oils.

What are Essential Oils Properties?

Essential oil properties are the beneficial qualities of each oil. Due to their chemical makeup, some essential oils are relaxing or they can be stimulating, the list goes on & on…   * Use caution if you are pregnant, have a medical condition, take medication or are blending for young children or the elderly.

For Relaxation, try diffusing: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Frankincense,  Geranium, Lavender, Lemon or Mandarin, . When diffusing, these oils can be used for children age 2 & up.

To Focus on your Day, try diffusing:  Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Spearmint, Spruce or Sweet Orange. When diffusing, these oils can be used for children age 2 & up.          

For Seasonal Allergies & Sinus Congestion, try diffusing: Frankincense, Lavender, Lemon, Roman Chamomile, Rosalina, Fir or Tea Tree. When diffusing, these oils can be used for children age 2 & up.
***Don’t use chamomile if you’re allergic to ragweed.                                                  

How effective are Essential Oils when used Topically?

When used topically, properly diluted essential oils are very effective. The body will absorb small amounts (Approx 10%) of the essential oils into the bloodstream when these aromatherapy products are applied to the skin, but you also get the benefit of inhalation when you breathe in the fragrant scents from applying these products.

Where’s the best place to apply essential oils products on your body?

Apply your products to your pulse points like your temples, the back of your neck, behind your ears, your wrists, inside of your elbows and back of your knees. If you have pain, then apply to the area of concern like your back, or abdomen. For more info check out my Essential Oils Safety Page

What about applying essential oils to the soles of the feet?

There has been conflicting information about the effectiveness of applying essential oils to the bottom of your feet. Some say that the skin on the bottom of the feet is too thick for the essential oil blend to be readily absorbed. Also, the pores on the bottom of our feet are sweat glands and have “an exterior directed function” so the amount of essential oil absorbed would be insignificant.” Robert Tisserand explains that approximately 10% of a leave-on product will be absorbed into the bloodstream. If the leave-on product applied to the feet is even less than 10% isn’t this just a gross waste of costly essential oils?”  

How can essential oils be used topically?

When properly diluted essential oils are effective for:

Essential oils can be added in appropriate amounts to unscented or homemade facial cleansers, creams, toners, body butter, lip balms, bath salts & salves. 
Use at a .05% – 1% dilution for daily use.

canstockphoto3520502Pain Relief:
For Muscular or arthritic aches & pains as well as headaches & migraines, try adding essential oils to a massage oil or make a roll- on remedy blend, or ointment. 
For periodic use for specific areas use at a 3% – 5% dilution. For a full body massage use at a 1% dilution.

canstockphoto17250505Immune System:
During the cold season, I like to diffuse essential oils help you breathe a little easier.

Essential oils can be diffused or used in massage or bath oils, bath salts as well as body lotions to help with symptoms of anxiety, stress or insomnia.
For a full body massage use at a 1% dilution. For daily use apply at a 1% – 2 % dilution, for periodic use apply at a 2% – 3% dilution.

*** For children over 2 years old or the elderly, use the appropriate essential oils at a .05% – 1% dilution


What is Diffusing?

Diffusing is the method and device that disperses essential oil molecules into the air.

What you should know about Diffusing Essential Oils?

Try 3 – 4 drops of your blend and diffuse for 15 – 30 min, to see how you like the scent, but more importantly, to see how you feel. When using your diffuser, Author Robert Tisserand (2014) says, “Don’t diffuse for long periods of time, 30 – 60 minutes is good”.

For younger children & elderly family members, use your diffuser for 15 – 30 minutes, for congestion or sleep issues. (For ultrasonic diffusers check the timer setting to find the best one for you, your family, the age of family members and your environment)

Methods of Diffusing:

There are a few different ways to diffuse essential oils either in your room or personally. You may want to try:

500_aromasens14K__33346.1429820271.1280.1280 (1)Electric Ultrasonic Diffuser: have a small metal disc that vibrates by “ultrasonic frequencies,” which breaks up the essential oil and water into a fine, cool mist, that is then dispersed into the air of your room.  *** If you live in an area with a lot of humidity, this type of diffuser may not be your best choice. 

Candle diffuserTea light candle diffuser: uses water & essential oils; gives off scent & ambiance, but it doesn’t cover a large space. It is best to find one that has a large enough bowl. You don’t want to have to keep refilling the bowl with water. ***Never leave a candle unattended

Plug- in Diffusers: are a good way to try diffusing essential oils. In the home, they work well in small areas like bathrooms or hallways. These diffusers use disposable pads that will need to be changed periodically or when you want to change scents. There is also car diffusers that plug into the lighter in your car. 

canstockphoto7839014Reed Diffuser: absorb the essential oils and then diffuse the scent into your room and are used for passive diffusing to scent your environment.  ***Keep these away from your pets. 

Aromatherapy Jewelry: Pendants and bracelets are simple to use. You put a  drop or two of essential oil on the pad inside the necklace; or add a drop to the lava beads on your bracelet before you put it on.  You are then able to enjoy the scent throughout your day. 

This information is for interest only & is not meant to diagnose or replace medical advice.

References: Books

  • Battaglia Salvatore. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. 2nd edition, The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy, Australia, 2003
  • Lawless. Julia. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Thorsons, 2002
  • Tisserand, Robert, & Rodney Young,  Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition, Churchill   Livingstone, 2014


http://www.westcoastaromatherapy.com http://www.westcoastaromatherapy.comhttp://www.westcoastaromatherapy.com/free-information/newsletter/contraindications-to-essential-oils/
http://www.quinessence.com/blog/the-limbic-system http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/hippocampus http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/amygdala http://www.healthline.com/human-body-
Photos are from Canstock photo.  The Limbic brain is from Dreamstime.com/