Though no one knows where and when the first essential oil was extracted, evidence of the use of aromatic plant extracts for health and beauty is found in the writings and art of ancient Egypt, India, China and the Middle East. Modern Aromatherapy was born in 1930 when French chemist, Renee Gattefosse, burned himself while working in his cosmetics laboratory and used the essential oil of Lavender as an emergency treatment. The remarkable result led to his extensive exploration of the healing properties of essential oils.

While there is now a wealth of scientific data on the physiological and psychological effects of the essential oils, public awareness of the therapeutic benefits of aromatic plant extracts is not widespread.

Unbeknownst to most of us, true essential oils are commonly encountered when using cosmetics of higher quality, certain foods and household cleaners. As the use of scented products gained popularity in America in the late 1980's, shops and products featuring adulterated or low quality essences or synthetic fragrances passing themselves off as the real thing began to spring up everywhere. The very word "Aromatherapy" used in this context has lost its meaning…the therapeutic use of pure aromatic plant extracts. The professional aromatherapy community is investigating new words to convey this meaning, such as "aromacology" or "botanical medicine." Pure, unadulterated essential oils are usually available only from Aromatherapy practitioners and essential oils suppliers who understand the value and importance of working with these powerful helpers in a therapeutic way.

It is important to realize that true essential oils cannot be had at bargain prices and that many factors go into arriving at a price for a specific oil. Growing conditions and locations, the amount of plant material needed to produce the oil, the quantity of essential oil available for purchase after the cosmetic and food industry take their share and the method of extraction affect the price of the essential oil. For example, Orange oil is plentiful in the rind of the fruit which can be obtained as a by product of the juice industry and is therefore inexpensive while Rose oil, which must be obtained from unblemished petals, requires a great deal of plant material and very exacting methods of extraction, is quite expensive. If one sees Rose oil at a bargain price, unless that price was the result of buying a large quantity directly from a producer, it is quite likely that it is an adulterated rose, or even synthetic fragrance oil.

With the exception of Lavender, always dilute the essences before using them on the body or in the bath. These highly concentrated substances can cause irritation if used directly on the skin. Undiluted essences and blends are used to scent the environment or for simple inhalation.

Essential oils will not emulsify in water. To dilute essential oils for use on the body, choose a cold pressed nut, seed or vegetable oil, such as almond, sunflower or jojoba. For use on mucous membrane areas, a food grade alcohol (clear, odorless vodka is the best choice) can be used. Honey, high fat content milk or mineral salts can dilute essences for the bath.

As a general blending tip, you can use up to 7 drops per ounce for massage oil, and up to 15 drops in a bath. If an essential oil has a powerful aroma (such as Peppermint, Chamomile, Ecualyptus, Frankincense) it is best to use very little. This is also true of the more stimulating oils, such as Rosemary and Ginger or oils that are more irritating to the skin, like Clove or Cinnamon.
Never get essential oils into or near the eyes. Do not ingest essential oils and keep bottles out of the reach of small children. If spilled on the skin, soap the area first and then wash thoroughly.

To keep your oils in prime condition, keep them tightly capped, out of sunlight and away from heat.

Greer, South Carolina, USA - info@astralessence.com
All rights reserved, December 2003