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Essential Oils Do's and Don'ts

When I think of Aromatherapy I see essential oils in their plant forms. Many people entering the world of Aromatherapy see essential oils in bottles. For a lot of them, Aromatherapy is their introduction to the world of holistic healing and health. While this is great, it is also important to connect these new enthusiasts with the plants from which these essences are derived.

Once you understand the guidelines to the safe and effective use of essential oils it is easy to think of ways to combine them with herbs.

Safety Tips

1. Never use essential oils (EO) undiluted.
2. Don't take EO internally (unless under the care of a qualified practitioner).
3. Most citrus oils are photosensitizing. Do not use when exposed to sunlight.
4. Avoid EO in first trimester of pregnancy; then use only florals in 1% dilutions.
5. Do not use synthetic oils for Aromatherapy purposes.
6. Test diluted oils on inner arm for sensitivities & allergies before wider application.
7. Keep all EO away from eyes and out of the reach of children.
8. Many EO are irritating; research well before using.

Dilutions for External Use of Essential Oils

Carrier oils - any vegetable oil: grape seed, almond, safflower, olive, sesame, etc.
General use - dilute to 2%. For kids/elderly/sensitive skin/convalescing use 1%.
To make 1%: add 5 - 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
To make 2%: add 10 -12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil

Methods of Application of EO with Herbs
1.Massage - application of choice. Add essential oils to an herbal infused oil carrier in a 2 % dilution.

2.Bath - Start with 2-5 drops per tub, depending on oil. (Careful: peppermint, citrus, lemongrass, culinary oils, and more; many oils irritate the skin.) Fill tub, add oils, swish, enter. Add 1 quart of strong herb tea to the water.
For kids, mix 2 drops EO in 1 tsp. carrier oil or shampoo, and add to bath with herbal tea; mix well before entering.

3.Gargle or mouthwash - 1 drop per 1/4 cup of sage or thyme tea.

4.Inhalant - 6 drops in one quart hot tea; inhale steam; or sprinkle EO on tissue or hankie.

5.Spray - 5-10 drops per 2 oz. of rosewater, for body or environmental fragrance.
Herbal Preparations

Never pass up the opportunity to use herbs in some form in your Aromatherapy formulations. Herbs are important and effective adjuncts to many Aromatherapy treatments, and when the essential oil of a plant is deemed too strong for a particular person or application, the herb itself in tea or tincture form will be a very safe and appropriate substitute. When used together whole plants and essential oils often create a synergy that provides a greater capacity for healing than either modality alone.

Herb quality is just as important to herbalism as purity of essential oils is to Aromatherapy. The good news is that it is much easier to determine good herb quality by smelling, seeing and tasting than it is with essential oils. Dried herbs should be fragrant, vibrant, and ideally, organically grown or picked in the wild with regard for the ecology and biodiversity of the area. The delicate ecological balance of plant life affects us all, but it especially affects our future supply of healing herbs, discovered and undiscovered!

The following recipes provide useful guidelines for making basic herbal preparations. These preparations are all so easy and fun to make you'll wonder why you haven't been doing it for years. Enjoy the time you set aside to partake of nature's gifts and give thanks for all she provides!

Herbal Infused Oils
Oils made by macerating (soaking) herbs in vegetable oils are called infused oils. These oils can be used instead of plain carrier oils in all of your Aromatherapy preparations for the added healing benefits the herbs provide.

1 cup dried herbs
vegetable oil to cover

Coarsely grind in a blender. Place the herbs in a wide mouth jar and add enough oil to cover. Keep in a warm place and shake daily. Your infusion can soak for one to two weeks. By this time, the oil should take on the color, aroma and healing properties of the herb.

To strain the oil, line a kitchen strainer with cheesecloth, muslin or a thin flour-sack dishcloth and place the strainer over a bowl. Put the oil/herb mixture into the strainer and let it drip for a day or two undisturbed. Most of the oil will drain out but to get every precious drop, gather the corners of the cloth and wring out as much oil as possible. Compost the herbs and store your herbal oil infusion in the refrigerator.

There are many variations on this preparation. Choose a vegetable oil such as olive for medicinal preparations like salves, or hazelnut or some other light oil for cosmetic applications or massage. It is difficult to give exact measurements for each herb because each is different in texture and volume. Make sure the herb is well soaked with oil, plus a bit extra. To double its strength, you can infuse your oil again by making a "double infusion". Add a new batch of dried herb to the same oil and repeat the process.


The oil infusion: lavender, roses, comfrey, and chamomile herbs infused in almond and/or grapeseed carrier oil.
Essential oils to add: lavender, orange, ylang ylang.

Herbal Salve

1 cup herbal infused oil
1 ounce beeswax, shaved

Warm the infused herbal oil in a pan and add beeswax. The smaller the pieces, the more quickly the beeswax will melt, preventing your herbal oil from exposure to prolonged high temperatures.

Test the consistency of the salve while it is still warm by dipping a cold spoon into it and letting it harden. Then add more oil or more beeswax as needed. Add essential oils to your salves at the end, just before pouring into jars, but let the salve cool a bit first or the essential oil will evaporate. You can also add the essential oils to the individual jars before pouring.


Herbs: St. John's Wort, calendula, plantain, comfrey.
Essential oils: lavender, tea tree, chamomile.

Herbal Teas and Baths

Don't forget the simple combination of drinking herbal teas and using essential oils in the bath. The addition of herbal teas in the tub along with essential oils is another way to combine the synergistic effects of herbs and essential oils. Here are a few ideas:


Herbs for tea or bath: hops, scullcap, lemon balm, catnip.
Essential oil bath or massage: lavender, neroli, sandalwood.


Herbs for tea: peppermint, elder, yarrow.
Essential oil bath: eucalyptus, tea tree, ravensare, lavender.


Herbs for tea: burdock, dandelion, yellow dock, milk thistle seed.
Essential oil massage: carrot seed, lavender, rosemary, helichrysum.


Herbs: echinacea, osha, usnea, astragalus, ginger.
Essential oils in bath or massage: ravensare, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender.

There are endless ways that one can combine the healing potential of phytotherapy in its many forms. Plants are an incredible vehicle for personal and social transformation. It is exciting to watch students of all levels discover how plants connect us to the earth and to the healing potential that is within each of us.
Phytotherapeutic Synergysm : working example

To fully understand the healing depth, potential and energy of Aromatherapy, one must be in touch with the plants that essential oils come from. While essential oils contain active and therapeutic constituents such as ketones, phenols, alcohols, aldehydes, ethers, esters, etc., there are many other plants used therapeutically that do not produce essential oils.

Their actions stem from alkaloids, saponins, mucilage, glycosides, saccharides, tannins, etc. These latter constituents are not contained in essential oils, but they have varied therapeutic actions upon the body, and when used with understanding can compliment the action of essential oils in healing and disease prevention.

Following is an example of the use of these combined energies in the treatment and symptom alleviation of spring/summer hayfever and other allergies.

Aromatherapy - From an Aromatherapy perspective one possible combination is as follows:

Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) essential oil for its astringent effect,
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) or
Melissa (Melissa officinalis) as anti-allergenics and
Lavender (Lavandula vera) for its general therapeutic and relaxing benefits. Also helpful is the mucolytic action of essential oils such as
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis chemotype verbenon) and
Inula (Inula graveolens). The aromatic hydrosol of rose or myrtle may be used as compresses on the eyes to relieve inflammation, redness and itching.

Phytotherapy - Most of the herbs listed below have a long history of traditional use.

Ma Huang (Ephedra sinensis) - This herb has a long standing reputation as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. It contains the alkaloid ephedrine (often chemically synthesized to produce pseudo-ephedrine, commonly used in many over-the-counter hayfever and allergy drugs). Because this herb is a stimulant it should not be taken at night, by pregnant women or by those with hypertension.

Nettle (Urtica spp.) - a plant with a wide range of applications, nettle's astringent action is especially effective here. It also acts to strengthen and support the whole body due to its abundance of vitamin and mineral nutrients. Its astringent action is valuable for inhibiting bleeding and relieving mucous discharges of the lungs.

Elder (Sambucus nigra) - The flowers are diaphoretic and are indicated for acute catarrhal inflammation of the upper respiratory tract accompanied by sinusitis.
Other useful herbs include yarrow, golden rod, horseradish, and sage. Chamomile tea bags or compresses of eyebright tea will help soothe the eyes.

Combined therapies

A method for incorporating these two therapies is as follows:

Combine the essential oils in equal parts and use 4-8 drops of this blend daily in the bath. As a massage oil dilute to 2-3% (10-15 drops in 1 oz of carrier oil) and apply to the entire body. The mucolytic oils may be diluted to 5% (30 drops of essential oils per 1 oz of carrier oil) and applied inside the nostrils with a Q-tip as needed.

The herbs can be used in equal parts and taken as a tea (1 tsp of the combined herbs per cup of water) 3 times per day, or taken in tincture form (15-30 drops in water) 3 times per day.

Because whole natural plant substances treat the body in its entirety, healing can begin. But we mustn't forget to examine why these symptoms manifest. Determining and correcting the cause is always the primary objective in any true healing and this may require some dietary and other lifestyle changes.

Plant medicines are biologically familiar substances that tonify and boost one's natural immune process and response. They further act to correct the terrain by eliminating pathogenic bacteria. They are a wonderful and effective part of one's journey to good health!


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