ESSENTIAL OILS, DIRECTION OF USE & INFORMATION

The body of knowledge regarding the medicinal uses of essential oils is far too extensive to be included here, even in abbreviated form. If you want to explore the medicinal applications of these oils consult one of the many excellent books on the subject or visit a qualified aromatherapist for a personalized treatment. The following information on individual essential oils focuses on their traditional associations with Gods and Goddesses, on folklore, myth and the magical uses of essential oils. Certain oils marked use with caution are recommended to be used in 1% dilution only as they may irritate the skin.

Essential oils are the volatile, aromatic components of plants, the substance that carries their unique scent and ethereal soul. It is through these precious fragrances that plants communicate with their environment, inviting potential pollinators and seed dispersers, or fending off their natural enemies. But essential oils are not just chemical messengers, they are also divine messengers. They possess the power to influence our moods and sense of well-being, they can heal our physical and emotional ailments and even open the gates to other dimensions.

The sense of smell is one of the most primitive senses, located deep within the oldest part of the human brain. It guided us through the sensory world long before any intellectual powers sought rationalization for our experiences. Scent communicates with the non-verbal part of the brain, where the soul ‘thinks’ in imagery and associations. That is why a fleeting whiff of subtle fragrance can instantly transport us a million miles away. Thus, the sense of smell forms the gateway to the subconscious mind and even taps into what Jung termed the collective unconscious. Acting on this ancient and primeval part of the brain, scent can powerfully affect the mind, and thus in turn affect the body. Perfumers have known the secret language of scent for centuries and have long made use of the subtle and not so subtle powers of essential oils to influence or seduce our senses. Borrowing the flowers’ fragrant soul messengers to create perfumes and cosmetics enables us to transcend the boundaries of our verbal world.

Sweet scents attract good spirits and can influence the benevolence of the Gods who delight in heavenly aromas. Priests and practitioners of all spiritual paths have always known this and, in almost all traditions, elaborate floral decorations and expensive aromatic temple incenses form an integral aspect of devotional practice. In many traditions worshipers would never dare to enter the presence of the Gods unanointed and even the sacred icons would receive offerings of scented oils and flower garlands.

Essential oils have also found their way into modern folk magic practices. In the old days, most practitioners would make do with the herbs at their disposal to create their sachets, ritual bath potions or aphrodisiac lotions. Modern practitioners are not so limited. The more common availability of even the most exotic essential oils opens new horizons for the creative kitchen alchemist to explore the magical powers of essential oils in their own potions, lotions and magical blends.

ESSENTIAL OILS

 Essential oils offer more than divine fragrances - they are also highly concentrated healing compounds that can powerfully and directly influence the physiological functions of the body.
The knowledge concerning the use of essential oils as therapeutic agents is known as ‘Aromatherapy’, a field of study that in recent years has attracted a huge wave of interest. The art and body of knowledge itself is ancient - antique stills excavated at archaeological sites throughout the ancient world bear witness to this time honoured tradition, but modern practitioners, with the help of new insights into the workings of chemicals on mind and body, have taken it to new levels. Aromatherapy has become one of the most popular forms of holistic medicine. From jetlag to insomnia to anxiety, from allergies to aching muscles - the fragrant healers come to our aid. The most common form of aromatherapy treatment is a massage with appropriate essential oils, blended according to individual needs. Sometimes just sniffing a particular aroma can bring relief e.g. to alleviate headaches or nausea, or respiratory congestion. Some oils are particularly beneficial for the skin, soothing tender or weather-worn tissue, smoothing scars and stretch marks or repairing epidermal damage. Adding essential oils to homemade cosmetic blends such as face masks or body lotions transforms a simple moisturizer into a healing lotion with a specific therapeutic effect. Or, one can utilize both the deliciously sensuous scents and therapeutic qualities to create bath and massage oils with divine fragrances that also relax, invigorate or soothe the effects of daily wear and tear.

The possibilities are endless and the art and science of essential oils is a vast domain. What follows is a short introduction to some of the most common ways in which essential oils can be used for therapy, pleasure or magic. It is beyond the scope of this handbook to give detailed guidance on the medicinal actions and uses of aromatherapy oils. There are many in depth books and reference works available on the subject, which we urge you to consult for further information.

USES

The possibilities are endless and the art and science of essential oils is a vast domain. What follows is a short introduction to some of the most common ways in which essential oils can be used for therapy, pleasure or magic. It is beyond the scope of this handbook to give detailed guidance on the medicinal actions and uses of aromatherapy oils. There are many in depth books and reference works available on the subject, which we urge you to consult for further information.

MASSAGE

Massage can be a tender act of love and pleasure, of intimate, tactile communication and exchange or it can be deeply therapeutic - soothing aching muscles and smothering the skin in lush, nutritious oils that heal and nurture body and soul. Massage is the most commonly employed method of aromatherapy - the specifically chosen oils act as the therapeutic agent. To make a simple massage oil, choose essential oils to suit your particular purpose and add these to a nut/seed base oil. Massage relaxes the body and relieves stress and tension. The fragrances act directly on the deeper levels of the mind and emotions, while the medicinal properties of the oils are absorbed by the skin.

Use between 1-3% of essential oil diluted in a base oil blend.

BATH

 

In some cultures bathing has been refined to a form of art - the Romans considered it an essential aspect of civilization and established bath houses wherever they went - even in Britain, as the city of Bath still testifies. Bathing with aromatic bath oils is pure pleasure, a luxuriously sensual treat that can make one feel like Aphrodite herself. It is also very beneficial for the skin as any loss of natural skin oils is more than compensated by the nutritive benefits of the bath oil blend. Mix up to 5 drops of essential oil to a tablespoon of nut/seed base oil. Add to a full bathtub and agitate to disperse the oil. Choose your essential oils carefully as some may be irritating to sensitive skin.

STEAM INHALATION

Steam is very cleansing. Not only does it get more deeply into the pores and clears out any congestion that may be lurking there, it also stimulates the circulation and promotes sweating, which in turn aids the cleansing process from within. Some cultures have a tradition of regular steam bath rituals, such as saunas or sweatlodges. Steam inhalations or facial steams work along the same principle except that instead of the whole body only the head is exposed to the steam. Thus, they are particularly useful as a treatment for catarrhal congestion, sore throat, colds and coughs and any other afflictions of the respiratory system. (Not recommended for asthma). They are also often used as a beauty treatment for deep cleansing of the facial pores, to stimulate the circulation and to keep the skin soft and rosy.

To prepare a facial steam bath, take a bowl of hot (not boiling) water and add a few drops of essential oil. Cover both head and bowl with a large towel or blanket to prevent the steam escaping, taking the volatile essential oil with it. Breathe deeply for a few minutes. Keep tissues handy as this method will stimulate mucus discharge. Keep wrapped up and warm afterwards to avoid getting a chill.

EVAPORATION

There is nothing more magical than to walk into a room and immediately feel enveloped and spirited away by the power of scent. Essential oils are the obvious choice for atmospheric cleansing whether you wish to spread a scent of warmth and comfort in your living area, or invigorating freshness throughout your work space. They will get rid of unwanted odours, purify the air in a sick room and diffuse a sense of health and wellness. Choose your oils carefully to set the ambiance for a romantic night in, or an important business meeting. Evaporation is also suitable for magical purposes as a substitute for incense, especially if smoke is an issue for any of the participants. Essential oils are typically evaporated in an oil burner, which consists of a source of heat (candle) which is placed beneath a small well that holds a mixture of water and oil. Fill the water well with warm water and add a few drops of essential oil. Light the candle underneath and enjoy the fresh fragrance filling the room. Don’t allow the water well to dry out completely and don’t forget to blow out the candle when you leave the room. (If you have an electric vaporizer, follow the instructions supplied.)

LOTIONS

Essential oils can be blended specifically for topical use in skin care. Choose your essential oils according to your skin type and the effect you want to achieve. For magical purposes lotions can be used as a protective ‘coating’ to ward off evil powers and attract beneficial energies.
To make a lotion simply add a few drops of your chosen essential oils to an aromatherapy base-lotion or home-made lotion blend.

COMPRESSES

Hot or cold compresses are very effective external applications which are usually used to treat pain or skin afflictions. The application of localized heat stimulates the circulation to the affected area and thus helps the body to flush out toxins. Sometimes hot and cold compresses are used alternately depending on the specific requirements of the situation. Hot compresses are mainly used for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, gout, muscle aches and abscesses. Cold compresses are generally used for nerve pain, headaches and to reduce swellings.
Prepare a bowl of water, add about 5 drops of oil and immerse a cloth or towel. Wring out any excess water and apply directly to the affected area. Leave in position until the towel has reached body temperature. Repeat if required.

ANNOINTING OILS

We have borrowed the sweet scents of flowers for thousands of years to dab a little of their magic behind our ears. Perfumes and anointing oils can have a direct effect on the state of mind and sense of well-being. Traditionally used to allure and seduce, perfumes are the secret tool of Aphrodite. Sensual, heady perfumes speak to a part of our consciousness that lies well beyond the powers of reason. In magical perfumery, oils are blended for protection and to attract beneficial Gods and spirits; a well chosen blend can dispel the demons of doom and gloom or of fear and anxiety as they envelop us with their magical powers. In a more devotional context, anointing oils are chosen for their power to clear and centre the mind for spirit journeys and meditation practices. The inspired kitchen alchemist knows no limit to creative blending when it comes to magical perfumery.

Dilute the essential oils of your choice to a ratio of 1-3% in a suitable base oil.

FLOWER WATERS

Flower waters have long held an honourable position in skin care and cosmetics. but they can also be used for magical purposes, such as cleansing or consecration rituals. For cosmetic use, they are used to replace spring water in any cosmetic recipe, or can be used neat as skin cleansing waters. Magically they can be used as aspersing waters to cleanse and protect a sacred space, or to consecrate magical tools. To make a simple flower water add about 20-30 drops of essential oil (e.g. Rose, Lavender, Jasmine) to 100ml of spring water or distilled water. Leave to infuse in a cool dark space for 24 hours. Filter through coffee filter paper. Although essential oils are insoluble in water they nevertheless transfer their fragrance and some of their healing properties to the water. Keep in the fridge and use within a week. Or add a small amount of alcohol as a preservative.

USESCARE OF YOUR ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils are highly volatile substances that easily deteriorate or simply ‘fly off’ if not stored correctly. Keep essential oils tightly closed and store them away from any sources of heat, in a cool, dark place.

ORGANIC OILS

Naturally, organic oils are the purest oils available. As more people demand organic oils they will in time become more easily available, which means that more growers will turn to organic growing methods. What is good for us is good for mother earth. Together, we can make a difference and help sow the seeds for a greener, healthier future, through the chain of demand and supply.

MAIN METHODS OF EXTRACTION

Essential oils are precious substances. As an example, it requires one ton of rose petals to yield only 300g of rose oil. In their pure form, essential oils are highly concentrated and very powerful. Many oils are produced by steam distillation, which yields the purest oils, but there are other methods of extraction which are detailed below.

COLD PRESSED

Some plants, such as lemons and oranges, are so rich in essential oils that pressure alone is sufficient to extract their volatile oil content.

DISTILATION

Most fragrant plant materials are subjected to a process of steam, water or dry distillation during which the volatile and non-water soluble parts of the plant are isolated. To purify the resulting oil from any non-soluble residues it is sometimes re-distilled or rectified. Flower waters are a naturally occurring by-product of steam distillation.

CONCRETES

Some essential oils are too volatile for hot water and steam distillation. These are extracted with the help of hydrocarbon solvents. The resulting substances, known as concretes, usually contain a certain amount of wax and are solid.

ABSOLUTES

Absolutes are purified concretes, derived by separating the essential oil content from the waxy, non-soluble part of the concrete. The medium of extraction is ethanol (pure alcohol), which is evaporated in the process. The resulting essential oils tend to be extremely concentrated and may contain a minute amount of alcoholic residue.

ATTAR/OTTO

The word attar means scent, smoke or essence and is used to signify distilled Rose oil, as opposed to Rose absolute which is derived by solvent extraction. Vast amounts of petals are required to yield even a small quantity of oil (3000:1), which makes this oil extremely precious.

RESINOIDS

Resinoids are derived from resinous exudates such as gums, oleo resins or balsams. They are obtained by means of hydrocarbon solvent extraction.

USESENFLUERAGE

This method is probably one of the most ancient techniques used to extract essential oils. Traditionally, it was employed in the production of floral creams and lotions known as pomades. To make a pomade a sheet of glass is coated with a specially treated type of odour-free fat, called chassis. Freshly cut flowers are spread on the sheet and as they dry, their volatile oils become fixed in the chassis. More flowers are added until the fatty base is completely saturated, at which point it is called a pomade. An alcohol treatment is used to separate the volatile oil from the fatty base to produce an absolute.

SAFETY GUIDLINES

Pure essential oils are highly concentrated substances which should always be treated with due respect.
Organic oils naturally are the purest oils available.
Familiarize yourself thoroughly with the properties and uses of each individual oil you intend to use and take note of all cautions.
Never take essential oils internally.
Do not apply essential oils neat (undiluted) to the skin. The recommended Aromatherapy standard dilution is 1-3%, though certain oils may be used in higher or lower dilutions. Consider each case individually.
Always adhere to recommended safety standards and recommended dilution ratios.
If you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies, test oil blends on a small area of the inner arm prior to general use.
Keep oils out of reach of children and pets.
Never allow essential oils to enter the eyes.
Keep away from fire.
If you are pregnant, consult a qualified aromatherapist for suitability and safety of specific oils. Many oils should not be used during pregnancy, some only need to be avoided for the first 3-4 months, others may be helpful during labour, but may pose a risk during the months before.
If you suffer from serious medical conditions such as (but not exclusively) high blood pressure, cancer, thrombosis, varicose veins or epilepsy, consult a qualified aromatherapist for professional advice on recommended oils and dosages.
We support the notion of people taking responsibility for their own well being. However, if symptoms persist or re-occur or you are suffering from a serious medical condition, or if you are presently taking prescription drugs, we recommend that you consult a qualified doctor or practitioner before attempting to treat yourself. Look for a practitioner/doctor who you can trust and who is prepared to work with you in exploring natural health alternatives.