Essential oils are highly concentrated substances that come to us from the plant world; specifically from the leaves, flowers, roots and fruits of aromatic plants. The amount of plant material it takes to produce an oil varies, but to give a rather dramatic example, 1000 pounds or 3.6 million jasmine flowers are needed to create one pound of Jasmine oil. And rose oil is even more concentrated, requiring over 10,000 pounds of rose petals to produce one pound of Rose oil! These two examples illustrate both why these oils can be expensive, and why, due to their concentrated nature, it's so important to use them with knowledge and care.

Dilute Before Using

Always dilute essential oils before applying to the skin, as applying them 'neat', (in their pure form), can cause skin irritation, rashes, and allergic reactions. Lavender and tea tree oils are often cited as being exceptions to this rule, but in most situations, diluting these oils is still the preferred method. A general rule of thumb is to add one drop of essential oil per teaspoon of high quality, cold pressed vegetable oil, such as sweet almond or grape seed oil. If you want to create an aromatherapy bath, add two to four drops to a warm (not hot) bath. If blending several oils together, treat the blend as a single oil; in other words, use no more than four drops of the blend in a bath, or one drop of the blend to a teaspoon of vegetable oil.

Patch Test

When trying out a new aromatherapy oil, it's a good idea to do a patch test first, especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies. Mix one drop of the oil you're testing into a teaspoon of base oil and dab a tiny amount on the inside of the arm or wrist area. Wait 24 hours to ensure no redness or irritation occurs.

Quality Matters

It's important to buy high quality oils, and not confuse essential oils with fragrance oils, which are synthetic, not natural products. Some products sold as pure oils are diluted in cheaper carrier oils or are adulterated in some other way. Again, read product labels carefully but be aware that labels may not disclose full information. Become familiar with the botanical names of the oils you want to use and never purchase an oil that is not labeled with the botanical name, as well as the common name.

Some Cautions

  • If you are pregnant or nursing, consult with your doctor before using aromatherapy.
  • Keep aromatherapy products out of reach of children and pets.
  • Keep essential oils away from your eyes and mucus membranes.
  • Be careful around furniture, as undiluted oils can damage varnished surfaces.
  • Citrus oils, such as lemon, tangerine, orange, bergamot and grapefruit are photosensitizing – which means they can induce sunburn. Do not use these oils before exposure to sunlight or tanning beds.
  • Do not use essential oils internally, unless under the supervision of a doctor or qualified practitioner. Remember that these oils are concentrated substances, and could be dangerous if ingested. Using the oils in massage or inhalation is safer and very effective.

Hopefully, this list of caveats will not put you off from experimenting with aromatherapy. Essential oils are versatile, powerful, emotionally and physically balancing, and of course, they smell fabulous. Enjoy experimenting with them. . . safely.