Practical and Useful Facts about Scented Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

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Egyptian Queen Cleopatra relied on essential oils for cosmetics, healing and seduction.
Egyptian Queen Cleopatra relied on essential oils for cosmetics, healing and seduction. | Source

Historical and Practical Facts about Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

It is important to know the historical and practical facts about aromatherapy or the practice of using essential oils for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Aromatherapy is defined as the use of essential oils to effectively cleanse, protect, heal and revitalize the body and spirit. When used correctly, essential oils are helpful both therapeutically and for pleasure. When used incorrectly, very unpleasant affects, sickness and even death, can be the result.

It is a well known fact that the use of essential scented oils in healing, as perfumes and in rituals can be traced back thousands of years. The essential oils have been described in scrolls dating from 1500 B.C. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed the essential oils were delivered by the gods and they respected the medicinal value they felt were derived from their use.

The revered ancient Indian herbal and healing texts, the Ayruvedas, were writings that included the use of essential oils for healing, balance, purification and overall holistic health. Much of the text of the Ayruvedas particularly favored using the essential oils derived from the native plants that produce the essential oils of sandalwood, rose, and jasmine. Because of the belief that the sense of smell is linked to the sixth sense, this may have inspired the proliferation of the use of aromatherapy in the early Indian culture and may have given a patient a heightened receptiveness to using aromas as a form of medicine.

The Egyptians were skilled at extracting, blending and applying the use of essential oils in their everyday lives. It is thought that oils played a large part in Cleopatra's seduction of Mark Antony in her efforts to retain her power and save her kingdom.

Oil residues have been found in Egyptian mummy wrappings, suggesting that the oils were used in mummification, making them as important to Egyptian belief in the afterlife as they were to the living.

By the 14th Century, references to aromatic essential oils began to show up in the writings of Monks, the learned men of that time, whose principle occupation was to transcribe texts into Latin. Much like our pharmacists today, the Monks provided specific recipes and dispensed potions and concoctions for ailments ranging from headaches to aching joints and from acne to breast reduction. The recipes were usually paired with an incantation or chant during preparation - blending the herbs and oils with other ingredients - and/or during the application of concoction.

Probably many of the herbal recipes and remedies transcribed by the Monks were obtained from the ancient mixtures and potions of essential oils developed by the Celtic people. It is just as probable that the early herbalist and aromatherapist of the Middle Ages were the women and men who were labeled as witches and burned at the stake because of their practices.

The belief in the effectiveness of aromatic herbs was ingrained in the lives of the 14th, 15th and 16th Century European, so much so that during the Plague, writings describe the use of aromatherapy to combat the deadly disease. Massive fires were built in the towns and villages in strategic areas such as the common entrance to the village or the middle of the village square and essential oils - or their plant derivatives such as juniper or cypress - were thrown into the fires. "Smoking" the patient was one of the earliest forms of administering some of the aromatic recipes and these bonfires represented "smoking" a large number of patients at once. It was believed the vapors would destroy the bad air that contributed to the Plague and that the inhalation of the fragrances from the essential oils would cure the body.

It was also during the 15th and 16th Century that one herb in particular became popular both as a fragrance and as a healing source. Patchouli oilwas not extracted from a plant native to Europe, but rather was introduced during trade with India. The nobility became aware of the oil because of their penchant for silks. The silks were packed in patchouli leaves to protect the fabric and the scent clung to the fabric. Its earthy, exotic scent caused the Europeans to believe it must also have healing properties. In truth, it was used in Ayruvedic practice for its healing property.

Patchouli essential oil rose to popularity as a fragrance in incense and as a body fragrance again during the sixties and early seventies.

Although essential oils had been used therapeutically for centuries, it was Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who first used the term aromatherapy in the early 1900s when he recognized the healing properties of the essential oils. The term spread when he published his book, Aromatherapie in 1928. Others soon followed with research substantiating Rene-Maurice's and the centuries old beliefs that there were healing properties to be found in using aromatherapy therapeutically.

Modern researchers in Ireland have found that some essential oils are proving to be beneficial in combating the superbugs that are becoming such a potentially deadly problem in hospitals today. Cinnamon essential oil and thyme essential oil have both effectively killed the Staphylococcus germs on surfaces. This is leading doctors and researchers to explore putting the essential oils into lotions and bath products to minimize and possibly eliminate these superbugs. This is not a medical endorsement of using thyme and cinnamon essential oils for a medical problem without medical supervision, but rather is a report of what medical science is learning today that was probably known to the ancient cultures thousands of years ago.

Rose essential oil is often used in cosmetics, particularly perfumes and skin creams, as well as a part of healing aromatherapy..
Rose essential oil is often used in cosmetics, particularly perfumes and skin creams, as well as a part of healing aromatherapy.. | Source
Lavender essential oil is very popular for its fragrance and other properties.
Lavender essential oil is very popular for its fragrance and other properties. | Source

Therapeutic Grade Oils

Essential oils have been extracted from various parts of the plant, including the leaf, the petal, the bark, or the fruits of a plant. Extraction can take on a variety of forms, as well. For example, essential oils extracted from a seed are usually obtained after the seed has been crushed. For some plants, the orange for example, the oil came originate from various parts of the plant. In the case of the orange, oils are obtained from the blossom or the skin of the fruit or the leaves. For that reason, extraction will take various forms - crushing the petals and leaves or mashing the peeling.

When searching for essential oils, be advised that there are differences in oils. Therapeutic grade oils are preferable. When using therapeutic grade oils, you are purchasing true oils, not oils that have been manufactured and synthesized to smell like true oils. Neither the potency nor the efficacy will be there. While the scent may be close, the scent will not be authentic.

Therapeutic grade organic oils in are increasingly in demand since the plants are free of pesticides, which means the oils will not contain potentially harmful contaminants.

When you purchase essential oils, be aware that therapeutic oils will cost more than synthesized oils. In addition, the price of oils will also vary according to the availability of the parent plant and the difficulty in extracting the oil, combined with the yield from that particular plant.

There are over 400 types of oils that can be blended into any number of fragrances. However, when the application of the oils is therapeutic, there are specific oils and specific combinations that are purported to yield specific results, generally increasing the oil's potency. For example, lavender oil is known to be calming; citrus oil is energizing. It would be rare to see them as a therapeutic combination. However, lavender might be paired with vanilla to enhance the calming effect of both.

Eucalyptus oil and rosemary oil is another example of a combination that you would rarely see. Both have analgesic properties; both have very strong distinctive scents, consequently one would probably be prescribed over the other. However, eucalyptus oil might be combined with lavender oil to soothe and relax as it enhances breathing.

It is important to be aware that while we are accustomed to think of an oil as a liquid with a thick viscosity, pure, undiluted essential oils generally have the consistency of water and evaporate easily. Because light will often change the oil's chemistry resulting in a change in its smell and effectiveness, you will see oils packaged in dark or opaque ceramic bottles and stored in cool, dry places to prevent evaporation and spoilage.


Carrier Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be expensive. In its purist form, the oils may damage the skin if applied directly. Consequently, mixing essentialoils with an odorless oil is necessary. These oils are referred to as carrier oils. Carrier oils have varying viscosity and are generally odorless. They often have therapeutic properties of their own which also helps to increase the potency and efficacy of the essential oil. If you are serious about using essential oils as part of your aromatherapy or solely as a fragrance, the following are carrier oils that are commonly used:

  • argon oil - relatively new to the United States, argon oil has little to no odor. It is therapeutic for hair and for skin. One drawback of using argon oil is that it is also rare and can be expensive.
  • jojoba oil - the popularity of this oil really rose in the eighties. It can enhance the therapeutic properties of any essential oils which benefit the skin and treat such problems as eczema, acne and psoriasis. Jojoba promotes healthy hair and the essential oil you choose should complement jojoba and provide a pleasant scent.
  • olive oil - it is found in most kitchens and has properties that are beneficial to the skin and hair. It is also used in cosmetics and lotions.
  • Evening Primrose - its healing properties has been used for both health and skin issues. Some of the health issues include menopausal problems and heart diseases.
  • sweet almond oil - a most effective oil for dry skin, but it can actually be used on all skin types. It is especially good for relieving itching.

These are but a few of the carrier oils that are commonly available. The choice of carrier oil is yours or the aromatherapists. However, as you can see from some of the beneficial properties of carrier oils in their own right, combining with the right essential oil is important to healing.

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Consult an Herbalist or Aromatherapist

Working with essential oils can be fun, as well as beneficial. For instance, a few drops of fragrance oil in the bath will work wonders for the spirit and the body if the right oils are chosen. The benefits of a massage based on aromatherapy can be an exquisite, very therapeutic and relaxing. While most essentialoils are harmless, a very few are toxic. Because some individuals may be allergic to specific oils, it is always best to patch test the skin for reactions before using it extensively on the body or the hair.

Aromatherapists and herbalists are experts in the field of using herbs and essential oils as curatives and are well acquainted with the facts about using essential oils and aromatherapy. It is always best to consult one before embarking on self treatments. Besides, they can probably introduce you to combinations of essential oils and carrier oils that will be the most beneficial and they you may not have considered. Additional, consulting an aromatherapist can help you determine which essential oils may be contraindicated if you have a medical disease such as high blood pressure. Just remember, none of the information is to be taken as medical intervention or recommendations. Only a licensed, certified medical practitioner can do that.

Essential oils can be used during massages, as an inhalant, in baths, applied directly to the skin to relieve skin irritations or they can be used to fragrance the environment or the body. Special equipment, such as diffusers are available to disperse the fragrance in the air. Carrier oils are available to apply the oils to the skin. It is important to remember that there are hundreds of different oils with many different combinations producing many different effects, for example, using sage to clear a room or the mind. Sandalwood and patchouli oils can be seductive scents, as well as act as anti-inflammatories. Applied to the skin, neroli or orange blossom, can have a healing affect and when ingested can hep the digestive system. The list of benefits of each essential oil stretches on.

Essential oils are not only important health additions to our lives, but they are also enjoyable as fragrances in their own right, making it well worth it to explore and learn the facts using essential oils as aromatherapy. The fact is that the use of essential oils can contribute to our overall well being.

Contents Copyright 2011: Cynthia Turner

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Comments 59 comments

ALUR profile image

ALUR 5 years ago from USA

Very informative! I'm a fan of natural remedies. I've happened upon the wonders of coconut oil(concentrated from reputable health stores) and how it's oil is a wonder for healing dry skin and scalp. I'm also encouraged by your article to try some oils for depression and other things that I face...

Come visit my hubs for sure!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello Alur, Thank you so much for reading. Aromatherapy can find a place in holistic medicine for anyone. An aromatherapist can probably recommend many different types of oils to address many needs. You're right about coconut oil being wonderful for dry skin and scalp. I've used it as well.


jami l. pereira 5 years ago

I loved this read , very useful and informative ! i use essential oils daily in my small green business . I voted this all the way up and am sharing it with my followers too !have a great evening :)


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I am so glad you found this useful, Jami. I also use essential oils and enjoyed the research. Thank you so much for reading and sharing.


mljdgulley354 profile image

mljdgulley354 5 years ago

Thank you for posting this information. I used essential oils to come out of a very debilitating disease. I am a firm believer in the healing aspect of essential oils


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you so much for reading and for posting your testimonial to the healing properties of essential oils.


Healthy Fat Guy profile image

Healthy Fat Guy 5 years ago from Cincinnati, OH

Great read. I've always been into herbal supplements and can vouch for their effectiveness. Essential oils would seem like another logical step to take.

After all, ancient cultures had the same brain we have.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I agree with you about ancient cultures. In fact, the healthcare industry is finding that there is so much value in the methods and remedies they once dismissed. I'm very happy you read the hub. Thank you.


starstream profile image

starstream 4 years ago from Northern California

Wonderful hub. I love lavender oil especially if I get a migraine. It is such a great natural resource. This is very well done!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello Starstream, thank you so much for reading the hub. There are so many oils and so many combination that can come from them, with so many uses it's overwhelming. I appreciate the feedback!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 4 years ago

Great information. Thanks for tracing the history of essential oils. I use some of the carrier oil as a night-time moisturizer. Rated up.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Anginwu, I'm glad you learned some new information. Many of the carrier oils are readily available and are great to use as moisturizer for skin and hair. Thank you for reading. I appreciate it.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

Cyndi10 what great information and a very useful hub...

thank you for sharing and caring huh?


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Frank, Always appreciate your feedback.Thanks for reading.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

I love using essential oils. After developing some chemical allergies, I found these natural essential oils are much better alternatives for skin care and as air freshener! Great hub!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello Kris, Thank you so much for reading. I like using the oils as the fragrance of choice, mixed or a single scent.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Great information, Cyndi! I knew the ancients used essential oils, but I did not know they were still used in the 1920s. I found it so interesting to see a book was published in 1928 - I just wonder how it was received? I am sure some areas of the country had no idea what to do with it. LOL I have an herbalist in Eureka Springs, Ark, who just amazes me. I go there once a year, take her advice, load up on herbs and oils and am set for the year.

Voted up, interesting, useful, and awesome. Thanks for SHARING!!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Wow what a great hub! So informative!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia Author

I'm so glad you found the information to be useful. There is so much I don't know, but I keep seeing how useful and helpful herbs can be. How great that you found someone you can turn to for your herbs and advice. I keep learning. Thank you so much for commenting and for sharing.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it!


Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 4 years ago from trailer in the country

I can practically smell the oils as I am reading....great hub...thanks for writing it...I am rating up for useful and interesting.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello Enlydia, thank you for taking a moment to read and comment about the oils. I love the smells, too, and enjoyed the research for the one.


Londonlady profile image

Londonlady 4 years ago

I like how the role of perfumes has not DRASTICALLY changed over the centuries. For example, you say that Cleopatra used it for seduction, cosmetics, and healing and I can definitely relate to that. Seduction if we're feeling flirty one day, cosmetics because we want to smell nice all the time anyway, and healing because it can be applied to aromatherapy like heating lavender oils at night or putting them in your bathwater. This is really a great hub!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia Author

What would we do without our sense of smell? No romance, maybe. Even living in caves, the sense of smell was probably instrumental in finding food. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment! Take care.


Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Hi Cyndi,

Wonderful information and great research my friend! As you know I adore these wonderful oils and they have such a history. You included excellent info n the correct grades to use and carrier oils are so important too! Well done on a really interesting and useful article for anyone keen on using these fragrant wonders of nature!

Up, useful and interesting. Shared on !


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 3 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Susie, Thanks so much for the approval. Although I love to read and write about essential oils, I think this is your niche and if it ranked well with you then, I got it right.

Thanks for commenting and sharing. I appreciate it.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Such a great hub Cyndi--I love lavender and use it frequently to calm and soothe--especially before bed---I have heard of argon oil but not used it yet


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 3 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Audrey, Definitely try the argon oil. It is great. I think it may be the lightest of all oils.

Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment. Take care.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

Wonderful hub! I so enjoyed reading this. I do like the aromatherapy oils and didn't know about carrier oils. And, including the history behind all this is interesting also. These oils do relax the body and mind. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 3 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you so much for taking a moment to read Facts about Essential Scented Oils and Aromatherapy. I enjoyed doing the research almost as much as I like aromatherapy. It is amazing what different scents will do for your mood and even your well being. I appreciate your comments.


Crystal Tatum profile image

Crystal Tatum 2 years ago from Georgia

Very thorough and interesting history. I love to use lavender oil to relax. I have also found peppermint oil can help relieve a headache. And apart from these practical applications, I just feel better when I wear essential oils, comforted somehow. I cannot wear perfume because it affects my sinuses, so essential oils are a better option for me. Well done on this.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello Crystal, Thank you for taking a look at the article. Essential oils are wonderful. Some of the scents are exciting, some are so calming and then the mixtures can be just wonderful. My favorite is patchouli for any reason.

I'm glad to read your comments. Take care.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Wow! I didn't realize essential oils had such a history! Good research on aromatherapy. They "smoked" the people to get rid of the plague? Interesting!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello Rebecca, Yeah. Their thoughts about the plague were odd, but that was all they had. Essential oils played a huge role in "medicine" throughout the ages. Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment. Take care.


parrster profile image

parrster 2 years ago from Oz

Thanks for this. Do to chronic illness, I have been introduced to essential oils and regularly use them as par of my recovery regime. Your article helped me understand their benefits more clearly. Voted up and useful.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

I'm glad that what I wrote may be useful for you. There can be many benefits to using essential oils. Thank you for the votes up and useful.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A helpful hub wit h such interesting facts here. You certainly thought of a great idea. Most relaxing and thoughtful for any individual to share an interest in essential oils.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello DDE, I'm so glad you took a moment to read about essential oils. I really like the variety of fragrances and the mixes that essential oils offer. Thanks so much for leaving a comment.


Scarlettohairy profile image

Scarlettohairy 2 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

I love to make a spray with essential oils for a natural home refresher.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Still a great article Cyndi!


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

Hi Cyndi, this is a very good and comprehensive article on essential oils. I tend to forget that people who lived centuries ago had active trade routes, and really did have access to exotic plants. Voted up and shared.


DealForALiving profile image

DealForALiving 2 years ago from Earth

Aromatherapy and essential oils are so interesting because they're natural solutions to real-world daily problems.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello Scarlettohairy, Yes, when you make you own, you omit the possibility of harmful chemicals sprayed in the air and you can mix the fragrance you want. Thanks so much for leaving me a comment!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello Audrey, good to hear from you! I hope the writing is flowing! Take good care.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello ologsinquito, yes, they did have access to exotic plants and used them for a variety of purposes. I imagine some of what they advocated was cutting edge for their time. I appreciate the comment, vote and share. Take care!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello DealForALiving, Yes, aromatherapy and essential oils can be natural solutions for some of our pesky problems, medical and others. Besides, I love fragrances and with essential oils there is no exposure to harmful added chemicals just because you want your room to smell wonderful. Thanks for leaving a comment! Take care.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very interesting and useful hub. I haven't tried aromatherapy before, but I'm very tempted to after reading this article. Thanks for sharing the information.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello AliciaC, Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. I think you can find some interesting results with aromatherapy. Take care.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 23 months ago from sunny Florida

Cyndi I have just begun to explore the world of essential oils. My friend is going to have a mini workshop for us as she is heavy into it.

I learned so much from reading this and now wish to know even more.

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 23 months ago from Georgia Author

I wish I could attend your friend's workshop. I don't profess to know as much as I would like to know about essential oils. I was moved to right the article because I know how beneficial oils can be and because I love fragrances of most kinds.

I'd love to hear how the workshop goes. In the meantime, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Have a healthy and creative year!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 22 months ago from England

Hi Cyndi, I love essential oils, so this was fascinating reading, I haven't used any for ages, makes me want to get back to them, great read and I learned something new!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 22 months ago from Georgia Author

Hi Nell, They are great aren't they. There are so many ways to use them, not just for fragrances. But the fragrances are the best! I can get lost in just smelling them! There are some wonderful brands of really pure oils. Get back to using them.

Thanks for the feedback and I'm so pleased you learned something new. Take care!


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

thanks for the remedies, I believe this oils can make someone feel at ease and knock out insomnia readers


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 22 months ago from Georgia Author

Hello peachpurple, Thank you for stopping to read and leave a comment. Lavender can be especially soothing for insomniacs and help aid in sleep. Take care.


Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah-Diane 22 months ago from Orange County, California

Wonderful hub. I already use most of the oils on your list, and may try the others. Thanks for the info.


Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah-Diane 22 months ago from Orange County, California

Wonderful hub. I already use most of the oils on your list, and may try the others. Thanks for the info.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 22 months ago from Georgia Author

Hello Deborah, Thanks so much for reading about the oils and for leaving a comment.


Gina Welds-Hulse profile image

Gina Welds-Hulse 3 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

Great hub. As an herbalist and aromatherapy consultant, I use essential oils daily. With enough advocacy, essential oils should become the go-to for anything from perfumes to pain management.

Keep writing and posting this information. The world needs it. Feel free to pop over and visit.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 3 months ago from Georgia Author

Hi Gina, Thank you so much for such a positive comment, especially given that you are an herbalist and aromatherapy consultant. I'm glad I got it right. Take care. Cyndi

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