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Aromatherapy Essential Oils--Medicinal and Fragrant

Updated on May 11, 2011

Ancients and Moderns Rush for the Oil

As long ago as 4500 B.C.E., the Egyptians used perfumed oils in embalming practices. Archeological finds today attest to the value of that. In fact, several other ancient cultures used essential oils and extracts in their healing regimens, including Greeks, Hindus, and Israelites. Also, today these wonderful oils are used for more than perfume and preservation. They are used in aromatherapy medicinally, touted as effective treatments in lifting the mood, elevating the mental state, and enlivening the spirit. Not only that, but they are used in a number of other ways in health and well being.

The essential oils or volatile oils, as they are also called, are extracted from aromatic plants, trees, and grasses. These include flowers, fruit, leaves, berries, bark resin, cones, rhizomes, and grass roots. There are different ways to obtain the oils, including steam distilling, expressing, and solvent extraction processes. As you might guess, some of these processes are quite arduous. For example, jasmine and rose flowers must be picked early in the morning before sunrise to prevent the sun from drying out the precious oils. Sandalwood from heartwood must be at least 30 years mature and over 9 feet tall before it can be cut and used for distilling. The various extremes in growing and harvesting the oils stands to reason that some perfumes are so expensive! It has been noted that jasmine oil talks 8 million hand-picked blossoms to get just 1 liter or 1 3/4 pints of oil. Oh, don't even breathe the word spill! By comparison, lavender is much less expensive to produce and 220 pounds of dried flowers will yield 5 pints of oil.

Jasmine and lavender are essential oils, along with sandalwood, tea tree, peppermint, chamomile, eucalyptus, geranium, rosemary, frankincense, lemon, and thyme, and others. As I go over the list in my mind, I don't know whether I want to start cooking or pick out a wonderful fragrance. That is the nature of these essential oil aromas.

Some Essential Oils in Aromatherapy

Rosemary
Rosemary
Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus
Lavender
Lavender
Tea Tree
Tea Tree
Orange
Orange
Frankincense
Frankincense
Cinnamon
Cinnamon
Chamomile
Chamomile

Not Just For A Hot Soothing Bath

Beyond the bathtub, which is one of the easiest ways to enjoy aromatherapy, are there really therapeutic benefits in medicine? Do these essential oils have a place in your medicine cabinet? Experts in aromatherapy say they do. Valerie Ann Worwood says, in her book The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, the following essential oils make the the foundation. 

"Basic Care Kit"

Lavender: Good for treating burns, as a natural antibiotic, antiseptic, and antidepressant. Also, has shown benefits as sedative and in detoxification, as well as immune stimulation.

Tea Tree: With antiseptic properties but nonpoisonous, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, it is used to treat candida, ringworm, acne, athlete's foot, and even toothache.

Peppermint: Improves digestion, respiration, circulation, and fights inflammation, plus fights fatigue and bad breath.

Chamomile: It is antibacterial, antiseptic, and disinfectant with qualities good for antiinflammation, diuresis, analgesia, and with sedative property is used for insomnia.

Eucalyptus: This oil brings versatility to the table acting as a coolant on the skin in summer and protector in the wintertime. It is antiinflammatory, antiseptic, antibiotic, and analgesic. Did I mention that it is used as a deodorizer as well?

Geranium: Regarded as beneficial for the emotions and helping with menopause, diabetes, throat infections, and nerve tonic.

Rosemary: Noted as a physical and mental stimulant, even helping with memory loss. It is used in a morning bath for musculoskeletal complaints like sprains, arthritis, rheumatism, depression, and fatigue. Okay it would be just as good for a bath at the end of the day, not to mention its value in cooking.

Thyme: Now this one comes with a precaution, as not all varieties are medicinal in use. Those that are have antiviral, antibiotic, antiseptic and diuretic qualities but should be used with caution not to overuse since it could stimulate the thyroid or lymphatic system. Moderation is the key. Also, it should never be applied directly to the skin undiluted at all. It is a flu-season fighter as a room diffuser. It helps rid the body of toxic waste and is good for warts, neuralgia, fatigue and acne. Again, this is in addition to its use in the kitchen.

Lemon: As a water purifier, it also is used in blends for synergy with other oils. It is good for insect bites. It can help keep you slim and trim, as it disperses cellulite and fights wrinkles to boot. Lastly, it has a clean-smelling fragrance that is most welcome.

Clove: Never use on the skin undiluted, but is antibacterial, antiseptic, and analgesic. It is valued for preventing diseases and infections. Also, it is used for toothaches, asthma, and insomnia.

Carriers Deliver the Essentials

Now essential oils are not to be confused with carrier oils, which are used to deliver (blend with) these wonderful essential oils intact. A few carrier oils are macerated oils like calendula, hypericum (St. John's wort), and carrot root or cold pressed ones like olive, sesame, and sunflower oils.

Closers and Cautions

This is not a complete list of essential oils but some of the basic ones. You could learn more about using carriers and blending oils to compound benefits later by consulting references listed on the subject. For now, I just want to have a cup of chamomile tea before retiring from a long day!

It should be noted that there is a general caution to make a skin test on the inside of the elbow or wrist in a very small spot before employing any of the above treatments and that in some instances results could take up to 7 hours.

This is not an endorsement for aromatherapy or any other kind of treatment. Sharing information is the only purpose intended.

All pics reproduced from The Complete Guide to Natural Healing.

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    • Cassidella profile imageAUTHOR

      Cassidella 

      7 years ago

      I agree HealthyHanna that aromatherapy is interesting and with your point about what we can do to relieve stress being worth the effort. Some of the essential oils are not that expensive and many of the herbs can be grown in or around your home to enjoy them in aromatherapy.

    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 

      7 years ago from Utah

      I think aromatherapy is very interesting. It is something some don't take seriously because it is so suttle. In today's stress filled world, anything we can do to lessen the stress is worth it.

    • Cassidella profile imageAUTHOR

      Cassidella 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by anglnwu. The pics are all from the reference cited in the article. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 

      8 years ago

      Great pictures and your list is very comprehensive. Thanks for the enjoyable read.

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