Essential Oils Versus Fixed Oils
What are Fixed Oils?
Fixed oils play an important role in aromatherapy. However, it is also largely used in other industries such as food, toiletries, or when making aromatherapy oil blends. In aromatherapy, fixed oils are combined with essential oils so it is safe to use during massage or any method of application that involved direct skin contact.
Fixed oils are often extracted from vegetable origin, such as nuts or seeds of the botanical source. There are various methods undergone in order to extract the fatty portion of the plant to be used as fixed or carrier oil in aromatherapy. However, experts suggest using the cold pressed method since it is the one that would enable the preservation of the oil quality due to the lack of heat element.
Fixed or Carrier Oils
Properties of Fixed Oils
Fixed oils are also commonly referred to as vegetable or base oils. So, don't let the terminology confuse you. Despite the application on other industries, it is generally limited to the practice of aromatherapy. This is due to the properties contain in fixed oils that enable them to provide natural skin care treatment.
Fixed oils contain a lot of helpful nutrients such as minerals, antioxidants, and fat soluble vitamins. The type of nutrient you acquire depends on the type of fixed oil used. Most fixed oils lack their own scent or aroma. And if they do contain such aromas, it is usually very subtle. This quality is important since fixed oils are often combined with essential oils during aromatherapy application to avoid competing with the latter's aroma.
Difference Between Essential Oils
Clearly establishing the difference between fixed and essential oils is important since each one play an important role in aromatherapy. Unlike essential oils, fixed oils are not volatile. Meaning, they do not evaporate rapidly even when under normal temperature or pressure. It rather acts as a “carrier oil” in aromatherapy that will enable the properties of the essential oil to be easily absorbed by your body and produce the healing action. In addition to that, carrier oils are important in diluting the concentration of the essential oil to avoid developing harsh reactions.
What is NOT Fixed Oils
In the market, you will find lots of petroleum byproducts such as petroleum jelly or mineral oil that contain similar properties as fixed oils. However, they are not the same and the former are not safe to use in aromatherapy. Instead of being produced from organic botanical sources, mineral oils or petroleum byproducts are chemically altered and manufactured. Therefore, it is inexpensive as compared to fixed and essential oils
Some of the Most Popular Fixed Oils
The most common types of fixed oils are those that are derived from a vegetable plant origin. Generally, they are odorless but can emit a faint nutty aroma. If it brings out a strong and pungent aroma, then it might have gone rancid so you need to really pay attention to its aroma. Meanwhile, here are some of the most commonly used fixed oils in aromatherapy:
- sweet almond
- borage seed
- rose hip
- evening primrose
- hemp seed
- fractionated coconut
- apricot kernel, etc.
Buying Guide for Fixed Oils
As the trend of using essential oils in aromatherapy continues, carrier or fixed oils are now becoming highly accessible in your local health stores. But you cannot simply go in there and pick up the one you find first. You need to take a few things into consideration to ensure that you get a good type of fixed oil.
You can ask the staff of the health shop about the method of extraction used for the fixed oil. It has to use the cold pressed method to ensure that it was produced from natural fatty portions of the botanical source instead of using heat. Price is also a good indicator and you cannot expect all types of carrier oils to be priced the same. After all, they are extracted from different plant source, undergo different processes, and have different properties in them. In connection with the price, organically extracted fixed oils cost more than the conventional counterparts. It really should inspire suspicion if a specific oil costs less than you would normally expect.
Carrier or fixed oils are often more fragile than their essential oil counterparts. Hence, you need to observe proper storage options if you intend to store them over a given period of time. Here are some important guidelines on how you can properly store and preserve your fixed oils for a longer use:
- Use dark colored glass bottles for storing carrier or fixed oils, such as with essential oils. Make sure to use tight fitting tops to keep the oils enclosed and avoid other environmental substances from entering the bottle and spoiling the oil.
- You can also opt to use plastic bottles when storing fixed oils, something of which is not allowed when storing essential oils. However, this is probably especially if you intend to use fixed oils shortly upon purchase.
- To prolong the shelf life of carrier or fixed oils, you can store it inside the refrigerator. One such example is borage seed oil. Avoid storing avocado oil inside your refrigerator, however.
- If you do store the fixed oil inside a refrigerator, it can solidify. So, take out the oil from the refrigerator a few hours before you intend to use it to allow it to return to room temperature and go back to its liquid form.
Rancidity of Fixed Oils
Make sure to take note of proper storage options for carrier or fixed oils as indicated above since most of these oils turn rancid quickly. This is due to the presence of various substances such as natural fatty acids and tocopherols, the extraction methods, and the overall characteristic of the oil that is different from essential oil, which also account to the period it takes for an oil to become rancid.
Avoid using carrier or fixed oils that emit an aroma that is stronger than usual since it might have already gone rancid. At this point, you would no longer want to use the oil since it can potentially be harmful. If possible, compare the aroma of a fixed oil you suspect to be rancid against another oil of the same botanical source that is relatively new. For added assurance, go for fixed oils that are unadulterated and is extracted only from natural sources. You can go for fixed oils that contain vitamin E since it helps to naturally preserve and extend the shelf life of the oil.