What is aromatherapy?
Simply put, aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils to improve one’s health. It is also field of healthcare practiced by professional aromatherapists. This branch of medicine is well established in Europe, and is gaining recognition in North America.
Plant based therapy and the use of essential oil has been practiced by people around the world for thousands of years. However, the actual word “aromatherapy” was coined in 1928 by a French chemist when he popularized the use of lavender essential oil to heal burns and reduce scarring.
The most important aromatherapy concept to understand is that treatment is centered on the administration of pure essential oils. Synthetically fragrance products and/or fragrance oils have no place in aromatherapy because they have no therapeutic value.
Another key concept to understand is aromatherapy means more than “smelling something to feel good.” Aromatherapists are interested in the medicinal properties of the plant oils, not just the scent.
How does aromatherapy work?
To practice aromatherapy essential oils need to enter the bloodstream, lymph fluids and interstitial fluids (a liquid surrounding all body cells).
There are two routes into the body:
Oils are breathed in through the lungs via normal respiration or steam vaporization.
Oils are absorbed by the skin via massaging, bathing, compress, spot treatment, mouth rinse, etc.
Essential oils should never be ingested, unless prescribed by a licensed aromatherapist.
Once in the bloodstream and body fluids, the essences have pharmacological effects, acting as immunostimulants and bio-catalysts. After triggering their healing benefits, the aromatic molecules are rapidly excreted from the body via the skin, sweat, urine, feces, or exhalation.
Now, let’s look at a few examples of aromatherapy in practice. As you will see, aromatherapy need not be complicated to get positive results. Note that the method of application best fits the problem.
- Dabbing tea tree essential oil onto a pimple to kill bacteria.
- Massaging peppermint oil onto the abdomen to relieve indigestion.
- Soaking in a bath with clary sage oil to regulate blood pressure.
- Inhaling steam diffused basil essential oil to remedy depression.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic substances found in the glandular cells of plants and flowers. The term “essential” refers to the fact that the oil has the characteristic aroma (essence) of the part of the plant from which it is derived.
Most plants produce a single essence, such is the case with chamomile. Chamomile essential oil is only contained in the flowering tops of the plant.
However, some plants produce multiple essences. For example, the orange tree has 3 different essential oils (essences) found in 3 distinct parts of the plant. The fruit peel produces a sweet, fruity smelling essence known simply as orange. The blossoms produce a rich, floral smelling essence know as neroli. The leaves & twigs produce a fresh, herbaceous smelling oil known as petitgrain.
At Botanical Me, we only use essential oils to scent our products. We do not use synthetic fragrances. Botanical Me chooses to use essential oils because they smell wonderful and have health benefits.
Do all plants have essential oils?
NO! Many plants do not contain essential oils. Do not be fooled! ust because a plant has a smell does not mean it produces an essential oil. Confused? Let’s explore this further by looking at the example of the peach.
Indeed, a real peach fruit smells wonderful and sweet. However, for whatever reason of mother-nature, peaches do not contain an essential oil. Sure, peaches have juice, but juice is not essential oil. Instead, the “peachy” smell comes from hundreds of un-capturable molecules. There is no definitive aromatic substance (oil or liquid) that can be collected.
If a product is peach scented, it is almost certainly synthetic chemical fragrance, trying to mimic the smell of a peach.
A few more examples of plants/fruits that do not produce essential oils are: apples, coconuts, lilac, honeysuckle, freesia, cranberries, cantaloupes, bananas and strawberries.
What do essential oils look like?
Some essences are thin and water-like, others are thick and sticky. Some are even solid or semi-solid. Essential oils are not really oils in the sense that they do not feel “greasy” and will evaporate when exposed to air.
How are essential oils obtained?
The three most common methods for capturing essential oils are:
knowledge_eointro_steam.jpgThe most common process used to obtain essences is steam distillation. The resulting substance is what is known as essential oil.
The plant materials are placed in a large vat and heat in the form of steam is passed through them, causing their oil-containing glands to rupture. The plant oils then vaporize with the steam into a collection container where it cools back to a liquid state. Essential oils are insoluble, thus they float on the surface and are easily separated from the water.
This method is used for delicate plants such as jasmine, where the heat from steam distillation would destroy the essential oil. Solvent extraction is also a preferred method for low yielding plants such as rose, where steam distillation is not as economical.
The aromatic material is extracted from the plant via a multi-step process which involves using a solvent, an alcohol, and a series of vacuum distillation, agitation, freezing and filtering techniques. The resulting fragrant product is called an absolute.
Essences collected in this way are squeezed (expressed) from the rind or peel of a citrus fruit.
Why do certain essential oils cost more than others?
The huge variation in the price of different essential oils reflects above all, the volume of material available, transportation cost, growing conditions and crop yield. For example, it takes vast quantities of hand-picked, tiny jasmine petals from India to produce just a few drops of jasmine oil. In contrast, the US farms produce tons of domestically grown oranges that hold large amounts of oil in their rinds.
What’s the difference between essential oils and synthetic fragrances?
Essential oils come from plants. They have medicinal properties and are useful for human healthcare.
Synthetic fragrances come from synthetic petroleum chemicals. They do not come from plants. They have no medicinal value. Their sole purpose is to lend scent to a product.
Botanical Me products DO NOT contain synthetic fragrances. We create 100% of our aromas with pure essential oils. Botanical Me is one of the few companies that refuses to use synthetic fragrances.
Consumers should be aware many products on the market, even those sold at health stores labeled “natural” are scented with fragrance oils, or a combination of synthetic fragrance oils and essential oils. Unfortunately, there is lack of regulation in the use of the terms botanical, natural and essential oil. Thus, companies often purposely misuse these words to make their product appear more wholesome. The most effective way to distinguish the good from the bad is to familiarize your nose with how real plant oils smell, and learn which plants do not have essential oils so you can spot the fakes.
That said, the table below outlines some of the main reasons companies use synthetic fragrances to scent their products.
Synthetic Fragrances vs. Essential Oils
Synthetic Fragrances Essential Oils
Cost effective, inexpensive Often very costly.
Long shelf life, non-perishable Can lose potency after 1-2 years.
Consistent chemical make-up Profile changes from crop to crop depending on climate/growing conditions.
Readily available Subject to short supply due to crop failure or high demand. Often sourced from remote international locations.
Can synthetically mimic any fragrance imaginable Limited options. Many desirable plants, fruits and flowers do not produce essential oil.
Consumers should be aware there are disadvantages to using products containing synthetic fragrances. A synthetic fragrance may contain up to 200 chemical components which can put stress on the body and immune system. Some of the more common side-effects include skin reactions, respiratory allergies and headaches.
One of Botanical Me’s goals is to educated consumers on the undesirable attributes of synthetic fragrances. Thus, we are committed to creating the purest, most therapeutic products anywhere. Botanical Me products contain essential oils not only because they smell amazing, but more importantly because they are welcomed by the body and promote good health.
Essential oils have restorative effects and help strengthen the immune system while fighting infection and disease. Most every essential oil is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Well documented scientific studies and practical application in the form of aromatherapy prove essential oils have amazing impact on the body. They can regulate hormones and blood pressure, help acne and skin disorders, treat stomach ailments and ease psychological conditions.
Many people who normally cannot tolerate scents or have adverse reactions to perfumed products are able to use and enjoy Botanical Me products because there is no synthetic component to trigger an allergy.