Essential oils and skin care – Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy dates back to ancient times. Many civilisations used *infused oils for both spiritual and medicinal uses. In many parts of the world aromatic plants have been and still are an integral part of rituals and healing practices. Holy perfumes that were mentioned in the bible were used for healing and to evoke a spiritual atmosphere and to heighten spiritual awareness. There are over 300 references regarding Aromatherapy in the bible. ‘Anoint your head with oil’ as written in the bible refers to a specific mix of Olive oil blended with the essential oils of Myrrh, Calamus, Cassia and Cinnamon.
On a spiritual level we are easily able to see that aromatherapy is effective. Now we have come to understand through chemical analysis that this is due often to the presence of psycho active plant substances. For example, ‘Frankincense’ contains a plant chemical known to open your mind, aid prayer, meditation and contemplation. It is also suggested in Eastern philosophy that Frankincense may free the flow of Qi energy (life force energy). Frankincense however is also recommended in aromatherapy as it is a very powerful anti-inflammatory, it is used for the respiratory system – asthmatic conditions as well as a valuable aid in anti ageing skin care. Each individual *essential oil may have many benefits.
Scientific tests are being employed today to determine the effect that essential oils have on our brain wave patterns and with the use of modern devices such as EEG’s we are able to see the brain’s response to the inhalation of oils.
We are finally gaining more in depth knowledge about our sense of smell. However if you open any anatomy and physiology book you will see very few pages dedicated to our sense of smell – compared to our other senses – sight, hearing etc. We know there are odour receptors in our nose that take messages through to the limbic system in our brain, which are related to our emotions and memory. Our entire nervous system is tapped when essential oils enter your body either through inhalation or direct skin contact.
Smell related emotions and behaviours are due to olfactory signals that have been received through nerve receptors receiving information from molecules in the air. The direct effect that smell can have on our hypothalamus suggests why aromatherapy is considered a very powerful tool when treating stress and anxiety related problems. Odours whether pleasing or unpleasant can and will affect our emotions.
Used in skin care Aromatherapy is a very powerful healing tool because the skin is so permeable essential oils are able to be carried through the layers of the skin into our blood stream.
In Egypt many references were made through hieroglyphics about the use of plant oils and herbs. They were considered so precious that pharaohs were buried with bottles and bottles of various precious oils.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine prescribed essential oils for healing over 2000 years ago.
Most of the medicines today were originally derived from plants, they were then synthetically recreated which is toxic to the body. Essential oils on the other hand are gentle and natural and our body knows how to work with plants and their chemical compounds.
Simply put, aromatherapy is the most effective form of plant-based medicine.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly volatile and highly concentrated essences derived from aromatic plants. They have many properties for example, to be used as a sedative, anti-inflammatory, tonic, stimulant, carminative, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and many more.
When we walk through a garden pick a piece of rosemary, mint or sage and rub it between our fingers, we inhale the aroma of that plant. When we cut a lemon or peel an orange, we can smell the essential oil scent from the fruit.
Essential oils are found in plants in the flowers, leaves, bark, wood, roots and peel. Some examples of essential oils obtained from;
- Flowers: Rose, Jasmine, Ylang Ylang, Orange Blossom, Geranium, Lavender, Tuberose
- Leaves: Tea Tree, Lemongrass, Petitgrain, Geranium, Lavender, Basil
- Bark: Cinnamon
- Wood: Sandalwood, Rosewood Gum Resins from the bark and wood: Myrrh, Frankincense
- Roots: Ginger, Vetiver
- Peel: Lime, Orange, Bergamot, Lemon, Grapefruit
The Bitter Orange Tree yields three different essential oils:
- Leaves produce ‘Petitgrain’ – recommended for skin blemishes and acne.
- Flowers produce ‘Neroli’ – recommended for helping to reduce stress, heart palpitations, dry skin.
- Fruit Peel produces ‘ Orange Oil’ – used in perfumery
To obtain Lavender essential oil the whole plant is often used – flowering tops, leaves & stem.
Individual essential oils have many properties eg. Frankincense is recommended for respiratory complaints and it is also particular useful in skin care valued for its tonic effect on mature skin.
Essential oils are stored in the ‘oil sacs’ or cell structures within the plant tissue. The type of structure will depend upon the species and family of the plant.
The more oil glands or ducts present in the plant, the higher the yield of the essential oil. The higher the yield – the less expensive the cost of the oil.
The yield or quantity and the quality of the essential oil will also be determined by the harvesting. The plant cycle will determine whether it is best to harvest in summer, spring etc to produce the highest yield. Factors including the amount of sunlight, temperature, air and soil humidity, sowing and harvesting times will affect the quantity and quality of the oil produced.
Certain plant chemicals are produced at different times within the cycle of the plant. Eg. Basil produces different plant chemicals at different stages of its growth cycle and more or less of a particular plant chemical may yield better oil for use in aromatherapy.
What are Cold Pressed Oils?
At Beauty By Nature we use Cold pressed oils that are obtained from the pressing of nuts and seeds to create our beautiful skin care products. No external heat (over 100 degress C) is used to extract the oil. Vegetable oils should be extracted without heat as higher temperatures destroy the valuable nourishing and nutritive properties of the oil. The majority of companies use commercially refined oils in cosmetic manufacture or worse still they use the by product of petroleum (listed on the back of a cosmetic bottle as ‘mineral’ oil). Most consumers are using commercially refined oils when they’re cooking without even realising it! Would you? Please read the following. My advice – always buy cold pressed oils in the kitchen.
Commercial refining of oils entails
DEGUMMING which removes the beneficial lecithin, chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper from the oil.
REFINING is when the oil is mixed with caustic soda which removes the free fatty acids, minerals and phospholipids from the oil.
BLEACHING at 110 degrees C removes chlorophyll and beta-carotene – toxic peroxides and conjugated fatty acids are formed.
DEODERISATION – Vitamin E is removed, aromatic oils, more fatty acids and tastes are removed. The oil is now odourless and tasteless and cannot be distinguished from other oils processed in the same way.
PRESERVATIVE AND WINTERISATION – antioxidants are added to replace the natural ones removed ie Vitamin E, beta-carotene etc. Defoamers are added before it is bottled and sold.
What are Blended Oils?
Blended oils are dynamic and carefully selected essential oil remedies combined in harmony for a specific use. When combining oils, a synergistic effect is obtained to enhance certain qualities of the oils. They may be blended with cold pressed oils for use in massage or in a bath, or they may be concentrated for use in an oil burner.
When blending oils an Aromatherapist will use varying amounts of specific essential oils. It is often difficult to distinguish any one scent in a blend. Blending is a creative and important aspect of Aromatherpay requiring a thorough knowledge of each oil as well as a clear understanding of the condition being treated – if it is being used for remedial application. To forumulate a blend to use as a perfume the ‘top note, middle note and base note’ theory is often used. The different notes attributed to essential oils are determined by the time that it takes for the nose and body to react to an aroma. Top note oils are the oils that first hit you when you smell a blend for the first time.
When blending oils for your own use do not blend more than two or three oils in the blend until experience has been gained. Always check the properties of each oil before using it as certain medical conditions may prevent the use of certain oils. eg. Rosemary Oil is not recommended for high blood pressure (although no clinical trials have been done recently to back up the claims that Rosemary oil is definitely a problem), and certain oils may trigger skin allergies.
What Are Fragrant Oils?
Fragrant oils do not have therapeutic properties because they are concocted in a test tube from many different chemical components. These oils are often copies of well known essential oils, fruits etc that are synthetically designed in a laboratory. They are often used in the perfume and cosmetic industry to enhance the smell of moisturisers. They are scented oils which are sometimes used in massage oils or in an oil burner, however they are not essential oils. They are often the cause of skin irritaton, dermatitis and in some cases may cause headaches and asthma. Most well know perfumes are now nothing more than synthetically designed fragrant chemicals and they do not have therapeutic qualities. There are not enough plants grown in the world to provide enough essential oils to go around! The cost of using essential oils are often prohibitive for most large companies and are not often required in their products as therapeutic benefits are not their main objective! There are some companies that do however use essential oils in their cosmetic formulations. Beauty By Nature Perfumes are created with pure essential oils.
What are Aromatherapeutic Perfumes?
The benefits of Aromatherapy have been recorded throughout history – plant extracts used in perfumery have been used to calm, relax, uplift, entice and transport your olfactory system into a world of luxurious and stimulating aromatic delights. Unfortunately, recently perfumes have changed. The use of synthetic ingredients have made perfumes more often than not, a chemical cocktail in a bottle.
The therapeutic use of essential oils can no longer be related to many perfumes available on the market today. Many people have actually become intolerant of ordinary perfumes due to the synthetic ingredients used which can cause allergies and skin irritations. The use of synthetic ingredients used in todays perfumery is due to the fact that these ingredients are readily available and at a much reduced cost. Unfortunately the many benefits of perfume are no longer apparent. Many, many different aromas are available but imagine using perfume for not only the beautiful aroma but also to enhance our concentration, improve our respiratory system (clear the sinuses), relieve feelings of fatigue and help our bodies to feel relaxed (just to mention a few benefits).
Beauty By Nature have created uniquely aromatic and exquisite perfumes using essential oils and herbal extracts. These colognes are available with a floral water base, sugar cane derived alcohol and cold pressed oil bases. The delicious scents have been inspiried from the natural surroundings of Queensland’s Lamington National Park and Vanessa is currently investigating the use of the natural plants available in her wonderful bush setting. Some essential oils have been sourced from Australia – Lemon Myrtle, Australian Sandalwood, Tasmanian Lavender etc and other oils such as some mosses, woods and flower petals have been sourced from overseas growers.
Secret Garden is the ultimate for floral lovers. The fruity floral synergy of the world’s most precious flowers have been skillfully blended to bring you this lively, colourful and exquisite perfume.
Homme – Unisex skin tonic (floral water base) is an effective aftershave and body tonic spray. Could some of the ingredients be also aphrodisiac!
Meditation – If you love mysterious spices, fresh fruits and herbs, you’ll love this warm, spicy, oriental aroma. Also contains rare tree gum oils obtained from bark and the heartwood of the tree.
Relaxation Therapy – think calm, think relaxation. This fresh, herbaceous scent gently relaxes your mind and spirit. Bring on well being!
Rose Turkish Delight Perfume – the single aroma of rose from rose absolute and rose otto with it’s complex fresh and almost musky sweetness will delight the most discerning rose lover. When blended with Geranium experience this most exquisite and delicious ‘Delight’.
Frangipani – often referred to as the flower from the tree of life this exotic and authentic aroma is not to be confused with synthetic copy frangipani. This is the real deal. Experience the uplifting yet grounding and sweet freshness of pure scent.