Aromatherapy Articles | West Coast Institute of AromatherapyArticle Archives

The Article Archives are home to the many articles I have wrtten over the years.  After all the website launched in 1999 and I have been writing articles and blogs ever since.   As you can imagine over the years I managed to accumulate quite a lot of articles.  When the website was redesigned in 2016 all the articles were combined into the Article Archives.  A few of the earlier blogs were rewritten as articles but the rest of them were deleted.  The blogs I now share on the website are those that have been written since 2016.

To make getting around all this information easier, the content has been classified into different categories.

Botanical Families

Does knowing which Botanical family an essential oil belongs to give one an indication of what that oil might be good for?  Not really.  It is the chemistry of an essential oil which will give one an indication of what a particular essential oil might be used for.

So, in that case, why do we want to know which family an essential oil belongs to?  Well essential oils are derived from plants and plants are classified into families and knowing the family helps us to accurately identify the plant from which the oil was extracted from.  Often plants may share the same common name, but when you take a look at their classification you may well find that they belong to different species, different genuses or even different botanical families.  They can definitely have quite different chemical compositions, which means both their properties, and their cautions or contraindications can be quite different.

So what are the Botanical Families?

To understand this we need to look at Plant Taxonomy – the classification of plants.  This universally accepted classification of plants moves from the more general, through each stage to the specific naming of each individual plant.

First we start with CLASS.  Here there are only two possibilities – either plants produce flowers and are angiospsperms or they don’t and are gy-mono-sperms.

Then we have SUBCLASS.  Again there are only two possibilities – plants that have two seed leaves – Dicots and plants with one seed leaf – monocots.

After that we have ORDER.  These groupings are plants which have remote patterns of similarity to one another.

Now we get to FAMILIES.  All the plants found in a particular family will have distinct patterns of similarities.  Genetically they will also have a lot in common.  On the other hand, plants found within the same family can also have major differences.
There are many, many different plant families.  Some botanists only recognize 150 different families, while others recognize closer to 500 different families.  Luckily for us, there are not a whole lot of families which have essential oil producing plants.  Some of the Families contain many essential oil producing plants, while other may only have one essential oil producing plant.

The next level of classification is GENUS which is the first part of the Latin name and it is always written with a Capital letter.  Plants within the same genus are often easily recognizable as belonging to the same group.

Then we have SPECIES which is the second part of the Latin name and is always written in lowercase. This is where the plant is specifically defined.  The species part of the name often describes some aspect of the plant, the colour of the flowers, the size or shape of the leaves, or perhaps it is named after where it was found.

The Genus and Species together are the Latin name of the Plant and therefore of the essential oil produced by that plant.

Within this classification we can also find varieties, sub-species, cultivars and chemotypes.

So as you can see from this the Families are really a classification of the plant and refer to the patterns of similarity and genetics of the plants found within that family.  They tell us about the plant’s characteristics, but it is the chemistry of the essential oil which will tell us about its properties.

As I mentioned some of the families only have one or perhaps a few essential oil bearing plants within it, and in cases like these it can be easy enough to compare the essential oils in question and perhaps come to a conclusion, based on what we know about the essential oils contained in the family, of what properties that family might impart to the essential oil.  But in my opinion, this is not really accurate.  You have other families where there are many essential oil bearing plants, and when you compare the essential oils extracted from these plants you can’t come to any consensus because the resulting oils are so very different.

Knowing the Botanical Family the plant the essential oil has been obtained from is helpful, but when working with the oil it is always necessary to take the particular oils own profile into consideration.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are such an important part of our aromatic toolkit.  In these articles and blogs, I am happy to share with you more specific information on individual essential oils.

Blog Posts written about Individual Essential Oils Reviewed

Blog Posts written about the Inner Nature of Individual Essential Oils.

Blog Posts comparing Individual Essential Oils to their CO2 extracts

Blog Posts written about Research Done on Individual Essential Oils

Blog Posts written on Hydrosols

Blog Posts with Seasonal Blends


If you love essential oils as much as I do, you just want to get started creating blends and using them.  However, because they are such highly concentrated substances, it is really important to pay attention to their safety.  We need to ensure that we really understand the different safety implications of their use.  Here are some blogs and articles written on different aspects of Safety.


These articles take a deeper look at the chemistry of plants, essential oils and their Properties.


When it comes to blending your essential oils together, these blogs and articles look at some different aspects and share some helpful tips and insights into this creative art.

Carrier Oils and Hydrosols

Carrier oils and hydrosols play an important role in aromatherapy.  They each have their own properties and their addition to our blends and protocols can enhance the effectiveness of the approaches we take.  Here are some blogs and articles written about some specific carrier oils and hydrosols.

Blog posts written about different carrier oils

Blog Posts written on Hydrosols

Emotional Conditions

Although many of us can become really caught up with the physical, many of the health challenges we face have their origin in the emotional level.  Taking a look at emotional conditions, can help us get to the root of what is actually going on.  Here are some blogs and articles dealing with Emotional Conditions to help bring some insight into what might be going on.

Blogs on Essential Oils and Conditions for Emotions.

Life Passages

While life may continue to unfold routinely most of the time, there are times when we are all faced with specific Life Passages that may need some extra attention or help to navigate.  Here are some blogs and articles that may provide some suggestions and insight into how one might navigate some of them.

Beauty and Self Care

In addition to working with the challenges we are faced with each day, aromatherapy and essential oils can be a wonderful addtion to our beauty and self care routines.  Here are some blogs and articles with ideas on how to incorporate them in your own routines.  I find that they can really add to both their enjoyment and effectiveness.

Energetic Approach

There are times when taking an energetic approach is just what is needed to make a shift and help the healing to begin.  Here are a seletion of articles and blogs that look at taking a more energetic approach in dealing with the challenges being faced.

Blends Created around Spiritual PhytoEssencing

Aromatic Hydrotherapy

Hydroptherapy is the use of water as a healing tool.  Aromatic Hydrotherapy is the addition of essential oils and hydrosols to that healing art.  The use of water, as a healing tool, can be traced back many centuries. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used the healing power of water in baths. Over the years many others have used natural hot springs, lakes and oceans for healing and it is a well-known practice in many cultures.

The origin of Hydrotherapy, as a medical tool, is usually traced back to Germany where in 1826, Vincent Priessnitz opened the Hydropathic Institute of Gräfenberg, offering all kinds of therapeutic water treatments.  Some sources, however, suggest that two English on the medical uses of water had been translated into German in the century preceding the rise of the movement under Priessnitz. One of these was by Sir John Floyer, a physician of Lichfield, who, struck by the remedial use of certain springs by the neighboring peasantry, investigated the history of cold bathing and published a book on the subject in 1702. The other work was a 1797 publication by Dr James Currie of Liverpool on the use of hot and cold water in the treatment of fever and other illness, with a fourth edition published in 1805, not long before his death.

Sebastian Kneipp, who is often associated with hydrotherapy, used fresh water treatments to restore his own health in the 1850’s.  This  led to his doctrine of health known as the Kneipp Kur, which is still practiced and studied today.  Hydropathy (as it was then known) was introduced into the United States in 1843.

Today hydrotherapy (literally meaning water treatment) can be found as a staple of many spas, and it continues to be a viable tool for healing and the maintenance of health. It can often be enhanced by adding essential oils.  Keep in mind that if you are adding essential oils to the water you will need to add an equal number of drops of an emulsifier.  If you don’t have an emulsifier you can use an equal number of drops of liquid soap.

Hydrotherapy can be as simple as using hot and/or cold baths or showers at home, to more sophisticated protocols in a spa or therapy practice. Valerie Gennarie Cooksley,in her book Healing Home Spa tells us that: “By manipulating temperatures and using various techniques, hydrotherapy can stimulate every organ in the body. It can help equalize blood circulation, increase muscle tone and nerve strength, improve digestion, alleviate congestion, stimulate perspiration glands, and aid in the elimination of toxins and waste via the skin.” Anne Roebuck, in her book, Aroma-Spa Therapy, says that: “All hydrotherapy treatments have an effect on the hypothalamus, as it is the body’s heat regulation center. The hypothalamus therefore responds to any stimulus that increases or decreases the body’s temperature, by maintaining homeostasis in the body.”

In order to get the desired effect, accurate water temperature is therefore very important. According to Valerie Gennarie Cooksley; it is generally not advisable to use water therapy within one hour of eating and it should be discontinued if one feels discomfort, extreme skin sensitivity, faintness, headache, nausea, shivering or palpitations. According to Anne Roebuck; Contraindications to hot water treatments include circulatory impairment, especially arterial disease, hemophilia and use of steroid medications, because of capillary fragility.

Aromatic Linens

Aromatic Linens

Do you like your Linens to be aromatic?  Enjoying Aromatic Linens is a tradition that has been followed for hundreds of years.   Many still use dried herb sachets to add a soft fragrance to their linens, but essential oils can also be used to do this.

An elusive, gentle aroma can be added to your clothing or bed linens using essential oils in a number of ways.

Washing by hand: add 1 – 2 drops of your blend to the final rinse water
Using a washing machine: add 3 – 5 drops to the final rinse.

Keep in mind that essential oils do not dissolve in water.  Therefore use an equal number of drops of emulsifier.  If you don’t have an emulsifier then add an equal number of drops of liquid soap to your essential oil blend.

Avoid using thick, heavy resinous essential oils such as frankincense and myrrh when using these methods.

You can also add blotting or construction paper that has had essential oils added to your shelves and drawers.

Hydrosols are another very gentle way of freshening up your sheets just before bed.  Simply mist your sheets and pillow with the hydrosol of your choice.  Orange Blossom, Rose, and Lavender are all good choices.  I also like to use Sweet Grass too.


Aromatic Wedding Invitations

Make your Wedding Invitations Special by scenting this with a unique blend to mark the occasion. If you prefer, you can of course just use a single essential oil.

Once your blend is ready, add about 6 drops of your essential oil or unique blend to a  2.5 cm x 2.5 cm square of blotting or construction paper. 

Cut the paper into four equal pieces and put these into a box with your wedding invitations and envelopes.

Leave everything closed up for at least 24 hours to allow the aroma to penetrate the paper.

Here are some blend ideas to get you started:

Blend 1 Blend 2 Blend 3 Blend 4
2 drops Rose 2 drops Neroli 1 drop Orange 2 drops Bergamot
2 drops Jasmine 3 drops Petitgrain 3 drops Geranium 3 drops Rosewood
2 drops Neroli 1 drop Patchouli 2 drops Sandalwood 1 drop Ylang Ylang



Attars are the Traditional Perfumes of India.  While they may be called essential oils by some, they are in fact quite different. I was first introduced to Attars at a NAHA Conference in October 2000, when I heard Christopher McMahon’s presentation on these wonderful aromatics. I was reminded just how special and different Attars are, when I visited Durga Interiors in Vancouver (on 4th one block east of Banyen Books) for the first time last Sunday. Most of their stock is modern and antique East Indian Furniture and Artifacts, however, they also source and sell, genuine Indian Attars.

The art and craft that goes into preparing the Attars has been around for many hundreds of years.  It is a process that generally stays within a family and is handed down from generation to generation.

The word ‘Attar’ as it is used in India, refers to those perfumes which have been prepared by hydrodistillation of aromatic plants into a receiving vessel containing sandalwood oil.  The process starts with the growing of the plants.  Some farmers will allocate a percentage of their land to growing a crop like Jasminum sabmac, Jasminum grandiflorum, Rosa damascena and will tend to the crop alongside their vegetables, fruit, grain and legume crops.  Other plants grow in the wild and only require harvesting.  Whether the plants are cultivated or wild, when the time for harvesting comes it takes many hours of labour to produce enough material for distillation.

In principle distilling attars is relatively simple.  Aromatic materials are placed with water into a distilling vessel, which is heated from below.  As the water heats up the plants release their volatile constituents and the aroma rich steam rises up, passing through a bamboo pipe, insulated with twine, and enters a receiving vessel containing sandalwood essential oil.  The receiving vessels sits in a cool water bath where the steam condenses.  As the steam cools, the plant essence and water separate.  The essence becomes absorbed into the sandalwood.  The sandalwood fixes the volatile constituents which prevents them from evaporating out again.  Each day new aromatic plant material is added to the distilling vessel and the process of distillation is repeated.  Over a period of 15 days the sandalwood becomes permeated with the fragrance of the material being distilled into it.

During the process it is very important that the attendant is aware of the rate at which the water is evaporating so that the botanical material never becomes charred due to contact with the bottom of the distilling vessel.  Typically 5 kilos of sandalwood oil are kept in the receiving vessel.  During the first phase the aromatic botanicals are distilled for about 4 and a half hours.  Then the process is stopped.  The first receiving vessel is removed and a second is attached.  During the entire time of distillation the fires are carefully tended and the receiving vessels are turned by hand.  There must be a constant flow of cool water on the surface of the receiving vessel so that condensation occurs and the aromatic molecules are absorbed into the sandalwood.  Distillation is continued for another 4 hours.  At the end of the day the spent botanical material is removed from the distilling vessel.  The two receiving vessels are placed in a cool place overnight so that the water and the sandalwood being charged with the aromatic molecules can separate.  The next morning before distillation is continued a new batch of fresh botanical material is added to the distilling vessel and the water is siphoned off from the two receiving vessels and readded to the distilling vessel along with the correct amount of fresh water, then the process is repeated with only one change.  The second receiving vessel is used in the first phase and the first receiving vessel is used in the second phase.  This process continues for a period of 15 days and the oil becomes more and more perfumed with the essence of the plant.

In addition to being a slow and labour intensive process, it takes a lot of aromatic plant material to produce even a small amount of attar, according to Christopher McMahon’s presentation it can take 1350 pounds of Rosa damascena flowers to produce 5 kilos of regular strength attar.  No wonder true Attars are expensive.

Because creating true Attars is a very labour intensive process, requiring dedicated and careful human attention, there has been a decline in the number of companies who continue with these time-honoured techniques.  Cost cutting techniques by less scrupulous people could include ’stretching’ the sandalwood with liquid paraffin or relying on synthetic chemicals and natural isolates for the aroma.

Certainly true Attars can enrich our lives through their wonderful aroma and what it invokes in each of us.  If you are in the Vancouver area and want to experience true Attars you can visit Durga Interiors.  Christopher McMahon’s company White Lotus Aromatics does offer some Attars for sale and if you do a search on line I am sure you will find others.

Drug Addictions and Essential Oils

When I was recently asked whether I had any suggestions for using essential oils with drug addictions, I went looking to see if I could find any real research on this. I paged through the many books and aromatherapy publications I have on my selves. I did internet searches on essential oils and drug addiction on Google Scholar and PubMed. None of this brought up a whole lot. An internet search on Google brought up some blog articles but nothing that I would consider real research. I also found some proprietary blends being marketed by MLM essential oil companies as being appropriate for addiction. My concern around this is that this does not take the whole individual into consideration and not all addictions are the same.

Each individual is unique, each situation is different with many different factors to take into consideration. In my opinion, one single blend is not going to be able to address this for everyone, if one wants to achieve good results it is most helpful to consider the individual and their unique circumstances. Here are just a few things I think one should consider when formulating a this blend.

From a physical point of view: What drug or type of drugs is the person addicted to? Is it a stimulant or a suppressant? Do they need to be relaxed or stimulated? Are they in withdrawal? What side effects are there?

From an emotional point of view: Why did they get addicted in the first place? Are or have the underlying issues been addressed? Have new issues come up that need to be addressed?

Moving Forward: Changing addictive behaviour is very difficult. Commitment on the part of the person addicted is certainly a good starting point, but changing behaviour is never easy. MedPage Today has an interesting article on how Neuroscience can explain why changing addictive behaviour is so difficult. Is there a willingness on their part to actually move forward? If there is great, but if there isn’t no one can make them.

If they are ready you can then consider: What method of application are they most likely to comply with? What are their aroma preferences? It is a whole lot easier to get people to sniff or use something if they enjoy the aroma.

In their book Essential Aromatherapy: A Pocket Guide to Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Susan E. Worwood, Valerie Ann Worwood say that “During addiction all essential oil dosages should be half the maximum dosage.”

While in her book The Fragrant Mind, Valerie Ann Worwood says: During the withdrawal process essential oils can help in two ways – by contributing to a sense of well-being, and by treating the physical problems that go along with it. The essential oils of vetiver, helichrysum, spikenard, valerian, ormenis flower, nutmeg, juniper, bergamot, basil, clary sage, geranium, hyacinth, narcissus, tuberrose can be used to supplement and support any other treatment. Use the oils in warm baths, inhaled as a vapour and diffused in the room.

Dr Bruce Berkowsky in his Spiritual PhytoEssencing Repertory of Essential Oilslists under the rubric:
Drugs, abuse of: ammi visnage, camphor, celery seed, clary sage, coffee, cypress, hemp, lemon, patchouli, seaweed, thuja, yarrow.

I would add here that before using any essential oil you should make sure that it is actually appropriate for the person and their particular addiction and circumstances. While it may be more time consuming and require more thought, creating a blend for the individual will bring about better results than just using a one blend fits all type of approach. Certainly looking at the oils contained in other blends, or listed above by Valerie Ann Worwood and Dr. Bruce Kerkowsky is a good starting point but before using any oil in a blend consider it carefully. What are its properties, its contra-indications, its actions? Does it fit into the individual and the situation you are blending for? You will find that not all of the oils will so consider the choices carefully and take the whole individual into consideration as you come up with your blend. Actually I think that this is something you should do for any blend one creates, blending for an accomplished aromatherapist is both a science and an art and this is one of the things I value so highly about what I do.

I did find this one research study on using Cumin that was interesting.
Effects of the fruit essential oil of Cuminum cyminum Linn. (Apiaceae) on acquisition and expression of morphine tolerance and dependence in mice.Abbas Haghparast,Jamal Shams,Ali Khatibi,Amir-Mohammad Alizadeh,Mohammad Kamalinejad, Neuroscience Letters, Elsevier,1 August 2008 Copyright © 2008, Elsevier.
The problem of morphine tolerance and dependence is a universal phenomenon threatening social health everywhere the world. The major objective of this paper was to investigate the effects of fruit essential oil (FEO) of Cuminum cyminum on acquisition and expression of morphine tolerance and dependence in mice. Animals were rendered dependent on morphine using the well-established method in which was morphine (50, 50, 75 mg/kg; s.c.) injected three times daily for 3 days. In experimental groups, administration of FEO (0.001, 0.01, 0.1, 0.5, 1 and 2%; 5 ml/kg; i.p.) or Tween-80 (5 ml/kg; i.p.) was performed 60 min prior to each morphine injection (for acquisition) or the last injection of morphine on test day (for expression). Morphine tolerance was measured by tail-flick before and after administration of a single dose of morphine (50 mg/kg; s.c.) in test day (4th day). Morphine dependence was also evaluated by counting the number of jumps after injection of naloxone (5 mg/kg; i.p.) on the test day. The results showed that Cumin FEO, only at the dose of 2%, significantly attenuated the development of morphine tolerance (P < 0.01) and dependence (P < 0.05) while it could be significantly effective on expression of morphine tolerance (1 and 2%) and dependence (0.5, 1 and 2%) in a dose-dependent manner. Solely Cumin FEO injection (0.001–2%) did not show any analgesic effect. In conclusion, the essential oil of Cuminum cyminum seems to ameliorate the morphine tolerance and dependence in mice.

Aromatherapy and Animals

dog-and-catAnimal’s systems, and the way that they are able to deal with and process essential oils, are different to that of humans and so when using any aromatic substances with animals we need to use different protocols, dosages, and methods of use. We may not be able to use all our essential oils with animals but, with care and attention to detail, we are able to help our pets with these gifts of nature.

Working with animals has developed into a discipline on its own. At this point in time, there are not that many people who have specialized in working with animals.   One of the best known is Caroline Ingraham. Caroline believes in allowing animals to guide their own treatment using their own innate responses.

In the wild animals self-medicate, they instinctively know what they need, how much to take and when to stop. Just because they have been domesticated doesn’t mean that animals have lost their basic instincts.  When animals are allowed to participate in the choice of their own remedies the results can be very profound. Keep in mind that essential oils are very potent substances and the way that animals metabolize aromatic substances is different to the way humans do. Therefore the method of application is very important. One should never force a remedy onto an animal and they should always have room to move away from a remedy if they need to. This makes topical application of aromatic substances tricky. Another factor to keep in mind is that essential oils components are more readily absorbed through the skin in hairy areas.  As most animals have fur coats of one sort or another, this must be taken into consideration and the dosage must be very much lower than it would for a human.

Keep in mind that essential oils are very potent substances and the way that animals metabolize aromatic substances is different to the way humans do. Therefore the method of application is very important. One should never force a remedy onto an animal and they should always have room to move away from a remedy if they need to. This makes topical application of aromatic substances tricky. Another factor to keep in mind is that essential oils components are more readily absorbed through the skin in hairy areas.  As most animals have fur coats of one sort or another, this must be taken into consideration and the dosage must be very much lower than it would for a human.

While the external application of extracts/oils is used, for the treatment of conditions such as wounds, sweet itch, mud fever etc. these will only be applied to very specific small areas of the body, in very low dilutions and over a limited period of time. Very little essential oil is applied. Most often these oils have been diluted in a water-based gel or perhaps a clay poultice.

Inhalation is often a much more effective method of application. The animal may choose to sniff or lick the remedy but they should always have room to move away from the remedy should they wish to. An animal’s sense of smell is vital to its survival. By flaring their nostrils they direct the air with all its odors right to their olfactory receptors. This, in turn, connects to both the cortex and the limbic regions of their brain thereby eliciting many responses.

In her book Aromatherapy for Animals, Caroline Ingraham says “Inhalations offer high absorption from a relatively small dose. The volatile nature of the essential oil allows the molecules to enter the nasal chamber where they interact with the chemical receptors sending information to the brain. As soon as an aroma is inhaled, the animal’s brain will define and select the correct remedy. The rich vasculature and large surface area of the nasal mucosa allow for swift drug absorption through the membrane, which now acknowledged, calls for certain drugs to be administered intra-nasally in conventional veterinary medicine. Since most essential oils are volatile lipophilic substances, access into the body through this route also allows for rapid absorption. Caution – never leave an inhalation strapped onto an animal for more than two minutes. Always supervise.

In Animal Aromatics hydrosols, gels, vegetable, and macerated oils can all be used for healing.  This can be with or without the addition of essential oils. Before deciding on what remedies to offer an animal one should first collect as much information on what is going on as possible. Don’t overtax the animal by presenting a whole lot of oils one after the other. No more than five or six should be offered in sequence. Then there should be a break for a few minutes before continuing if necessary. When treating a specific condition topically, the animal should be offered the remedy for approval before application. A sniff is usually all that is needed for the go-ahead but if the animal backs or draws away from the remedy it shouldn’t be used. When offering the oils for use by inhalation it is best to use single notes, not blends so that the animal is able to guide the application.

Caroline Ingraham suggests that one holds the open bottle firmly in your hand approximately 15 – 30 cm (6 – 12 inches) from the animal’s nose. Do not put the bottle immediately under their nostrils, but rather allow them to come closer to you if they want to. Carefully watch for any reactions. If the animal shows no interest take the oil away and offer something else. Positive reactions may vary depending on the animal, after sniffing, they may stand still for a while in thought or they may flare their nostrils as they take in the aroma. Watch for even the slightest flaring of the nostrils especially with dogs and cats. The nostrils will not flare if the aroma is not wanted. After a while, the animal may gradually come closer. If the animal turns away remove the bottle.

Working with animals in this way often requires time and patience as the animal must be allowed to move through the process at its own pace, however, I have found that using Caroline Ingraham’s suggested protocols can have extremely rewarding results.

Horses respond well to essential oils and aromatics. They are herbivores and normally eat plants containing essential oils.  Therefore they do have the metabolic pathways the enable them to break down most essential oils. Horse will be inclined to take the essential oils by inhalation and licking. Dogs as carnivores seem more drawn to taking the oils through inhalation. Cats do not have metabolic pathways to break down essential oils. They are generally very sensitive to essential oils and the range of remedies they select is very small. A cat will only choose a plant for its medicinal value.  They do not have the enzymes to readily metabolize and get rid of unwanted plant compounds, however, they are able to cope with the plant oils that they require. An unwanted essential oil can be relatively toxic to a cat so it is very important to watch their response to the aromas and not force any on them.

Caroline Ingraham, Aromatherapy for Animalsself-published ©2001
Caroline Ingraham, The Animal Aromatics Workbookself-published ©2006


Eye Care

There are a couple of standard cautions that apply right across the board with it comes to using essential oils.   Using essential oils in and around the eyes is one of them.

As Tisserand and Balacs say in their book Essential Oil Safety:
Undiluted essential oils should not be applied to or very near the eyes. Great care should be taken, even with diluted essential oils.

The truth of the matter is that although essential oils are wonderful healing substances they are just too concentrated to be used in and around the eyes. So what do we do when we need eye care? Where do we turn for a natural remedy?

Well one alternative might be to use herbs and herbal teas. One could make an infusion of the tea and then dilute it down to be used in eye compresses, or now that so many herbal teas come in bags some herbalists advocate using the tea bags.

Another alternative, and one more of interest to me as an aromatherapist, is to use a hydrosol. Hydrosols, as the by product of any steam distillation process, are formed whenever plant material is distilled to form essential oils, however most aromatherapy suppliers will only carry a few of the more popular and versatile hydrosols.

Recently I had what certainly felt and looked like a stye forming on my left eye. I went straight for my Green Myrtle Hydrosol. I used an eye compress with the Green Myrtle Hydrosol and felt almost immediate relief. Overnight the little white bump almost disappeared and it was completely gone in another day. Certainly not anywhere as long as this quote “Styes can last from 1 to 2 weeks without treatment, or as little as 4 days if treated properly.” Well mine was gone in 2 days and all I used was the Green Myrtle Hydrosol in an eye compress and lightly sprayed around my eye. Yeah for Hydrosols!

So what are hydrosols?
The word hydrosol is derived from the Latin “hydro” meaning “water” and “sol” meaning “solution”. In aromatherapy hydrosols are also known as hydrolates or floral waters. In her book Hydrosols, The Next Aromatherapy, Suzanne Catty uses the following definition: “Hydrosols are the condensate water coproduced during steam- or hydro-distillation of plant material for aromatherapeutic purposes.”

While hydrosols consists mainly of water they do contain some of the water soluble micro molecules of essential oil as well as water soluble plant components and it is these micro molecules that imparts both the aroma and the therapeutic properties to the hydrosols. Because they are so much less concentrated than essential oils, they are very gentle compounds making them excellent for using on delicate tissues and around the eyes. While there are a number of different hydrosols that are gentle and effective for many different purposes and conditions Suzanne Catty only recommends four to be used as an eye wash (Green Myrtle, Roman Chamomile, German Chamomile and Cornflower). Once you start working with hydrosols you will find that there are a myriad of ways to use these gentle, but very effective substances. Hydrosols should be kept very cool or refrigerated and their shelf life will vary depending on the plant material it has been derived from, however many of the hydrosols that are freely available are quite stable and generally last around two years.

Go Green

Go Green with Essential Oils

As  people look for additional ways to ‘go green’, using essential oils around the house makes more and more sense!  Moving away from chemical cleaners makes sense and when you consider how many essential oils have antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral, germicidal and insecticidal properties, adding them to your natural recipes makes sense!  They have the added benefit of making you home smell wonderful as well!

7 Essential Oils to consider  :

  • Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, aromatic, bactericidal and insecticidal properties.  The name lavender comes from the Latin ‘lavare‘ meaning to wash, and it has been used in soaps and for cleaning for a very long time.
  • Lemon (Citrus limonum) has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and disinfectant properties.  Cleanliness is often associated with a ‘lemon-fresh’ aroma.
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) has antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, deodorant, fungicidal, germicidal and insecticidal properties.  One of the strongest anti-fungal essential oils around and it is great for getting rid of mold and mildew.
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and antiviral properties.  Often used to help fight colds and flu and great to keep surfaces clean when there is sickness in the house.
  • Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) has strong anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. Its anti-fungal properties are thought to be even stronger than Tea Tree.
  • Pine (Pinus sylvestris) has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, bactericidal, deodorant, disinfectant and insecticidal properties.  Pine’s fresh scent can be uplifting.
  • Sweet Orange (Citrus sinesis) has antiseptic and insecticidal properties.  It is good for cleaning and conditioning wood and is a great degreaser.

Diffusing Lemon and Orange can be a wonderful way to rid your house of cooking smells!

My favourite Germ Busting Synergy is:  8 parts Lavender; 10 parts Lemon; 5 parts Eucalyptus globulus; 3 parts Geranium; 3 parts Palmarosa which I usein a number of different ways.  For instance, in a spritzer bottle at a 3% dilution in water, it makes a great kitchen or bathroom surface cleaner.

StudyingEssential Oils and Learning

It has been found that if one smells the right essential oil/essential oil synergy while studying, it helps to keep one relaxed and focused, which in turn makes it easier to retain that information. It has also been found that when one has to share that information later (like writing an exam), sniffing the same essential oil/essential oil synergy will help to unlock the information. Obviously the essential oil or essential oil synergy should be chosen with care, as you want to use oils that will help to keep you focused and alert, as well as relaxed. We would choose from the more energizing type oils and leave the more sedating oils for other applications. Rosemary and Basil are two oils that are often turned to. While it is easy to diffuse the oils while learning, you can’t take your diffuser with you into the exam room, but you could put your essential oil or essential oil synergy into a personal inhaler and sniff that as you write the exam.

Sometimes people have real challenges when it comes to studying, learning, absorbing and retaining new information. In this case it might be helpful to look at what the underlying emotional aspect or trigger is. These challenges can generally be classified as:

  • Emotional, Mental and Physical Health Concerns
  • Employment and Financial Issues
  • Housing, Legal and Transportation Issues
  • Issues with Family Relationships and Social Support

However, it is my opinion that there is always an emotional layer to everything we experience. So while the essential oils cannot directly address issues like employment and finances, family relationships etc, they can be used to relieve the emotional charge around those issues. Creating an essential oil synergy, that has been specifically customized to the individual and their specific needs, can certainly help to support them move forward towards a positive outcome.

Around-homeUsing Essential Oils Around Your Home

Have you thought about utilizing essential oils around the house? Here are a few ideas to get you going. Half the fun is putting together a special blend that really says home to you.

Wipe down kitchen surfaces with a blend of germ busting essential oils. Put about 500ml (2 cups) of distilled water into a spray bottle and add 8 drops of lavender, 15 drops of lemon and 5 drops of eucalyptus. Shake well before spraying.

When wiping out fridges, microwaves etc. add a couple of drops of essential oil to the rinse water. Any of the citrus oils would be a good choice.

To get rid of cooking smells add 3 drops of lemon and 3 drops of orange to an aroma lamp.

Bathrooms can also be wiped down with a blend of germ busting essential oils. Again add 500ml (2 cups) of distilled water to a spray bottle and add 20 – 30 drops of your own special essential oil blend. Essential oils with germ busting properties include: basil, bergamot, eucalyptus, ginger, lavender, lemon, patchouli, petitgrain, rosewood and thyme.

To clean glass and mirrors mix 1 cup (250ml) of distilled water, º cup (62,5ml) vinegar in a spray bottle then add 20 drops of lemon. Shake well before using. This cleans well and leaves a lovely fresh smell. Most of the citrus oils are great for cutting through grease.

Laundry Cupboards
For sweet smelling linen add 1 – 2 of drops of essential oil or blend of essential oils to a cotton ball and pop it onto your linen shelves. I use a cotton ball on each shelf. A blend I enjoy using in my linen cupboard is 10 drops Lime, 4 drops Orange, 3 drops Cinnamon, 1 drop Patchouli. I also use cotton balls in my clothing cupboards, here I use a mixture of Patchouli and Cedarwood. Experiment a little and find a blend you really enjoy.

Potpourri is often used to fragrance various rooms in the house. Gather dried leaves, flowers and small wood shavings. Crush the plant materials to desired size. Place in a wide mouthed glass jar and add your essential oil or blend of essential oil to the mixture. The amount of essential oil you add will depend on the size of your jar. Try 7 – 10 drops. Stir contents well and tighten the lid on the jar. Let the potpourri rest for several days as this will allow the plant material time to absorb the aroma. Lavender on its own is great. For a floral type blend try 4 drops geranium, 2 drops grapefruit and 2 drops petitgrain and for a more exotic blend try 5 drops sandalwood, 2 drop patchouli and 3 drops lime.

Make your own carpet freshener. Put 1 cup of cornstarch into a container and add 15 – 30 drops of essential oil or blend of essential oil. Mix well and leave to set for a couple of days. Sprinkle over carpets, leave for 30 minutes – 1 hour the vacuum up. The blend you use will depend on personal taste you could try any of the blends mentioned above. I often use a blend of 10 drops lime, 6 drops mandarin and 4 drops patchouli for my carpets.

To keep your vacuum cleaner smelling fresh add 1 – 2 drops of essential oil to the outside of the dust bag.

Blends to try around the house

Blend 1 Blend 2 Blend 3 Blend 4
4 drops of Rosewood 5 drops of Lime 5 drops of Grapefruit 5 drops of Lemon
3 drops of Geranium 3 drops of Bergamot 3 drops of Bergamot 3 drops of Lavender
3 drops of Lemon 2 drops of Lavender 2 drops of Rosemary 2 drops of Geranium

Window Cleaning

Essential Oil Tips for Cleaning Your Home

Here are some essential oil tips to incorporate when cleaning your home.  I’ve tried most of them, some more successfully than others.

Add a drop or two of essential oil to your washing machine.  It has been suggested that adding Eucalyptus globulus to a wash cycle may kill dust mites in bedding.  As essential oils don’t mix with water remember to add 1 or 2 drops of emulsifier to them before adding.  If you don’t have an emulsifier use 1 or 2 drops of liquid soap.

You could add a couple of drops of essential oil to cotton cloth or pad and place in the drying during the cool down or wrinkle release cycle.  Remember that the oils are volatile and so you don’t want them in the dryer during the hot cycle.  Lavender gives bedding and towels a clean, fresh scent, while lemon or sweet orange can remove greasy and oily smells from the laundry.

Bath Mats
Keep these smelling fresh by sprinkling a carpet freshener (add 8 – 10 drops essential oil or essential oil synergy to 1/2 cup baking soda shake well) on the mat, leave for about an hour and then shake out.

Instead of mothballs pop a drop or two of essential oil on a cotton ball and place in closets and drawers.  Lavender, Geranium, Palmarosa, Patchouli and Cerdarwood are some suggestions.

Floor Cleaner
Add 5 drops of lemon or pine to 1/4 cup of white vinegar which is then added to a bucket of water.

Window cleaner
To a 1 quart spray bottle add 1 cup white vinegar, 10 – 15 drops of essential oil (Lemon is great) and fill with water.  Shake well and spray windows.

Adding essential oil to pain can counteract any unpleasant smell.  You will need quite a bit of essential oil about 5 ml to 1 gallon (3.78 litres) of paint.  Mix well.

Greasy dishes
Lemon oil is great for cutting grease and a drop or two in the sink can make a difference.

A drop or two of peppermint on a cotton ball placed anywhere mice could enter the house is a great deterrent.


Vacation Time and Essential Oils

It’s vacation time and your bags are packed and you’re ready to leave. Hopefully you’ve remembered to take along a few essential oils to make your holiday even more pleasant.

When traveling by car consider making up a mister with essential oils. In fact I make up misters to keep the car smelling fresh all the time. Fill up a small spray bottle with 90ml (3 oz) distilled water or hydrosol, then add 60 drops of your special essential oil blend. For those prone to travel sickness/nausea consider adding some peppermint to the blend. See More Summer Blends for suggestions.

When you arrive at your destination have a mister spray to freshen up your hotel bedroom. Make up as described above and add 60 drops of your favourite blend or see the blends below.

If you have traveled over time zones you might be faced with Jet lag. To counteract this you can add essential oils to your morning and evening bath. Grapefruit in the morning is a wonderful pick me up and will get you going in the morning. In the evening add roman chamomile or lavender (or a blend of the two) to your bath to help you sleep peacefully through the night.  Remember essential oils don’t dissolve in water so add an equal number of drops of emulsifier to the bath.  If you don’t have an emulsifier you can use an equal number of drops of liquid soap.

To keep those pesky insects away you can make up a mister to spray into the air or add your blend of essential oils to carrier oil (sweet almond etc) or a body cream to use topically. If you are spraying the blend into the air you can use 60 drops of your blend in 90ml (3ozs) of distilled water and if you are applying it topically to your skin you need to dilute the blend down to 15 drops in 30ml (1oz) of carrier or 45 drops in 90ml (3 ozs). Make up your own favourite blend of insect repellent essential oils or see the Summer Blends below.

While spending all this time outside having fun I do hope that you will use lots of sunscreen, however, if you do end up suffering from sunburn, lavender hydrosol can be very helpful in soothing red, sunburned skin. Just dab on carefully over the burned areas.

Essential oils in a Basic Holiday Care Kit could include:

Chamomile Bruises, bumps, digestive complaints, insect bites, jet lag, skin rashes
Eucalyptus Citriodora Mosquito repellent
Eucalyptus Globulus, Smithii or Radiata Colds, fever, insect bites, swelling
Geranium Blisters, bruises, jet lag, mosquito repellent
Grapefruit Jet lag
Lavender Bruises, bumps, fever, headaches, insect bites, insect repellent, jet lag, sunburn, swelling
Peppermint Digestive complaints, fever, headaches, indigestion, insect repellent, jet lag, muscular aches and pains, nausea, travel sickness
Rosemary Mental fatigue, headaches, insect repellent, aids memory, muscular aches and pains
Tea Tree Cuts & wounds, insect repellent, cold sores, anti-infectious, anti-funga

Summer Blends

Alert Driving Travel Sickness Hotel Refreshner Insect Repellent
6 drops of Bergamot 4 drops of Eucalyptus 4 drops of Geranium 4 drops of Eucalyptus Citriodora
4 drops of Lemon 6 drops of Lemon 6 drops of Lemon 6 drops of Geranium
5 drops of Rosemary 4 drops of Peppermint 5 drops of Mandarin 4 drops of Rosemary
Cooling Blend Sunburn Blend Pesky Bug Blend Relaxing Blend
2 drops of Clary Sage 4 drops of Lavender 2 drops of Basil 2 drops of Rose
4 drops of Geranium 1 drop of Peppermint 2 drop of Lemongrass 1 drop of Neroli
1 drop of Peppermint 1 drop of R. Chamomile 2 drops of Patchouli 1 drop of Clary Sage


While essential oils are wonderful gifts from nature because they are such highly complex cemical compounds we should know their contraindications before we use them.  That way we can be sure we are using them both effectively and safely.

Keep all essential oils away from Children, Eyes and Pets. Do not ingest or use any oil undiluted on the skin unless advised otherwise by a qualified Aromatherapist.

Angelica – Avoid during pregnancy. Angelica Root is phototoxic. May cause skin irritation or sensitization.

Basil – Use in low concentrations and avoid on sensitive skins. Do not use in pregnancy.

Benzoin – Generally considered non-toxic and non-irritating however this oil can be a strong skin sensitizer so do not use on the skin.

Bergamot – Expressed bergamot is phototoxic when applied to the skin and may irritate sensitive skin. If applied to the skin avoid sunlight or UV rays (including sun beds) for 12 hours. Some suppliers carry a rectified bergamot known as FCF grade which is safe to use on the skin.

Black Pepper – Use in low concentrations on the skin as this oil can irritate the skin.

Cardamom – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing, however use in small doses as aromatically a little goes a long way.

Carrot Seed – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Avoid in pregnancy.

Cedarwood – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing however it is best to avoid its use in early pregnancy. Do not use this oil prior to sunbathing.

Chamomile, German –Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.

Chamomile, Roman – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing however it is best to avoid its use in early pregnancy.

Cinnamon Leaf – Use in low concentrations on the skin as this oil can be a skin irritant. Do not use during pregnancy.

Clary Sage – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Do not use during pregnancy. Do not use while drinking or driving.

Clove – Use in low concentrations on the skin as this oil can cause skin irritations.

Cypress – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing. Avoid during pregnancy.

Eucalyptus – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing, however, when taken internally this oil is toxic.

Eucalyptus Citriodora – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing

Fennel – Do not use during pregnancy. Use with extreme caution if suffering from epilepsy. Use with caution on sensitive skins as this oil may cause mild skin sensitisation.

Fir – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing. Although some varieties of Fir may cause some skin irritation.

Frankincense – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Avoid during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Geranium – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing however it is best to avoid its use in early pregnancy.

Ginger- Use in low concentrations as this oil can cause skin irritation.

Grapefruit – Do not use before exposure to sun or UV rays.

Helichrysum – Also know as Everlasting and Immortelle is generally considered to be non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.

Jasmine – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Do no use in pregnancy and use with caution on people who are hypersensitive or allergic to perfumes, cosmetics or spicy foods.

Juniper – Avoid in pregnancy. Prolonged use can damage kidneys. On skin non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing.

Lavender – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.

Lemon – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing. Phototoxic avoid exposure to sunlight or uv rays for at least 12 hours after use.

Lemongrass – Generally considered non-toxic, possible dermal irritant so use with care with dermal applications. Avoid in pregnancy.

Mandarin – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.

Manuka – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. No formal testing.

Marjoram, Sweet – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Avoid during pregnancy.

Melissa –Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.

Myrrh – Avoid if allergic to cosmetics and perfume. Avoid during pregnancy.

Niaouli –No formal testing. Use with caution during pregnancy and with children.

Neroli – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.

Nutmeg – When tested at low doses found to be non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. It may irritate sensitive skins.

Orange – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing however as with most expressed oils it can be phototoxic and if used on the skin do not expose skin to sun or UV rays for 12 hours after use.

Oregano – Moderate skin irritant and strong mucous membrane irritant. Do not use at more than a 1% dilution.

Patchouli – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic. It may curb the appetite. Do not use on anyone allergic to spicy foods and use cautiously on anyone with known allergies to perfumes and cosmetics.

Palmarosa – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing, however care should be taken with anyone known to be sensitive to cosmetics.

Peppermint – Generally considered non-toxic. Avoid in pregnancy. Keep away from children.

Petitgrain – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic when tested at low doses. Some cross sensitivity has been reported when there is an existing allergic reaction to balsams.

Pine – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic. However they can oxidize very easily and then they are potentially sensitizing.

Rose – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic.

Rosemary – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Avoid during pregnancy and use with extreme caution if suffering from epilepsy.

Rosemary ct. Verbennone – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Avoid during pregnancy and use with extreme caution if suffering from epilepsy. Do not use on children younger than 10 years of age.

Rosewood – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic.

Sandalwood – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic.

Spike Lavender – Avoid during pregnancy.

Spikenard -Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic.

Tea Tree – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing.

Thyme –Avoid in pregnancy and high blood pressure. It can be a potent irritant to people with sensitive or fragile skins. Only use in very low doses.
Vetiver – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic.

Ylang Ylang – Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic. However do use in low concentrations as excess use may lead to feelings of nausea and headaches.

Yarrow –Avoid in pregnancy and with young children.

Methods of Use and Applications

When it comes to methods of use, there are a variety of different applications we can consider  when it comes to our essential oils effectively.  These include  Aromatherapy Baths, Inhalation, Aromatic Compresses, Aroma Massage.

Aromatherapy Baths

bathFill a bath with warm water. Although the essential oils can be added directly to the water they are actually not soluble in water and will float on top of the water. To eliminate this you can add an equal number of drops of emulsifier to the 6 drops of your essential oil blend (if you don’t have an emulsifier, mix your essential oils in a little liquid soap), then add to the bath, swish around to mix and relax and enjoy the bath for 10 to 15 minutes.


Smell01There are a number of ways in which we can enjoy the benefits of essential oils through inhalation. For instance essential oils (1 – 6 drops) can be added to an aroma lamp, perfume lantern or an electrical diffuser. If you don’t have one of these simply add your essential oil or essential oil blend to a bowl of hot water and the aromatic molecules will find their way into the air. A drop or two of essential oil or blend can be added to a tissue or cotton ball for personal sniffing. Create a mister by adding your essential oils to a bottle with a spray top, swirl well to blend and then add distilled water. Shake the bottle well before misting. The amount of blend needed will depend on the size of your bottle.

Aromatic Compresses

bowl-and-jug compressFill bowl with water, (warm for arthritic pain, Fibrositis, lower back pain etc. cold for sprains, headache or a cooling effect), add 4 – 6 drops of your essential oil or blend. Wipe cloth over the surface of the water, wring out any excess and then apply to the required area. Repeat as the cloth changes temperature. Hot and cold compresses may also be used alternately when there is a flare up of inflammation and swelling in joints. Repeat cycle of hot, then cold two to three time, each compress should be applied for 2 — 3 minutes. Always end with a cold compress.

Aroma Massage

MassageWhen applying essential oils topically to the skin they should always be diluted in a carrier and gentle massage is no exception. One doesn’t have to be a professional to massage a loved one. A caring, gentle touch is all that is needed. To 30ml of carrier oil add 10 – 15 drops of your essential oil blend.

Essential Oils Applied Topically to the Skin

In addition to massage, there are many other reasons why one might want to apply an essential oil/ essential oil synergy topically to the skin.  Skin care, perfumes, first aid, pain and symptom relief and the list goes on.
Please note, that whenever you do, the essential oil or essential oil synergy should always be diluted in a carrier.  This can be a gel, a cream, an ointment, a lotion or a carrier oil.  The correct dilution  will depend on a number of variables including age, health conditions, how often the blend is to be applied and over what period of time.