The basic essential oils
Basil, sometimes called 'sweet basil' or 'holy basil,' is an aromatic herb with yellow-green leaves and tiny white flowers, yielding a watery, pale yellow essential oil. It has a sweet, light mint aroma with hints of licorice or anise, giving it a spicy, fruity, balsamic fragrance. Oil of basil is similar to oil of rosemary, but gentler and more subtle. It's a mild stimulant that awakens the senses and restores stamina. In India, basil is a sacred herb grown as a house plant to protect the dwelling and the spirit of its inhabitants.
Basil is an anti-spasmodic, useful for muscle and digestive spasms when added to massage oil. This is an excellent remedy for menstrual cramps and tension, as well as chest congestion. Basil is also used to counter physical exhaustion, especially from long-term, debilitating illness. This is a good, overall 'pick-me-up' tonic when energy reserves are depleted.
Mental fatigue is greatly alleviated by basil oil, which aids quick thinking and decision making. This is a gentle, all-around mental stimulant useful in countering depression and lethargy, as well as 'psychic exhaustion' or ennui. It's also an aid for clearing the mind prior to meditation.
- Basil should be avoided throughout pregnancy, on hyper-sensitive skin and children under the age of 16.
- Use basil sparingly - no more than 2% (6 drops to 1/2 oz) of carrier oil or lotion; avoid prolonged use and refrain from applying neat (undiluted) on skin.
The leaves of the cinnamon evergreen tree are used to obtain essential oil of cinnamon, a yellow, watery substance. 'Cinnamon bark' is highly fragrant, and its dark-red/brown essential oil is readily available; however, it's highly irritating on most skin and is seldom recommend for aromatherapy. Essential oil of cinnamon leaf is highly aromatic, with a harsh, sweet and spicy fragrance, somewhat peppery and resembling clove, but stronger and sharper. Cinnamon is used extensively to flavor food and medicine. Cinnamon leaf oil is exhilarating, inspiring and reviving.
Used regularly in a diffuser or vaporizer, cinnamon oil is an excellent preventive for colds and infections from bacteria, virus or fungus. It also speeds recovery during respiratory illness. An abdominal massage with oil containing cinnamon leaf aids a variety of problems caused by sluggish digestion, including flu symptoms and flatulence. Cinnamon, either in massage oil or bath water, is beneficial for persons with poor circulation who suffer from continual cold hands and feet; this oil will warm body and soul with positive energy. Massaged on joints and spine, cinnamon is a successful remedy for arthritis pain and stiffness.
Cinnamon has life-affirming properties which make it an excellent remedy for feelings of isolation and sadness, as well as lethargy and listlessness. It brings courage, optimism, and renewed enthusiasm for life's pleasures.
- Cinnamon leaf oil should be avoided on sensitive skin
- Use sparingly - no more than 3 drops in bath water or added to 1/2 oz. massage oil or lotion.
The clove is a small, busy evergreen with dark green, aromatic leaves, bearing fragrant red flowers and purple berries. Rose-pink buds at the center of the blossoms are sun-dried and then distilled to obtain essential oil of clove, a fresh, sweet, spicy fragrance, similar to cinnamon but not as fiery or intense. This pale yellow oil has been an ingredient in perfume, medicine and food for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt, China and Rome. Clove's aroma in mysterious, intriguing, gently stimulating and revitalizing. Clove is also highly analgesic, warming and comforting.
Clove oil is a traditional home remedy for toothache pain; applied directly to gum tissue or aching tooth, clove has mild anesthetic properties. It also is an effective breath freshener and cold preventive, due to its antiseptic quality. A clove oil massage is effective in treating muscle ache and joint stiffness associated with rheumatism and arthritis. A reliable cure for winter chills, as well as 'the blahs,' is a warm soak with clove bath oil. Clove also works as an appetite stimulant and for relief of flatulence, indigestion, and nausea.
Clove is excellent for mental and emotional negativity due to a physical ailment. Generally, it's an excellent tonic for energizing and reviving the psyche and restoring a positive attitude.
- Avoid using on sensitive or dry skin
- Use sparingly - maximum three drops in bath water, or 1/2 ounce massage oil or lotion.
Approximately twenty of more than 700 species of eucalyptus are used in aromatherapy, each with subtle differences. Basically, the eucalyptus tree is a tall evergreen, sometimes 100 feet (30 meters) high, with dark green leaves from which a colorless to pale yellow essential oil is extracted. The penetrating aroma of eucalyptus oil is sharp, camphorated, balsamic and woody. 'Lemon eucalyptus' is a distinct species so-called because it has a distinct, citrus aroma. Generally, eucalyptus is piercing, clearing and invigorating. It is one of few essential oils whose potency increases with age rather than deteriorates.
Eucalyptus is the most popular essential oil for decongestion from colds, bronchitis and sinusitis, whether the infection is viral, bacterial or fungal. Used with steam inhalation, eucalyptus clears the respiratory system and relieves accompanying sore throat, headache and neuralgia. Eucalyptus oil kills airborne bacteria and is a good room disinfectant and deodorizer when used in a vaporizer or diffuser. Essential oil of eucalyptus is also used as an insect repellent, or treatment for insect bites. Skin rashes and conditions including shingles respond well to eucalyptus when a few drops of oil are added to bath water. It's also effective when blended with bergamot for treatment of herpes and cold sores.
The purifying and uplifting property of eucalyptus oil makes it an antidote for both mental exhaustion and emotional constriction. It's also a good psychic cleanser for removing negative energy in the home. The fragrance of this oil, especially 'lemon eucalyptus,' is an extremely powerful aid to focus the mind during mental activity, and to maintain concentration. Eucalyptus is also used to clear the mind prior to meditation or during prayer.
The ornamental garden geranium does not yield an essential oil, and only one of more than 700 varieties of geranium is used in aromatherapy. Essential oil is obtained from the entire geranium plant - stalks, hairy, serrated leaves, and clusters of florets ranging from pink to magenta and red. The fragrance of this light green oil is lemony, and herbal, with soft hints of rose. Far less expensive than essential oil of rose, geranium is an economical substitute. It is often used by perfumers to extend rose oil's efficacy. The aroma is gently refreshing, uplifting, harmonizing and equalizing. It comforts and creates a sense of security and stability.
Geranium stimulates the adrenal cortex and corrects hormonal imbalance, including menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms. It's antiseptic quality aids in detoxifying the lymph system in addition to healing minor flesh wounds. As a beauty aid, geranium regulates skin glands and prevents excessive oil production. It's gentle stimulating action improves circulation and acts on the urinary system as a mild diuretic. Added to massage oil, with daily treatment geranium is effective in reducing cellulite. It's also a good personal deodorant, as well as room freshener and insect repellant.
Oil of geranium works as an antidepressant, controls mood swings, nervousness and anxiety. It combats mental fatigue due to stress and overwork. Geranium controls the flow of energy in the body and balances the psyche emotionally and mentally, as well as physically.
Jasmine is a flowering shrub with fine green leaves and delicate white blossoms whose oil is extracted only with solvent, which produces 'Jasmine absolute,' the sole type of jasmine essential oil. The fragrance of this dark orange oil is a powerful, exotic floral with a sweet, honey undertone. It takes roughly 1,000 pounds of flowers to produce less than two ounces (4.5 grams) of Jasmine absolute, making this one of the most expensive essential oils in aromatherapy. Jasmine is picked at night when its perfume is strongest, giving it the title 'queen of the night.' Oil of jasmine is euphoric and mildly hypnotic. Its powerful aphrodisiac quality made it Cleopatra's choice perfume for wooing Marc Anthony. Empress Josephine used jasmine to lure Napoleon Bonaparte. Jasmine oil is intoxicating, liberating and revitalizing.
Jasmine is an excellent skin-care ingredient, particularly suited to mature skin that needs to be rejuvenated. A few drops of jasmine absolute in a warm bath eases muscle spasm, joint stiffness and the pain of sprained ligaments. Jasmine effectively treats the reproductive systems of both men and women. An abdominal or back massage with jasmine oil eases labor pain during childbirth and helps alleviate the discomfort of an enlarged prostate gland. The powerful aphrodisiac action of jasmine absolute can reignite passion in the most troubled sexual relationships.
Oil of jasmine, an antidepressant of a stimulating nature, is the best choice for restoring confidence in those who suffer debilitating vacillation, lethargy and indecision. Jasmine dispels fear, paranoia and pessimism. The positive qualities of jasmine unlock repressed emotions, elevate thinking, and foster insight and wisdom.
Lemon essential oil is cold pressed from the rind of the common citrus fruit which grows on small trees year-round. This pale yellow-green oil should not be confused with oil of 'lemongrass,' 'lemon-petitgrain,' or 'lemon balm.' which have different properties and uses in aromatherapy. Oil of lemon's fragrance is a light, clean, slightly sweet scent similar to fresh lemon rind but richer, more intense and longer lasting. This oil is used extensively in perfume, medicine, personal care products, and household cleaners, in addition to being a popular food flavoring. Lemon is often blended with other flavorings and fragrances to enhance their properties. The aroma is invigorating, refreshing and purifying.
Lemon oil's astringent and antibacterial qualities make it useful for cleansing wounds as well as detoxifying the circulatory, respiratory and lymphatic systems. Lemon oil neutralizes acid and is useful in treating rheumatism, gout, or an overly acidic stomach. It's also useful for halting the spread of bacterial infections, colds, and sore throats. As an ingredient in beauty products, lemon oil is exceptionally good for dull, oily skin, dark spots, and varicose veins, when added to lotions, massage oil or bath water. A drop or two of lemon oil added to shampoo or final rinse water gives hair a bright, sparkling sheen, regardless of natural color. A lemon oil bath is recommended for physical exhaustion as well as mental fatigue.
Lemon oil helps eliminate confusion and aids quick thinking, decision making and concentration. It is excellent for clearing the mind prior to meditation. The aroma of lemon clears negative vibrations and creates warm, comfortable feelings toward others.
- Essential lemon oil is photosensitive and should not be used on skin 24 hours prior to exposure to sunlight.
- Avoid using on sensitive skin.
- Use sparingly - maximum three drops in bath water, or 1/2 ounce of massage oil or lotion.
The patchouli bush has large, soft, hairy leaves and pale pink flowers. The leaves are dried and fermented for several days before they are distilled to obtain an exotic, dark orange essential oil. The heavy fragrance is sweet, spicy and woody, slightly balsamic and smoky. Patchouli is a powerful ingredient in perfume and is used as a deodorizer and moth repellant in carpeting, clothing and other woven fabrics. It's also an aphrodisiac for both male and female. The distinct, strong aroma is uplifting, balancing, regenerative and sensual.
Patchouli is a beneficial skin care ingredient for mature, oily skin and conditions such as dandruff, dermatitis or athlete's foot. Its regenerative properties are effective in skin cell renewal, particularly with scar tissue. Patchouli treats insect and snake bites, in addition to being an effective bug repellant. Sexual desire and passion are stimulated when patchouli is worn as perfume, or added to oil for an abdominal massage. Patchouli helps both male impotence and female frigidity.
Patchouli is excellent for stress-related emotional imbalance, including anxiety, nervousness and anger. It is useful for treating procrastination due to confusion or depressive, negative thoughts. Patchouli's earthy smell grounds and centers the psyche. It's used to remedy spaced-out thinking and excessive day dreaming. Patchouli has been used to reduce cravings during withdrawal from drug or tobacco addiction.
Peppermint essential oil, one of several mints used in aromatherapy, is distilled from pale purple, flowering tops or downy leaves of the peppermint plant. The pale green oil is nearly colorless with a fresh, penetrating smell and a hint of grass and camphor, similar to spearmint but more pungent. Peppermint is one of the oldest and most important natural drugs, dating back thousands of years to ancient Egypt and Greece. It's used throughout the world today in over-the-counter medications and to flavor food, gum and candy. A menthol content from 50 to 85% gives peppermint oil its minty aroma and creates a unique sensation which simultaneously cools and stimulates. The bold action of peppermint is soothing, refreshing and energizing.
Peppermint is the principal essential oil for a variety of digestive maladies. A gentle abdominal massage with peppermint oil will help relieve irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, flatulence, constipation, colon spasm, motion sickness, vomiting or nausea. Peppermint's analgesic properties have relieved headaches for many years. Diluted in a carrier oil, peppermint oil rubbed on temples, forehead and neck helps even chronic migraine headache. A peppermint massage is also good for arthritis, muscle ache or spasm in legs or feet, and menstrual cramps. As a decongestant and expectorant, peppermint oil massaged on the chest will treat colds, cough, bronchitis, sinusitis and asthma. The anti-viral property of peppermint fights influenza, herpes, yeast infection and athlete's foot. As a powerful antiseptic, peppermint oil treats bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.
Peppermint oil when inhaled improves mental clarity, alertness, concentration and intuitive thinking. It is excellent for treating mental fatigue, as well as feelings of insecurity, inferiority or apathy. Here's an excellent, restorative tonic, an overall pick-me-up.
- Essential oil of peppermint might cause an allergic reaction, especially on sensitive skin, and should only be used in a carrier oil, lotion or bath water.
- Avoid using oils or lotions with peppermint oil on children under 5 years old; a severe choking reaction to menthol might occur.
The towering Scotch pine, an evergreen with characteristic red bark, yields oil from its branches, cones and needle-like leaves. The preferred source of essential oil for aromatherapy is pine needles. This colorless clear oil has a fresh, earthy, balsamic fragrance with a subtle touch of turpentine. Pine oil is a powerful antiseptic traditionally added to soap, cleaners and deodorants, as well as men's cologne. It is used in saunas and steam baths for a dual cleansing/energizing effect. The piercing aroma is revitalizing, warming and invigorating.
Pine is a primary essential oil for clearing phlegm from the lungs and respiratory system and is used for simple colds, as well as chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, hay fever or allergy. Pine is antiseptic and kills both bacteria and viruses. Added to a vaporizer, pine will ease breathing for asthma sufferers as well as disinfect room air. Pine also provides a stimulating analgesic massage for headache or neuralgia. Pine, in a compress or massage lotion, alleviates sports injuries, sprains and muscle strain from over exertion. A pine bath treats cystitis in addition to gently stimulating and reviving weak kidney or bladder function and serving as a mild diuretic. It's an excellent ingredient to include in massage treatments for cellulite.
Oil of pine is good for relieving fatigue and mental exhaustion stemming from irritability and tension. Pine oil diffused into the air clears the psyche, removing feelings of guilt and inspiring self-confidence, acceptance and forgiveness. A mist of pine will clear a physical space of stagnant, negative vibrations and provide a comfortable atmosphere for meditation.
- Pine can be irritating to sensitive skin, even when diluted in bath water, massage oil or lotion.
Rosemary is a bushy shrub with silver-green leaves and a profusion of sky-blue flowers, from which essential oil is extracted. This thin, colorless oil has a sweet, herbaceous aroma with touches of balsam and camphor, giving rosemary a slightly medicinal, fresh odor. Historically, rosemary is believed to create a shield of protection around the psyche to ward off negativity and is used for this purpose in wedding and funeral rituals. Commercially, rosemary is a traditional ingredient in hair and skin care products. Rosemary is calming, comforting, invigorating and balancing.
A few drops of rosemary oil in shampoo, conditioner or rinse water will stimulate the scalp, correct dandruff, and encourage growth of strong, healthy hair with natural shine and highlights. Rosemary in facial products will revitalize mature, dull skin. A warming, rosemary body massage stimulates circulation, loosens stiff joints and alleviates muscle ache, spasm and the pain of neuralgia, arthritis, rheumatism and gout. This oil has powerful antiseptic qualities and, when diffused into the air, halts the spread of airborne infection. A morning bath with rosemary oil helps jump-start the day, even relieving an alcohol hangover.
Rosemary is the strongest essential oil for aiding brain function. Rosemary provides mental structure, stability and strength during times of emotional stress, negativity and confusion. Rosemary, popular with students and writers, enhances memory. A few drops, diffused into the air or dabbed on wrists while studying or writing, clears the mind and stimulates creative thinking as well as intuitive vision. This oil encourages practical thinking and aids in problem solving on physical, emotional and spiritual levels. Rosemary oil or incense are traditional aids for centering and focusing the mind prior to meditation.
- Use of rosemary oil is not recommended during pregnancy, in cases of epilepsy, or when fever is present.
Thyme is a bushy shrub with small green leaves and white flowers. Essential oil of thyme is extracted both from leaves and white top flowers. There are more than 150 species of thyme. The most powerful is 'red thyme,' recognized by its orange- or brown-red color. The recommended use in aromatherapy for red thyme is air diffusion, due to its high concentration of phenol, a strong skin irritant. A milder variety is 'thyme linalol,' a pale yellow, thin liquid, recommended for skin application diluted in a carrier oil or bath water. Some manufacturers produce 'white thyme essential oil,' a colorless oil, which is a multi-distillation of red thyme and less irritating on skin.
All varieties of thyme smell the same to a degree, red thyme being the most intense. The aroma is spicy, sweet, woody and slightly medicinal. Thyme oil was used in ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece in baths, burners and massage oil as a disinfectant and to fill the atmosphere with it's pleasing herbal fragrance. Thyme's effect is energizing, strengthening, purifying and re-balancing.
Thyme is the major essential oil used to fight infection, either bacterial or viral. It aids in production of white blood cells, strengthens the immune system, and is preventive against colds, sore throat and influenza. Thyme stimulates production of red blood cells, thereby increasing oxygen throughout the body and bringing renewed vigor. It is used during illness to regulate a depressed appetite and improve sluggish digestion or poor elimination, including constipation. This essential oil simultaneously enlivens and calms bodily systems, restoring strength and stamina, especially in cases of chronic fatigue as well as accompanying lack of sexual interest, frigidity or impotence.
Essential oil of thyme is useful emotionally in cases of lethargy, melancholia and depression, including postpartum. For its grounding and re-balancing action, thyme is used to treat mental 'spacey-ness,' unrealistic thinking and lack of motivation. Thyme gives a feeling of courage, determination and resolve.
- Avoid every variety of thyme during pregnancy and in cases of high-blood pressure.
- Red thyme is not appropriate for use in massage oil or bath water, nor with children.