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Aromatherapy is the use of pure essential oils to enhance physical and mental well-being.  Essential oils are aromatic, highly concentrated distilled essence of plants. These oils can have many different applications in our lives.  They can sometimes be used as a natural adjunct to, or substitute for, prescription or over-the-counter drugs. We can also use them to make ourselves feel better.

Essential oils not only affect the physical but also the mental and emotional aspects of our lives.  The inhalation of certain essential oils has been associated with the release of brain chemicals that stimulate various emotions.  For example, lavender oil has the ability to evoke and increase the release of serotonin, thus producing a calming effect on the body.  Some essential oils also have healing properties when applied topically to the skin.

When purchasing essential oils, make sure they are 100 percent pure botanical extracts, not chemical reproductions of different fragrances.  Chemical reproductions are not effective in aromatherapy because they do not evoke the same biochemical response as natural, pure essential oils.

Using essential oils is really very simple.  For inhalation therapy, there are diffusers, simmer pots, aromatherapy lamps, and lightbulb rings.  When using one of these devices, follow the manufacturer's instructions.  Or you can inhale an essential oil directly from the bottle.   For topical applications, dilute a small amount of essential oil in a base (either water or another oil, termed a carrier oil, depending on the intended use).

The following are some suggested dilution ratios for topical applications:

  • Baths.  Add 8 drops essential oils to 1 cup water and add to the bath.
  • Body lotion.  Add 25 drops essential oil to 8 ounces of unscented lotion.
  • Carpet freshener.  Add 25 drops essential oil to 16 ounces of water.
  • Cleaning.  Add 25 drops essential oil to 2 gallons of water.
  • Facial oil.  Add 6 drops essential oil to 1 ounce of jojoba oil.
  • Hair conditioner.  Add 1 drop essential oil to 4 - 6 ounces of unscented conditioner.
  • Hair rinse.  Add 10 drops essential oil to 16 ounces water.
  • Massage oil.  Add 25 drops essential oil to 2 ounces almond, apricot, grape seed, jojoba or olive oil.
  • Perfume.  Add 12 drops essential oil to 16 ounces water or jojoba oil.
  • Room deodorizer.  Add 25 drops essential oil to 16 ounces water.
  • Shampoo.  Add 12 drops essential oil to 16 ounces unscented shampoo.

When using essential oils, be aware that they are highly concentrated and very potent. Keep the following precautions in mind:

  • Do not use oils full strength.  Always dilute them first.  Some essential oils can be toxic if used full strength.
  • Do not use oils near the eyes.