Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
This section of AromaWeb provides answers to 100 of the most frequently asked questions about essential oils and holistic aromatherapy.
Quick Links to FAQ Categories:
- Introductory Essential Oil and Aromatherapy Information
- Aromatic Ingredients
- Essential Oil Safety
- Purchasing Essential Oils, Aromatherapy Products and Aromatherapy Services
- Essential Oil Recipes
- Essential Oil Uses and Applications
- Essential Oil Conservation and Sustainability
- Caring for Your Essential Oils and Hydrosols
- Blending Essential Oils
- Essential Oil Quality and Purity
- Essential Oils for Spirituality and Enlightenment
- Essential Oils and the Chakras
- Aromatherapy Books
Introductory Essential Oil and Aromatherapy Information
The definition that I like to use in conversation with those new to working with essential oils is below. I like this definition because it is simple, concise, and it opens the door for conversation and elaboration:
“Aromatherapy entails the use of essential oils and other natural aromatics for physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.”
For more information, read AromaWeb's article What is Aromatherapy?
The French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé coined the term aromatherapy in 1928. Although the term aromatherapy was not used until the 20th Century, the use of aromatic botanicals and aromatic oils date back thousands of years. Distillation and the use of essential oils dates back nearly one thousand years. Explore the fascinating history of aromatherapy and its origins.
I've been using essential oils for over 20 years, and I personally love how beneficial essential oils can be. I created a guide that lists 21 important benefits of essential oils. This free guide provides an overview of each benefit and provides links to where you can find more in-depth info on AromaWeb.
There is! Assessing the aroma of an essential oil by simply sniffing directly from the bottle is not ideal. Learn more by exploring AromaWeb's Guide to Evaluating the Aroma of an Essential Oil.
You can immediately start learning more about essential oils by drilling into AromaWeb's free Essential Oil Guides and Articles area. It contains over 130 guides and articles that are free to immediately access. No signup required! Two other incredibly helpful ways to learn more about essential oils and gain differing perspectives is to enroll in an aromatherapy class or read essential oil books.
Essential oils are highly concentrated, natural plant-based aromatics. Essential oils are produced by distillation of the leaves, wood, petals, buds, needles, bark or roots of aromatic plants such as lavender, rosemary, cedarwood, rose, peppermint and cypress. While most essential oils are distilled, essential oils produced from citrus rinds are either cold pressed or steam distilled. If an aromatic product is produced in any other way, it is likely not a genuine essential oil. It's fairly common for people to mistakenly refer to other types of aromatics as essential oils.
For more information, see AromaWeb's article What are Essential Oils?
Absolutes share a lot of similarities with essential oils. They are very fragrant, highly aromatic, and they can be exquisite to work with. However, they are produced in a much different manner, and there are some key differences to keep in mind when working with absolutes vs. essential oils.
For more info, read AromaWeb's introduction to absolutes.
CO2 Supercritical Extracts are also referred to as CO2 Extracts and sometimes simply as CO2s. CO2 Extracts are produced by using a method known as supercritical carbon dioxide extraction. CO2 Extracts are superior to essential oils in a number of ways. Learn how CO2 supercritical extracts compare to essential oils, how CO2 supercritical extraction is performed and what the difference is between CO2 Select Extracts and CO2 Total Extracts by reading AromaWeb's Guide to CO2 Supercritical Extracts.
Explore AromaWeb's Essential Oil Profile Directory. It includes profiles for 130 essential oils, CO2 supercritical extracts and absolutes. If you want further information or are looking for a profile that isn't yet available on AromaWeb, take a look through essential oil books that include essential oil monographs (profiles).
Explained as simply as possible, a hydrosol is the aromatic water that remains after distilling plant material such as lavender buds, peppermint leaves, rose petals or ginger root. Hydrosols are typically more gentle than essential oils. Learn all about these wonderful aromatic waters, their amazing benefits and what to watch out for when shopping for hydrosols by reading AromaWeb's Introduction to Hydrosols.
Explore AromaWeb's Hydrosol Profile Directory. It includes profiles for over 35 hydrosols. If you want further information or are looking for a profile that isn't yet available on AromaWeb, take a look through hydrosol books that include monographs (profiles).
The term carrier oil is synonymous with the term vegetable oil, and both terms can be used interchangeably within the scope of aromatherapy. Unlike essential oils which are volatile and highly aromatic, carrier oils are fatty oils that consist primarily of fatty acids. Good quality carrier oils used within aromatherapy are typically cold or expeller pressed. Carrier oils are derived from the fatty regions of a plant such as the seeds, kernels or the nuts. Look to AromaWeb's Introduction to Carrier Oils for much more info on these important oils.
Explore AromaWeb's Carrier Oil Profile Directory. It includes profiles for over 30 carrier oils. If you want further information or are looking for a profile that isn't yet available on AromaWeb, take a look through carrier oil books that include monographs (profiles).
For a detailed list, please head over to Fatty Acids Typically Found in Carrier Oils.
Generally speaking, certified organic essential oils are usually superior to conventional essential oils. (Conventional means non-organic.) There are two families of thought on this topic, and you can learn more by reading AromaWeb's article on Organic Essential Oils.
The sole purpose of a fragrance oil is to add fragrance to a room or product. Fragrance oils are sometimes referred to as "scents" as that is all they do. Essential oils and fragrance oils are not the same thing. Essential oils offer many more benefits than merely adding scent to a room or product, so referring to essential oils merely as "scents" can cause confusion and lead others to mistakenly think that you might be referring to fragrance oils.
For more information, read Essential Oils Are More Than Just "Scents" or "Fragrances".
Essential oils are not the same as fragrance oils, perfume oils or potpourri oils. Pure essential oils consist of aromatic molecules that have been distilled from natural plant material. Perfume and fragrance oils contain artificial substances. Although fragrance oils can smell great, they do not offer the caliber of therapeutic benefits that essential oils can offer.
An infused oil, also referred to as a macerated oil, consists of a carrier oil that has been infused with an herb or resin. The benefit to using an infused oil instead of a plain carrier oil is that the infused oil will contain the aromatic and therapeutic properties of both the carrier oil and the botanical material that was infused into the carrier oil. Look to AromaWeb's Introduction to Infused and Macerated Oils for more information and a simple overview of making infused oils.
When some plants, namely trees, are injured, they produce a thick, sticky substance called a resin. Frankincense, Myrrh and Benzoin are examples of resins that are used in the production of essential oils, CO2 supercritical extracts, hydrosols and infused oils.
Because the term Flower Essence is similar to the term Essential Oil, people sometimes get the terms confused. For this reason, I wrote a detailed Introduction to Flower Essences that explains what they are and describes the most common flower essences.
It sure does! The therapeutic benefits, aroma, best methods of use, safety and cost can vary depending on whether you working with an essential oil, an absolute, a CO2 extract, a hydrosol, a macerated oil or a tincture of a particular botanical. This is one of the reasons why it's so very important to be careful in how you refer to the materials that you work with. It can be very problematic, for example, to refer to a fragrance oil as an essential oil.
Essential Oil Safety
Yes. Essential oils can be harmful if not used carefully. Implementing aromatherapy into your lifestyle shouldn't cause paranoia or undue worry, but it is important to learn about and heed essential oil safety. Read AromaWeb's List of Essential Oil Safety Tips for more info.
Yes. Undiluted use of essential oils on the skin can be harmful and potentially cause severe irritation or sensitization. For details, read AromaWeb's Guide to Diluting Essential Oils.
Please read AromaWeb's Essential Oils That are More Likely to Cause Irritation or Skin Sensitization for details.
Photosensitization and phototoxicity can occur when certain essential oil constituents (natural chemicals found in particular essential oils) react when exposed to ultraviolet light. Inflammation, blistering and reddening/burning of the skin are common. Learn about essential oils that are phototoxic.
Yes! Read AromaWeb's Tips for Diffusing Essential Oils Safely
You'll find the answer by reading AromaWeb's article about the Internal Use of Essential Oils.
The resulting aroma, therapeutic properties and safety considerations can vary significantly depending on what part of the plant is used in the distillation of a particular essential oil. For example, Cinnamon Essential Oil is produced from either the bark or the leaves. The aroma, therapeutic benefits and safety considerations of Cinnamon Leaf Oil is different than that for Cinnamon Bark Oil. For more information, read The Parts of Plants That Produce Essential Oil.
Different plants can sometimes share the same common name. For example, there are several types of "Chamomile." This can be highly problematic because plants sharing the same common name don't necessarily share the same therapeutic properties, benefits or safety precautions. For a much more thorough explanation, read The Importance of Using Botanical Names with Essential Oils.
Please head over to AromaWeb's Hazardous Essential Oil List for more information.
What to Look for When Purchasing Essential Oils, Aromatherapy Products and Aromatherapy Services
Explore AromaWeb's informative list of 24 key tips that will guide you on what to look for and what to watch out for when shopping for essential oils: How to Shop for Essential Oils.
Take a look at AromaWeb's Guide to Shopping for Aromatherapy Products.
There are numerous outstanding essential oil and aromatherapy books available, many written especially for beginners. There are also a wide range of books covering important specialized topics such as Essential Oil Safety, Essential Oil Chemistry, Aromatherapy for Babies and Children, Subtle Aromatherapy, and many others.
However, it is way too easy nowadays for people to self publish crudely written books regardless of their actual subject knowledge.
Explore AromaWeb's Guide to Shopping for Essential Oil Books for details and a list of 10 important questions to ask yourself when shopping for and comparing essential oil books.
There are multiple categories of diffusers available (i.e. passive, ultrasonic, fan, nebulizing). Many styles and brands are available for each category. Your specific needs will play a key role in determine the diffuser that is best for you. AromaWeb's Guide to Essential Oil Diffusers will help give you a solid overview on the different types available on the market.
Aromatherapy inhalers are a small, portable and convenient way to use essential oils when a diffuser isn't convenient or appropriate. For more details and info on how to use them, please explore AromaWeb's Guide to Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Inhalers.
There are! Please check out AromaWeb's Guide to Eco-Friendly Essential Oil Inhaler Alternatives.
Please see AromaWeb's Guide to Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Jewelry for details on seven different types of aromatic jewelry. This guide also includes important safety considerations to keep in mind when selecting and wearing jewelry imparted with essential oils.
You'll find the answers by taking a look at AromaWeb's Introduction to Incense and Aromatherapy.
Please take a look at AromaWeb's Introduction to Aromatherapy Candles.
Please read AromaWeb's Introductory Guide to the Basics of How and Why Essential Oils Vary in Price for helpful insights!
When you view AromaWeb's Essential Oil Profile Directory and when you patronize reputable aromatherapy retailers/suppliers, you'll notice that essential oils are not commercially available for many aromatic botanicals that you may expect to be available.
Read Not All Plants Produce Useful Essential Oils to learn why!
AromaWeb visitors that are new to aromatherapy will often contact me to ask what the best essential oils are to use and purchase. It's a very broad question, but I certainly understand why so many individuals ask this! For my detailed answer, read The Best Essential Oils.
I've been working with essential oils for over twenty years now. It's understandable why I'm often asked what the best essential oil brand or company is considering the number of not-so-good and bogus essential oil companies in existence. Learn how to discover the best brands of essential oils for your particular needs and budget.
You'll find the answer by reading Finding a Qualified Aromatherapy Practitioner.
Numerous companies use the term therapeutic grade. However, no governmental agency or generally accepted organization grades or certifies essential oils as "therapeutic grade," "medicinal grade," or "aromatherapy grade" in the U.S. There is no formally approved grading standard used consistently throughout the essential oil industry.
For more info, read AromaWeb's article detailing the background and concerns about oils marketed as being Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
Essential Oil Recipes
Please explore AromaWeb's Aromatherapy Recipes area for a selection of over 70 recipes! It includes a large number of recipes for blends.
Please explore AromaWeb's Aromatherapy Recipes area for a selection of over 70 recipes.
Take a look at the books listed within AromaWeb's Essential Oil Recipes Books area.
It depends on your level of essential oil and formulation knowledge, and it also depends on the type of product that you want to make. There are many wonderful ready-made products available. Explore AromaWeb's Aromatherapy Products article for tips on what to look for when shopping for aromatherapy products (and what to watch out for!).
Please read Measurements for Essential Oils.
Essential Oil Uses and Applications
Yes! Head over to AromaWeb's Guide to Aromatherapy for Emotional Well-Being. It includes lists of essential oils that may help with anger management, anxiety, and over ten more emotional states - and each of the essential oils listed links to the profile for the oil.
Essential oils have played a remarkable role in my self-care routine, so I have a lot I can share about how they can be used to help support your daily wellness and emotional outlook. If you head over and a look at the Guide to Essential Oils for Self-Care, you'll find suggestions, an outline of my personal self-care routine, and a guide to the ways that you can integrate essential oils into your own self-care routine.
Essential oils should not be used in place of CDC approved disinfectants or sanitizers. However, essential oils may be helpful to you in temporarily soothing anxiety and for other supportive measures. Read AromaWeb's featured article Can Essential Oils Be Supportive During the COVID-19 Pandemic? for details, tips, precautions and links to recipes.
Everyone is different and not everyone is helped by essential oils. However, essential oils do have the potential to soften feelings of anxiety. Essential oils help me in a profound way, but again, I do not want to make any blanket claims because everyone is different. For more information, read Essential Oils for Anxiety and explore Aromatherapy Recipes for Anxiety.
Everyone is different and not everyone is helped by essential oils. However, essential oils have the potential to temporarily soften feelings of depression. I do not want to make any blanket claims as everyone is different. Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils should not be used as a substitute for proper medical care. For more information, read Aromatherapy for Depression and explore Aromatherapy Blends for Depression. See also Aromatherapy Tips to Help Combat the Winter Blues and Holiday Blues.
Using calming and relaxing essential oils before your intended bedtime may potentially help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep until your intended wake-up time. Everyone is different and not everyone is helped by essential oils. If you have an ongoing, serious sleep disorder, you should see your doctor oa a qualified health professional to discuss your situation and gain treatment for the root cause of your insomnia. For more information, read Aromatherapy for Insomnia and Problems Sleeping and explore AromaWeb's 15 Best Essential Oils for Promoting Sleep. Also see AromaWeb's Essential Oil Diffuser Blends That Help Promote Sleep.
When safely and sensibly practiced, certain aspects of holistic aromatherapy may benefit those with anosmia because some essential oils and their constituents offer an array of therapeutic benefits that span well beyond the capability of perceiving their aromas. Learn more by reading AromaWeb's featured article on Aromatherapy and Anosmia.
Essential oils are not a miracle aid for weight loss. On their own, the use of essential oils won't magically help you shed tons of weight. When used in conjunction with your doctor's recommendations, however, the proper use of essential oils have the potential to be very supportive, comforting and act as a valuable aid in your weight loss plan. I wrote a detailed free article about Aromatherapy and Weight Loss that I hope you find helpful. It includes a key tip on one of the best way to use essential oils for weight loss, and it provides a lists of essential oils that you may find helpful with underlying emotional challenges that can hinder weight loss.
Essential oils should never be added directly to bathwater without first emulsifying them so that they disperse safely in water. For information about enjoying aromatic baths, read AromaWeb's Introduction to Taking Aromatherapy Baths.
Take a close look at AromaWeb's Introduction to Aromatherapy Massage.
Yes. Please read Aromatherapy During Pregnancy for more information.
You must be very careful. Essential oils and essential oil blends for use with children must be used at significantly lower dilutions than when used by an adult. Additionally, many essential oils should not be used at all with children. For more information, read Aromatherapy for Babies and Children.
Even if you have a solid foundation in aromatherapy and essential oil safety for humans, special care and knowledge needs to be considered when utilizing aromatherapy and essential oils on or near animals. For more information, read Aromatherapy for Animals and Pets.
When used properly, essential oils can make traveling much more pleasant and comfortable. I wouldn't be without my personal travel apothecary when I leave home! Take a look at AromaWeb's Guide to Essential Oils for Travel for tips, recipes and lists of beneficial essential oils that can help with common travel complaints.
They can in many cases! For details, please take a look at Remove Odors Naturally Using Essential Oils and Other Natural Ingredients.
Explore AromaWeb's featured article Natural Home Fragrancing Ideas for Christmas and the Holidays!
Enjoy browsing this list of essential oils chosen with springtime use in mind. Blends are also provided.
The warmer summertime months are the perfect time to diffuse and blend with light, energizing, herbaceous, floral, and cooling essential oils.
Autumn / Fall
As Autumn brings forth its cooler temperatures and richly colored falling leaves, it's a good time to enjoy diffusing and blending with warming essential oils.
Winter / Holidays / Christmas
Enjoy diffusing and blending these essential oils to help get into the spirit of the season.
Essential Oil Conservation and Sustainability
Explore AromaWeb's detailed Guide to Essential Oils and Sustainability.
Take a look at Essential Oil Yields for a detailed introduction and a list of the yields for many essential oils.
To find out, read AromaWeb's Guide to Essential Oil Costs and Pricing.
Caring for Your Essential Oils and Hydrosols
Essential oils do not go rancid, but they do have a shelf life. They can oxidize, deteriorate, lose their therapeutic value, and their aromatic quality can diminish. Explore AromaWeb's Guide to Essential Oil Shelf Life to view guidelines and tips that will help you maximum the lifespan of your essential oils.
Proper essential oil storage can help protect your essential oils and and prolong their shelf life. Learn how to store essential oils to maximize their shelf life.
Please refer to AromaWeb's Hydrosol Shelf Life and Storage Tips
Please see How to Use Up Those Old and Aging Essential Oils.
Please see Essential Oil Disposal.
Essential oils and absolutes vary in viscosity (thickness). Sometimes, oils can leave a sticky film on the inside of your glass bottles that can be impossible to clean with just soap and hot water. Explore tips and tricks on how to clean and reuse an essential oil bottle and learn when it's best to instead recycle a bottle.
Blending Essential Oils
Explore AromaWeb's seven-part Essential Oil Blending Guide!
When we first begin using carrier oils or other diluents to dilute our essential oils to skin safe dilution levels, our blends may seem a bit weak aromatically. Find out more by exploring AromaWeb's guide to Safely Diluted Essential Oil Blends May Smell Weak At First.
AromaWeb features a helpful guide to working with and blending thick and solid essential oils and CO2 supercritical extracts. It includes a super helpful tip shared by Anya McCoy, the founder and head instructor for the Natural Perfumery Institute!
Using the analogy of a musical scale, oils that evaporate the quickest, usually within 1-2 hours, are called top notes. Oils that evaporate with 2-4 hours are considered middle notes. Oils that take the longest time to evaporate are referred to as base notes. AromaWeb's guide to Aromatic Blending of Essential Oils goes into more detail.
Also see the following lists:
Please explore these articles within AromaWeb's Guide to Aromatherapy for Men:
Please refer to Essential Oil Aromatic Classifications for a list of 100 essential oils that have been categorized into 18 aromatic groups based on the most dominant aromatic trait within the oil.
Essential Oil Quality and Purity
Explore these 11 articles that belong to AromaWeb's Guide to Verifying Essential Oil Quality:
- Why Is the Quality/Purity of an Essential Oil Important?
- Aren't Most Essential Oils Pure?
- Constituents - What do Essential Oils Consist Of?
- Quality vs. Purity - Aren't They the Same Thing?
- Quantifiable Testing of Essential Oils
- GC-MS Test Results - How Can They Be Used?
- Organoleptic Testing of Essential Oils
- Other Quantifiable Tests for Testing the Quality and Purity of Essential Oils
- Essential Oil Quality and Purity Conclusion: Final Questions/Answers
- Essential Oil Adulteration
You'll find the answer by heading over to AromaWeb's Essential Oil Adulteration featured article.
Within the scope of essential oil assessment and testing, the term organoleptic refers to using our five senses to observe the physical properties of an essential oil. Explore AromaWeb's Guide to Organoleptic Testing of Essential Oils to learn how you can evaluate and assess essential oils yourself.
Essential Oils for Spirituality and Enlightenment
I know that a lot of people claim that essential oils were used during biblical times and that some people also claim that the aromatics referenced in the bible were essential oils. However, I strongly disbelieve that these aromatic oils were actually essential oils. The aromatic oils mentioned in the bible were likely what we refer to today as infused oils or macerated oils. Learn why by exploring Aromatic Plants, Aromatherapy and the Bible.
Absolutely. I prefer to diffuse essential oils or use a personal inhaler when I meditate or pray. You can learn more within AromaWeb's two articles Meditating With Essential Oils and Praying With Essential Oils
Although it cannot be seen with the naked eye, it is believed by some that negative energy can build up in a space if it isn't cleared. Depending on your personal beliefs, essential oils have the potential to uplift the spirit, purify the environment and combat the negativity that we experience daily. Learn more by exploring AromaWeb's article Essential Oils to Cleanse, Purify and Combat Negativity.
Native Americans tightly tie and dry sage into bundles that are referred to as smudge sticks. For more information, read AromaWeb's article Native American Smudging Ceremonies and Rituals.
AromaWeb's Guide to Aromatherapy and Astrology explores how you can integrate the benefits of aromatherapy into what you know about yourself and your loved ones through your insight into astrology.
Explore Aromatic Plants Mentioned in the Bible for a detailed outline of the plants referenced in the Bible. It cites the relevant verses for each plant.
Essential Oils and the Chakras
AromaWeb offers an entire section and guide devoted to essential oils and balancing the chakras! Explore each of the seven major chakras, learn about chakra balancing and discover the essential oils commonly associated with each chakra.
Take a look at AromaWeb's Essential Oil Recipes for Balancing the Chakras and also the Guide to Essential Oils and the Chakras.
Head on over to AromaWeb's Essential Oil Books area to explore descriptions for 70 books!
I'd love to try! Take a look at Guide to What to Look for When Shopping for Essential Oil Books. Some essential oil books are unhelpful, inaccurate and misleading. This guide and list will help you select the best and most helpful essential oil books for your needs.
Please read AromaWeb's article that lists The Best Essential Oil Books for Beginners.
Take a look at the Ranking of the Most Popular Essential Oil and Aromatherapy Books.
Great question! I answer this question in AromaWeb's Guide to What to Look for When Shopping for Essential Oil Books.