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Aromatherapy is one branch of the herbal sciences that doesn’t get enough attention. Just about every product on the market meant for beauty, hygiene, or the home is scented. Did you know that the scents that you prefer can say a lot about your mood and personality? Aromatherapy is the science of making sense of scents, and figuring out how they work into your everyday life.
The History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has a long and interesting past, dating back to Greek and Roman times. The science of the day was well-acquainted with essential oils and their extraction and refinement, so it only makes sense that it flourished. The Roman empire especially was seen as heyday of ancient aromatherapy, with the science elevated to new levels as Romans used essential oils to care for themselves and even keep clean.
There’s also quite a bit of evidence of essential oils being important to the Egyptians, although their methods were a bit less refined. Still, the use of aromatherapy played a big part of Egyptian funerary techniques — after all, those mummies were often stuffed with sweet-smelling satchels. Aromatherapy techniques were also popular in Egyptian cosmetics, although they never did figure out that it isn’t a great idea to smear lead-based pigments on themselves.
The history of aromatherapy has continued up to modern day, with many cosmetics and household goods custom-scented to provide relaxation and positive thoughts. Bath bombs, shampoos, soaps, makeup, and more all have highly-trained aromatherapists mixing up their featured scents.
Essential Oils and Carrier Oils
There are two categories of oils that you need to keep straight when you’re learning aromatherapy. The first kind, essential oils, are where all of the action is. Essential oils contain active ingredients that can help you keep your calm, lift your mood, or give you a burst of energy. These oils are what give blends their potency.
The other type of oils, called carrier oils, are simply there to make measuring and working with your blends a bit easier. They bulk up a blend and make them safer to handle — since some oils can be incredibly harsh on the skin by themselves. Carrier oils also keep your blends fresh for longer, breaking down in place of some essential oils and evening out the temperature spikes and changes that can cause degradation in your blends.
The two types of oils work together to make aromatherapy blends more shelf-stable and easier to handle, and carrier oils are often very mild and can help to moisturize the skin when you apply blends directly. In fact, it’s recommended that you never apply straight essential oils to your skin directly, instead you should blend them with a carrier oil or you might suffer from irritation, redness, or a rash.
Storing Your Oils
Since essential oils are full of fragile molecules, it’s important you store them the right way if you want to keep your aromatherapy oils performing well. It’s a good idea to store your oils in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, which can break down the active compounds. It’s also smart to write the date of purchase on each bottle, so you can keep track of how long you’ve had them sitting around for.
When you’re blending your oils, use a separate glass eyedropper for each oil. This will help to prevent cross-contamination and weird smells from arising later on down the line. An easy way to accomplish this is with eyedropper lids, which screw on in place of the vial’s original lid. If you find yourself having to store your collection of essential oils, put the factory lid back on, though.
A Few Blends and Their Effects
Once you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to start making your own blends. Here are a few aromatherapy oils and their effects, along with some ideas for invigorating new blends.
Peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils are uplifting and refreshing, giving the user a boost of energy and helping them to keep a clear mind. Lavendar, geranium, and other floral oils are thought of as balancing and soothing, promoting calmness and balance. Citrus oils, especially lemon and orange, are just the opposite — these oils give the user a sense of purpose and clarity, invigorating everyone who smells them.
Aromatherapy goes a lot further than just making a room smell nice. There are a lot of other crafty ideas that you can incorporate aromatherapy into. For instance, Smokable Herbs covered how easy it can be to make your own soaps, lotions, and shampoos. Try incorporating some of your favorite blends into any of these products and you might never go back to store-bought soaps and lotions again.
There’s no shortage of great gift and craft ideas for aromatherapy on the web. One of our favorite sites for inspiration, Abundant Health, is absolutely full of new and interesting ideas.