Essential Oils – Techniques for Use Archives

Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness
At 480 pages, Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele’s book is packed with useful information. Whether you’re a novice to essential oils or a seasoned user, you will find plenty of useful tips and information in their book. And best of all, the material is written in a down to earth, lay-person’s language.

The book is divided into 4 sections:

  • Part One (The oils) looks at the properties of essential oils, some key essential oils, an A-Z listing of essential oils (109 different oils), fixed and carrier oils, basic massage oil blends and infused oils.
  • Part Two (just over 200 pages) covers different conditions and essential oil remedies for them; from abrasions to workplace stress (450 different remedies)
  • Part Three covers essential oils for daily living – such as personal care (skin, hair and body), the home and massage. In this section you’ll find specific recipes for things like soap, shampoos, conditioners and even colognes.
  • Part Four (Practicalities) – equipment, measuring and storing essential oils. It also includes a glossary, list of resources, bibliography and index.

What I particularly liked in the format of the book were the brief tips and cautions included on the page margins, as well as highlighted information in text boxes through out the book. E.g. Citrus oils and Phototoxicity, and Mineral Oil and Petroleum Jelly.

The book is called The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for good reason, as in fact it seems like there isn’t an aspect of aromatherapy that doesn’t get covered or explained in this book. I particularly liked how the authors discussed the uses and benefits of different carrier oils, such as almond, apricot kernel, avocado, borage seed, carrot seed, cocoa butter, coconut, evening primrose, grapeseed, jojoba wax, kukui nut, macadamia, meadowfoam, neem, olive, peanut, rosehip seed, safflower, sesame, shea butter, sunflower, tamanu, vitamin e and wheat germ oil. There is also a discussion of hydrolats (which are distilled plant waters), floral waters and infused oils (the soaking of a plant’s leaves, stem or flowers in a carrier oil for a long period of time).

My only point of difference with the authors is their caution over the internal use/ingestion of essential oils, which is something very much consistent with English-American schools of aromatherapy. [1]  I have used a number of essential oils internally over the past 10 years without ill effect. Ultimately this is something for each reader to decide for themselves in consultation with their health care practitioner. One could say that it’s better to “err on the side of caution”. It certainly doesn’t take away from the enormous value you will find in this book. Here’s an example from their book, of a great bath oil blend you can make up to wind down after a stressful day:

Relaxing bath oil blend:

1 tsp (5 ml)    grapeseed or sweet almond oil
     2 drops     Roman chamomile essential oil
     2 drops     Lavender essential oil
     2 drops     Ylang ylang essential oil
Fill your tub with warm water. In a small non-reactive bowl, combine grapeseed oil and chamomile, lavender and ylang ylang essential oils. Stir well and then add to tub. Agitate the water thoroughly to disperse the oils, then soak yourself in the tub for 30 minutes, massaging into your skin any floating droplets of oil.

Buy the book

The Authors: 

Nerys Purchon was one of Australia’s leading experts on herbs, aromatherapy and essential oils. Her books have sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide. (Nerys Purchon passed away on January 15th 2011.)

Lora Cantele, RA, CMAIA, AAS is a registered aromatherapist, clinical aromatologist, certified Swiss reflex therapist and aromatherapy educator and writer.

Till next time


Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.


Essential oil perfumes and after-shaves

Just wrote a post on Wellbeing’s blog – Making essential oil perfumes – in which I show you how I can replace dangerous synthetic perfumery with essential oil blends, and I give you some tips on how you can make these.

Till next time



Making up essential oil blends

Just wrote a short post on Wellbeing’s blog –  The magic of essential oil blends – in which I describe the benefits of blends and how you can actually create your own essential oil blends.

Till Next Time



Ok, I’m going to cut to the chase on this one. If you want the full therapeutic benefit from your oils, don’t use them in an oil burner. These typically operate by placing the oil in a ceramic dish (or even metal tray), with or without water and using a candle or some other heat source underneath to vaporize the oils into the surrounding room. Yes I know. They look great. I even had one myself many years ago.

However, the heat from the candle will actually damage your oils. Furthermore, the most volatile compounds in the oil will be dispersed first, with the heavier molecules coming later. That means you don’t receive the oil in its natural balance.[1] Aside from not receiving any therapeutic benefits, oils can catch fire in the presence of a flame. And if the essential oil is diluted with an alcohol such as methanol or propanol (as is the case in some dodgey oils), they can become dangerously flammable. [2]

If you’re only interested in the ‘nice smell’ from an oil in a room, then Ok, use an oil burner. But don’t expect many therapeutic benefits from it. And in that case, don’t waste good quality therapeutic grade oils. Buy a cheap, fragrant oil. The only problem there is that you’re not really sure ‘what else’ is in the oil. You may be using something that could be toxic or become carcinogenic when burnt.

The same goes with incense sticks. They may provide the desired scent, but much of the oil is actually destroyed. If you want more than just a scent from the aroma in an oil, then diffusers are the way to go.


There are a number of different diffusers. There are those that use water. The oil is placed on a water in a tray and a fan blows through to disperse the oil into the air. One problem with this is that the lighter constituents in the oil are blown off before the heavier ones, thus upsetting the balance in the oil. The other problem is that some oils won’t float on water, e.g. Cinnamon and Cassia.

Cold-Air Diffusers or Nebulizers


These operate on the principle of “atomization”, whereby the oils is forced through a pinhole by a stream of air at high pressure. The result is a micro-fine vapor, containing all the constituents of the oil in the same balance as the liquid form, that remains suspended in the air for some time.

Because the oil is forced through at high velocity, it is also energised, with the levels of oxygen carried by the molecules actually increased. This raises the healing potential of an essential oil to a greater level. [3]

The benefits of diffusing an essential oil in this manner are that you can purify and clean the air in a room and remove airborne pathogens and things like toxic black mold and fungus. I’ve already written of one example in which to use essential oils in this manner (check out my post on Thieves ). In addition to this essential oils can be diffused in this manner to :

  • Relax the body, relieve tension, and clear the mind.
  • Improve concentration, alertness, and mental clarity.
  • Stimulate neurotransmitters.
  • Stimulate secretion of endorphins.

The possible applications are endless – homes, schools, offices, factories, clinics and hospitals.

Ultrasonic Diffusers


Ultrasonic diffuser

In 2008, Young Living introduced their ultrasonic diffuser. The ultrasonic diffuser operates by atomising both water and essential oils, breaking up the molecules to create like a microscopic mist. It is capable of diffusing any essential oil, has a larger well to allow for less frequent re-filling of oil, a timer and 3 different diffusion rates.

Are the new ultrasonic diffusers better? Well, both diffusers serve a very different purpose. The ultrasonic diffusers are very quiet compared to the cold-air diffusers. Not that they’re loud, but if you want a perfectly quiet room you’ll certainly notice the cold-air diffuser in the background. The ultrasonic diffusers are also cheaper. The cold air diffusers on the other hand are better suited to removing and preventing something like mold and mildew in a room. Research from Dr Edward Close found that the ultrasonic diffusers actually increased the amount of mold in a given space. On the other hand he found the cold air diffusers to be most suitable for eliminating toxic black mold in the home.

So one suggestion might be to use the ultrasonic diffuser when you want the benefits of a diffuser at night time, while you sleep; but use the cold-air diffuser in a room when you’re not present (and so not worried about any noise) and are tackling something like mold and mildew.

Here is a blend you can make to freshen the air. Mix these together and diffuse :

  1. 20 drops lavender
  2. 10 drops lemon
  3. 6 drops bergamot
  4. 5 drops lime
  5. 3 drops grapefruit

Till next time



Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.

[1] The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, by Dr David Stewart, Chapt 12, p436

[2] Ibid, p437

[3] Ibid, p444

Can Essential oils be toxic? Part One

Some of you may have been told by an aromatherapist or naturopath, that certain essential oils may be toxic. Well some essential oils may be.  The question is which ones.  In order to answer this, we first need to understand our aromatherapist’s mind-set a little.

Three Schools of Thinking.

You may be surprised to know that there are 3 schools of thought in the field of aromatherapy.

The German school of aromatherapy teaches the use of essential oils via inhalation. The French school teaches the use of essential oils in anyway that’s appropriate – orally, rectally, through the skin and through inhalation. Gary Young has added a number of other ways to this school, including intravenously and hypodermically.

The British school of thought, which has largely influenced the American and Australian aromatherapist community, focuses more on the burning of oils (inhalation) and the dilution of oils.

Therapeutic Grade vs. Perfume Grade

At his recent visit to Sydney, Dr David Stewart (an aromatherapist and prominent researcher in the field of essential oils) [1] made reference to a number of British aromatherapy text books, such as Essential Oil Safety and Clinical Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Childbirth. In page 45 of the latter book, a number of oils were listed as forbidden: cinnamon, calamus, cassia, fennel, clove, oregano, wintergreen, tansy and yes, Vanilla (incidentally, the bible makes reference to people being anointed with calamus and cassia thousands of years ago).

Dr Stewart made the following points about much of the British research in aromatherapy, much of which has a long impressive list of citations:

  • The research was conducted on animals (They’re far more sensitive to oils than humans.)
  • They will take one compound in the essential oil, which in isolation is toxic (but which in combination with other compounds in the oil, render it safe) and label the entire oil as toxic and to be avoided.
  • Much of the research utilizes perfume grade essential oils and NOT therapeutic grade essential oils (we’ll come back to this point later).

The Sum of the parts…

Let’s elaborate on the second point that Dr Stewart made, as it’s an important one. We’ll use a couple of examples.

The compounds Scatole and Indole are not very nice ones. Scatole in fact can be found in animal droppings. Yet the essential oil Jasmine has both of these. In fact perfume companies deliberately put Indole in their perfumes, as it intensifies the fragrance.

Another compound, Xylene (found in hazardous waste), can be found in Myrrh, another oil referred to in the scriptures. It was given to the Christ child by the 3 Wise Men. The point is many compounds are dangerous on their own, but when placed in combination with other compounds, have a totally different effect.

As Dr Stewart puts it, “one cannot deduce the properties of an essential oil by knowing the properties of its individual compounds as isolates… a compound that is highly toxic alone can be safe, non-toxic, and therapeutic when occurring as an ingredient in an essential oil. Many aromatherapists who fear certain oils have been trained in a school that teaches the fallacy that properties of isolated compounds studied in laboratories apply to the natural oils in which they are found. Thus, many aromatherapists avoid perfectly safe and therapeutically effective oils because a laboratory has found one or more compounds in the oil that, by themselves, are harmful.”(My emphasis) [2]

Synthetic vs. Natural

We now come back to Dr Stewart’s third point, that many lab tests are conducted on perfume-grade essential oils and not therapeutic grade essential oils.


The first perfume oils in the world were basically essential oils. Two thousand years later, there is very little in our perfumes that are natural or essential oil. Advances in chemistry over the last 100 years, have meant that the perfume industry relies largely on synthetics that attempt to mimic the best that nature has to offer. And it’s not just the perfume industry that relies on the synthetics.

To be continued…

Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.


[1] About David Stewart, Ph.D.

[2] The Raindrop Messenger, Official newsletter of C.A.R.E. (Center for Aromatherapy Research and Education) Vol 8, No 1 Jan-Feb 2010. To subscribe