A brief look at Aromatherapy and Chemistry

Plant material offers up essential oils that are aromatic and volatile liquids. These liquids are extracted from botanical material through various methods the most traditional methods being enfleurage and steam distillation and the most modern extraction being solvent extraction. Essential aromatic oils are extracted from different parts of the plant and the whole plant for example the flowers, roots, bark, leaves, seeds, peel, fruits, wood, resins and grasses. There are some 3000 essential oils known and around 300 are used in commercial production for flavouring and fragrances (Burt, 2004).

For centuries essential oils have been utilised in medicine, perfumery, and cosmetics and added to foods in the form of herbs and spices as flavourings. And though I personally do not recommend adding essential oils to food or ingesting in form I am aware that we can gain essential oils from our food; coffee is a great example.

There are many different edible foods from which essential oils are extracted. Ingesting essential oils in concentration is inadvisable and often unsafe. There are two safe and effective methods of utilising essential oils available to us. I pose the question “Why take the risk of ingesting essential oils”? Ingesting essential oils in diluted form through the intake of food, for example Basil, or a fresh orange, is safe and we obtain the benefits of the whole item.

There are many plants from which essential oils are extracted that are daily foods we eat in our usual diet. For example the herb Basil has a strong aroma, and a delicious flavour and we can chop the leaves and add to a salad or soup.

Another couple of herbs, Parsley and Mint offer distinct aromas, and when chopped up onto potatoes we gain the aromatic oils into our diet. Adding orange aroma to food is one of my favourites. I simply save the orange peels over a few days, stored in the refrigerator and then in a double steamer place the orange peel in the bottom container and carrots in the top container and steam about 20 minutes add a little butter and enjoy.

Robert Tisserand shares information about the chemical component eugenol which is found in clove, cinnamon leaf and holy basil and smaller amounts in coffee, peaches, plums, raspberries, bananas and red wine. Eugenol is noted for many therapeutic properties and qualities: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant. In food items eugenol is diluted but in an essential oil it is concentrated and can be an allergen and irritant of the skin and so dilution is crucial.

I have read articles and even labels on the bottle of clove essential oil where it has been recommended to put a drop of clove oil directly onto the gum of a teething baby. Personally I cringe at this recommendation – because I actually tried this when I had a gum issues. Burning sensations ensued and I swished my mouth with olive oil which took some half hour to ease the burning sensation. In his book, essential oil safety, Robert Tisserand recommends that Clove bud is diluted to 0.5%, Cinnamon leaf 0.6% and Holy Basil 1%.

Deborah Casey is a qualified Aromatherapist. She began her training with personal learning and progressed onto an introductory course followed by an advanced course of learning with the Bridge Project in Washington Tyne and Wear. She then progressed onto Diploma study and obtained her Diploma in Body massage prior to successful study of Aromatherapy. Having passed through the menopause, complicated by mesh injury, she applied aromatic essential oils in an unconventional manner. Then she found white birch - her go to for many ails.

Deborah welcomes clients for private consultation and treatment packages. Please enquire to appointments and prices.

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