Brenda Stansfield is a licensed massage therapist, certified clincial aromatherapist and the creator of the Clear My Head product line, sold in spas nationally at www.clearmyhead.com. She belives aromatherapy should be simple and easy to incorporate into a hectic lifestyle.
An aromatherapy blend can be many things in a single blend. Perhaps that is what I love the most about the art of aromatherapy. You're given the flexibility to create something that is uniquely pleasing to the user with an ability to heal the body and soul in very tangible ways. So much thought goes into the selection of the essential oils of a blend (fragrance, medicinal properties, etc.) that many people forget that the carrier oils used to dilute blends properly add another dimension: they also enhance the healing properties of the oils, provide antioxidants, protection, and vitamins and minerals.
I thought it would be worth exploring some of my favorite carrier oils to help you select the proper one for your blends. Essential oils, with the exception of lavender, tea tree and ravensara, should never be applied directly to the skin. For safety they should be diluted with a "carrier oil" or a "base oil". In aromatherapy these oils are cold pressed and plant based—usually vegetable, nut or seed oils. The premise of choosing a plant based oil over a mineral oil (i.e. baby oil) is simple: essential oils are lipid soluable. We want them to absorb into the skin and work systemically in our system.
Essential oils can be carried throughout the body at the cellular level. In hospitals, mineral-ased oils are chosen for the exact opposite reason—they are blocking the absorption of anything that could threaten the immune system. In a hospital environment this makes sense because you are subjected to pathogens that could harm you (staph infections are rampant these days). But because you are in a somewhat "controlled" environment at home, you will want every healing drop of your essential oil blend to benefit you body. Let's explore a few carrier oil selections to help you pick the correct one each time. Our list includes oils that are easily found.
Courtesy Flickr/Photo by Helena Liu
• Sweet Almond Oil (SAO) is obtained from the kernel of the nut. Relatively inexpensive and readily available. It has a sweet light aroma that won't overpower your blend. Sweet Almond Oil is rich with glucosides, vitamins (B1, B6, B2, A, E & D), minerals and is rich in protein. It's perfect for all skin types and helps relive itching, dryness and inflammation. It's perfect for massage oil blends and for facial moisturizers. Massage therapists often pick this oil because it is a medium viscosity based oil and offers a nice 'glide' effect.
Shelf life: 12 months
Note: Persons with nut allergies should NOT use Sweet Almond Oil. SAO is very pale yellow in color and may stain light clothing and linens.
• Grapeseed Oil (GO) is almost colorless, very lightweight and may leave a light oil sheen on the skin. This oil glides readily over the skin and it's price point makes it nice for large applications, such as full body massage oils. It is extracted from the seeds of grapes. Look for cold pressed oils, as many are solvent extracted. Some grapeseed oils are derived from Riesling and Chardonnay grapes and are used in spa treatments as 'Vino Therapies'.
Shelf life: 6 to 12 months. Storing it in the refrigerator may extend it a bit.
Courtesy Flickr/Photo by rkosick
• Apricot Kernel Oil (AKO) is derived from the kernel of the apricot plant and is pale yellow in color. This oil is well suited for aging and mature skin and is a common ingredient in the anti-aging formulas of pricey cosmetics. A drop or two can go a long way with incredible benefits for dry, inflamed and sensitive skin due to the essentiall fatty acids oleic & linoleic acid, and the vitamins A & E. It is light weight and easily absorbs in the skin without a greasy feeling. Use alone or with other carrier oils. A drop of lavender in 3 drops of AKO is a wonderful once a week must for keeping your skin young looking and blemish free. AKO may stain light colored linens or clothing.
Shelf life: 12 months
• Jojoba Oil (JO) is a beautiful golden yellow and hands down my favorite oil to use. Jojoba oil is actually a 'wax' derived from the jojoba bean. It has an indefinite shelf life so can be used for blends that may need to be stored for a longer period. It glides on like any other oil and absorbs into the skin. Jojoba oil mimics collagen and is soothing for sensitive skin, psoriasis, eczema and acne. It can be applied 100 percent or diluted in a massage oil at 10 percent to 15 percent JO and 90 percent other carrier oil to help the glide over the body. We love HobaCare from the Jojoba Oil Company. These products are perfect for everyday use and will also condition your hair and scalp. It relieves babies' cradle cap and is "far more congenial to to the hair and scalp than olive or other vegetable oils or mineral oils," according to the founder Bob Butler.
Shelf life: Indefinite
Courtesy The Jojoba Company
• Olive Oil (OO) is most often associated with culinary pursuits. However, I've included it here as a "go to" oil when you need something in a pinch. Perhaps at 2:00 in the morning when a little one wakes up with an earache. If nothing else is on hand, OO is a great oil to use. Its strong scent is the main reason you don't see it in more aromatherapy or massage blends, but don't let that stop you from using it. Use 10 percent OO to another carrier oil for larger application. Beautiful green in color and chock full of proteins, vitamins and minerals, OO is soothing for rheumatic conditions, adds shine to hair and is often found in soaps and shampoos.
Shelf life: 18 months
Try these basic essential oil formulas:
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 drops chamomile oil
• 1 drop lavender oil
• 1 drop tea tree oil
To use: Massage around the ear, up the neck and over cheek bones. May also be used in a warm compress.
• 2 tablespoons almond oil
• ½ Tablespoon grapeseed oil
• 10 drops borage seed Oil
• 5 drops carrot oil
• 2 teaspoons wheatgerm oil.
To use: Massage in circular motion daily to help fade marks due to pregnancy or weight loss.
• 1 tablespoon apricot kernel oil
• 10 drops carrot oil (optional)
• 10 drops rose atar oil
• 6 drops clary sage oil
To use: Apply morning and evening in upward strokes on neck. Note to professional therapists: Be sure to do a health intake form from your clients that include any nut or plant based allergies that could contraindicate an oil blend.