Aromatherapy Dictionary


Combining different essential oils and carrier oils for balance, safety, and effectiveness.

Carrier Oil
Also known as a "base oil" or "fixed oil" (because it is non-volitile, or does not evaporate). Examples of carrier oils include almond, grapeseed, olive, sesame, wheat germ, and canola oil. Used to dilute essential oils so that they may be used safely. Many carrier oils have their own valuable, unique therapeutic properties.

Passive diffusion simply allows essential oils to evaporate. Heat diffusion utilizes steam or a heat source to volatilize the essential oils more quickly, but may damage or alter essential oil constituents. Nebulizing diffusers do not use heat, but create an extremely fine essential oil mist that disperses into the room, and which can be easily absorbed via the lungs when inhaled.

Reducing the strength of an essential oil by using a few drops in a larger volume of carrier oil or other diluting substance. It is important to dilute essential oils before applying them, as they can be irritating when used neat, or undiluted.

Usually steam distillation, the method by which most essential oils are extracted. In steam distillation, steam is passed through plant matter. The heat and water break down the plant material, releasing the essential oils. The steam and volatized essential oils are then cooled and condensed, and the essential oil is separated from the water phase and collected.

Essential Oil
The main material used in aromatherapy, volatile aromatic oils aquired through extraction of organic matter, such as flowers, bark, resin, leaves, and fuit peels.

Extraction method used to aquire essential oils of citrus fruits, where the fruit peel is pressed to release the essential oil.

Separating essential oil constituents from the organic material.

Fragrance (Perfume) Oil
Synthetic, or man-made, aromatic substance. Synthetic or fragrance oils are usually used in perfumes and cosmetic products, and have no therapeutic value or uses. Only natural plant oils are used in aromatherapy.

Water phase coproduct produced through steam distillation. Sometimes referred to as "floral water" or "hydrolat." Many hydrosols have their own unique therapeutic properties, but there is little information about using hydrosols in aromatherapy.

Patch Test
A test, usually performed on a small area of skin on the inside of the elbow, to ensure that essential oils to be therapeutically will not cause any adverse reaction.

An adverse immune response that may develop through repeated exposure to a substance, that may manifest as a rash, itching, or more serious reactions. Some people may be come sensitized to certain essential oils. If this happens, those oils may no longer be used.

Synthetic Oil
See Fragrance (Perfume) Oil, above

Describes a substance that evaporates. Essential oils consist of mostly volatile molecules, so bottles should be kept tightly closed.


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