Updated 12 June 2013

The tools of the trade: pure essential and carrier oils

All essential oils are antiseptic and each has multiple therapeutic properties: some regulate metabolic functions, some stimulate circulation, and others soothe anxiety.

Aromatherapy is an ancient natural and holistic therapy that makes use of aromatic plant oils. These oils are specially chosen for their healing properties. Learn more about the tools of the trade here.

Aromatic, essential oils are extracted from odiferous plants and are extremely concentrated. They are taken from different parts of the plants, for example:

  • Roots - Ginger, Vetiver
  • Seeds - Fennel, Black Pepper
  • Wood - Cedarwood, Rosewood
  • Leaves - Eucalyptus, Geranium
  • Fruit - Grapefruit, Lemon
  • Flowers - Lavender, Rose
  • Grasses - Lemongrass
  • Resins - Benzoin, Frankincense

All essential oils are antiseptic and each has multiple therapeutic properties; some regulate metabolic functions like digestion and menstruation, some stimulate our circulation and mental processes, while others will soothe irritations and anxieties.

Carrier oils are non-volatile substances, which are extracted from the seeds of fruits and nuts, e.g. Grapeseed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil. Carrier oil is used to facilitate the absorption of the volatile essential oils via the skin into the body and its systems.

Examples of the use of pure essential oils

  • Massage - as a guideline add 2 drops of essential oil to 5ml of carrier oil.
  • Bath - add up to 6 drops of essential oil into one tablespoon of full cream milk or carrier oil to your bath water.
  • Vaporisation - special burners are used to vaporise essential oils; up to 6 drops of essential oils are added to water, which is in the top of the dish.
  • Inhalation - used for upper respiratory tract infections and congestions. Add 2 drops essential oil to a bowl of steaming hot water, drape a towel over the bowl and your head and inhale the vapour for 3-4 minutes.

The therapeutic properties of six popular pure essential oils

  • Camomile: very relaxing and soothing. Sleep-inducing and soothes and protects the skin against free radicals that cause ageing.    
  • Eucalyptus: antiseptic and highly decongestant. Respiratory aid for colds, also healing and pain-relieving for cuts and wounds.
  • Geranium: relaxing and antidepressant. Mood-lifting and relieves aching muscles and premenstrual fluid retention. If you have sensitive skin, avoid using at high concentrations 
  • Lavender: highly antiseptic, soothing and healing. Can be applied undiluted to the skin for the treatment of burns, bites and spots and it minimises scarring. Do not use in the first three months of pregnancy.
  • Rose: astringent, anti-ageing, aphrodisiac and relaxant. Relieves stress, restores confidence and moisturises dry skin.
  • Sandalwood: balancing, aphrodisiac and antiseptic. Helps with coughs and sore throats.

Important guidelines when using essential oils

  • Do not take internally.
  • Keep out of reach of children.
  • Keep away from eyes.
  • Do not apply when sunbathing.
  • In cases of hypertension avoid: hyssop, thyme, sage, rosemary and eucalyptus.
  • In cases of epilepsy avoid: fennel, eucalyptus, hyssop and sage.
  • While taking homoeopathic remedies avoid: cajeput, camphor, eucalyptus, peppermint and spearmint.
  • During pregnancy use half the usual recommended dosage and avoid essential oils that help with scanty, irregular or excessive periods, e.g. basil, cedarwood, clary sage, fennel, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lavender, marjoram (sweet), myrrh, peppermint, rose, rosemary and sage.

If in doubt, consult a qualified aromatherapist and do not embark too lightly upon self-treatment.

(This article was written by Claudia Oliver, a qualified aromatherapist, reflexologist and reiki master. For more information on aromatherapy, contact Claudia on (011) 465 3038 or e-mail her at


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