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Aromatherapy for Personal and Workplace Wellness

I had the privilege of speaking at Hera Hub Temecula recently and taught a workshop on aromatherapy and how to create an aroma inhaler.


During the presentation someone asked -- "is this on your website?" so I've decided to add some of what I covered in the form of a blog post.


And when I have a relatively short amount of time to teach on a very broad topic I've got to stick to the basics. And as I was reminded as I taught, aromatherapy has definitely become more mainstream with many people familiar with aromatherapy and essential oils. But sometimes they could use a reminder about how to use them or to demystify how to incorporate them into their personal or workplace wellness routine.


So let's dive in... while keeping it concise.


What is Aromatherapy:

Simply put, aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils, hydrosols, and fixed or carrier oils for therapeutic and cosmetic use. And of course begs the question, what are essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils?


Carrier oils are oils such as fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, etc. that are used to dilute essential oils and are used as emollients in lotions in creams to moisturize the skin. They differ in many ways and offer different benefits, but for the purpose of this post it's suffice to say carrier oils are an important carrier and diluent of essential oils and help moisturize the skin.


Hydrosols are "plant waters" and are either a by-product of creating essential oils via distillation or are distilled from plants as a primary product. If you've ever used or heard of rose water or orange blossom water you've heard of hydrosols. They can be used in cooking, cosmetics, and for therapeutic reasons. They are gentle and contain minuscule amounts of aromatic compounds compared to essential oils, but nonetheless offer powerful therapeutic benefits.


I have written numerous articles about hydrosols for the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. Be sure to check them out if it peaks your interest.


Now onto the star of the show... essential oils.


What is an essential oil?

If you’ve ever walked by a rose bush and enjoyed its delightful fragrance or peeled an orange and enjoyed the uplifting aroma of the zest you’ve experienced a plant’s essential oils.


Essential oils are volatile, aromatic compounds made by plants that carry out a variety of functions in plants: they may attract pollinators, deter insects and other plants, fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi, support regeneration of damaged plant parts.


These aromatic oils are stored in special glands in plant parts. Essential oils can be extracted from a variety of plant parts: leaves/needles (peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus for example), roots or rhizomes (ginger, vetiver, angelica root), flowers (lavender, rose, neroli/orange blossom), fruit (orange, lemon, grapefruit), resin (frankincense, myrrh, opopanax), bark/wood/or stems (cinnamon bark, sandalwood, cedarwood), and seeds (anise, fennel, coriander).

Essential oils can be extracted via steam distillation, cold pressing, or CO2 or solvent extraction.


Essential oils are highly concentrated and potent extracts. To make one 15 ml bottle of essential oil (1/2 oz) it takes:

· Roughly 14 oranges

· Around 4 -5 pounds of lavender flowers

· Around 4 -5 pounds of peppermint leaves

· About 75 lemons

· Roughly 10,000 roses


So, one drop of essential oil equates to a lot of plant material. This is why we only need a few drops to support the effects we’re after.


When you’re holding a bottle of essential oil, it’s inspiring to think about what went into producing it—the amount of plant material in every drop, the dedication the farmers and distillers put into growing and harvesting the plants, and the art of distillation itself. It can inspire a deep sense of respect for the growers and distillers and for the plants that provide us with these beautiful and precious oils.


Ways to Incorporate Essential Oils into Your Life

Essential oils can be used

  • Via Inhalation

  • Topically

  • Internally*

*Sometimes under the guidance of a certified or clinical aromatherapist or holistic health care professional with sufficient training in aromatherapy


I generally tell clients they are better off using herbs or whole plants (for example use lemon slices in your water vs lemon essential oil). Using plants or herbs is safer, as essential oils can potentially be irritating to the mucosa of the digestive system, less expensive, and offer both oil and water soluble compounds.


It is recommended that essential oils be diluted to their suggested dermal limit in carrier oil before using topically. Diffusers, aroma inhalers, and inhaling the oils directly from the bottle are examples of direct inhalation, and when used topically indirect inhalation.


How do Essential Oils Work?

I’ve been asked on several occasions “Essential oils do smell nice, BUT do they actually do anything?” In the same way coffee or tea contains stimulating caffeine and fermented grapes contain relaxing alcohol, essential oils contain chemical components that can affect the body in a variety of ways.


No, they won’t intoxicate your or give you the jitters, but they can powerfully support the mind and body in a variety of beneficial ways.


Essential oils are typically used via inhalation or topically.


In some instances, they can be used internally but this should be done with the guidance of a certified aromatherapist, clinical aromatherapist, or holistic healthcare provider sufficiently trained in the internal use of essential oils.


When inhaled, essential oils interact with specialized cells in the nose and stimulate the limbic system of the brain. This is the seat of our emotions and controls heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, and stress levels.


Additionally, when we inhale essential oils, they enter our lungs and circulatory system via the respiratory system.


This explains why aroma can evoke memories and emotions and how simply smelling an essential oil can seem calming, uplifting, or invigorating. The chemical compounds present in essential oils can quickly impact our brain and body in multiple ways simply through inhalation.




When applied topically the compounds in essential oils can quickly enter your system by absorption. Since essential oils are highly concentrated it is recommended that they be diluted in carrier oils before applying.


Topically essential oils can be used both therapeutically and cosmetically.


For example, rosemary and peppermint essential oils can be used topically to ease muscle or joint aches, lavender and sandalwood are excellent in massage to relax muscles, and oils such as frankincense, helichrysum, or neroli are wonderful in facial products to rejuvenate the skin.


Some well-known uses of essential oils include:

· Soothing inflammation and aches

· Emotional support

· Soothing skin conditions

· Easing cold and flu symptoms

· Supporting the immune system

· Supporting the digestive system

· Easing muscles cramps or spasms

· Rejuvenating the skin

· To support focus

· Cleansing and disinfection


Further things to note on topical safety of essential oils:

Some hot, spicy, or easily oxidized essential oils (such as clove bud or cinnamon bark and citrus oils for example) have low dermal limits to help users avoid sensitization reactions or irritation and should be highly diluted or avoided topically.


Some essential oils (such as bergamot and other citrus oils) are considered phototoxic because they increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun and may result in one getting a sunburn or sun damage. So before you add an essential oil to a topical blend be sure you're aware of its dermal limits or consult an aromatherapist or aromatherapy book to find out.


Safety of essential oils with pets and children


Essential oils are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) but many are not recommended for use with children. Be sure to check the safety guidelines of essential oils before using with children or during pregnancy. When using essential oils around pets make sure they can leave the area if they choose to do so. Do NOT use essential oils on pets without consulting a practitioner that specializes in animal aromatherapy.


For more information on the topic of essential oil safety visit NAHAs safety guidelines page

For more information on the topic of essential oil and pets visit Aroma Web or the Animal Aromatherapy Site


Simple ways to enjoy essential oils for personal use include:

· Add 5 -10 drops of skin safe essential oils to a carrier oil, lotion, or cream and use for massage, relaxation, or to ease muscle aches.


· Use them in a diffuser or inhaler. By choosing different essential oils you can disinfect the air, create a relaxing environment, support focus, or create an uplifting atmosphere. Inhalers can also be a great way to support mindfulness, support an exercise habit, and are great to support immune health when you're around crowds or traveling.


· Enjoy them in the bath or shower. Dilute a few drops of a skin safe essential oil in carrier oil and add to the tub or use an aromatherapy bath fizz or soak to enjoy in the tub. Add a few drops to the floor of the shower or use an aromatherapy shower steamer to create a spa like experience in the shower.


· One of my favorite ways to use essential oils in in a sinus steam. Add boiling water to an essential oil safe bowl or mug (ceramic, glass, or stainless steel should work), add a drop of peppermint or eucaplytus essential oil or a sinus steam blend. Close your eyes, tent your head with a towel, and breath in the steam and vapors for 5 to 15 minutes. Keep tissues handy.


A sinus steam can help ward off a cold at the first sign of symptoms or after a day around lots of people OR help you feel better faster when you are feeling sick and stuffy.


Ways to enjoy essential oils in the workplace

Whether you work from home, in a shared space, with clients, or are on the go aromatherapy can be beneficial for you and your clients.

  • Use a diffuser blend to clear the air or create a relaxing environment or support focus etc. or signature scent

  • Use an inhaler or roll on blend to support focus, relax, fight germs, open airways, ease a headache. Inhalers are great for travel.

  • Products to support clients (inhalers for breath work, creativity, mindfulness, roll ons, sprays etc.)

  • Gift bags for clients/events to evoke memory of event

If you work in a shared space check to consider others. Some people are sensitive or allergic to certain essential oils or your employers policy may not allow for diffusing of essential oils. In that case inhalers or personal aromatherapy items are ideal.


Questions to Ask Essential Oil Companies

Not all essential oil companies test their oils with GC/MS technology, and some do test but don’t provide the reports to customers unless they are asked. This doesn’t automatically mean that their oils are adulterated. Here are a few questions you can ask essential oil companies to get some clarification:


· Are your oils tested with GC/MS technology?

· Can you provide the batch specific GC/MS with the oils I buy?

· Can you provide the season and year the oil was produced?

· Can you provide a list of which of your current oils are organic?

If the answers are “no” that does necessarily mean that the essential oil company is selling adulterated oils, but these answers can tell you more about how the company approaches their oils and quality control, and whether their values are aligned with your own.


How to create an aroma inhaler:

An aromatherapy inhaler is kind of like a personal diffuser. Inhalers can be designed for immune support, relaxation, focus, to ease headaches, to support digestion/ease nausea, open airways/sinuses, support focus, support sleep, to block out other odors, and much more.





An aroma inhaler consists of a sealable plastic or stainless-steel tube that holds a wick. Essential oils are added to the wick, the wick is placed inside the inhaler housing and sealed. To use the inhaler is uncapped and placed near one nostril and the user inhales the aroma as desired. Repeat with the second nostril and recap the inhaler when done. Inhalers can last a month or more depending on use. Do not share inhalers. Inhalers can be gently wiped with a damp cloth to clean if needed.


1. Place the wick inside the plastic tube.

2. Carefully add the essential oils to the wick. Avoid getting oils in the tube or on your hands. Alternatively add the essential oils to a ceramic dish and use tweezers to mop up the oils with the wick. Place wick in plastic tube.

3. Seal the tube using the plastic plug. Uncap and inhale as needed.

4. If you get essential oils on your skin wipe the area with a bit of carrier oil to dilute the essential oils and/or wash hands thoroughly.


A few recipes for aroma inhalers:


Relaxation Inhaler:

9 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia):

4 drops orange (Citrus sinensis)

2 drops Frankincense (Boswellia carterii):


Immune Support:

5 drops Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora)

5 drops Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternafolia)

6 drops orange (Citrus sinensis)


Digestive Support:

7-10 drops Peppermint (Menta x piperita):

7-10 drops Orange (Citrus sinensis)


Head Ease Blend:

5 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia):

7 drops peppermint (Menta x piperita):

3 drops Frankincense (Boswellia carterii):


Focus and Memory Blend:

3 drops Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora)

9 drops Orange (Citrus sinensis)

3 drops Peppermint (Menta x piperita):



What questions do you have about aromatherapy or essential oils? Interested in how you can incorporate aromatherapy in to your personal or workplace wellness routine?


Be sure to search blog posts for topics of interest, post a comment, or contact Tricia.


Aromatic blessings,

Tricia


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