Essential Oil Spotlights

Essential Oils Are More Than Just "Scents"

Essential Oils
An assortment of essential oil bottles surrounded by freshly picked flowers and herbs 
Too often, I hear individuals refer to both essential oils and fragrance oils as "scents." This mostly happens when listening to individuals that don't really grasp the difference between both types of oils.

Although essential oils are concentrated and highly aromatic, referring to essential oils as "scents" is rather inaccurate, especially within the scope of holistic aromatherapy. Essential oils offer a broad range of therapeutic properties than span beyond merely "scenting" a product. Many essential oils are anti-bacterial or anti-viral and some essential oils like Roman Chamomile contain constituents that act as a natural sedative. In the field of holistic aromatherapy, essential oils are often selected not only for their particular aroma (i.e. floral, earthy, herbacious, etc.), but also for the specific constituents and therapeutic properties that they possess.

The word "Essential" contains the phonetical sound of "scent," (e+scent+ial) and that may also confuse some individuals. But just like the word "essential" contains more than "scent," so do the oils that they describe.

Fragrance oils are synthetic and don't offer the anti-viral, antibacterial and other array of therapeutic properties that essential oils offer. The purpose of fragrance oils is to add scent to personal care or home fragrancing products.

The term "scent" (i.e. "I just bought several new scents for my candlemaking project") is best left to referring to fragrance oils or perfumes that have no purpose other than to add "scent" to something.

For more information, read the following articles on AromaWeb:

What Are Essential Oils?
What are Absolutes?
What are CO2 Extracts (CO2s)?
What are Carrier Oils?
What are Infused Oils?
What are Resins?
What are Hydrosols?
What are Fragrance Oils?
What is Aromatherapy?
View more articles...


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Citrus Essential Oils

Citrus Essential OilsHave you ever walked into a room when someone is pealing an orange and detected the familiar orange aroma wafting throught the air? What you are smelling is the natural essential oil that is housed within the rind of the orange. It is the rinds of citrus fruits that gives them their highly aromatic and familiar aroma. Although the majority of commercially available essential oils are extracted from the original botanical material by use of steam distillation, most citrus essential oils are extracted by pressing the rinds of the citrus fruits. The next time that you eat an orange or a grapefruit, take a portion of the peel and squeeze it in half ensuring that the colorful side of the peel is on the outside. If the fruit is fresh and healthy, you should notice that the rind squirts a tiny quantity of an aromatic fluid. That fluid is the essential oil.

Slices of Citrus FruitsCitrus Essential Oils are often thought of mostly for light, summery aromas, but I love using citrus essential oils all year round. My use of the citruses actually increases during the colder months as they are energizing and help to uplift the spirits. They are the perfect complement to blends that fight off the winter blues, "cabin fever" and depression. For Winter Blues recipes, visit AromaWeb's Winter Blues Recipe page.

Citrus Essential Oils are also a must to have within your apothecary when experimenting with natural fragrance blends for men or women. Most of the citrus oils are generally regarded as top notes and help lift an aroma and brighten more earthy, deep aromatics like Patchouli, Vetiver and Rose. The exception is the highly floral Neroli Essential Oil which I personally consider a middle note.

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Growing Patchouli

Patchouli Leaves
Patchouli Leaves Taken From My Plant  
I'm not alone in my fondness for Patchouli Essential Oil...

Despite its aroma being an "acquired taste" (so to speak) for some, Patchouli Essential Oil is remarkably versatile. I use patchouli in skin care applications, emotionally in diffuser blends, romantically in sensual blends, spiritually at times for meditation, and in making natural personal fragrances.

Patchouli Plant
  Patchouli Plant Grown in Michigan
Unlike most essential oils that oxidize and diminish in therapeutic and aromatic quality over time, Patchouli Essential Oil improves with age like a fine wine.

Often associated with the hippies and the 1960s, the fragrance of patchouli is rich, earthy and grounding. In perfumery and fragrancing applications, patchouli is a base note that acts as a fixative and grounds a blend. Its aroma is suitable for unisex and men's blends. It can act as an aphrodisiac. In skin and hair care, patchouli is a wonderful staple to keep on hand. It is helpful for most all skin types ranging from dry, cracked skin all the way to helping to regulate oily skin and acne. Those with eczema, psoriasis and dandruff have said that patchouli is especially helpful for them. Emotionally, patchouli is calming and grounding. Spiritually, patchouli has been used alone or in blends during prayer and meditation. For more information, view AromaWeb's Patchouli Essential Oil Profile.

Close-Up of Patchouli Leaves
  Close-Up of Patchouli Leaves
Patchouli thrives in tropical regions and can be found in Hawaii, regions of Asia and other tropical areas of the world.

I've been curious to learn more about the actual botanical (Pogostemon cablin) that the oil is distilled from. A few months ago, I was delighted to learn that patchouli is capable of growing outdoors in the midwest during the warmer summer months. I haven't personally found patchouli plants available for sale here in Michigan (Zone 5), but I decided to seek out a nursery online that ships patchouli across the US. Although the poor plant arrived in pathetic condition and was not properly packaged for shipment, I was able to nurse it back to health, and it's now doing splendidly. I'm looking forward to see it flower come fall.

Fresh patchouli leaves are quite fragrant and are green and earthy in aroma. Although my patchouli plant is now thriving, the growing conditions here in Zone 5 certainly aren't ideal. Although I'm sure that the natural essential oil in my plant isn't as outstanding as if this plant was grown in optimal conditions by an experienced grower, it's nice to be able to finally learn more about the fresh botanical.

Patchouli Extract
  Patchouli Tincture (Patchouli Extract)
I'm curious to see if the leaves are suitable for use in making a pleasantly aromatic tincture. This weekend, I harvested leaves off the plant and am in the beginning stages of making two jars of tincture using the fresh leaves (see photo at right). I'm also curious to know if there is any aromatic difference in the resulting tincture by starting either with fresh leaves or with leaves that are first dried. To find out, I'm in the midst of dehydrating some of the leaves using my Excalibur Dehydrator. Once they are dried, I will create additional tincture using the dried leaves. You can learn how to make herbal tinctures/extracts by viewing AromaWeb's Herbal Tinctures Recipe.

I'm going to attempt to keep the patchouli plant indoors during the cooler months. Do you have experience in raising patchouli outside of its natural habitat? If so, please leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. I'd love to hear from you.


Spotlight: Juniper Berry Essential Oil (Juniperus communis)

Juniper Berries
Juniper berries sprinkled between malachite, sage and carnelians.  
The New Year is a time that many like to start fresh and renew themselves. AromaTalk's Bringing in the New Year With Aromatherapy post highlights the use of Lime Essential Oil for cleansing, uplifting and renewing the spirit. Another spiritually cleansing and purifying essential oil that is not popularly discussed in common aromatherapy literature for that purpose is Juniper Berry Essential Oil. The branches and berries of the Juniper, a coniferous tree, have been used for medicinal and spiritual purposes since ancient times.

The Old Testament includes several references to the juniper tree including Psalms 120:4. This verse references burning a person with a false, deceitful tongue with the coals (perhaps burning branches/logs?) of the broom tree, an ancient name for a variety of juniper shrub that grows in Palestine. This passage can be looked at in several ways, one being that the juniper was used to cleanse, purify and eliminate that which is false and negative.

Native Americans use juniper berries for medicinal applications and burn the berries to cleanse and purify the air. I dabble in making natural forms of incense and include juniper berries and Juniper Berry Essential Oil in several of my personal recipes. Some involved in energy work and crystal healing use Juniper Berry Essential Oil to cleanse and clear crystals.

Juniper Berries
  Juniper berries still on the branch.
Juniper berries are a natural antiseptic, as is the essential oil. It can help combat acne when used at low dilutions in skin care applications. A room mist/air freshener made with Juniper Berry Essential Oil may help to kill airborne germs.

AromaWeb's basic Air Freshener Recipe can be used to make an aromatic and purifying juniper berry room mist. Instead of following the blend ratios shown on the page, use 30 drops of Juniper Berry Essential Oil.

Emotionally, Juniper Berry Essential Oil is calming and helps to ease stress without imparting the sedative effects that clary sage and the chamomiles are known for. Spiritually, Juniper Berry Essential Oil used in a room mist, diffuser or candle burner cleanses and purifies the air. It is a good choice for use during prayer or meditation. I prefer to use Juniper Berry Essential Oil in a candle diffuser instead of a nebulizer.

Juniper berry essential oil has a distinctive aroma that is woody, sweet, fresh and crisp. Juniper Berry Essential Oil blends well with wood oils like cedarwood, sandalwood and rosewood and other conifers like cypress and fir needle. I also enjoy it blended with clary sage, or the grounding base notes of vetiver or patchouli. I also enjoy juniper berry blended with citrus oils including orange or grapefruit.

Juniper berries are responsible for giving gin its distinctive flavor. The name gin is a loose dirivative of the word juniper. Jenever, a Dutch predecessor to today's gin was named from Jeneverbes, the Dutch word for juniper.

For more information regarding Juniper Berry Essential Oil, see AromaWeb's Juniper Berry Essential Oil Profile.