I am amazed at how Aromatherapy has become so easily available to the public in such a short period of time thanks to the rise of spas, which really began to take off in the 90s. At the same time, I am also surprised at how little people, including spa professionals, understand about the basics. Essential oils are pure concentrates and while they can make powerful remedies that enhance our health and beauty, they can also have negative effects if used wrongly.
I believe the confusion partly comes from online information written by non-professionals. Unauthorised information about the benefits, applications and dosages can all be confusing and at times, even dangerous. I have personally been using The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia as a reference book since my school days, while obtaining licenses as an Aromatherapist. Simplified benefits of some of the basic essential oils can be read here:
- Avoid direct contact with the skin – Most essential oils are too strong for direct contact with the skin, and because they are lighter than water, they do not distribute equally in liquid. This means you will need to have a base oil, or honey, before applying them to the skin or pouring them into a bath.
- Less is more– This is the truth for aromatherapy. Do not use more than 2% essential oils. This principle especially applies to the old, frail and the young. An overdose has the opposite effects. Most professional aromatherapy boards recommend not having more than 4 mixtures to maintain the integrity of each oil.
- No intake – In France or Belgium, the intake of essential oils is under medical supervision. However generally oils are too strong for the bodily system and must be avoided. Make sure to keep essential oils away from the reach of children and pets for this reason.
- Photosensitivity – Sun exposure should be avoided after the use of some essential oils, like lemon and bergamot, due to their photosensitivity.
- Contra-indication– Essential oils are very versatile, meaning one oil can have many properties. Avoid essential oils during pregnancy, if you are nursing or on medication.
- Store properly– Keep in dark bottles in a cool area and avoid direct sunlight. Humidity, heat and UV, and exposure to air are the enemies of essential oils. As for the shelf life, most oils expire in 4–5 years. Although there is no harm after the expiry, the efficacy will decline.