Aromatherapy oils and flowers

Therapeutic Uses of Aromatherapy

In this chapter we explain how essential oils heal the body. We have divided the chapter into sections dealing with the major systems in the body-circulatory, digestive, respiratory, nervous, glandular, urinary, reproduction, dermal and musculoskeletal-as well as sections on ears and eyes, immunity and children.

We suggest how to treat common ailments, things you would normally treat at home without the care of a doctor: the common cold; headache; a bout of indigestion; PMS; simple burns, bites and stings; muscular aches and pains. You may have formerly treated such disorders with over-the-counter drugs. The biochemical complexity of essential oils-most of which cannot be synthetically duplicated-allows them to act on many levels, and gives them multiple powers. You’ll achieve not only health dividends, but also savings in your pocketbook.

As herbalists and aromatherapists, the authors of this book are eclectic in our approach to healing, using whatever remedy seems most appropriate. In some cases, we use aromatherapy exclusively; in others, we find that combining aromatherapy with herbs is more effective. To help you integrate the two modalities, we offer “herbal adjuncts,” generally to be taken several times a day in teas, tinctures, capsules or tablets.

Because true holistic healing requires individual assessment and formation of a blend specific to each person, we do not give many recipes for specific ailments. We understand that some guidelines are needed, however, so to get you started we have given formula examples for general conditions in each section. Our goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to develop your own blends as your understanding of working with essential oils increases. Refer to charts and the “Materia Medica” chapter.

Essential oils are extremely concentrated. Most of them are at least 50 times more potent than the herbs from which they are derived. In her book Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to Plant and Flower Essences for Health and Beauty, Daniele Ryman states that one drop of essential oil often represents the potency of one ounce of plant material. This gives you an idea of their healing potential-and of the potential hazards of using essential oils improperly.

Only about 5 percent of the essential oils produced today are used in aromatherapy, but there are plenty from which to choose. In fact, if you become familiar with only 10 to 15 essential oils, you’ll be able to treat many common problems. (It is better to know a few essential oils well than to know a little about many oils.)

Essential oils include muscle relaxants (marjoram and black pepper), digestive tonics (cardamom and mint), circulatory stimulants (rosemary and basil) and hormone precursors (clary sage and fennel). Many repair injured cells (lavender and helichrysum); others help carry away metabolic waste (grapefruit and juniper). In addition, a number of essential oils enhance immunity, working with the body to heal itself. They are capable of stimulating the production of phagocytes (white blood cells that attack invaders), and some (e.g., tea tree and lavender) are antitoxic for insect bites and stings.

Ten Basic Essential Oils
Lavender overall first aid oil; antiviral and antibacterial, boosts immunity, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic
Chamomile anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, digestive, relaxant, antidepressant
Marjoram antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic
Rosemary stimulating to circulation, relieves pain, decongestant, improves circulation
Tea tree antifungal, antiyeast, antibacterial
Cypress astringent, stimulating to circulation, antiseptic, astringent
Peppermint digestive, clears sinuses, antiseptic, decongestant, stimulant
Eucalyptus decongestant, antiviral, antibacterial, stimulant
Bergamot antidepressant, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory
Geranium balancing to mind and body, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory

Many essential oils have been proven effective against fungi and yeast (tea tree, lavender and geranium), parasites (bergamot) and viruses (cinnamon, thyme and Eucalyptus radiata). Others fight infection with amazing effectiveness, killing bacteria by disrupting their life cycle. According to Dr. Jean-Claude Lapraz, M.D., a specialist in essential oils, most essential oils lower the pH of the blood slightly, creating an inhospitable environment for bacteria, which thrive in an alkaline environment.

Unlike conventional antibiotic drugs, which may cause undesirable side effects, essential oils are “probiotic”: they not only kill pathogenic bacteria, but tend to leave beneficial bacteria (intestinal flora) intact. This seems an exclusive prerogative of natural healing and remains a mystery to science. Also, bacteria typically do not acquire a resistance to essential oils, as they so often do to antibiotic drugs.

Essential oils act quickly in the body. Some are detectable in the breath within minutes after application to the skin, and are eliminated from the body within several hours. Repeated applications may be required, especially when treating acute disorders that require keeping a constant level of essential oil active in the body.

Remember that less is more when it comes to aromatherapy. Consistent low doses are safest and most effective.

One advantage of aromatherapy treatments is that they don’t need to work their way through the entire body to treat a particular area. Most of the essential oils suggested in this section are intended for dilution in a carrier oil. You can massage these diluted oils directly over the area that needs treatment-on the chest, for example, to treat congested lungs, or on the stomach in cases of indigestion. Application by inhalation or bath is also appropriate for many treatments.

Essential oils are perfectly safe when used in the suggested dilutions, although applications complicated by pregnancy, epilepsy, serious health problems and some medications do call for caution. A patch test is recommended before using any formula. (See Safety Precautions in the “Guidelines” chapter for further information on safety, applications, dilutions and carrier oils; also, please note the various “considerations” in the “Materia Medica” chapter.)

Body Systems

Health and vitality depend on the harmonious and collective functioning of each organ in the body. Therefore, the identification and separation of systems and their association with various oils is a simplification, albeit a necessary one. Also, because most plants have multiple actions, many are listed below for more than one system or symptom.



Heart and Circulation Digestive System
Bowel Problems Respiratory System
Musculoskeletal System Nervous System
Glandular System Urinary Tract
Reproductive System Miscellaneous Complaints
Ears and Eyes Boosting Immunity


Aromatherapy Materia Medica

Guidelines for Using Essential Oils and Herbs

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Written by Kathi Keville

Explore Wellness in 2021