What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is an often misunderstood modality and word. It does not mean something just smells good nor does it mean using adulterated, synthetic essential oils or isolated components created in a lab.

Aromatherapy is Part of Phyto-Therapy

It is a subset of herbalism specific to the therapeutic use of genuine & authentic aromatic plant essences we call essential oils. These plant-based essences are then worked with to holistically support a person’s body, mind and spirit and notably a bodies innate capacity to heal.

There are two main components in aromatherapy, both of which are the direct result of the steam distillation process of pure plant material: the lipophilic (essential oils) and hydrophilic (hydrosols/”waters”) components….

What is an Essential Oil?

“…a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.” [Source: NAHA’s definition of an essential oil, which cites other sources of-note]

Essential oils may be used to expel mucus from the lungs, reduce anxiety, ease an ear infection, help process grief, help alleviate the day-to-day stresses of our lives, even aid in memorization (Shakespeare noted “Rosemary for remembrance” for a reason)–among a myriad of other things. Essential oils are made and used by plants for their benefit (e.g., to attract pollinators or deter pests); over time, humankind has learned how to use plant medicine to help itself in subtle, powerful and profound ways.

What is a Hydrosol?

“…the aqueous product of distillation and carry the hydrophilic properties (water-soluble components) of the plant in solution as well as microscopic droplets of essential oils in suspension.”

NAHA’s definition of a hydrosol, which cites other sources of-note.

Hydrosols, unlike their “yang” counterparts, are more “mild” and may be directly sprayed onto the skin and used as a mouth-rinse, among other uses (consult an aromatherapist or a healthcare professional for questions about hydrosols before using). Some are gentle enough for topical use with a baby or pet (again, consult with an aromatherapist…).  I use them: daily in a skin toner formula and mouth-rinse, in purified water for consumption and judiciously with my dog for her car anxiety. Unlike essential oils, some hydrosols may be used on open wounds for antiseptic purposes (e.g., a child’s skinned knee). [Note: hydrosols are still WATER and should be treated as such (i.e., kept cold, can spoil…).]

Welcome to the world of plant medicine.