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Using aromatherapy at home is a great way to support your well being, in fact that's how I started using & learning about it nearly 30 years ago now!

There are loads of essential oils to choose from now-a-days, so there's something to suit everybody's olfactory preferences. Each oil has different properties which makes them a versatile tool for a wide range of purposes.


It's important to use essential oils safely though & ensure you have a good idea of what you are doing. So here's a very brief guide about aromatherapy & information on how to use it. I hope you find it interesting. Please note it's not a definitive resource or intended to be a substitute for treatment from trained professionals. If you have any questions do get in touch, I'm happy to help.


If you'd prefer me to make aromatic preparations for you that's a service I offer.

Or visit my online Neal's Yard Remedies Organic Shop where you can buy: Gifts, Essential Oils, Diffusers, Aromatherapy, Base Oils / Lotions, Skin / Hair / Body Care, Herbal Teas & Natural Remedies.


In the meantime have fun & enjoy learning about this fascinating therapeutic subject.

What is 'Aromatherapy' & where did it originate from?


The English word was taken from the French ‘aromatherapie’ first used by the French chemist Gattefosse.  This term is widely used to mean many different things. Therapeutically speaking it's the use of pure aromatic plant extracts to influence or alter the mind, emotions & body. Although it's also often used by industry to describe artificially scented products which have no therapeutic value. Essential oils are most commonly obtained from raw botanical material by steam distillation. Other methods of extraction include: enfleurage, expression, maceration, solvent extraction, pytonic extraction, butane extraction & carbon dioxide extraction.

Our use of aromatic plants for both health & beauty is thought to be as old as mankind. Physical evidence dates back over 4000 years to the time of the ancient Samerians.  Egyptian scrolls have been found dating back to 1500 BC detailing the use of aromatic plant remedies. China also has a clear history of the use of plant remedies some of which are aromatic & date back to the first medicinal book written in 4500 BC. The Romans are thought to have gained their knowledge of aromatherapy from the Greeks who enjoyed bathing in perfumes & massages with fragrant oils. Whenever it first came about it's certainly not a new phenomenon. As long as people & plants have existed different forms of herbal medicine have been utilised.


However, during the 19th century the development of new scientific knowledge & processes enabled natural products to be replicated synthetically. The art of medicine also changed & new synthetic drugs were chosen in place of traditional remedies. Hence the use of natural products declined.  Today in the UK & many other westernised countries we have renewed interest in the old ways. The benefits of ancient wisdom are now ever increasingly being taken more seriously, returned to & integrated with other forms of healthcare.

How does Aromatherapy work?


Here's simplified information on 3 ways it works:


1. Absorption via the skin - The skin is permeable &, just like with some modern medicines e.g. HRT or pain relief patches, essential oils may be absorbed transdermally. As oils are lipid based & have a low molecular weight this method of application is an effective one. When diluted in a carrier oil or cream base they move slowly through the skin. A little will be stored in the skin & some will enter mainstream circulation. Some areas of the body are more absorbent than others, as is the skin of the elderly or young (for this reason lower doses of essential oils should be used with them). This way of using aromatherapy is great for aches, pains, muscular problems, skin care, as a fragrance etc.

2. Absorption via the Respiratory System - The mucous membranes of our upper & lower respiratory system are thinner than our skin & richly perfused with capillaries. Additionally the mucous produced by the membranes further assists in effective transportation. This makes inhalation of essential oils a great way to achieve rapid systemic absorption & experience the results of aromatherapy quickly. This method is ideal for issues such as colds, flu, hay fever, headaches etc.

3. Absorption via Olfaction - When we sniff volatile aromatic oils they connect with the brain & we smell them. Brain tissue is rich in lipids & as the oil components are small they easily diffuse into this tissue. Therefore they directly effect the: brain, spinal cord, nervous system & regulation of visceral / glandular functioning.  These chemical stimuli also have an impact on an area of the brain called the limbic region which is associated with emotions, instinctive behaviour, motivation, drive, feelings, learning & memory.  This is thought to account for our emotional & memory evoked responses to odours. Obviously from this information we can deduct that smelling essential oils has many benefits & is a great method of application for helping mental & emotional wellbeing.


Which essential oils for what?


There's so many to choose from! I've selected just 12 of some of the more commonly known. Listed are details of their most prominent characteristics, therapeutic indications & contra-indications (points of caution).

CHAMOMILE (ROMAN) - Chamaemelum nobile

Aroma - sweet, warm, hay-like, slightly fruity

Main actions - antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, digestive stimulant, calmative (calming / sedating)

Good for - nervous tension, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, digestive issues, skin conditions, menstrual issues, arthritis, hay fever

Psychological & spiritual properties - helps us foster a more 'sunny' disposition, self nurture, let go of self criticism, resentment & the need to blame others

CLARY SAGE - Salvia sclarea

Aroma - warm, musky, slightly spicy

Main actions - antispasmodic, antidepressive, uterine tonic

Good for - anxiety, depression, nervous tension, PMT, menstrual issues, muscular issues, aches, pains

Psychological & spiritual properties - clears the mind, dispels illusion, indecision, emotional confusion, releases constriction & allows inspiration to flow

Contraindications - avoid with pregnancy (good during labour though) & hormonal dependent cancer


EUCALYPTUS - Eucalyptus globulus

Aroma - strong, fresh, camphoraceous

Main actions - immune tonic, anticatarrhal, decongestant, antirheumatic

Good for - colds, flu, catarrah, asthma, sinus issues, hayfever, fatigue, joint pain

Psychological & spiritual properties - revives spirits, dispels melancholy, helps us adopt a more positive & expansive outlook

FRANKINCENSE - Boswellia carteri

Aroma - resinous, rich

Main actions - analgesic, antidepressive, calmative, antioxidant (combats ageing process)

Good for - nervous tension, worry, anxiety, depression, insomnia, respiratory issues, muscle stiffness, aches, pains, tissue repair / skin care

Psychological & spiritual properties - helps us to let go of the past, break free of personal restriction & over attachment. Calming & centring it's great for aiding meditation & focusing spiritual contemplation


GERANIUM - Pelargonium graveolens

Aroma - fresh, floral, green, cool, moist

Main actions - anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, calmative, antispasmodic

Good for - nervous system, irritability, headaches, menopausal issues, skin conditions, fungal issues

Psychological & spiritual properties - helps reconnect us with our emotions & capacity for communication. Good for nervous exhaustion especially with those experiencing stress, overwork & a tendency for perfectionism


GRAPEFRUIT - Citrus paradisi

Aroma - fresh, juicy, sweet, citrus

Main actions - cholerectic (increases bile), depurative, digestive stimulant, lymphatic decongestant

Good for - cleansing, decongesting, cellulite, lymph flow, digestion, bowel function, nervous tension, oily skin conditions

Psychological & spiritual properties - dealing with difficult emotions & comfort eating / the need to feel full, high expectations, anger & self criticism, heavy feelings & disappointment, acceptance of more realistic goals

Contraindications - avoid on skin for 12 hours before exposure to sun or sunbeds


LAVENDER - Lavandula angustifolia

Aroma - floral, soft, fresh, herbaceous

Main actions - analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, calmative, cicatrisant (promotes healing)

Good for - calms the mind, tension, anxiety, depression, insomnia, headache, skin conditions & care, fungal issues, muscle discomfort, joint pain, PMT, menstrual issues, arthritis, digestion & bowel function, gently benefits the respiratory system & immunity / infection, hay fever

Psychological & spiritual properties - an “Aromatic Rescue Remedy” it's indicated as a habit breaker & crisis smoother, calms emotions that overwhelm us, alleviates self-conscious reserve & helps us fulfil our creative potential


LEMON - Citrus limonum

Aroma - fresh, light, citrus, sour, sweet

Main actions - lymphatic decongestant, phlebotonic (tones vein walls), immune tonic

Good for - lethargy, nausea, flatulence, constipation, poor appetite, cellulite, broken capillaries, varicose veins, colds, flu, catarrh

Psychological & spiritual properties - focus, clarity, uplifting, cools emotional confusion & doubt, encourages trust & security, opens the heart centre encouraging release of fear

Contraindications - avoid on skin for 12 hours before exposure to sun or sunbed

ORANGE - Citrus sinensis

Aroma - sweet, fruity, juicy, warm

Main actions - digestive stimulant, hepatic stimulant, antispasmodic,

Good for - digestive discomfort, flatulence, nausea, IBS, constipation, nervous tension, worry, insomnia, poor appetite

Psychological & spiritual properties - conveys joy & positivity, good for those that try too hard & find it difficult to delegate or think that things are bound to go wrong, helps us to be more easy going & embodies good luck

PEPPERMINT - Mentha piperita

Aroma - cool, fresh, clean, minty

Main actions - digestive stimulant, cephalic, nervous stimulant,

Good for - digestive issues, concentration, study, memory, mental fatigue,

Psychological & spiritual properties - awakens the nerves & the brain, enhances: concentration, absorption, digestion of new ideas, emotional acceptance, inspiration & insight

Contraindications - do not use at more than a 2% dilution on the skin & avoid with pregnancy, breastfeeding, epilepsy, heart disease

ROSEMARY - Rosmarinus officinalis

Aroma - herby, strong, fresh, camphoraceous

Main actions - anticatarrhal, antirheumatic, cephalic, neurotonic, general tonic

Good for - lethargy, circulation, concentration, study, memory, digestive issues, colds, flu, catarrh, muscular stiffness, aches, pains

Psychological & spiritual properties - dispels apathy & gloom, renews enthusiasm & self-confidence, strengthens self-worth, warms the spirits, makes us bold & remember our true path

Contraindications - do not use at more than a 2% dilution on the skin & avoid with pregnancy, breastfeeding, high blood pressure & migraines

TEA TREE - Melaleuca alternifolia

Aroma - medicinal, strong, camphoraceous

Main actions - antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, immune tonic, general tonic

Good for - colds, flu, tonsillitis, fatigue, post-viral issues, fungal issues, melancholy

Psychological & spiritual properties - bolsters moral, confidence, resilience & promotes positive outlook


How to use aromatherapy?

Although some essential oils blend more synergistically than others, there's no rigid laws about which go best together. So choose your oils according to required therapeutic action & what you like the smell of. There are however a few guidelines that are good to follow:


Topical application (on the skin) - e.g. massage, moisturising, skin treatments, cold / flu chest rub, back / shoulder ache rub etc

Firstly & very importantly...NEVER PUT ESSENTIAL OILS NEAT ON SKIN! No matter what you might of heard or been advised, a properly trained professional aromatherapist should not recommend this. It can cause damage & potentially some real nasty problems! Essential oils are powerful, concentrated natural chemicals & need to be diluted!

Base products to dilute essential oils in might be:

- Vegetable, seed or nut oil like grapeseed coconut, sunflower, argan, sweet almond or sesame etc

- Herbal oil aka phytol or maceration like calendula, arnica or St. John's wort

- Plain body & face lotion, cream or ointment

- Gel e.g. aloe vera or seaweed

Simply put, for every 5ml (1 teaspoon) of carrier / base product add 1 drop of essential oil = 1% dilution


Maximum recommended dilutions:

Face = 1%

Body & Hair = 1 - 2%

Specific problem areas (back ache, period pains, flu chest rub etc) = 2 - 5%

The amount of  carrier needed varies depending on the base type, the condition of the skin & size of area to be covered e.g. a facial massage will require 5ml of carrier or less where as a full body massage usually uses around 30ml. Ensure essential oils are thoroughly mixed into the base product before applying.



Elderly, pregnant, under 7's – only use very low dilutions & ensure suitability of oil choices.


Generally I'd say avoid application to personal areas of the body. Ladies this can be quite unpleasant!



Inhaler sticks - add 15 - 20 drops of essential oil to a blank nasal inhaler stick. Great for hay fever, headaches, sinus issues, as a handy on the go tool for anxiety etc.

On a tissue (or scarf, shirt collar, pillow, face mask etc) - use 2 - 3 drops of essential oil.

Steam inhalations - add 2 drops of essential oil to a bowl of steaming water, cover head & bowl with a towel, close eyes & breath in vapours for several minutes. Excellent for sinus issues, sore throats, flu / colds & deep facial cleansing. Caution should be taken with sensitive or delicate skin. Inhalations are not appropriate for those with thread veins.

Diffusion - diffusers are the more modern day version of the tea light oil burners. It's much cleaner & safer to use. This way of using aromatherapy is absolutely brilliant anywhere (office, study, playroom, bedroom, in the car...) & suitable for all people from young to old. Simply add water & 10 - 15 drops of essential oil & press the start button.

Baths (& foot baths) - oil & water don't mix so it's a good idea to mix essential oils with a dispersing agent e.g. fragrance free bath oil / bubble bath or solubol. This is important to do to avoid irritation to the skin & delicate mucous membranes. Also I recommend avoiding oils that are potential skin irritants e.g. clove, cinnamon, citronella, lemongrass etc.


Body & Hair Care:

Shampoo & shower gels / body wash - essential oils benefit dull, lifeless, thinning hair, scalp conditions & may also be used to help eradicate head lice.  Add essential oils to a fragrance free shampoo or body wash

Conditioning oil hair & scalp treatments - for a nourishing treatment & scalp conditions like dandruff add essential oils to a carrier oil, apply, leave overnight & wash out in the morning.  Repeat at regular intervals as required.

​Body Scrubs - exfoliation is good for the health of our skin. It removes dead cells which means that moisturisers can do their job better. Add essential oil to a base of: 1 tablespoon of sea salt, 1 tablespoon of honey & 1 tablespoon of base oil. Mix well, massage over skin & rinse off.


Roll-ons - this is a great way to create your own perfume. Nearly fill a 10ml roll-on bottle with base oil & add essential oil & shake well before application.

In the hair - pop a couple of drops of essential oil on a comb & brush through hair.

Compresses - add 2 – 4 drops of essential oil in a bowl of water. Soak a flannel or clean cloth, wring out & apply, renewing as required.  These may be hot or cold.  If alternating, start with hot & finish with cold.  Use this method for sprains, bruising, muscular pain, chest congestion, headaches, over-heated children or for reducing fevers.

Room Sprays - add a few drops of essential oil to a small glass spray bottle, fill with water & shake vigorously before each use. Avoid spraying on polished surfaces.

In the Car:

This is a lovely way to help stay alert on journeys or just fragrance your vehicle. Avoid sedating oils!

Diffusers - 12 volt socket & USB plug in diffuser. Use 3 - 5 drops of essential oil in water.

On a tissue - place 2 - 3 drops of essential oil on a tissue & tape over one of the air blower vents.

Make your own 'Magic Tree' style car air freshener - cut out a thick cardboard shape of your choice, add 3 - 5 drops of essential oil & hang in your vehicle.


Points of caution with using Essential Oils

  • Essential oils are extremely concentrated & should always be used with care. Seek advice if needed.

  • Do not apply undiluted to the skin!!!

  • Do not apply internally or ingest!!!

  • Keep out of the reach of children.

  • Do not allow essential oils to get into the eyes. If they do rinse well & seek professional help if necessary.

  • Replace caps immediately after use & store in a cool dry place.

  • Check use by dates & dispose correctly of out of date oils.

  • Label any products you make, store & use correctly.

  • Take care with sensitive skin. If necessary do a patch test. If an oil irritates your skin wash off thoroughly.

  • Pregnancy - topical application 1%

  • Elderly - topical application 1%

  • Children - topical application 3 - 7 years old = 1% & under 3 generally not recommended.

  • For phototoxic oils - Avoid strong sunlight or sunbed for 12 hours after use.

  • Be aware of open wounds & inflamed areas & avoid if necessary.

Where to buy products?

There are so many places that sell aromatherapy products & it can be confusing to a lay person. So here are a few tips:

 Many essential oils on the market are adulterated (poss' as many as up to 80%!). Meaning they are not what they say they are. You probably want to know that what you are putting on your body is what it says it is on the tin, right?

Buy oils from reputable, trusted & ethical sources.

• Personally I do not buy oils from stores or major online shopping providers that may of had them on a shelf or in a warehouse for quite some time.

• Cheap doesn't always mean it's a bargain.

• Look at the botanical name on the label to ensure you are purchasing the correct products.

• Buy organic if you can. Oils produced in this way generally mean that farming methods are more sustainable & in harmony with ensuring the health & future of the planet.

• Avoid buying endangered or threatened plant products e.g. Indian Sandalwood, Rosewood, Spikenard, Palm oil etc.

With these points in mind, here's who I recommend you might like to consider buying from:


My online shop - Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic (NYRO)

Click the link to visit my online store. I've known about NYRO since the 90's & a few years ago I decided to become an Independent Consultant. I wanted to be able to offer my friends & clients the things I use. You may of course buy from a regular Neal’s Yard store. You’ll get exactly the same products. The only difference in using my web shop is that I get a little commission & you’d be supporting my small business.

If you'd like advice on which products to get I'm happy to help so please get in touch with me.


Or here's a few other excellent suppliers that I recommend:

Materia Aromatica

Fragrant Earth



Want to learn more?

I give talks & run workshops on complementary therapies, stress management & relaxation whether that’s on a 1:1 basis, for couples or larger groups. Bespoke sessions are designed to be educational, fun & suit groups needs. Professional accredited training courses are also available, please visit the LEARN page on this website for more details.

Further reading:

Neal's Yard Remedies Essential Oils

Aromatherapy for healing the spirit by Gabriel Mojay

The Art of Aromatherapy by Robert Tisserand

Daniele Ryman's Aromatherapy Bible

Fats that heel, fats that kill by Erasmus, U

Carrier oils for aromatherapy & massage by Price & Smith

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