When you drop by aromatherapy or natural health and beauty stores, you are faced with choosing among the many ingredients you may employ to achieve a holistic treatment. Some of the items you may encounter include essential oils, carrier oils, fragrance oils and infused oils. Already confused? Read on to differentiate one from the other, and get to know each one’s uses.
You might be surprised, but the so-called essential oils are not oily to the touch at all. Most of them are clear, but some come in amber or yellowish color, such as orange and lemon grass essential oils.
Essential oils are distilled, usually by steam or water, from various parts of the source plant such as leaves, stems, petals, roots and other parts. They are highly concentrated and contain no artificial fragrances. When applied to the skin or inhaled, the composition and scent of these oils can provide many physical and psychological benefits.
They are often sold in small bottles and can greatly vary in price, depending on the rarity of the plant, the amount of oil produced by the plant and other standards. Because they are in pure form, essential oils are often diluted with carrier oils prior to usage.
Since essential oils are very much concentrated and may cause severe irritations and other reactions in some people, carrier oils are used to dilute them. Carrier oils are derived from the fatty portions of the plant, such as the seeds, nuts and kernels. Sometimes called vegetable oils, each one of them carries different therapeutic benefits, depending on what is being sought.
Carrier oils got scents of their own, although they may not be as strong as those from essential oils. Some of the natural lotions, body creams, massage oils, bath oils and other skin care products are made from carrier or vegetable oils. The choice of carrier oils where essential oils are added to can make a difference in the properties, effects, color, scent and shelf life of the final product.
While essential oils are natural because they are made of the distilled essences of the plants where they came from, fragrance oils, on the other hand, are artificial scents – they contain artificial substances and are diluted with carrier oils. You might have also encountered items like perfume oils or potpourri oils, but they are basically just the same as fragrance oils, considering how they were made.
Unfortunately, fragrance oils do not carry the same therapeutic benefits offered by essential oils. Many scented cosmetics, candles, skin-care products like lotions and soaps, and others only contain fragrance oils or other synthetically-made fragrances. You have to read the labels carefully if you intend to use only natural ingredients in achieving relaxation and holistic caring.
Infused oils are simply carrier oils infused with herbs. They are especially intended for certain plants that simply do not have much essential oils in them, or when it is virtually impossible to find essential oils extracted from those plants.
The good thing about using infused oils in aromatherapy than just plain carrier oils is that the combined therapeutic benefits of the carrier oils and the herbs infused into them are achieved. Infused oils are generally oily to the touch, depending on the consistency of the carrier oils used.
Unlike essential oils, infused oils can go rancid over time, just like carrier oils.