Introduction & History

What to Expect from your Aromatherapy Treatment

On arrival for your appointment there will be a short consultation with the therapist. This will include a short medical history questionnaire and discussion about what you are looking for from the treatment. The therapist will prepare a blend of aromatherapy essential oils to use during the massage and these will be mixed with a carrier massage oil such as Sweet Almond. The massage is normally performed on a massage couch and most often the client will undress to their underwear if they feel comfortable to do so. The standard appointment length we offer at Woodland Herbs is an hour however some people may prefer a longer treatment to allow for total relaxation and full body treatment. to get the full benefit of an aromatherapy treatment it is best to time it to enable you to keep the oils on your skin for as long as possible after your massage.
If you have any more questions please feel free to contact us.

Brief History of Aromatherapy

Modern aromatherapy is often associated with massage as the main means of application and the combination of aromatherapy oils with massage can be very beneficial. However “aromatherapy” can be as simple as a few drops of an oil you find relaxing on your pillow at night!

The term aromatherapy was first coined in 1928 by Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist. He is considered to be the man who rediscovered aromatherapy when a bottle of boiling lavender oil spilt over him and the natural properties of the lavender meant that he had almost no scaring from the accident.

Written records can be found from 4000-2000 years BC. The oldest distillation apparatus was found in Pakistan, and is approximately 5000 years old. Hippocrates (460-377 BC) records the use of saffron, thyme, cumin, peppermint and marjoram. The knowledge of these came from the Indian Ayurvedic medicine via the Arabian spice traffic. The literature left by him and his students includes what many people consider the most important principle of modern natural medicine: ‘Above all the purpose of a doctor is to awaken the natural healing energy within the body.’

How Essential Oils are Made

The majority of Aromatherapy Essential Oils are made by distillation Other techniques include solvent extraction and extraction by waxes/oils.

Most essential oils are in plants in the first place to provide smell! This smell can be to attract animals (who then eat the plant and process the seeds through their digestive systems), to attract insects (to pollinate the plant), or to repel certain animals/insects (who may damage or kill the plant). The chemicals that make up the smell must be “light”
(the technical term is volatile) so they are able to drift through the air to be detected by animals and insects. This volatility is one of the reasons that they can be extracted by distillation.

Distillation is a process where the plant is mixed with water in a container and the container heated. Once the water is above a certain temperature some of the volatile compounds (these are sometimes called the chemical constituents) begin to evaporate. At the top of the container is a piece of apparatus called a condenser which cools the evaporated esssential oils (most often these are cooled with air or water). The liquid that forms in the condenser is collected and this is the essential oil. (The liquid left is known as flower water or hydrosol and these are commonly used in beauty products). There are some compounds which do not only evaporate but also change their chemical composition in response to heat, these can’t be extracted via distillation and so solvent extraction must be used.

Solvent extraction is done by mixing the plant matter with a chemical which is capable of dissolving the compounds to be extracted. Once the
soluble chemicals have dissolved in the solvent the remaining plant matter is removed and the waxes, resins and essential oils are left. This is known as a “concrete”. A second solvent is used to separate the the essential oils from the heavier resins, waxes etc. Rose Absolute Essential Oil is made in this way.

Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Extraction is a modern method which is being used more often as the process is refined to make it more cost effective. Carbon dioxide is a relatively safe and inert solvent so it leaves a “clean” extraction.

Some oils may be extracted by cold pressing. The oils are expressed from the skin of the fruits manually. This option is used mostly with citrus oils as the raw materials are relatively cheap and the oils are abundant in the fruit so this method can be very cost effective.

A very small number of oils are extracted in fat/wax. Normally a press is used, layering the plant matter and fat to put them in close contact. The plant and fat are in close contact and the fat acts similarly to a solvent, absorbing the volatile constituents from the plant. The press is then used to squeeze the mix, separating the fat and the parts of the plant that are not needed. The fat is then further processed (often by separating the fat and the essential oil using alcohol as a solvent) to obtain the final product.

Once extracted essential oils can be tested and bottled for use. Testing can include determination of the relative proportions of the different constituents of the oil, sensory testing (does it smell right to an expert) and testing for unwanted residues. It may also be necessary to test for adulteration(where a specific chemical or a cheaper essential oil has been added). This is more common in more expensive oils such as rose.