Essential oils are highly concentrated and using a very small amount, counted in drops, can be very effective. Getting a helping hand from carrier or base oils helps the essential oils do their work more effectively especially when using them in massage applications or with young children.
The carrier or base oil serves as a gentle lubricant allowing smoothing distribution over the skin's surface. Different carrier oils are used for different purposes, but common to all is the need for the carrier to be 100% pure and without an odour that could overpower the aromas of the essential oils. Most carrier oils contain vitamins and minerals and the texture will moisturize the skin. These oils are produced from the nuts, seeds, beans or kernels of a wide variety of plants. A few of the more common carrier oils are sweet almond, apricot kernel, avocado,
grape seed, sesame seed and wheatgerm.
Sweet Almond oil is derived from the kernels of the almonds by warm pressing; however this oil should never be confused with bitter almond oil which contains prussic acid or cyanide. Sweet almond trees have pink blossoms whereas bitter almond trees bloom with white blossoms.
Sweet Almond oil is one of the most popular carrier oils used in aroma therapy and massage. This oil is not expensive and the vitamin E content helps to preserve the oil. It will nourish the skin and is very useful in cases of eczema and other irritations. Sweet Almond oil is high in vitamins A, B and E.
Apricot kernel oil is high in essential fatty acids, although, unlike the fruit, it does not contain many vitamins. The is very light in texture, and is particularly suited to facial massage. Excellent for dry, sensitive or mature skins as it is absorbed easily.
Mechanical pressing followed by centrifugal extraction is used to obtain avocado oil from the flesh of the fruit. Grown largely in Mexico as well as part of the Southern United States and South America this oil is wonderful on the abdomen and legs of pregnant women who wish to avoid common stretch marks. The oil is a deep green colour and is full of vitamins, lecithin, protein and essential fatty acids. It has a tendency to become cloudy and thick when cold, but gentle warming of the bottle with warm hands will reverse this process.
Grape seed oil is obtained from the seeds of grapes, and is often imported from wine growing areas in Europe. Without any noticeable odour, grape seed is universally used in aromatherapy for its non-greasy, silky feel. Generally grape seed oil is even more inexpensive than sweet almond oil and many people will mix the two for color and texture.
Sesame seed oil is extracted from the seeds, it is light and has virtually no odour. This oil has the advantage of washing out of towels better than grape seed or sweet almond oil. Because it is a monounsaturated oil it will retain its freshness longer than some other oils and will not go rancid in strong sunlight or excessive heat.
Cold expression of Wheatgerm oil is performed to extract this thick, rich oil which is very nourishing and contains B vitamins as well as vitamin E and essential fatty acids. The vitamin E makes wheatgerm oil a natural antioxidant helping to extend the shelf life even after exposure to oxygen, light or temperature changes. It is useful for dry skin, scar tissue and burns.
There are many other carrier oils, but those outlined are easily available, relatively inexpensive and offer a versatile selection for the purpose of aromatherapy.