Aromatherapy explained by a Naturopath

Aromatherapy is a branch of herbal medicine. It is the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes. The term “Aromatherapy” was created in 1928 by a French perfumer-chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé.

When applied to the skin, essential oils pass through the pores of the skin and enter the blood capillaries. These guide them to the target organ. They can thus act in depth throughout the body. After absorption, the role of emunctories is to eliminate them.

Emunctories are organs that ensure the elimination of toxins :

  • The lungs via cough or mucus
  • The skin via sebum and perspiration
  • The kidneys via the urine and the intestine via the stool

It is therefore essential to use quality essential oils :

  • 100% pure and natural
  • Origin and chemotype controlled
  • Always use them diluted and at low doses
  • Not terpeneless
  • HEBBD denomination (which means that the Essential Oil is Botanically and Biochemically Defined)
  • Store them in good conditions (tightly closed bottle protected from light)

Most essential oils require a 1/5 dilution (high concentration, reserved for medical practice), most often 1/10 or even 1/20 or 1/100 (low concentration, common for the use of aromatherapy in cosmetology It is however not recommended to mix more than 3 EO in the same preparation.

Some precautions:

As a general rule, it is unwise to use essential oils on pregnant or breastfeeding women, especially in the first three months of pregnancy when fetal tissue is forming, as well as in children due to enzymatic immaturity. infantile. For production animals and pets, aromatherapy needs special adaptation, as some species do not have certain enzymatic metabolic systems.

Some essential oils can be toxic and dangerous without mastering their precautions for use. It is recommended to then move towards homeopathy, phytotherapy or hydrolatherapy (floral waters) for pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as for children.

It is not recommended to take an essential oil orally systematically, despite some received ideas. Indeed, some essential oils can be toxic and dangerous for the liver, kidneys, digestive system and nervous system. If in doubt, then favor skin or respiratory application (inhalation, olfaction, diffusion).

Preservation of essential oils :

An essential oil can be stored in a tinted bottle protected from heat and light, with the head upwards and tightly closed (to avoid denaturing the molecules), generally 5 years. But the storage of an essential oil can vary depending on its content:

Considered to be light essential oils, they can be stored for up to 1 year in good conditions.

Considered to be heavy essential oils, they can be stored for up to 5 years in good conditions.

How to recognize a potentially dangerous essential oil ?

There is one essential thing to know; an essential oil is a liquid, concentrated and complex aromatic plant extract obtained by distillation by steam distillation of aromatic plants or organ of this plant (flower, leaf, wood, root, bark, fruit, etc. .). It is the distilled essence of the aromatic plant. As a result, they concentrate active molecules of which it would be interesting to know certain biochemical families to be used with caution:

Essential oils rich in phenols (phenic acids), aldehydes and terpenes

Such as lemon beds, thyme ct thymol, ylang-ylang, etc. These oils are potentially dangerous because they are dermocaustic, allergenic and irritating to the mucous membranes and to the skin. They are potentially dangerous since they can cause burns, irritation and even necrosis of the skin in their pure state. This is why it is essential to always dilute them to a maximum of 20% in a fatty substance (vegetable oil, vegetable butter, etc.). Namely that oral phenols are hepatotoxic.

Essential oils rich in coumarins

Telles que le persil, l’angélique, le céleri, la bergamote, l’orange amère, etc. Ces huiles sont potentiellement dangereuses car ce sont des huiles essentielles généralement photosensibilisantes pour la peau, ce qui signifie qu’elles peuvent provoquer une augmentation de la sensibilité de la peau aux rayonnements solaires, notamment aux ultraviolets, se traduisant par une éruption cutanée. Cette réaction due au soleil provoquerait des mutations de l’épiderme favorisant le cancer de la peau. C’est pour cela qu’il est indispensable d’appliquer une huile essentielle photosensibilisante environ 6 heures avant de s’exposer au soleil ; privilégiez le soir au coucher par exemple. En cas de brûlure avec une huiles essentielle, il faut éviter de mettre de l’eau dessus, diluez immédiatement avec de l’huile végétale !

Essential oils rich in lactones and ketones

Such as peppermint, aspic lavender, rosemary and verbenone, mugwort, etc. These oils are potentially dangerous because they are oils which, depending on the wrong dosage, can have neurological toxicity. Some can also be abortive (risk of miscarriage), depending on the ketone level they contain.

Essential oils rich in sesquiterpenols and sesquiterpenes

Such as cypress, sage, niaouli, carrot, etc. These oils are potentially dangerous because they are so-called estrogen-like oils; That is, they will stimulate female hormones that act on the urogenital system, mammary gland, skeleton, cardiovascular system, brain, digestive system, skin and mucous membranes. However, it is contraindicated in cases of hormone-dependent cancers, mastitis, fibrosis, prostate cancer or a history of hormone-dependent cancers, as well as in children before the end of puberty.

What is a hydrosol ?

A hydrosol is distillation water or floral water obtained during the steam distillation of an aromatic or medicinal plant, in order to obtain an essential oil. During the distillation process in the still, the aromatic molecules of the distilled raw materials are entrained with water vapor, condensed and recovered in a decanter. The resulting distillate then consists of essential oil supernatant and distillation water, in which a tiny part of the essential oil has dissolved.

A hydrosol is not as powerful as an essential oil, however, consisting of water (floral water), it retains water-soluble odorous molecules and remains slightly scented, possessing certain therapeutic properties; such as orange blossom water used to regulate children’s sleep.

We prefer a hydrosol to put in cooked dishes rather than an essential oil, and we will also prefer to treat babies, children, pregnant women, animals or sensitive people with hydrosols rather than with essential oils.

Hydrosols are best kept at the bottom of the refrigerator for up to 2 months after opening. It is possible to extend the shelf life by a few weeks by adding vitamin E, which is an antioxidant.

Aromatherapy is certainly a natural medicine, but it is far from being an alternative medicine as we are used to calling it. For aromatherapist physician Jean-Pierre Willem, “This is not alternative medicine. It is not possible to self-medicate “. A single teaspoon of thuja essential oil, for example, can be enough to cause death. Better to avoid playing with your health by mixing certain essential oils without knowing their molecular content as well as the appropriate dosages.


Clémentine. M.
Naturopathe – Aromathérapeute / Herboriste – Phytothérapeute
Consultante en phyto-aromathérapie Clinique et Ethnomédecine

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