Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Carrier oils

Anything that ‘carries’ an essential oil into the mind or body is known in aromatherapy as a carrier. Resin burned as incense is carried into the lungs by the air.  The air the most common carrier for application of essential oil to the mind.  The carrier in an inhalation of oils from a diffuser, bottle, smelling strip or aromastick is air.  In the bath it is the water and also steam vapour from the bath or shower. In a compress, a hot or cold wet towel placed on the body like a patch, the water carries the essential oil onto the skin where it is absorbed.  

In massage it is the vegetable oil used. Vegetable oils, macerated herbal oil and white lotion are the most common carriers for application to the body.  In cosmetics if essential oils are added to a lotion or cream for self-application, then each of these is acting as a carrier. Carriers also include cosmetic bases used in everyday cosmetic body wash and soaps and in aloe vera and herbal gels and creams.
There is then the whole area of flavour and fragrance. In a natural perfume the carrier is a natural oil like jojoba while in a normal perfume the carrier is the perfumers alcohol in which the essential oils are dissolved.  Essential oils are also carried into the body in food and drink as flavours making essential oil blends useful for those wishing to replace soft drinks in an exercise or slimming regime by adding a 7drop blend to still or sparkling water. Here the water is the carrier.

Aromatherapy carrier oils, unlike those used in cooking, have not been heated, refined, bleached or re-coloured, all of which destroy the natural vitamins and properties. These cold pressed, unrefined oils are best, as they retain all their natural, vital and beneficial properties which, although not as powerful as those of the essential oils, are still desirable in a treatment. For example Argan oil is excellent for application to the hair and scalp.  Coconut oil has beneficial anti fungal properties of its own while calendula blossoms left in a sunflower oil in a sunny kitchen window is good for eczema, jojoba is an excellent body oil for sore babies bottoms and nappy rash.  Argan, Jojoba, Calendula and Evening primrose oils are  suitable for application to children’s skin which on the whole essential oils are not.

A whole body massage will require about 15ml of carrier oil and only upto 7 drops of essential oil.  A non-greasy white lotion is invaluable for self-application, where an oil may be unnecessarily greasy. A white lotion is absorbed immediately, leaving grease-free, smooth skin.

It is vital that the carrier is of an equally high quality as the essential oils which you use, as it often makes up at least 99% of the mix and can dramatically affect the quality of the blend.

The standard oils like sweet Almond, Sunflower and Grapeseed are chosen for their ability to carry the essential oils and help their absorbtion rather than any particular therapeutic properties.  Jojoba is both an effecient carrier and possesses, for the first 12 months after manufacture, therapeutic properties and vitamins. The herbal macerated oils like Jojoba make excellent carriers for particular skin conditions as they themselves have therapeutic properties.


Sweet almond oil is one of the most useful carrier oils and is excellent for the protection of the skin, being emollient, nourishing and softening.


These oils are similar to each other and are rich in vitamins. Natural moisturisers, they are excellent for feeding the skin, and are immediately absorbed.
A rich oil, invaluable to add to a base vegetable oil at 10-25% of the blend. It has skin healing properties, and is rich in lecithin and vitamins A, B and D. Avocado oil is expressed from the dried fruits, which gives it its natural deep green colour. In cold weather, it may sometimes appear cloudy, indicating that the oil has not been refined and is therefore of good quality.
A highly beneficial oil, pressed from the seeds, evening primrose is useful for dry, scaly skin. Rich in vitamins E and F and in GLA (gamma linoleic acid), this excellent natural moisturiser has a regenerative effect, helping to maintain the natural softness and suppleness of youthful skin.
The oil has a lovely light texture leaving the skin very smooth. It is a good base for bruises and skin problems.
Mostly available as a refined oil, grapeseed is very fine, light, odourless and colourless. It readily penetrates the skin.
A very rich oil, good for dry skin. It contains proteins, vitamins and minerals and is often added to other carrier oils (10-25%of the blend).  It has natural preservative powers due to its vitamin E content.
A ready mixed blend of grapeseed, avocado and wheatgerm, which penetrates the skin easily. The added wheatgerm helps the keeping qualities whilst the avocado enriches the mix.
CALENDULA (Macerated in sunflower oil)
A vegetable oil, usually sunflower oil, is used to absorb the healing properties from flowers. The resulting oil has a beneficial effect on the skin, relieving eczema and protecting against chapping and cracking.
HYPERICUM (Macerated in olive oil)
(Also known as St Johns Wort)
The flowering tops from the plant are macerated in olive oil, producing a beneficial deep red oil. The colour comes from the buds which stain the fingers red if pressed between them. Hypericum oil is excellent for use on the skin as it is soothing and antiseptic, and healing to burns and bruises.
JOJOBA (Liquid wax)
Jojoba is obtained from the jojoba nut and is a very beneficial oil for all types of skin conditions, especially oily and problem skins. It lubricates and protects without blocking pores. Being a wax, it has an extremely long shelf life and contains vitamins for the first twelve months of its life.  Chemically it is close to the skins natural oil known as sebum.  It is especially suitable for use on the nappy area.
LIME BLOSSOM OIL (Macerated in sunflower oil)
The flowers of the lime blossom are used to make relaxing tea. The oil is also relaxing, aiding sleep. It is effective in fighting mature skin and wrinkles.
MELISSA (Macerated in sunflower oil)
The second cutting of Melissa is used to make this oil which is useful in the treatment of headaches and dry, mature skin. With the addition of the appropriate essential oils its benefits are increased, especially for ‘heavy legs’ and cellulite.
A unique product based entirely on natural vegetable products, this lotion has been especially formulated for aromatherapy as a perfect carrier for essential oils. Easily absorbed, this fine light lotion is ideal when a carrier oil is though to be too greasy or inconvenient. It is absorbed readily into the skin, leaving a completely non-greasy, smooth feeling. The lotion has excellent keeping qualities and can be enriched by the addition of up to 25% of calendula or another carrier oil thought to be beneficial.


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