Saturday, 19 May 2012

What are the most commonly used oils in aromatherapy?

This is a very frequently asked question.  Its also a frequently not asked question in scientific research where aromatherapy is equated often with a massage in the local spa to the detriment of the scientific enquiry in hand.  Oxidised oils are used, the botanical origin is sometimes a mystery.  Help is at hand.  Take a class!  Below are oils for particular bodily systems starting with skincare and nervous conditions, the areas where essential oils are of frequent use.  For the hardy the class boards showing how we got there are below too.
Benzoin you will see appears in skincare but is not in other categories.  Benzoin is however a useful fixative allowing the aromas of more volatile oils to persist longer so may well find its way into aromatherapy and natural perfume blends for this reason alone.  I would stress that this is not science nor aromatherapy either! However for the student new to the oils this is a useful teaching device to work through.  A professional aromatherapist seeks to select oils appropriate to the individual in front of them based on their training and experience.  All this does is look at the most versatile oils in each category.  The methodology was simply to take a commonly recognised Shirley Price table and count the mentions the oil received within each care category to arrive at the most versatile oils.

So the table of most versatile oils by care area.  Comments on the table are below.


Benzoin, cedarwood, chamomile german, chamomile roman, clove bud, frankincense, geranium, juniper, lavender, lemon, melissa, myrhh, patchouli, rose otto, sandalwood, bergamot, marjoram sweet, tea tree


Basil, bergamot, chamomile roman, clary sage, frankincense, geranium, lavender, marjoram sweet, melissa, peppermint, pine, rose otto, rosemary, sandalwood, thyme sweet, ylang


Basil, black pepper, caraway, coriander, clove bud, dill (not versatile but a famous carminative for babies) fennel, geranium, ginger, lemon, mandarin, melissa, niaouli, peppermint, rosemary and thyme sweet

Genito urinary

Chamomile german, clary sage, fennel, sage, thyme sweet

Circulatory muscles joints

Basil, cajuput, cham roman, cypress, frankincense, geranium, juniper, lavender, lemon, marjoram sweet, niaouli, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, sandalwood, sage, thyme sweet, valerian


Black pepper, cajuput, clovebud, cypress, dill, lemon, marjoram spanish, marjoram sweet, niaouli, peppermint, pine, rosemary, sage, tea tree, thyme sweet


Starting with skincare

As above Benzoin is versatile in skincare but not in other care areas.  Cedarwood similarly.  They are relatively specific to skincare.  Chamomile German finds skincare and genitourinary use. Chamomile roman finds skincare, nervous and CMJ (circulation, muscles and joints) use.  Clove bud skincare, digestive and respiratory use.  Frankincense skincare, nervous and CMJ use.  Geranium is a versatile oil which finds much use within aromatherapy including skincare, nervous, digestive and CMJ uses.  Juniper skincare and CMJ. Lavender is another versatile oil with skincare, nervous, and CMJ uses.   lemon for the treatment of warts and verucae in skincare and digestive care.  Melissa is useful in skincare and produces an excellent hydrolat, also finding nervous (excellent for agitation) and digestive use. Myrhh finds skincare uses. Patchouli finds skincare use. Rose otto finds skincare and nervous uses.  Sandalwood finds skincare, nervous use and CMJ use. Bergamot finds use in skincare as a herpes treatment and in nervous care.  Sweet Marjoram finds use in skincare as an athletes foot treatment, nervous care as sedative, CMJ and respiratory. Tea tree finds use in skincare as an athletes foot treatment and respiratory. Unlike other oils Tea Tree is not readily absorbed by the skin and so makes an ideal antifungal footcare treatment.  Always take a seriously fungal nail to a podiatrist as it may be symptomatic of a more serious condition.

Nervous care

hello Clary Sage, hello Peppermint, also digestive and cooling in CMJ.  hello Pine also with respiratory uses. hello Rosemary (Rosemary for remembrance), also digestive, and CMJ.  hello Ylang.


hello Black Pepper (improves the swallowing reflex), caraway, coriander, dill and fennel, ginger, mandarin, niaouli (also in CMJ).


hello Sage (also in CMJ)


hello Cajuput (also respiratory), Nutmeg, Valerian


No newbies.

Just click on a name for the wikipedia profile.

Success in your studies!

 no mercy straight into the chemistry - alcohol + acid = ester + water, easy from thereon

therapeutic properties of the functional groups


then into the skincare and massage carriers

essential oils for skincare 

and then into the uses cross reference

Bless this mess.  The oils and the use areas

Indications reading

Glossary reading

pulling it all together

A protocol for clinical aromatherapy use

If you are thinking of taking the Sp day class in aromatherapy to master the basics rest assured the the slides and handouts are more colourful than the boards!

we are now (at last) ready to consider the researched uses of essential oils

The leading author and researcher into the uses of essential oils in Aromatherapy is Robert Tisserand.  His upcoming seminars and online learning can be found at
A new edition of his book Essential Oil Safety will be available in 2013 including over 4000 research references

Ian Brealey 

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