The world of aromatherapy is a complicated one unless you understand the finer details.
The bottom line is that by understanding these details you can grab some serious benefits!
The many terms you may come into contact with are often the cause of the main confusion, but even these aren’t as complicated as they seem once you break them down.
Two terms you will hear are essential oils and fragrance oil.
You might think these are the same thing, but they’re actually far from it.
By understanding the differences, you can find out the best options for you and your particular ailments.
What is Aromatherapy
Before we delve into the differences, let’s give a quick nod to what aromatherapy actually is and how it can help you.
Aromatherapy is the use of scents to help you overcome certain ailments.
Studies have shown aromatherapy to be beneficial for problems such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Insomnia and general sleep problems
- Skin problems
- Muscle aches and pains
- Common colds
- Menstrual issues
- Circulatory issues
The amount of benefit depends on the person and the severity of the issue, and further studies are continuing in order to identify the amount of benefit and how genuine it is.
Until very recently, healthcare professionals have been sceptical about the benefits that aromatherapy may bring, yet nowadays many professionals are fully on board with how useful certain types of essential oils can be via aromatherapy usage.
The main methods of use are inhalation and topical application.
You should never ingest essential oils when using aromatherapy, as these are very potent and may cause internal burns and even worse.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are the oils extracted from natural plants, trees and flowers.
These oils are extracted by many different methods, but steam extraction is the most common of them all.
Essential oils are 100% natural, which means nothing extra is added in.
These types of oils are never mixed with a carrier oil at the extraction phase, but they do often become mixed with carrier oil prior to use, in order to dampen down some of their natural potency and make them safer for general use.
It’s very hard to reproduce an essential oil in any other way, i.e. synthetically.
This is because the types of compounds and chemicals found in the oils aren’t identified and are often very hard to replicate.
As a result, when you buy an essential oil, provided you purchase a high-quality option, you can be sure it’s as natural as it is possible to get.
Some of the most common types of essential oils are:
- Lavender oil
- Rose oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Ylang ylang oil
- Rosemary oil
- Lemon oil
- Peppermint oil
- Tea tree oil
- Chamomile oil
You’ll find countless more, but these are some of the most common, and as as result you’ll find many of them available in supermarkets and health stores on the high street.
What Are Fragrance Oils?
Whilst essential oils are natural, fragrance oils aren’t.
They’re made in laboratories and are therefore synthetic.
Because of these, fragrance oils tend to last longer than essential oils and they’re not as potent or volatile.
You’ll find fragrance oils labeled as natural and synthetic, but despite the label, you should note that they’re nowhere near as natural as the essential oils we’ve just mentioned.
A synthetic fragrance oil is created in a laboratory artificially by mixing chemicals which aren’t naturally occurring in natural plants and flowers.
This means if you’re going to use this type of oil, you need to read the label very carefully and ensure that you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients.
This could cause a reaction which could range from a simple rash to something much worse.
On the other hand, natural fragrance oil is made from natural compounds but still made in a laboratory.
This means they are not as natural as essential oils and not extracted during the same methods.
To simplify it, natural fragrance oils are made from natural compounds but they’re created by laboratories and science.
That’s the major difference between the two.
What Can You Use Essential Oils And Fragrance Oils For?
It’s usually best to use essential oils if at all possible, but there is still a case for fragrance oil.
These are often cheaper which makes fragrance oil a better option for some people.
Aromatherapy is, as the name suggests, a therapy which is used via scents.
The olfactory system within the nose and up to the brain is affected by certain smells, allowing the benefits to be reaped when you either sniff the scent, inhale it, or via the skin when you apply it topically.
You may be able to use fragrance oils rather than essential oils if you can’t find the scent you’re looking for from an essential oil; not all essential oils actually have a particular scent.
And the scent you’re looking for from an essential oil; not all essential oils actually have a particular scent.
Of course, essential oils are certainly more beneficial in terms of health issues.
You can use essential oils to ease a large range of different health problems, and we mentioned a few earlier on. For instance, lavender oil has been found to be useful in helping with sleep problems and insomnia, as well as improving mood.
Many fragrance oils don’t give you the same benefits for health, because they’re basically created to give a scent.
When you isolate the specific compounds from a natural element, simply for the scent, you miss out on the other benefits, which are so hard to recreate in a laboratory.
For this reason, essential oils are always going to be more beneficial, because of the added natural extras which give you the benefits to your overall health and wellbeing.
The most common use of fragrance oils is cosmetic.
For instance, if you want a perfumed product which has a specific scent, you would use a fragrance oil to achieve it.
You’ll also find fragrance oils infused into scented candles, allowing them to hold a strong scent even when the candle is burning.
However, before you use any type of oil, essential or fragrance, you need to do a patch test to ensure that you’re not allergic to any compound within it.
Every single person is different and that means ensuring your own health and safety before using any oil.
You can do a patch test by simply applying a little of the oil onto your skin, either just behind your ear or on your inner wrist, and waiting for 24 hours to see if you have any type of reaction, such as a rash.
If you do, discontinue use immediately and wash the oil away from your skin. If you don’t notice any reaction at all, you’re safe to use the oil either topically or via inhalation.
Are All Essential Oils High Quality?
No. It’s important to shop around and check that you’re getting the best quality possible before purchasing a product.
The problem is that the essential oil market isn’t regulated in any way. Any company can sell what they call essential oils and you have no idea if the oil is of a good quality or not.
The main issues to check for are:
- Whether the plant is organic or not. When a plant isn’t organic you may need to be concerned about the use of pesticides and other added nasties during the growth stage, which may impact on the quality of the essential oil once extracted from the plant, flower, root, or tree.
- How the oil is extracted and processed. You may not know much about this at the purchasing stage, but the fact is if a price is too low, it’s likely to be of low quality.
- How old the product is. The longer the product is stored, the more like it is to spoil. Degradation of the chemicals contained within the essential oils is quite likely to happen when the product is exposed to heat.
One of the main differences between fragrance oils and essential oils is that essential oils are often more expensive because they’re natural and contain more benefits.
Apart from perfume, the most common use of fragrance oil is within candles.
This means that you can sit in your home and enjoy the wonderful scent from a burning candle.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should never leave a burning candle unattended!
Fragrance oils are often used in candles because they have a stronger scent than most essential oils and the scent lasts for longer.
Because essential oils are more expensive, it’s simply not cost-effective to infuse these into candles for burning, which is why fragrance oils are often the go-to choice for this type of use.
The Future of Essential Oils
Whilst fragrance oils will continue to be used in soaps, candles, perfumes and other cosmetic products, essential oils look to be going from strength to strength.
It’s worth mentioning that these have been around for many years, but only over the last decade or so have healthcare professionals starts to notice their benefits and take them seriously.
You’ll now find many clinics which offer supervised aromatherapy services, such as aromatherapy massage for antenatal women, and aromatherapy to help cancer patients deal with chemotherapy-associated nausea.
It’s important to use aromatherapy with caution, especially if you have any health problems or you’re taking any regular medications.
A lot of the research done so far is either inconclusive or isn’t detailed enough to be sure that there aren’t contraindications to be aware of.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health, so if you’re not sure, always check things out with your doctor ahead of time, to be on the safe side.
Overall, however, essential oils are quite safe for most people.
We mentioned earlier about doing a patch test prior to use and that’s a must do if you want to be sure you’re not going to be allergic to any specific oil.
It’s also worth mentioning that just because you don’t have an allergy to one particular oil, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be allergic to another.
Do a patch test every time you use a new oil.
So, can we look forward to more essential oil usage in the future?
Essential oils and aromatherapy have been around for decades, even centuries, and they certainly seem to be gaining in popularity.
Even fragrance oils have been doing the rounds for many years, and as long as we have had scented cosmetic products, we’ve had fragrance oils.
When you choose either a fragrance oil or an essential oil it’s vital that you shop around and do your best to find a quality product.
The lack of regulation within the industry means that it’s very easy to find a substandard product, and whilst you might not want to spend a lot of money on an oil, either fragrance or essential, you do need to be sure that you’re getting quality if nothing else.
For that reason, steer clear of ‘too good to be true’ prices and anything which doesn’t have any reviews. You can always shop online and look at reviews before making a decision on a purchase.
Put simply, if you want relief from a variety of different health issues, aromatherapy, in general, could be a good option for you.
Provided you do your research, you check out any problems ahead of time and you consult with your doctor before use, you may be able to grab the very serious benefits of using oils to heal and manage problems in the most natural of ways.
Whether you use essential oils or fragrance oils is a personal choice, but you will get far more benefit from going down the essential oil route, if you have any specific ailments you want to improve, such as low mood, anxiety, insomnia, etc.
Doing your research into which oils might help which ailments could bring you some very pleasant results indeed.