Aromatherapy Oils

One main ingredient of aromatherapy is the oil being used. It is often referred to as the “essential oil”. Essential oil is nothing but the oil extracted from the leaves, flowers, stems, roots, barks, and other parts of plants. The oil carries the essence or fragrance of the plant.

Aromatherapy oils can be broadly classified into 4 types depending upon their mode of extraction, features and use:

Essential Oils

Essential oils are the most commonly used aromatherapy oils and these oils are extracted from plants by steam distillation. Each type of essential oil has a scent that has a different therapeutic effect. Not all essential oils are safe for use in aromatherapy. Some unsafe aromatherapy oils include bitter almond, mug worth, mustard, arnica, onion, pennyroyal, rue, garlic, horseradish and wormwood.


Absolutes are more concentrated than other essential oils. Absolutes are extracted from plants through chemical expression, instead of steam distillation. Absolutes contain trace amounts of solvent, which may cause an allergic reaction in some people. Absolutes are not as natural as essential oils, because of the chemical process involved in extracting them. They are usually highly concentrated and thick.


Co2 (or hypercritical carbon dioxide) extraction uses pressure to turn the gas in plants into liquid. The process involves putting pressure on the carbon dioxide in a plant until it becomes a liquid. The essential oil also dissolves in the liquid CO2. When the liquid is brought back to normal pressure, the carbon dioxide evaporates leaving only the essential oil. It is used to extract volatile substances from plants that cannot be extracted through steam distillation. C02s are usually thicker than essential oils.


Hydrosols (also called hydrolytes) are the liquid that remains after extracting oils through steam or water distillation. They are sometimes called floral water. Hydrosols generally have the aroma of the plant extract and many of the attributes of the essential oil. They are milder than the essential oil, which means they can be used for purposes where a mild form of the essential oil is needed. Organic hydrosols are often used as skin toners or perfume mists.

Infused Oils

Infused oil is created by herbs heated in carrier oil, so that the smell and flavor of the herb remains. Infused oils are a good way of using the aromatherapy properties of a certain herb, without having to extract the oil or buy aromatherapy oils. Infused oils can be used as massage oils or can be heated in an oil burner. They can also be used as carrier oil, to which essential oils are added.

Carrier Oils

Aromatherapy carrier oils serve as a base for aromatherapy treatments. Usually low-scent natural oil is used, like jojoba oil or almond oil. For many purposes, essential oils cannot be used by themselves, but need to be mixed with carrier oil. This is particularly the case where people want the essential oil to be applied to their skin. Carrier oil means that people can reap the benefits of an essential oil on their skin, without risking irritation. Carrier oils can serve as the base for face oils, massage oils or aromatherapy perfume oils.