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Essential oils are used in the aromatherapy branch of alternative medicine. They are very concentrated, non-water-soluble liquids obtained from plants, usually through a distillation process.

Parts of herbs; such as leaves, seeds, flowers, bark, and/or roots; are placed into a distillation apparatus over water. The water is heated to become steam, which passes through the plants and vaporizes the essential oils they contain. The vapors are then passed through cooling coils where they condense back to liquid form. The resulting essential oil may or may not be combined with other oils before being bottled.

The use of essential oils depends partly on what they are combined with and the strength of the mixture.  An essential oil mixed with water, for example,  may be used in the bath, in a room or body mister, or in a compress or fomentation. Aromatherapy essential oils are not water soluble, so the solution must be mixed or shaken vigorously before each use.

The oils may be combined with carrier oils such as jojoba oil. Since essential oils are soluble in oil, the carrier oils are for the purpose of diluting the more powerful essential oils. Mixed with carrier oils, they may be used in bath water, as liniments or as massage oils.

You may also combine aromatherapy essential oils with unscented liquid soap, shampoo, or conditioner or with unscented lotion.

Aromatherapy essential oils can also be used without mixing with water. For example, three drops of oil rubbed on the hands and inhaled, or rubbed on a natural bristle brush before brushing one’s hair, provides aromatherapy. A few drops placed on a handkerchief and carried throughout the day provides an ongoing delicate scent. You can also put a few drops on a cotton ball placed in a bureau drawer or place a few drops on a pillowcase to help lull you to sleep.

Or, you can enjoy the scent of aromatherapy essential oils in your home, by adding a few drops to an electric diffuser, lamp ring or candle burner. Just follow the directions for your device.