Introduction to Aromatherapy

Healing with Essential Oils

A Self Directed Home Study Course on the Use of
Plant Aromatics for Health and Well-being

By KG Stiles, BA, LMT, CBT, CBP
Certified Clinical Aromatherapist

Class 1: The Essentials of Aromatherapy

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Topics at a Glance
MOVIE: What Are Essential Oils
What are essential oils?
What is aromatherapy?
How long have plant aromatics been used?
How does aromatherapy work?
How to use essential oils?
Essential oil research
The twelve (12) Chemical Families
Introduce Ester Chemical Family – Protectors & Nurturers: Mother, Family & Community
MOVIE: Ester Family Aromatic Plant Images
Ester Family Properties, Actions & Effects
Ester Family plant identification, distillation method & best locations
YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Aroma Soul Journey, “Relax and Renew Your Life with a Shower of Light & Aromatherapy,” a guided empowerment meditation MP3 Podcast and/or experience a pure essential oil from the Ester Family.
Learn two (2) methods for Direct Inhalation
Safe Use Guidelines for Essential Oils
Aromatherapy Terms

WELCOME to Class One (1) of your eight week (1 lesson per week) Aromatherapy Course! It’s such a pleasure and honor to have an opportunity to share my love and passion for the world of aromatherapy with you. Whether you’re new to aromatherapy or a seasoned aroma connoisseur it’s sure to be an exciting adventure for you, so let’s begin.

MOVIE: What Are Essential Oils?

Click play button below to watch video

Photo Credit: Public Domain and Wiki Creative Commons GNU Free License Scotch Pine – Pleple2000, Coriander – Liftarn.

What are essential oils? Essential oils are the subtle, aromatic, and volatile liquids extracted through distillation from a single botanical source (flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark, and roots of herbs, bushes, shrubs and trees), the part of the plant yielding the maximum amount of oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated, a drop or two can produce significant results. These precious plant distillates represent the active nutrient resources within a plant and act like blood to protect it from bacterial and viral infections, cleansing breaks in its tissue and delivering oxygen and nutrients to its cells.

What is Aromatherapy? Aromatherapy means to treat with aroma through inhalation. The true practice of aromatherapy is a wedding of both science and art to enhance one’s physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being and health.

How long have plant aromatics been used? The use of plants and herbs is the oldest form of healing disease and pain known. The medicinal properties of plants have been recorded in the oldest writings, in myth, and folklore. According to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts priests and physicians were using plant aromatics thousands of years before Christ to heal the sick.

In ancient times aromatic oils were considered more valuable than gold. There are numerous references to aromatic oils in the Bible, yet only now is science beginning to investigate the healing properties in essential oils. Virtually everything used today in modern drugs can be traced back to a botanical source. Hippocrates said that there is a remedy for everything to be found in Nature.

How does aromatherapy work? The elements of heat, light, air and moisture activate the release of scent. We actually feel aromatic scents. Our logical brain is not involved in our process of smell. For instance inhalation of Lavender oil triggers the release of serotonin from the raphe nucleus in the brain and produces a calming effect unless there is a learned odor response that triggers a negative reaction to Lavender’s aroma which can block the release of serotonin. This explains WHY aromatic oils known to have certain properties and actions aren’t effective for everyone.

Synthetic fragrance or perfume oils rely entirely on learned response to an aroma for stimulating an effect in our hormonal and nervous systems. Adulterated and synthetic fragrance or perfume oils are known to cause allergies, headaches and chemical sensitivities.

Pathways for aromatherapy. Aromatic vapors enter though your nose and stimulate your olfactory nerves to trigger a cascade of neuro-chemical responses in your hormonal system, as well as enter your bloodstream through your lungs and are delivered to all of your organs and systems, then circulate back to the lungs where they are excreted. Research shows that essential oils will remain in your body for 4-6 hours after inhalation.

How to use essential oils? Essential oils are highly aromatic and therefore many of their benefits can be obtained by inhaling their scent. Simply dispense 1-3 drops of essential oil on a cotton ball and inhale for immediate results. You may also use an aroma diffuser to dispense more fluid aromatic oils into the atmosphere. Essential oils when diffused deliver the benefits known for a particular aroma, as well as provide a high quality air filtration system. The best delivery method for benefit to the skin, muscle tissues or joints is through dermal application. Essential oils should always be diluted in vegetable carrier oil like pure light coconut oil, or jojoba (culinary oils are not suitable) when applying directly on the skin as they are extremely concentrated and may cause skin irritation.

Essential oil research. More and more case studies are being recorded, proving the effectiveness of aromatherapy for therapeutic use. Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital conducted a controlled research study to examine conclusively the effects of aromatherapy on the relief of work-related stress for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses.

The controlled study was conducted on 14 ICU nurses over 42 nursing shifts. Nurses were given Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea). Both essential oils have been shown in previous research to calm stress and relieve anxiety. Over 57 percent of the ICU nurses involved in the research study when surveyed reported a decrease in their perceived stress levels after using essential oils.

HOW TO SELECT OILS with chemical properties for therapeutic results:

The Twelve Chemical Families

Chemistry is the science of aromatherapy. Essential oils are made up of naturally occurring chemical constituents. The molecular structure of all aromatic chemical compounds are made up of a combination of four elements 1) Carbon, 2) Hydrogen, 3) Oxygen, 4) Nitrogen (a few essential oils only).

Aromatic compounds exist as etheric vapors or “spirit essences” which have a low molecular weight. These ephemeral essences quickly evaporate when exposed to the air or light. Based on their individual chemical makeup essential oils can be grouped into twelve (12) families, the most frequently observed classes of compounds.

Each of these twelve (12) families carries its own distinct soul ‘signature’ and frequency and tells us about the therapeutic properties, actions and effects of essential oils. You can select essential oils based on their specific therapeutic properties. This window into the chemical families in aromatherapy also serves as a resource for blending ideas and detailed information on the properties for each chemical family. In this aromatherapy course you will have an opportunity to experience essential oils from six (6) of the chemical families, and through your practice assignments, come to know and use them very well.

In this aromatherapy course we will discuss six (6) chemical families starting with the ESTER Chemical Family of Protectors & Nurturers: Archetypes of Mother, Family, Tribe and Community.

MOVIE: Aromatherapy Chemistry & Ester Family Plant Images

Click play button below to watch video

Photo Credit: Public Domain and Wiki Creative Commons GNU Free License as noted for each image.

ESTER – Chemical Family of Protectors & Nurturers: Mother, Family, Tribe and Community.

ESTER PROPERTIES – Actions & Effects include:

Cicatrizant (skin, wound healing)

Essential Oils in this class include:
Preferred distillation method, part of plant used, and some of the best locations for production.

CLARY SAGE – ( Salvia sclarea ), hydrodiffusion flowers, USA
PETITGRAIN – ( Citrus aurantifolia ), steam distilled leaf, Italy
INULA – ( Inula graveolens ), steam distilled flowering herb, Corsica
HELICHRYSUM – ( Helichrysum italicum ), steam distilled flowers, Corsica
AMMI VISNAGA – ( Ammi Visnaga ), steam distilled herb, Morocco
GERANIUM – (Pelargonium graveolens), steam distilled leaf, Reunion Island Madagascar
CISTUS – ( Cistus ladaniferus ), steam distilled leaves/stalk, Spain
LAVENDER ( Lavendula angustifolia ), steam distilled flowers, high altitude French or Bulgarian
CHAMOMILE (Anthemis nobilis ), steam distilled flowers, England or Bulgaria
BERGAMOT – ( Citrus bergamia ), cold pressed peel, Italy
YLANG YLANG – (Cananga odorata), steam distilled flowers, Madagascar
WINTERGREEN – ( Gaultheria procumbens ), steam distilled leaf
BIRCH – ( Betula lenta ), steam distilled bark, Canada (believed to be the only authentic birch oil produced in the world)

(Wintergreen and Birch are considered toxic because of their high methyl salicylate content which can be as high as 95%)

YOUR HEALING TOOLS – Essential Oils & Plant Identification Minimal Requirements

When selecting pure essential oils minimal requirements should include:

1) The generic name of the essential oil
2) Its Latin name, or botanical species
3) Which part of the plant produced the oil
4) The method of extraction that was used
5) Where the oil was produced

Why the Latin name for each plant need to be listed for your essential oil:

A Latin name, or botanical species, identifies the exact type of essential oil and is the most precise way to identify a particular plant. Many plants will have several varieties. Each species of a plant has different aromas and therapeutic qualities. In order to know the chemical make-up and properties of an essential oil, the label must include the species of the plant.

Familiarize yourself with the essential oils listed in the Ester Chemical Family and select one to experience using the “Relax and Renew Your Life with a Shower of Light & Aromatherapy,” guided empowerment meditation mp3 podcast (click below to play or download, right click and ‘save target as’ for PC). You will have an opportunity to use the Ester oils in your aromatherapy healing blends, so with practice, you will come to know them very well.

NOTICE THE EFFECTS you experience from inhalation of your pure essential oil during your guided empowerment meditation. Afterward you may wish to write about your experience in your Aromatherapy Journal, or creatively express your experience in some way that feels right for you such as poetry, painting, singing or dancing. If you like you can experience more than one of the oils listed.


DIRECT INHALATION is the method used most in Germany and the one I primarily use for best therapeutic results. Through direct inhalation you stimulate your neuro-receptor pathways and the aromatic vapors enter your lungs for immediate release into your blood stream

Dispense 1-3 drops of your pure essential oil on a cotton ball, inhale using the Slow Rhythmic Full Breath or Turbulent Breathing method described below.

Slow Rhythmic Full Breath – Close your eyes and inhale. Breathe in slowly and pause briefly on your inhaled breath. Then slowly exhale, letting go of any tension. Repeat this slow, rhythmic breathing for 30-60 seconds. Allow yourself to relax for a moment into a feeling of well-being.

Turbulent Breathing – Close your eyes and inhale through a series of four short, rapid direct inhalations (repeat 4 times) to quickly saturate the olfactory bulb.

Please Note: Stimulating circulation of your blood, lymph and nerve flow through rhythmic breathing in conjunction with inhalation of aromatic oils enhances their delivery into your system!

These Guidelines Have Been Approved by a Member of the National Association Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) Safety Committee

  • Always dilute your essential oils for Safe Skin Application.Use a cold processed, unfiltered, or naturally filtered, preferably unscented, vegetable oil like light coconut oil or jojoba to dilute your essential oils. Stop using essential oils immediately if there is any skin irritation.
  • When using a pure, undiluted essential oil for inhalation always keep a bottle of carrier oil, such as jojoba, handy. If pure essential oil comes in contact with your skin dilute immediately with your carrier oil to avoid discomfort, or possible skin irritation. Keep undiluted oils out of the reach of children!

Keep bottles of essential oils tightly closed and store in a cool location away from light. If stored properly, unclosed essential oils will maintain their potency for years, except for quicker evaporating citrus oils, conifers and firs (Pine, Spruce, etc.) which have a shorter shelf life because of oxidation which causes them to lose any antiseptic qualities.

Essential oils should be used sparingly. Remember one drop equals one to four cups or more of dried plant matter. Never smell essential oils straight out of the bottle.


Did you know that it takes about thirty roses to produce one drop of Rose oil?

Please use caution in applying essential oils to broken skin as this can cause severe irritation and may lead to an immune system reaction known as “sensitization.”

Keep essential oils out of reach of children. Handle and care for your essentials oils as you would any product for therapeutic use. When using essential oils in dilution with your child if they give any indication the aroma is too strong or there is any skin sensitivity please dilute your essential oils further.

Direct sunlight and essential oils. Some oils are “photosensitizers.” Most common are Bergamot and other cold pressed citrus oils. They should not be used on skin that will be exposed to sunlight, or ultraviolet light for 4-6 hours, or longer as this may increase your chance of sunburn and cause uneven skin pigmentation (Berloque Dermatitis).

Essential oils rich in menthol (such as peppermint) should not be used on the throat or neck area of children under 30 months of age. Please note: menthol is found in high concentrations of many over the counter pharmaceutical vapor rubs in common use for congestion.

Keep pure essential oils away from eye area and do not put into ears.

Pregnant women avoid using wild tansy and oils containing constituents with hormone-like activity, such as clary sage, sage, geranium, jasmine, juniper, peppermint, rose, rosemary, and fennel, as well as oils with stimulating properties. If you do want to use these oils while you are pregnant please consult a qualified professional Aromatherapist, as some can be especially beneficial in certain situations.

Epileptics and people with high blood pressure should consult their health care professional before using essential oils. Avoid hyssop, fennel, and wild tansy oils.

You may wish to skin test a small area first if you suffer from hay fever or allergies. Skin tests should always be done for very young children and the elderly.

SKIN TEST: Apply pure essential oil in a weak dilution with carrier oil on a cotton swab and lightly touch the skin in an area either under the arm, inside of the elbow, back of knee or wrist. Cover the area with a Band-Aid and leave unwashed for twenty-four hours. If there is any reaction such as itching or redness you may wish to temporarily discontinue using the oil and start an internal cleansing program before resuming use of essential oils. Essential oils can react with toxins built up in the body from chemicals in food, water and the environment.

Especial care should be taken when using “hot” oils!

Always use “hot” oils in extremely weak dilution of less than one percent for skin application. Commonly used “hot” essential oils known to be potential skin irritatants, include: basil (Ocimum basilicum), bergamot (Citrus bergamia), birch (Betula lenta), black pepper (Piper nigrum), cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), clove (Eugenia aromatica), ginger (Zingiber officinale), expressed (cold pressed from peel) oils of lime, lemon, orange and grapefruit (Citrus limetta, limonum, sinensis and paradisi), lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates), oregano (Origanum compactum), Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), Siberian balsam or silver fir (Abies siberica, alba, balsamea), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) and in some cases, tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) and peppermint (Mentha piperita).

If any of these essential oils is applied in a weak dilution on the skin and a hot, red reaction occurs this is the result of skin irritation that requires immediate attention. Always have vegetable carrier oil like pure light coconut oil or jojoba available to apply onto the skin in such cases!

Applying carrier oil will have an immediate effect of calming the skin irritation. Do not wash or rinse the area with water. As this will drive the essential oils further into the skin and increase, not diminish discomfort.

Essential oils are flammable. Please keep them out of the way of fire hazards. Essential oils should never be used internally for medicinal purposes without trained, professional medical guidance and direct supervision.

Familiarize yourself with these aromatherapy terms

Adulterant – A substance which was not originally present in the oil at the time of distillation added to an essential oil. An adulterant can be artificial or natural.

Base Oil (Carrier Oil) – Vegetable or nut oils such as Light Coconut Oil, Jojoba, Sweet Almond, Grapeseed.

Diffuser – A device that disperses essential oils into an area. The three basic types are clay, candle and electric.

Dilute – Adding a small amount of essential oil to a larger amount of base oil to make it safe for use on the skin.

Distillation – Method used to extract essential oil from the plant. Steam distillation is the most common form of distillation.

GC/MS (Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer) – A device used by analytic chemists to determine the precise make-up of a given substance. Used in aromatherapy to determine the precise chemical constituents of an essential oil, and whether the oil is pure or adulterated with synthetic chemicals or other products.

Essential Oil – Highly aromatic substance found in specialized cells of certain plants. Technically, when this substance is in the plant, it is called an “essence.” After distillation of a single type of plant, the aromatic substance is referred to as an essential oil.

Infused Oil – These are oils that carry the medicinal properties of certain herbs. Carrier oil is infused with the medicinal herb, the plant is strained off, and the remaining oil can be used directly on the skin.

MSDS – Material Data Safety Sheet. A form with data regarding the safe use and handling of a particular essential oil.

Neat – Use of an undiluted essential oil on the skin.

Notes – As in top, middle, and base notes, a type of classification system based on aroma, to identify certain oils. Generally, essential oils from citrus peels are top notes, essential oils from flowers, leaves and stems are middle notes, and essential oils from roots are base notes.

Orifice Reducer – A device used to reduce the size of the opening of a bottle, making dispensing the essential oil easier and more accurate.

Volatile – Describes how quickly a substance disperses (evaporates) into the air. In aromatherapy, top note essential oils may be referred to as “highly volatile,” meaning that they disperse quickly out of the bottle and into the air.


In your next class two (2) you will be initiated further into the soul of aromatherapy. You will learn more about how aromatherapy works and will be introduced to the twelve (12) chemical families. These ‘alchemical allies’ are elemental forces or powers that express as particular constellations of archetypal energy, and literally make the magic happen at the cellular level for shifting consciousness. Look forward to revealing more of the mystery of aromatherapy with you next week. Enjoy your journey!

PLEASE NOTE: Holistic Mind Body therapies, including Aromatherapy and Energy Healing can produce satisfying results where other methods have failed. Please consult with your physician regarding serious health concerns and do not attempt to self diagnose.