Aromatherapy is used to help with a wide range of health issues, from acne to asthma, depression to insomnia, and migraine to worms.
In this article, we examine what carrier oils are, and how people can use them alongside essential oils.
What is a carrier oil?
Essential oils are distilled from the aromatic leaves, bark, and roots of plants. If applied to the skin directly, they can cause reactions, such as severe irritation, redness or burning.
Carrier oils are used to dilute the essential oils and help “carry” them into the skin. Aloe vera gels and unscented body lotion are also sometimes used as carriers.
Carrier oils are vegetable oils, such as coconut oil or avocado oil, that have been derived from the seeds, kernels, or nuts of a plant.
To be used in aromatherapy, it is recommended that the oil is obtained through cold pressing. In this process, the oil is extracted by crushing the plants. Users claim that the fragile nutrients in the oil can be damaged if they are extracted with heat.
While some are odorless, most carrier oils have a faint smell that is sweet and nutty. Unlike essential oils, they do not evaporate.
Best carrier oils
Different carrier oils have different properties and use. The carrier oil chosen for aromatherapy treatment will depend on the desired outcome.
Coconut oil (Cocus nucifera)
People in the tropics have been using coconut oil as a moisturizer for centuries. Recently, the oil has also been shown to have antimicrobial properties. This is largely due to its high lauric acid content, which is the main fatty acid in coconut oil.
The oil smells of coconut and can be used either as a carrier oil or on its own. It can be applied to the skin, hair, and lips, and helps to protect the skin by leaving a thin layer behind.
Coconut oil is solid and creamy at room temperature.
Black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa)
Black cumin seed oil is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal, and is thought to be helpful in promoting the healing of wounds and burns.
This oil is golden brown and has a mild, earthy, woody smell that can be slightly spicy or peppery. Black cumin seed oil also absorbs into the skin quickly.
Jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinensis)
Jojoba oil, which is really a wax, is commonly used in massage. Due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, it might help in the treatment of mild acne.
In aromatherapy, it absorbs well and could be a good choice for those with oily or acne-prone skin.
Jojoba oil is yellow and has a distinct but pleasant smell.
Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis)
The light and sweet-smelling evening primrose oil has been used in aromatherapy and skin care for many years. It is thought to be useful in many skin conditions, including eczema.
It is usually expensive, and aromatherapists tend to blend it with other carrier oils. It has a high essential fatty acid content, meaning that it deteriorates and goes rancid quite quickly.
Rose hip oil (Rosa mosqueta)
Rose hip oil is rich in essential fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid. It has been shown to have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects and is used to treat various skin conditions.
Rose hip oil is a natural source of vitamin C and vitamin E.
Grapeseed oil (Vitus vinifera)
Grapeseed oil is considered to be an all-purpose oil that is commonly used in aromatherapy, from massage to skin care. It has a light aroma that is slightly sweet and nutty, and it is virtually clear in color. It leaves a glossy film on the skin.
This oil is made from the pressings of the seeds from particular grape varieties.