Carrier oil has a major role to play in aromatherapy. The oils are a necessity and the aromatherapy process would not be possible without them. Essential oils cannot be used in aromatherapy until they are diluted in a carrier oil, because they are too powerful to be used in an undiluted form. There are other carriers such as creams that may be useful in diluting essential oils, but aromatherapy carrier oil is the most common medium due to its versatility.
These oils provide the lubrication to allow hands to move freely over the skin while massaging instead of dragging. The lubrication provided by carrier oils also allows the essential oils to be carried into the body. The oils must be light and non sticky for the penetration to take place effectively.
Although many people may not realize it, carrier oils have a significant role in aromatherapy and they are just as important as the essential oils themselves. There are also many health benefits associated with carrier oils as they contain vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, which may soften and improve the condition of the skin. Some carrier oils may also be effective in treating irritated, and sensitive conditions of the skin such as eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles, and scar tissue.
Aromatherapy carrier oil is also known as fixed oil since it does not evaporate. The oils may also be known as base oils and vegetable oils, because they are generally derived from nuts and seeds. However there are a few exceptions, such as coconut oil. A special process known as “copra” extracts oil from the white flesh of the coconut. The jojoba coconut oil is extracted from the leathery leaved shrub, and is defined as a liquid wax instead of oil.
How Carrier Oils are Extracted
Carrier oils that are obtained from nuts and seeds are usually extracted using one of two methods.
The first method of oil extraction is known as “cold pressing,” which is restricted to small scale production due the high cost. In this process the nuts and seeds are placed in a horizontal press with a rotating screw that is known as an “expeller.” During this process the oil is squeezed out of the nuts and seeds. A certain amount of heat is produced during the cold pressing process due to friction, but the temperatures are not extremely high and cause little damage to the carrier oil. Oil is filtered after the cold pressing process, and is set to be sold to consumers.
Hot extraction is used for large scale industrial production of carrier oils. The process is similar to cold pressing, but a great amount of heat is applied during the process. The high temperature increases the yield of oil, and temperatures often reach 200 degrees C. However, the extreme temperatures also destroy the important vitamins and fatty acids in the oil.
Waste products from the extraction methods are known as cake, and are often times re-processed using solvents to extract more carrier oils. The carrier oils are reheated, redefined, deodorized, and the color is bleached out. After this process, artificial color, preservatives, and vitamins are reintroduced into the oil.
Hot extraction carrier oils are unsuitable for use in aromatherapy, and are more suitable for cooking products. This is due to the fact that the vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that are all destroyed during the hot extraction process.
Cold pressed, carrier oils are best for aromatherapy treatments, and may help many individuals improve their skin, and other health problems. There are many refined and unrefined aromatherapy carrier oils that are available for consumer use. The most common oils that may be refined are unrefined include Avocado, wheat germ, and Coconut oils, which are available in either form.