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Raw Materials

The basic raw materials of aromatherapy are essential oils. These are volatile aromatic oils obtained from plants and flowers, usually by distillation. Not all plants have them, and those plants that do keep them in varying amounts in their flowers, their bark, their roots and their leaves. Some essential oils are very expensive, but this is usually directly related to the yield. For example about a hundred times more essential oil can be extracted from a given quantity of lavender blossom than from the same weight of rose petals.

Aromatic plant oils have been used at least since the time of the ancient Egyptians, to fragrance houses, in baths, to provide flavouring in drinks and cooking, in cosmetics, by adding to vegetable oils for massage, and in a number of medicinal ways. Some of them work directly on the mind, calming or stimulating it for instance, while others have a more physical effect such as reducing inflammation or cleansing the skin of harmful bacteria. Because essential oils are so strong, it is not recommended that they are used directly on the body. They need to be diluted in a "carrier". This carrier can be a vegetable oil or lotion (when using the oil in massage), a skin cream (for skin care), water (when using the essential oil in a bath), or air (when vaporising an oil for pleasure or to clear a congested head).

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