Essential Oils – Delightfully Uncomplicated & Effective
A brief overview of the history of essential oil use, distillation, methods of application and simple self care techniques.

July 13th 2017 - The use of essential oils to soothe body, mind and spirit is as old as our relationship with the plant kingdom. The origin of this ancient healing art cannot be attributed to a specific person, yet aromatic plant extracts are mentioned within traditional and folk medicine practices around the world.

Though essential oils have been widely used for their therapeutic effects since ancient times, the term ‘aromatherapy’ emerged in the early 1900’s and is attributed to French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse. He burned his hands while working in his laboratory and used lavender essential oil to quickly and successfully treat the wounds.

The role of essential oils in healing was also being observed a decade earlier within the flower growing districts of southern France in the late 1880’s. The workers processing the fragrant flowers and herbs of that region showed a remarkably low incidence of tuberculosis. This noteworthy resistance to respiratory illness caught the attention of French physicians and the anti-bacterial properties of essential oils became the subject of subsequent tests.

The art and science of aromatherapy has grown impressively from these early roots. We now know that not every plant produces essential oil. Only 20% of medicinal herbs contain these highly concentrated aromatic extracts. Within that 20%, leaves, flowers, grasses, needles and twigs, the peel of fruit, wood and roots are among the spectrum of plant parts which can house essential oil.

Steam distillation is the most common method of extraction and once harvested, the essential oil is approximately 70 times stronger than the original herb. The potency and variety of components within essential oils can pack a powerful healing punch on a number of different levels: They can be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, pain-relieving, anti-depressant, anti-spasmodic, sedative, calming, uplifting, stimulating and more.

It takes quite a lot of plant material to generate a small amount of essential oil. In addition, harvesting and distillation are labor-intensive. For instance, jasmine flowers are hand-picked an hour before dawn because the peak of the essential oil concentration occurs within the bloom at that time. So it’s easy to see why essential oils are often costly. Yet, it takes only a small amount of these powerful substances to produce a definitive effect. So a well-stored bottle of essential oil can be put to sparing, yet highly effective use for several years.

Methods of application can be as easy and low-tech as inhaling straight from the bottle – a favorite for clearing sinus congestion, especially when the oil has decongestant properties. Another traditional method is topical application: essential oils are dissolved into a ‘carrier,’ such as unscented lotion, and then applied onto the body where the symptom is present.

Sound simple? Once you know the basics of safety and dilution, much of aromatherapy practice is delightfully uncomplicated and effective. So, if you find this article has sparked your interest in using essential oils for therapeutic effects, be sure to receive training before embarking on your fragrant healing journey!

Professional Profile

Hallie Sawyers is the founder of Soul Song, a well known and respected educator with extensive training in energy work and body-centered therapies. Her mission highlights creating transformation on personal and professional levels through quality education in alternative approaches to prevention and wellness. She is a nationally and internationally trained Traditional Usui Reiki Master Teacher, certified in reflexology and polarity therapy, a Master Instructor of Integrated Energy Therapy, Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Holistic Aromatherapy, and an approved CEU provider for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and New York State. She offers individual appointments, lectures and training in Reiki, Integrated Energy Therapy, Hot Stone Massage, Reflexology, and Aromatherapy in New York, Connecticut and other areas by request. To schedule an appointment, lecture or class, you can reach Hallie at 585.967.0009 or visit

Contact Member:
Hallie Sawyers, LMT APP BCTMB
Soul Song
United States
Other than specifically noted credits, the information in this article is derived from the curriculum of Hallie's class: The Therapeutic Effects of Essential Oils.

To schedule a class, lecture, or individual aromatherapy consultation, contact Hallie at or visit her website:

This article was published in the June 2013 issue of Thrive CNY magazine. You can view it by searching their on-line archived issues at