Ten years ago, I called these substances "vegetable oil" and knew about only a few: Canola, Olive, Coconut, and Crisco. If you had asked me how they were used, I'd have told you that people use them in cooking. I kid you not - that was the sum total of my knowledge in this area. When I started exploring aromatherapy six years ago, I learned about Grapeseed Oil as a carrier oil - a base oil to which I added essential oils to get the proper dilution for topical use. It was only after I began formally studying aromatherapy that I learned about just how unique these 'carrier oils' are and how each presents with unique characteristics. Today's blog will present an overview of what carrier oils are, how they're made, and how they can be used. In subsequent blogs this year, I'll provide greater details about the chemistry and therapeutic properties of fixed oils in general then delve into individual oil/butter profiles.
Carrier, or fixed, oils are fats (aka lipids) found in animals and in the seeds or nuts of certain plants. They are considered to be 'true oils', and have been used for thousands of years as food and for skin care. (While carrier oils are referred to by many different names, there is one name that does NOT mean carrier oil - that is essential oil. EOs are totally different from COs.)
Chemically, fixed oils are made up of Fatty Acid (FA) molecules which include carbon and hydrogen chains. (These chains are longer than the EO molecules.) The FA composition of an oil determines its physical state - solid or liquid, how well it absorbs in the skin, whether it clogs the pores, whether it's edible, and its nutritional value in our diets.
Therapeutically, many of these oils have been studied by scientists to determine how they may help or harm the body. Just as with EOs, the true oils have healing properties. Some of the FAs are anti-inflammatory while some are pro-inflammatory (there is a balance needed in our bodies). Some FAs protect the skin, others help hydrate and plump the skin. Some FAs are even needed by humans in order to survive - linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. We can only get those FAs from food because our bodies don't make them. Cooking with certain fixed oils (i.e. Olive Oil) will provide our bodies with these specific FAs in the proper balance.
So, next time you go to the grocery store, take a look at some of the different fixed oils you see on the shelves. Try buying a few small bottles of some different oils, then go home and experiment with them topically and in cooking.
To get an in-depth education on carrier oils, I highly recommend Susan M. Parker's website and courses on the topic: https://academy.lipidoils.com/ or go to https://susanmparker.com/ .