Combining Carrier & Essential Oils
We've been looking at what fixed and essential oils are, and we've charted their differences. Looking at the chart, we see that carrier (fixed) oils can be used on the skin without diluting and are used to dilute essential oils for topical use. Today, we'll discuss some of the factors we take into consideration when blending carrier and essential oils.
The first factor to take into consideration is the purpose of the blend.
Are you trying to make a blend that will keep the skin healthy and glowing? If blending for oily, acne-prone skin, carriers like Sacha Inchi, Jojoba, Black Seed (Nigella), and/or Kukui could be combined with Tea Tree, Lavender, Cedarwood, and/or Petitgrain essential oils. A blend for mature, dry skin, on the other hand, might include carrier oils like Avocado, Macadamia Nut, and/or Marula with Carrot Seed, Frankincense, Lavender, and/or Rose essential oils. All of these oils are skin nourishing/healing, but the type of skin determines the choice of oils.
Are you trying to make a blend to soothe achy joints? A combination of Castor Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, and Tamanu Oil could be mixed with Plai, Helichrysum italicum, and Copaiba essential oils. Castor Oil will help the blend absorb deep into the tissues of the body. All three carriers have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties as do the essential oils.
The second factor we look at is the person who'll be using the blend - his/her age, skin type, potential allergies, health issues, medications, and constitution.
Once we know the purpose of a blend, we need to find out about the person who'll use it in order to choose the best oils for his/her particular circumstance.
If the person has oily, acne-prone skin, then oils high in Linoleic Acid, like Grapeseed or Evening Primrose are best. Someone with mature, dry skin would benefit from oils that are high in Oleic Acid such as Olive Oil or Macadamia Nut Oil.
But what if the person with dry skin has a tree nut allergy? In such a case, oils made from tree nuts are contraindicated for any blend made for that person. Instead, we might choose Olive, Safflower, or Sesame Seed Oils. It's the same for allergies to specific plant families -- if we know the person has a specific plant allergy, we eliminate from consideration any oils -- carrier or essential -- that might come from that plant or plant family. If the person doesn't know what his/her allergies are, but tends to react to many topical products, the wisest course of action is to do 'patch tests' first.
Age, medical conditions, and medications must also be taken into consideration when blending. Essential oil choices are affected in this case.
Some examples: 1. Eucalyptus essential oil should not be used with a child under the age of 10. 2. Wintergreen essential oil is contraindicated for those with a blood-clotting disorder. 3. German Chamomile essential oil may interfere with certain medications, like some antidepressants. In cases like these, there are plenty of other essential oils to choose from which will have similar therapeutic properties and be safe for the recipient of the blend.
Constitution is usually discussed in herbal circles rather than in aromatherapy; however, I'm including it here because I see an application for constitution with the oils as well. In herbalism, constitution involves the nature of a person -- whether (s)he is normally hot or cold, damp or dry -- and what his/her current condition is -- hot or cold, damp or dry. Like herbs, essential oils can be warming or cooling, and drying or moistening and carrier oils can be drying or moisturizing. The closest term to this in aromatherapy is 'Energetics', but the two terms are not completely synonymous.
When blending for someone who is always cold and has dry skin, we would normally choose oils that are warming and moisturizing. But if that person is experiencing a 'hot' situation i.e. a sprained ankle that is swollen and warm to the touch, we would choose a cooling oil. In such a case, we might use Peppermint, Lavender, and Geranium essential oils with Hemp Seed and Tamanu carrier oils.
In understanding this, we consider the person as a whole and blend to bring balance to the whole person.
The third factor to take into consideration is the chemical composition of the oils.
Both groups of oils consist of nature-made chemicals. Carriers have a handful of long-chain Fatty Acids, and each essential oil has, on average, about 100 different types of short-chain carbon/hydrogen molecules.
You might want to make a blend that focuses on one or two EO chemicals for a specific therapeutic benefit. For example: a blend high in Beta-caryophyllene and Alpha-humulene would be great for immune support and chronic inflammation. In this case, Copaifera langsdorfii, L. could be combined with Hops essential oil. Choosing carrier oils with the optimal 3 : 1 (or 2 : 1) ratio of Omega 6 (pro-inflamatory) to Omega 3 (anti-inflammatory) Fatty Acids would add a great impact. (Yes, we do need more Omega 6 than Omega 3.) Hemp Seed, Kukui Nut, and Red Raspberry Seed oils are good choices here. [I'll write a series of blogs on inflammation soon.]
Conversely, you may want to mix up chemicals with similar therapeutic properties.
Let's say you want to make an antifungal blend. You might use essential oils high in camphor (like Rosemary ct. camphor), carotol (in Carrot Seed EO), alpha-bisabolol (in Balsam Popular), and citronallol (in Geranium). Adding those essential oils to a combination of Coconut and Hemp Seed carrier oils (both of which are also antifungal) could meet your needs. Since camphor is a Ketone, it would be harsh on the skin. That harshness is counterbalanced by the other chemicals (monoterpenols) and the carrier oils.
The final factor we'll discuss in this blog is consistency and absorption rate of the carrier oils.
If you are making a blend for massage, you'll want carriers that stay oily on the skin and are slow to absorb. Oils like Avocado Oil, Fractionated Coconut Oil, and Sweet Almond Oil fit that criteria. Essential oils used in massage would be determined by purpose -- perhaps you want oils that are uplifting and will help your muscles relax. Lavender, Roman Chamomile, and Frankincense would work well here.
A blend to moisturize dry skin from frequent hand washing would need to absorb quickly. Jojoba, Macadamia Nut, and Safflower oils absorb very quickly. The hands feel dry (not greasy) after application. Adding Frankincense, Vetiver, and Myrrh or Patchouli and Sandalwood would add to the skin-healing effect.
The above factors are all inter-related. Purpose, chemical composition, consistency and absorption, skin type, constitution, and health are all pieces of the whole picture when deciding on individual components of a personal blend. Aromatherapists are trained to look at these, and many more aspects, when they create blends.
Understanding these oils in-depth requires education, which is why, if you're having someone blend for you, it's best to have a certified aromatherapist do it. Likewise, you can easily blend for yourself - just be sure to research each component thoroughly.
P.S. Please feel free to ask me questions. I love to share what I've learned!
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