One of my favorite courses in massage school was the study of essential oils. These powerhouse potions immediately resonated with the sorceress in me who likes to blend and brew “magical” healing elixirs. A good place to begin if you have never or rarely used essential oils is to understand that they are pure extracts of some part of a plant: typically, the seed, root, stem (its “skin” or “blood,” i.e., bark or resin), or flower (bud or petal).

Each oil also belongs to a chemical and medicinal category, which is one route to direct the user to its best application. For the purposes of this three-part series, however, I will be approaching the oils through more subtle energy portals—essentially, making selections that emanate from ancient modalities, esoteric systems, and intuition, rather than from the standpoint of Western science.

My first classroom blend was strictly for fun: We were each given a jar of finely ground bath salts, and could add whatever oil or oils appealed to our sense of smell. Basically, we were working “backwards,” although I have come to view this approach as “olfactory intuition.” I still remember the oils I chose, and I still have the empty jar: I like the reminder of the day I was introduced to a whole new way to access and heal body, mind, and spirit.

Patchouli, sandalwood, lavender, and bergamot: After creating a blend, we each went back to our books and sussed out what qualities and applications our personal choices would have. My blend was appropriate for a student in a full-time, intensive therapeutic education: the oils would have a focusing, sensitizing, calming, and uplifting effect.

Special note: Some oils are photosensitive, meaning they can cause allergic reaction if exposed to sun. I have never had an adverse skin reaction to an oil, but there are other “side effects” that may arise in any given individual. For example, I do not use ylang-ylang, because I inevitably end up with a headache. If you begin to use oils as part of your regular self-care, it is wise to do a bit of research, in order to reveal any contraindications.

The bath salts we used in our classroom creations are an example of a carrier agent. When you use essentials, you do need to put them into another substance, as their concentration is typically too strong for direct application. My all-time favorite vehicle is jojoba oil: Its physical properties most closely match those of our skin’s sebum, so it is readily absorbed. A few drops of essential oil (solo or blend) into an appropriate amount of carrier oil does the trick. (This is where experimentation and experience come in: A good rule of thumb is to start with less than you think you need…)

So, in your foray into the use of essentials, start with your nose: If the smell is unappealing, chances are good that neither your body nor mind needs it or wants it.

Next: Part Two–Oils and the Chakras

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