Community Partners, Essential Oil Safety
Less is More — Classical Aromatherapy Tips
By Caryn Gehlmann
I’m pleased to introduce you to my friend, Deborah Savarese, who will explain her “less is more” philosophy about using essential oils. Deborah is certified in Classical Aromatherapy, Clinical Herbalism, Holistic Nutrition, and Wellness Coaching.
Tell us a little about your background and how you were introduced to essential oils.
I was a professional photographer for twenty years. In the late 1990s, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which in 2003 became metastatic breast cancer (MBC). I was looking for alternative modalities to improve my health and I started taking a variety of classes. The classes on aromatherapy were my favorites. I became a certified aromatherapist and learned all aspects of working with essential oils. This became a new passion for me, and I was hired by a small local health food store in southern California. Eventually, I became the staff expert on aromatherapy. I would blend essential oils on the spot after talking to customers about what they wanted.
How did you develop your classical aromatherapy approach to using essential oils?
In 2005, I returned to my home state of Texas. I continued teaching aromatherapy classes and creating aromatherapy products for health and well-being. Salves and balms are my favorites. I create them for multiple purposes in a base that dilutes the essential oils and becomes an easy-to-use, convenient form. I will often use the herb as well as the essential oil from the same plant, for a more synergistic action.
What safety recommendations do you have when using essential oils?
Dilute! Dilute! Dilute! Too many people are using essential oils undiluted and this is not safe. It is also not necessary for the oils to be effective. This is one of the reasons why I call myself a classical aromatherapist. I was trained to always dilute. It is safer and better for the environment. (The over-use of popular essential oils is endangering certain plants.) In my classes, I describe how essential oils exist in aromatic plants with spaces between the aromatic molecules. When the plant is distilled, those spaces are removed, and the oil becomes concentrated. When we dilute, we put the spaces back between the molecules that is more in line with how they exist in nature, making them more bioavailable. (Think of it as a can of concentrated orange juice. You add water before using it.) That being said, there are times that essential oils are used undiluted in a professional setting, for a specific, short-term situation.
Many people don’t realize that you do get results from essential oils by using less. Two percent dilution is a standard recommendation and is usually the maximum I recommend. (12 drops of essential oil in 1 ounce of a carrier.) E3 has a great webpage with dilution guidelines along with recommended carrier oils. Many of my products contain an even lower amount of essential oils, such as 0.25%, and I find that this subtle aromatherapy approach can be very soothing for people as well as profoundly effective.
What recommendations do you have for blending essential oils?
It’s good to understand scent notes and how they can work together — top, middle, and base. Usually, you will use the middle note as the foundation of a blend and just add a little base or top note oil to round it out. I love how Caryn tells people to “listen to their nose!” I tell people to take the caps off the essential oil bottles and then smell a few different scents together. Close your eyes and listen to how your body responds.
I recommend that you don’t pigeonhole essential oils and herbs into only their commonly known uses. If your instincts (or the plants themselves are talking to you!) are saying to add something to your blend that might not seem to make sense, dig deeper! Or just go with it anyway! Often, there’s a perfect reason! And a perfect fit!
Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your creative and classical aromatherapy tips! It’s good to know that sometimes less is more and to trust your instincts!
Has this article inspired you to create your own blends? If you’re new to blending, download our free guide and we’ll walk you through it.