The Role of Absolutes
in Aromatherapy

Absolutes are only recently becoming part of aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is all about using the sense of smell to improve the body, mind and soul. It makes sense then that when practicing aromatherapy, aside from it's therapeutic benefits, nothing is more important than how a substance smells. These highly-concentrated scents can waken powerful feelings and emotions even in the busiest of lives.

What Are They?

Absolutes are similar to essential oils in that both are extracted from plants. In fact, it is a more concentrated form of essential oil. The difference between the two is the method that is used during the extraction process. Essential oils are primarily extracted using a steam distillation process.

However, the process of extracting absolutes involves the use of chemicals and solvents. This extraction method creates a more concentrated version of the plant's essence - one that is far more fragrant. The only drawback as it relates to aromatherapy is that the process does not produce a pure essence. The extracted substances often will contain traces of the chemicals and solvents that were used during the extraction process.

It is for this reason that absolutes have been used primarily by those involved in the fragrance or perfume industries. They can be used successfully in aromatherapy however, extreme care must be taken. It's also important to note that absolutes can trigger an allergic reaction in some people.

And even though those true to the principles of aromatherapy prefer essential oils, there are some plants whose essences cannot be extracted using traditional distillation methods. To extract the essence, chemical extraction processes must be used. Jasmine and honeysuckle are two such plants.

Popular Aromatherapy Absolutes

    Jasmine – Extracted using solvents, Jasmine offers an exquisite scent. Used for years in perfumes and therapy sessions, this sweet heady fragrance is among other things an effective aphrodisiac. Women with irregular menstrual cycles use jasmine because it can help regulate these cycles. It can relieve headaches and is an effective antiseptic and antidepressant. It also has sedative qualities.

    Lavender – Extracted using alcohol, Lavender has a sweet, floral and woody fragrance reminiscent of a lavender shrub. It's perfect for use in soaps, creams and lipsticks.

    Oakmoss – Extracted using solvents or alcohol, Oakmoss has a rich scent that is both earthy and woody. Imagine the smell of damp oak along the seashore and this is what it smells like - very comforting.

    Rose – Extracted from rose blossoms using chemical solvents, rose is a feminine scent that is very intense. It's perfect for relaxing after a hard day or for when you're feeling particularly sexy. Used in creams, soaps and lotions, it also has anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities. It takes many, many rose blossoms to produce rose absolute which is why it's very expensive.

    Lotus – Extracted from either pink or white lotus flowers using solvents, lotus has healing qualities. It can also help build confidence and self-esteem.

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