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Essential oils used in aromatherapy are described by a number of terms that are often confusing. Understanding a few basic aromatherapy terms can help a new aromatherapist begin to describe an essential oil in an aromatic way!

Essential Oil Profile Descriptions

Essential oils are commonly used in aromatherapy to treat a number of health related problems; essential oil profiles help to identify a certain essential oil to use for a particular problem.  However,  the language often used to describe essential oils is complicated and can be difficult to understand due to the fact that the chemistry of essential oils is also complex.

Understanding the Terms Used to Describe the Properties of Essential Oils

Some of the following terms are used to describe the properties of essential oils; please note that this list is not exhaustive:

–antiseptic – an essential oil which is capable of preventing infection
–anti-inflammatory – an essential oil which helps ease inflammation
–anti-viral – an essential oil which prevents the growth of a virus
–aphrodisiac – an essential oil capable of increasing sexual desire
–astringent – an essential oil which can cause contraction of organic tissue

–bactericidal – an essential oil which can help to prevent the growth of bacteria
–calmative – a sedative essential oil
–carminative – an essential oil which calms the digestive system
–cicatrisant – an essential oil which helps to heal scar tissue
–decongestive – an essential oil capable of reducing congestion
–deodorant – an essential oil capable of relieving unpleasant smells
–digestive – an essential oil which aids the digestive system
–diuretic – an essential oil which increases the need to urinate more frequently

–emmenagogue- an essential oil which aids menstruation
–expectorant – an essential oil which can help remove mucus from the respiratory system
–insecticide – an essential oil which repels insects
–nervine – an essential oil which strengthens the nervous system
–phototoxic/photosensitive – an essential oil which is capable of increasing a person's risk to ultra-violet light, most commonly associated with sunlight
–stimulant – an essential which speeds up the physiological body functions
–tonic – an essential oil which strengthens specific parts of the body.

Understanding the Terms Used to Describe Essential Oils

Descriptions of essential oils often contain a number of aromatherapy terms too; some of the terms used to describe essential oils include:

–anisic – an essential oil which identifies with, for example, the odor of aniseed
–balsamic – an essential oil which identifies with the characteristics of balsam/resins
–camphoraceous – an essential oil which has a clean, medicinal odor
–citrus – an essential oil of odors of lemons, oranges and lime
–floral – an essential oil which has an odor of flowers
–green- an essential oil which has an odor of grass
–herbaceous – an essential oil which has an odor of herbs
–leather – an essential oil which has a musky odor of tobacco
–spicy – an essential oil which identifies with, for example, the odor of cinnamon
–sweet – an essential oil which has a odor of that similar to vanilla and strawberry, for example
–woody – an essential oil which has an odor of wood.

Understanding Essential Oil Terms

Learning to understand essential oil terms with an essential oil glossary can help in the correct use of essential oils; the language used with essential oils and aromatherapy is complex but taking the time to understand the terms used in descriptions of essential oils and in the properties of essential oils prevents the potential misuse of essential oils.  For further information on the aromatherapy terms used to describe essential oils consult a reputable aromatherapy book.  In addition, visit my sister web site Aromatherapy Glossary too!

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as An Essential Oil Glossary of Aromatic Terms

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.


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