When I talk about magical oils, I usually talk about the three parts (…est omnis divisa in partes tres – that was a joke for anyone who ever took Latin. All three of you.). The essential oil(s), the herbal component, and the base oil.
So what’s a base oil? In the aromatherapy world, a base oil is also known as a carrier oil, since it carries the essential oil to the nose or skin. Normally, a base oil is defined as “a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from the seeds, kernels or the nuts.”(Source: aromaweb.com ). Because essential oils are so strong and because they’re volatile oils (rapidly evaporating), they need to be diluted and “fixed” with something that doesn’t have much of a scent and doesn’t evaporate. That’s where base oils come in.
There’s a number of base oils used to mix with essential oils. Probably the two most popular are sweet almond oil and grapeseed oil. Another popular “base oil” is actually not an oil at all – jojoba “oil” is actually a wax that’s liquid at room temperature. Recently, there’s been a surge of interest in using coconut oil, which is actually solid at room temperature. It’s possible to mix essential oils into coconut oil, however (a subject for another post), and people have had good results – it just takes more work than simply mixing two oils together. There’s going to be a guest post very soon from a coconut oil expert on using coconut oil with essential oils, but I am not that expert.
All I know is that it makes a great moisturizer for hair and skin.
To my way of thinking, the choice of base oil does not matter from a magical standpoint. The magical ingredients are the essential oils and the herbs – the base oil is just there to dilute the essential and prevent it from evaporating, and to help try to prevent pure essential oils from irritating skin.
People are often surprised by just HOW MUCH carrier oil is used with essential oils. For a strongly scented oil, you can use about ten to fifteen drops of essentials to 1/4 to 1/2oz of base oil. Base oils are almost unscented, though many of them have a faint nutty odor, and they carry the smell of the essential oil really well.
It’s easy to overdo it, when it comes to essential oils. Start with the base oil, add the essentials sparingly. And the herbs will get covered later.