The Role of Absolutes in 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, nothing is more important than how a substance smells. Absolutes are only recently becoming part of aromatherapy. The highly-concentrated scent of absolutes can waken powerful feelings and emotions even in the busiest of lives. So what exactly are absolutes?

Absolutes are similar to essential oils in that both are extracted from plants. In fact, an absolute is a more concentrated form of an essential oil. How absolutes differ from essential oils 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 over absolutes, 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.

Some popular absolutes

Jasmine absolute – Extracted using solvents, Jasmine absolute 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 absolute because it can help regulate these cycles. It can relieve headaches and is an effective antiseptic and antidepressant. It also has sedative qualities.

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

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

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

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