In aromatherapy, carrier oils are used as a base to which highly aromatic essential oils are added, thus creating a blend. Essential oils are highly concentrated plant essences which carry the distinctive scent of the plant. Some of these essential oils, such as lavender and peppermint, are generally available and familiar. Others, for example helichrysum, neroli and pure rose oil, are more obscure and can be very costly.

Carrier oils are vegetable based oils in which essential oils dissolve well. In some cases, a certain carrier oil is chosen for some other beneficial properties as well, such as wound healing properties. Some are chosen with cost in mind.

Some of the most commonly used carrier oils are:

  • avocado
  • calendula
  • grapeseed
  • jojoba
  • wheat germ
  • sunflower
  • sweet almond

Purchasing Carrier Oils to Make Aromatherapy Blends

A good blends starts with good ingredients. Always purchase the highest quality oils possible. Doing so will not only create a more useful final product, it will also extend the shelf life of the blend. Avoid highly refined carrier oils as their healing properties are minimal or non-existent. In fact, using poor quality products may make an existing skin condition worse.

Start the shopping at the grocery store. Most of the carrier oils listed above can be found there. Choose oils in glass bottles rather than plastic. If a desired oil cannot be found in the grocery store, check for it at a health or natural food store.

Some carrier oils are more expensive than others. Thankfully, some of the carrier oils can themselves be blended to enrich the blend or lower the cost, and some have naturally occurring vitamin E, which is a stabilizer and so extends shelf life.

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Avocado Oil

This oil has wonderful moisturizing abilities and so it is good for dry or aging skin. It is very rich, just like the avocado itself, so it is good blended with another carrier oil, such as grapeseed. Look for cold pressed avocado oil as opposed to refined.

Calendula Oil

Made from marigold petals, this oil is known for its skin healing properties. Great for use in cases of rash, sunburn, chapped skin and scar tissue. Calendula is a light oil and can be blended with a heavier one such as Jojoba.

Jojoba Oil

Technically not an oil at all, but a liquid wax which comes from a South American evergreen desert plant. A good choice for a carrier oil, as it is colourless and odourless. Jojoba has anti inflammatory properties and can be used on oily skin successfully. Adding it to another carrier oil will help to extend the shelf life of the blend.

Wheat Germ Oil

This oil, which is extracted from the germ (kernel) of the wheat grain, is very high in vitamin E. Good for use on aging skin or in cases of dry skin conditions as it penetrates the skin deeply. However, wheat germ oil is sticky and has a strong odour, so cannot be used on its own. Add up to 15% wheat germ oil to a lighter oil such as grapeseed. Its high vitamin E content makes it ideal to add to blends as it will extend shelf life.

This oil should not be used by those with a wheat allergy.

Grapeseed Oil

This oil is heat extracted from the seeds of grapes. It is a lower cost oil and can be found in most grocery stores. Grapeseed oil is light, odourless, non greasy, easily absorbed by the skin and is unlikely to stain clothing or sheets. All of this makes it an ideal massage oil.

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Sunflower Oil

This is usually found on the grocery store shelf with the label sunflower seed oil. Choose warm-pressed as the other options are too highly refined. It is absorbed well by the skin, is low cost and has high levels of vitamin E.

Sweet Almond Oil

Made from the dried kernel of the sweet almond tree, this oil is good for dry, delicate and sensitive skin. It has a slightly nutty aroma. It is a wonderful choice for a carrier oil and is widely used as massage oil.

This oil should not be used by people with nut allergies.

Using Carrier Oils in Aromatherapy

Gather a few favourite essential oils and the chosen carrier oils and begin experimenting. Start with very small amounts first to avoid waste. Keep all equipment clean, including hands. A good ratio to use for basic massage oil is three drops of essential oil to 15ml (1/2 oz) of carrier oil. Store the blends in amber glass bottles and keep away from heat or direct sunlight. Carrier oils are best stored in the fridge.

A Few Cautions about Carrier Oils

The information in this article is not intended as a replacement for professional medical advice. Pregnant women, babies or children should not use essential oils except under the supervision of a trained aromatherapist. Do not use essential oils on open wounds or take internally. Avoid contact with eyes or mucous membranes. Some essential oils and carrier oils can stain clothing or sheets so always test first.