Valerie Ann Worwood’s “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
” is one of my favorites – and one I go back to again and again when I need a reference on essential oils or aromatherapy.
As soap and candle makers, we know the power and importance that scent has on our products. In “The Fragrant Mind” Worwood takes her extensive knowledge of essential oils and applies it directly to the emotional, psychological, and mood-changing effects of these incredible, powerful natural oils.
Part One - Pathways to the Mind
Part One lays the foundation for a deep understanding of the science and psychology behind essential oils exploring their place as “drugs” within history, how they interact with the body, and most importantly, how they interact with the brain. Just like understanding the qualities and aspects of different soap making oils
affect our soap recipes, understanding the science behind essential oils can help us understand our scent formulations – if nothing more than to appreciate the complex and still somewhat mysterious “medicine” and how it can affect and improve our lives. Part One then takes the science and expands it into the body-mind connection – exploring what Worwood calls “Aroma-Psychology.” “Aromatherapy” generally refers to the clinical use of essential oils – based primarily in their power to affect us physically. For Worwood, “Aroma-psychology specifically refers to the use of essential oils to positively affect the mind – such as memory enhancement, learning improvement, mood uplifting, and confidence boosting.” She acknowledges that even her term “aroma-psychology” is a bit inadequate – since the mind and body are an integrated unit – and part of what makes essential oils and their use so interesting is the way that they can affect both mind and body.
Part Two - Emotional Healing and Aromatherapy
Part Two takes the scientific and mind-brain knowledge and moves it into practical application – exploring blending, usage, synergy and applications. The core of Part Two is in two sections that align emotions and emotional challenges with particular essential oils. For example, in her list of “essential oils for concentration” are lemon, lemongrass, rosemary, peppermint, cedarwood, eucalyptus and others. Other categories include restfulness, positivity and focus. Now, you may or may not be interested in the actual aromatherapeutic qualities of the oils – but think of it this way: Let’s say you were trying to formulate a soap scent that was good for waking up in the morning. A zesty, invigorating scent to get your eyes open and start the day off right. Knowing that essential oils of basil, black pepper, lemon eucalyptus, grapefruit, lime, cinnamon, rosemary and peppermint (among others) all are said to promote “alertness,” could help you formulate that blend. While you wouldn’t (hopefully, if you understand your soap and cosmetic labeling!) be making any therapeutic claims for your soap, you could still blend your essential oils knowing that these scents are indeed known to have these affects. Furthermore, while you may love lavender
…and really love lavender and lemon together…knowing that lavender is known for fostering relaxing, soothing, calming moods may guide you to choose another essential oil for your “wake up” blend.
Part Three: Aroma Genera
Part Three combines the information from the first two parts into a new concept in aromatherapy. Worwood calls it “Aroma Genera: Human Characteristics and Personalities of Essential Oils.” Like in the previous sections, she lays out the foundation of her information with a discussion of “What is Personality?” and then links personality types into scent types. That is, people have different personality types – and these personality types lead them to prefer different scents. She categorizes these “scent types” into “the Magnficent Nine.” The Magnificent Nine is a categorization of scents based on their primary characteristics (although there are some, like black pepper for example, that appear in two categories:
- Florals – essential oils that are extracted from the flowers or petals of plants or trees – chamomile, jasmine, lavender, neroli, rose, ylang ylang
- Fruities – essential oils that are extracted from the fruit of a plant or tree like black pepper, citrus oils, vanilla an clove
- Herbies – essential oils that are extracted from plants generally thought of as herbs – such as basil, clary sage, mints, rosemary and thyme
- Leafies – essential oils extracted from the leaves of trees or plants – such bay, eucalyptus, cinnamon, fir, tea tree, patchouli
- Resinies – extracted from the resins or balsams of trees or shrubs – such as benzoin, peru balsam, myrrh
- Rooties – extracted from the roots of plants – such as ginger, spikenard, turmeric, vetiver
- Seedies – extracted from the seeds of plants – such as anise, coriander, dill, fennel, nutmeg
- Spicies – extracted from various parts of plants or trees commonly known as “spices” - black pepper, anise, clove, ginger, cinnamon (lots of overlap in this category) Woodies – extracted from twigs, wood, chippings or shavings of trees – amyris, camphor, cedarwood, pine, sandalwood, cinnamon
Worwood’s notion is that each of these categories has a particular personality, and will align and/or contribute these characteristics with the people that smell them. So again, while you may not be practicing aromatherapy for its medicinal goals, you can formulate your candle and/or soap scents with this in mind. If you’re trying to formulate a scent that feels dynamic, desirable, artistic and/or caring – go for a floral. Herbies are unselfish, big-hearted, enthusiastic and down-to-earth. Seedies are intuitive, observant, self-indulgent and deeply feeling. And so on. The rest of the section contains amazing charts and discussion of individual essential oils and their characters and personalities.
Just like understanding the science and characteristics that contribute to the qualities of soap making oils
can help you formulate your soap recipes, or understanding different types of candle waxes
can help you choose the right wax for the right candle, understanding the qualities and personalities of essential oils can guide you in formulating your essential oil blends
and using the mysterious qualities of these oils to more effectively enchant, delight, soothe or inspire the people that smell them.
Worwood understands the power of scent. This book may seem at first to be unrelated to soap and candle making, but since scent is at the foundation of why most people make their own soaps and candles, it is actually superbly relevant – in a practical, inspiring, and fascinating way.