What is the difference?
Essential oils are not actually oils! They are very special, volatile substances which occur in the botanical (occasionally animal) world. It is principally their etheric nature i.e. that they evaporate, that separates them from the oil in the gearbox of your car, or the stuff you use in cooking. For want of a better description, they have been referred to as oils because they do not mix with water and are lighter than water as well. This is where their resemblance to vegetable oils ends.
When applied diluted to the surface of the skin, or breathed in (never taken internally), they have a wonderful way of enhancing health. Their minute molecular structure allows them to enter the blood stream, and generate healing activity. Interest in these brown bottles of good energy has increased greatly over the last decade as more and more folk desire to take control over their health, the philosophy being to take preventative rather than curative action against disease. After all the ultimate doctor is your body itself. Essential oils are powerful life forces and should always be used with care. If in doubt, always consult a qualified aromatherapist.
“Carrier”, or vegetable oils, on the other hand, are relatively inert, almost odour free products that are used as a base in which essential oils are subsequently diluted before being used on the skin during aromatherapy massage. They can be called ‘fixed’ oils due to their existence in nature and the fact that they don’t evaporate.
However, unlike all water – clear, mineral based oils (all of which are “dead” therapeutically), good carriers such as Almond, Grapeseed, and proper cold – pressed Sunflower, have great properties for the skin in their own right. These vegetable oils contain vitamins, some trace elements, and a healthy selection of fatty acids. Most mineral oils are unfortunately petroleum based and according to some health experts, their ingestion can make certain fat – soluble nutrients leach from the body.
The health benefits of specialised carrier oils goes as far as their internal consumption either as capsules or as a liquid. Examples would be Evening Primrose, Flax, Hemp, Pumpkin seed, and Coconut. It is the currently popular knowledge of essential fatty acid action that is making these products so popular.