Aromatherapy is all about using your sense of smell to enhance mood and improve how you feel about, as well as connect with, your body, mind and soul. As a result, when practicing aromatherapy nothing is more important than the way a substance smells.
Absolutes are only recently becoming part of aromatherapy. Historically a method known as enfleurage was used to extra an absolute. This meant putting the flowers in lard and replacing them every so many days. This method was superseded by solvent extraction long ago because of the time and labor involved; even though twice the amount of oil an be produced.
Currently an absolute is created by putting the flower or plant matter into hexane, separating the heavy matter from the plant and leaving the oil and waxes, then evaporating or vacuum extracting out the hexane making a concrete. The concrete is then put in ethanol and the temperature is dropped it minus 25C solidifying the waxes for removal. Then ethanol is vacuum extracted from the oil which leaves just the essential oil.
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.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice.