like to thank
herbalist/aromatherapist extraordinaire for generously allowing us to
use this glossary from her book The Aromatherapy Book.
highly recommend all of her fine books. They can be found at her
JeanneRose.net. Or you may call
Aromatherapy EO = Essential Oil
PEO = Pure Essential Oil
A - F
- An absolute is not a raw material, but a
prepared perfume material. These substances are highly concentrated,
completely alcohol-soluble and are usually liquid. Absolutes are
obtained by the alcohol extraction of a concrete (see concrete) or
from the fatty extracts of plants. Occasionally absolutes are solid
or semi-solid (Clary Sage). Absolutes can also be obtained from the
water of a distillation process, such as Lavender water-absolute or Rose
water-absolute. Absolutes from pommades are often considered
essential oils; they are "volatile oils" (see volatile oil).
The part of an Absolute one can steam-distill is called as Absolute oil.
- This refers to a substance with a pH below 7.0 (normally hair and skin
have a pH between 4.0 and 6.0) used to control bacteria on the skin and
keep the skin healthy. Acid is the opposite of alkaline. Even
though some of the best-made soaps are slightly alkaline, this alkalinity
helps to temporarily reduce skin pH so that dirt and grease can be
stripped or washed away, and then the skin returns very quickly to its
normal slightly acid pH. Strongly alkaline cosmetics and strong
alkaline soaps can upset normal skin pH level (especially for those who
- There are several varieties of
bacteria that thrive in acid environments. These include
Bifidus (mother's milk bacteria) and Acidophilus (healthy
intestinal bacteria). These are helpful in digestive upsets, as
treatments for certain vaginal disorders, and as treatments in skin
care. For instance, yogurt can be thinned with water, certain
essential oils added (such as Tea Tree), and a cleansing "skin milk"
or vaginal douche is the result.
- Essential oils are often
adulterated, that is, changed, cut, diluted or mixed with synthetic
scents. Some essential oils are extended, that is, diluted with
pure fruit kernel or nut oils (Hazelnut oil, Almond oil or Apricot
oil). This is done to increase the profit of the manufacturer or
seller of the
product. If a cheap volatile or synthetic oil as been added to
an essential oil and called pure or PEO, then this is a case of
adulteration and not to be tolerated. Go to any store and price
some Rose oil. It should cost about $1,000 an ounce or $10 a
milliliter. If it costs less it is definitely a victim of
adulteration or is simply synthetic (that is, made from
non-plant sources). [I have seen PEO Rose for sale at $15/ml=20
drops.] As Stefan Arctander says in Perfume and Flavor
Materials of Natural Origin, "...Adulteration...the intention of
acquiring the business [order] through a devaluation of the oil in
relation to the labeling of it's container. The consumers of
perfume oils are buying odor, not certain physico-chemical data..."
Essential oils are expensive however and should probably not be used
"straight" or "neat" (directly out of the bottle and onto the skin).
- A licensed professional who
recommends and practices skin care and the use of treatments for
beauty and health.
- Usually refers to the
substance produced by a fermentation of sugars, starch and other
carbohydrates (Potato fermentation=vodka, Corn
fermentation=bourbon, Sugar-cane fermentation=rum). Alcohol
is used in cosmetics as an antiseptic. Since it dissolves
fat it can be used as a carrier for essential oils, to incorporate
them, to scent shampoo or other water-based products or to provide
a medium for therapeutics. Alcohol dissolves fat so it
should not be used in products for dry skin or hair. In the
cosmetic (industry) sense alcohol refers to the hydroxyl compound
[-OH] as a functional part of a cosmetic formula. In this
form it is a good emollient and is said to provide protection for
Algin, Alginate, Alginic Acid
- These names refer to a
gelatinous precipitate that is extracted from brown algae and
absorbs up to 300 times it's weight in water. Used
externally it is a cosmetic thickener and stabilizer. Used
internally, algin has the capability of combining with heavy toxic
metals in food in the body and allowing them to be passed
harmlessly out with the feces.
- A substance or solution
with a pH of 7.0 or above. Most soaps and detergents are
- This is an organic compound that occurs naturally in Comfrey
plants, and can be synthetically made from urea. Allantoin
is a cellular regenerative, so it is useful in any product used to
promote healing in cuts or burns, including sunburn. In
home-made cosmetics Comfrey root, ground or blended, or Comfrey
root or leaf tincture can easily be added to your products.
- These make up a large group of organic compounds that represent
the end product of protein metabolism. They are necessary
for growth of all parts of the body, skin, hair and nails.
- Found in many products, especially fertilizers, cleaning
products, bleaches and hair permanents. Extremely
harmful and irritating, especially to the eyes and to any
mucous membrane. Can cause permanent allergic response
in some individuals.
- A substance that can act either as an acid or a base.
(Wool can absorb both acid and alkaline dyes.) Proteins
are amphoteric as are their building blocks - amino acids.
- A=without, and hydrous=water; Lanolin is the fat from the sheep's
skin that goes into the wool. (The wool is sheared and the
lanolin is extracted without harming the animal.) Anhydrous
lanolin or lanolin is very protective and absorbs water to keep skin
nice and soft and is used for this purpose in cosmetics (see also
Antioxidant - A substance that
inhibits the oxidation that turns cosmetics rancid. Antioxidants
include vitamin E and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), enzymes and some
oils such as Grapefruit seed extract.
Apple Cider Vinegar
- A natural solvent in oils and creams. It acidifies products.
When used in shampoos and rinses, it separates individual hairs so
they can be thoroughly cleansed. Sounds like a great addition to
the shampoo of bears, hairy men and Husky dogs.
- A type of clay used in products to absorb skin impurities.
- The fragrance of something; what a particular plant product
smells like. Our language does not have a real vocabulary
for the 10,000 odors that we can perceive (in contrast to only
2,000 or so colors), and so we must do our best by describing
aromas by other subject matter, such as "smells like ripe
Cantaloupe," "Eglantine Rose leaves have the aroma of green
Apples," "he eats so much sugar, he has the aroma (odor) of rotten
Aromachology - A word coined
by the Dyenne of the Fragrance Foundation, Executive Director
Annette Green, meaning a new science that combines the
interrelationship of psychology and the latest in fragrance
technology to transmit through odor a variety
feelings - relaxation, exhilaration, sensuality, happiness and
achievement - directly to the pleasure center of the brain (the
seat of emotions, memory, creativity and sensuality).
- The use of essential oils from aromatic plants to restore and
enhance health and beauty as defined by the American Aromatherapy
Association. Aromatherapy uses as its basic ingredients
essential oils, which represent the highest herbal energy.
Essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile extracts retrieved
from aromatic herbs, flowers, seeds and trees; they contain
hormone-like properties, vitamins, minerals and natural
- This is vitamin C. It is used in nutrition and cosmetics.
It is often used in cosmetics to enhance acid balance of a
product, to retard oxidation, as a preservative, to fix colors and
to stabilize creams.
- This is sodium bicarbonate, a soft, ultra-fine powder used as a
dentifrice with sea salt. It prevents mold when an open box
is placed in the fridge and keeps the interior sweet-smelling.
It acts as a cleansing agent, is used as a mouthwash and is
sprinkled on smelly carpets to absorb unpleasant odors.
Baking soda also has use in creams and lotions to add smooth
- This is a natural raw material exuded from a tree or a
plant. Balsams are either physiological or pathological
products, in that they are either naturally occurring or a
result of injury to the plant. Balsams are insoluble in
water and usually completely soluble in alcohol. They
act as preservatives, are used to treat skin problems and are
generally sweetly fragrant.
- A substance used to protect the skin from harmful agents
such as detergents, irritants or even water. These are
generally oily substances derived from vegetable (oils),
animal (lanolin from sheep wool) or petroleum (which is not
recommended). They are used in commercial products,
industrial preparations and cosmetics.
- A natural product made by bees, especially used to thicken
creams and lotions.
Bentonite - A naturally
occurring clay from volcanic ash that forms a gel when mixed
with water. It is used externally to "draw" in facials
and packs. It is used internally to "cleanse" the
digestive tract and as a laxative as well.
Acid - A preservative
derived from gum Benzoin and other substances used to preserve
foods and cosmetics. A tincture of Benzoin is used to
harden sensitive skin such as the "elbows" of large dogs that
become abraded and sore from lying down. It is
anti-fungal and has use in deodorants, dentifrices and other
- A white crystalline substance called one of the B vitamins,
sometimes called vitamin H for hair, and used in creams to
lend texture. It is necessary in the body for fat
metabolism, health and growth. It has also been found to
be one of the only substances that when taken consistently
actually stimulates fingernail growth.
- A water-soluble, white crystalline substance found
throughout the living and inanimate world and concentrated
in certain minerals. It is a mild antiseptic and is
used in body powders, in salves and bandages for burns and
wounds, and in eye lotions for soothing. It lends a
shiny glassy look to certain cosmetics. No longer in
use internally. Acts as an antiseptic and astringent
externally. It is anti-fungal. In years past
the only commercial source of boric acid was the volcanic
waters of the hot springs in Tuscany, Italy.
(Chalk) - This is a
very fine white
|powder that is
easily scented and used in tooth powder as a whitening
abrasive. It occurs naturally in oyster shell,
limestone and in other material. This substance is
also used in nutrition as an antacid and as a cosmetic
filler. In Jeanne Rose's Herbs & Things there
are several useful and well-known recipes including my
Powder: Mix together 1/2 oz powdered Orris root, 1 oz
powdered Rosemary charcoal,* 1/2 oz powdered chalk, 1/2 oz
powdered Peppermint herb and 10 drops essential oil of
Peppermint. Sieve to remove any pieces and
bottle the powder in a container.
- BetaCarotene is pro-vitamin A and occurs naturally in
plants and animal tissue and is readily available in
Carrots. It is used in cosmetics primarily as a
coloring agent but is also considered by cosmetic makers
to be a particularly good addition to nourish the skin and
aid cell regeneration.
- A substance found in red algae that is extracted
primarily from Irish Moss. It is soluble in hot
water and used as an emulsifier in cosmetic products
including toothpaste. It is found sometimes in
foods, especially creamy foods such as Chocolate milk.
No toxicity has been reported.
- An herbal oil extracted from the Castor bean and used
in masks, night creams, lipsticks and other cosmetic
Chalk - See
These are substances that
can form bonds with metals. Chlorophyll is one,
as well as the "heme" part of hemoglobin. These
substances are useful when dyeing fabrics, as
deactivators of enzymes and for water softening, etc.
- A plant that is cloned and therefore identical in every
way with the "mother" plant. It is not grown from
seed. The same plant can product its essential oil
with several different chemical components, depending upon
whether it is grown from seed or cloned, or depending on
the time it is left in the still. Certain chemotypes
are desirable because the chemical components are
different (more gentle, less toxic, softer scent,
different plant hormones). But a chemotype from one
year's planting may be dramatically different from another
year's because of weather changes or varying soil
conditions. Certain chemotypes are dependent on
altitude and the mineral composition of the soil. To
date, chemotypes are incompletely labeled and command a
very high price.
- The natural green part of a plant important in
photosynthesis. As chloro=green color is to phyll=plant,
so is heme=red or iron to globin=blood.
- A sour liquid made from cider by fermentation and used
to clarify and acidify hair products. Used as well
in various body-care products to preserve them. See
also Apple cider vinegar.
- A solid fat that is obtained from seeds of
Theobroma cacao, the Chocolate plant. Is
used as an emollient in creams and lotions, melts at
body temperature and is sometimes allergenic.
- An oil obtained from the Coconut and used as a
moisturizer in various products. Goes rancid
easily. It is used to make soap but often the
pure Coconut oil soap is drying and generally of low
quality. Cheap to buy. Sometimes causes
- A protein found in the connective tissue of animals
and used in plastic surgery to plump up tissues so
that people look young and unwrinkled. Soluble
collagens are used in all sorts of body-care products
for that smooth, unwrinkled look.
- A French word referring to a particular perfume
basic material and how it is prepared. For
example, with Jasmine the freshly picked flowers
prepared by the cold-process method of enfleurage
becomes a pommade that is extracted with alcohol and
the alcohol then evaporated. The perfume
material is now called the concrete pommade of
Jasmine. Concretes are also produced by
extracting plant tissue with hydrocarbon solvents or
petroleum ether and then removing the solvent.
Pronounced con - cret (rhymes with fret)
- An invigorating medicine, food or drink that
comforts, gladdens and exhilarates. Often made
with herbs and spirits, or can be made with herbs,
essential oils and spirits. Try making a
Peppermint herb tea and adding 1 cup tea to 1 cup of
white wine in which you have dissolved 1-2 drops of
Peppermint oil. This would be called a digestive
- A liquid extract of the hard parts of plants
such as the bark, root, rhizome or seed. One
to four ounces of the plant material is added to
twenty ounces of water and then boiled or simmered
for five to twenty minutes. This is then
cooled and strained and used for cosmetic or
medicinal purposes. Makes 16 ounces
decoction, with the herbs left over to be used in
poultices or baths.
- Water that has had the minerals and ions
removed. Considered necessary for high-end
- A type of cleanser, usually synthetic, that
reduces water surface tension and emulsifies soil
or dirt so that they can be removed. Some
detergents are bio-degradable.
Earth - A
type of earth made up of the fossil deposits of
siliceous skeletons of diatoms. This earth
has an irritating surface (glass-like and sharp)
and can be used to clean carpets and rid them of
fleas and mites. Absorbs oil and water and
is used in abrasive agents, cleansers for the face
or for environmental uses. Very cheap.
Irritating if inhaled.
- The process of driving off gas or vapor (water)
from liquids or solids by heating. In
aromatherapy, water and herb or plant material are
heated, the water turns to steam, and the steam
passes through the plant cells or glands that
contain the essential oils, bursting them and
releasing the volatile oils. The steam and
volatile oil are then passed through a cooling
chamber where the steam turns to water, releasing
the essential oil, which remains on the surface of
the water. This is then decanted or poured
off. Distillation usually occurs in a still
- Something that causes an increase in the
production of urine.
- A mineral that contains calcium magnesium
carbonate and is used as an abrasive and
whitener in products for the teeth.
Occasionally used in skin cleansers.
- A substance that is soothing to the external
surface of the body and moisturizes by
preventing water loss. Some emollients
are Comfrey root, Marshmallow root, lanolin,
etc. Some emollients cause allergic
- A substance that allows two disparate
substances to merge, such as the egg in
mayonnaise that binds the Lemon juice to the
oil. Emulsifiers are useful in cosmetics
to create smooth creams and lotions.
- A mixture of oil and water. Most
creams and lotions are emulsions. "An
emulsion is a colloidal system in which one
liquid is dispersed in the form of fine
droplets throughout another liquid with which
it cannot evenly mix..." from On Food and
Cooking by Harold McGee, Charles Scribner,
- These initials refer to Essential Oil.
It is usually identical with PEO.
Has various meanings depending on context: (1)
a substance considered to possess in high
degree the predominant quality of the plant,
(2) the basic underlying quality, (3) the
essential oil, (4) the volatile matter that
constitutes a perfume, and (5) also an
alcoholic solution of an essential oil such as
1 ounce of vodka in which has been dissolved 1
drop of Peppermint oil.
- A volatile material that is contained within
plant cells and derived by physical process
(such as distillation) from the plant.
Some essential oils are not in the living
tissue but are formed during destruction of
the living tissue. Certain botanical
species have little scent buy they produce a
volatile or essential oil when macerated that
starts a fermentation (destructive) process -
the macerate is then distilled and the
volatile oil comes off.
- Something that causes one to cough up or
spit up phlegm.
- A prepared perfume material or the
alcoholic solution of the odorous part of
a pommade or something that is obtained by
Something that holds or "fixes" the scent.
It usually slows down evaporation of the
odorous material. Some fixatives
exalt or improve the scent; some are
odorless and simply "hold" the main scent
*To make Rosemary charcoal, char
several cups of dried Rosemary in a dry cast-iron skillet.
When it begins to char or blacken, turn off the heat and stir
vigorously. If you toast it too long, it begins to gray
and you will have ash instead of charcoal.