Why are Carrier Oils so important in Aromatherapy?


Carrier oils are a vital, intrinsic part of the repertoire of aromatherapists and botanical body-care product manufacturers. The term “carrier” indicates the oils’ usefulness as vehicles for therapeutic plant extracts, but they are also unique, health-promoting substances with tremendous benefits for holistic skincare.

Carrier oils primarily comprise two major categories, the fixed – or vegetable – oils, often called “butters” when they are solids at room temperature, and herbal oils, where herbs are infused into a fixed oil. Essential oils can then be added to any of these carrier oils, thereby increasing the therapeutic value of the overall blend. This combination of essential oils and carrier oils offers an ideal therapeutic partnership. 

You probably have a few carrier oils in your pantry, including Sweet Almond and Avocado; perhaps even Argon in your bathroom*. When I mention ‘carrier’ and ‘vehicle’, the simplest way to think about it is that a few drops of essential oil will be ‘carried’ or mixed with the holding oil.

Oil evaporates more slowly than water, trapping the essential oils on the skin. Carrier oils allow for essential oils to absorb more slowly into the skin. Although relief may take a little time, the effect will linger longer allowing for therapeutic effects of the essential oils to work for a greater length of time.

We do not place essential oils ‘neat’** on the body. There is always a carrier to ‘hold’ the essential oil for safety purposes.

* Do not use the same bottles.
** Lavender (Lavendula angusifolia) may be used neat on certain areas of the body, under certain circumstances.

Next time, I will explain further what Carriers do; What you want and don’t want; tips and some favourites.