20 Aromatherapy Terms to Know

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aromatherapy terms

If you’re an aromatherapy novice, it can sometimes be overwhelming to read essential oil descriptions like, “yarrow essential oil is a wonderful aperient!” or “Eucalyptus can be used as a febrifuge.” It takes an aromatherapist years of education and practice to memorize the many therapeutic actions terms associated with aromatherapy. This scientific language can leave a lot of beginners scratching their heads and very confused about the actual functions of essential oils. While there are hundreds of terms Registered Aromatherapists use to describe the therapeutic actions of herbs and essential oils, I thought I’d put together a list of 20 aromatherapy terms you need to know to choose the right essential oils for you, whether you are starting to work towards becoming a Certified Aromatherapist or you’re just using essential oils for yourself and family.

1. Anodyne (an’o-dine): Essential oil used to relieve pain when applied externally, also called analgesic: Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All., yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.), and peppermint Mentha piperita (L.).

2. Anticatarrhal (an” te-kah-tar’al): Essential oil used to heal inflammation of the mucous membranes: PinePinus sylvestris (L.), thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

3. Antiemetics (an”te-e-met’ik): Essential oil used to lessen nausea and prevent or relieve vomiting: BasilOcimum basilicum (L.), clove bud Syzygium aromaticum (L.), fennelFoeniculum vulgare (Hill), gingerZingiber officinale (Roscoe), lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.), and peppermint Mentha piperita (L.).

4. Antibacterial (an”te-bak-ter’re-al): An essential oil that destroys or suppresses the growth or reproduction of bacteria: Anise Pimpinella anisum (L.), bayLaurus nobilis (L.), benzoin Styrax benzoin (Dryand.), bergamotCitrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia, black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), and cajuputMelaleuca leucadendron (L.) var. cajuputi.

5. Antimicrobial: (an”te-mi-kro’be-al): Essential oil capable of destroying micro-organisms or suppressing their multiplication or growth: Black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), cajuput Melaleuca leucadendron (L.) var. cajuputi, tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia (Cheel) andLeptospermum scoparium (Forst.) (Australia and New Zealand), and thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.).

6. Antipruritic (an”te-pru-rit’ik): Essential oil that relieves or prevents itching: Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All., geraniumPelargonium graveolens (L’Her.), lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

7. Antispasmodic (an”te-spaz-mod’ik): Essential oil used to relieve nervous irritability and reduce or prevent excessive involuntary muscular contractions and spasms: Anise Pimpinella anisum (L.), basil Ocimum basilicum (L.), bergamot Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia, black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), cajuput Melaleuca leucadendron (L.) var. cajuputi, clove bud Syzygium aromaticum (L.), cypressCupressus sempervirens (L.), fennel Foeniculum vulgare (Hill), garlic Allium sativum (L.), lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.), marjoramOriganum majorana (L.), peppermint Mentha piperita (L.)., and thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.).

8. Aperient (a-per’re-ent): Essential oil used as a mild evacuant or laxative to the bowels. (Also known as a Laxative): Bergamot Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia, black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), fennel Foeniculum vulgare (Hill), lemonCitrus limonum (Risso), marjoram Origanum majorana (L.), nutmegMyristica fragrans (Houtt.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

9. Bitters (bit’erz): Essential oil with a bitter taste and serves as a stimulant to the gastro-intestinal membranes: Black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), ginger Zingiber officinale (Roscoe), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

10. Carminative (kar-min’ah-tiv): Essential oil, which stimulates intestinal peristalsis, relieves and promotes the expulsion of gas from the gastrointestinal tract: Anise Pimpinella anisum (L.), basilOcimum basilicum (L.), benzoinStyrax benzoin (Dryand.), bergamot Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia, black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), cajuput Melaleuca leucadendron (L.) var. cajuputi, cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Blume), coriander Coriandrum sativum (L.), fennel Foeniculum vulgare (Hill), garlic Allium sativum (L.), lemonCitrus limonum (Risso), marjoramOriganum majorana (L.), peppermint Mentha piperita (L.), rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis (L.), thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

11. Cell Proliferant (selpro-lif’-er-ant): Essential oil that promotes rapid healing and restoration: Lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.).

12. Cephalic (sef’al-ic): Essential oil that is particularly healing to cerebral conditions and diseases: Basil Ocimum basilicum (L.), clary sage Salvia sclarea (L.), garlic Allium sativum (L.), juniper berryJuniperus communis (L.), and rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis (L.).

13. Depurative (dep’u-ra”tiv): Essential oil, which cleanses and purifies: Eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus (Labill.), fennelFoeniculum vulgare (Hill), and garlic Allium sativum (L.).

14. Diaphoretic (di”ah-fo-ret’ik): Essential oil that produces perspiration and sweat, as well as increased elimination through the skin. Differs from Sudorifics: Basil Ocimum basilicum (L.), black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), cajuput Melaleuca leucadendron (L.) var. cajuputi, rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis (L.), thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

15. Febrifuge (feb’-ri-fuj): Essential oil that reduces fever. (Also called Antipyretic): Basil Ocimum basilicum (L.), bergamot Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia, black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), cajuput Melaleuca leucadendron (L.) var. cajuputi, cedarwood Cedrus atlantica (G.Manetti), chamomile Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All., eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus (Labill.), lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.), thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

16. Hypnotic (hip-not’ik): Essential oil that is a powerful relaxant and can induce sleep: Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All.

17. Pectoral (pek’to-ral): Essential oil that heals complaints of the lungs: Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica (G.Manetti), eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus (Labill.), marjoram Origanum majorana (L.), peppermint Mentha piperita (L.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

18. Styptic (stip’tik): Essential oil that stops local bleeding and hemorrhaging, applied externally: BenzoinStyrax benzoin (Dryand.), bergamot Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia, geranium Pelargonium graveolens (L’Her.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

19. Tonic (ton’ik): Essential oil, which stimulates, energizes, and strengthens the body: Basil Ocimum basilicum (L.), bergamot Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia, black pepper Piper nigrum (L.), cajuput Melaleuca leucadendron (L.) var. cajuputi, thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.), and yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.).

20. Vulnerary (vul’ner-er”e): Essential oil that promotes healing of fresh cuts or wounds: BenzoinStyrax benzoin (Dryand.), bergamot Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia, cajuput Melaleuca leucadendron (L.) var. cajuputi, chamomile Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All., clove bud Syzygium aromaticum (L.), eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus (Labill.), garlic Allium sativum (L.), geranium Pelargonium graveolens (L’Her.),  juniper berryJuniperus communis (L.), lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.), rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis (L.), and thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.).

There are numerous other terms to learn when choosing which oils to use, but with this list of 20, you’re sure to start off on the right foot! I hope this helps you make informed decisions when shopping for essential oils for therapeutic use. If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils and their wonderful benefits, consider enrolling in an online program in aromatherapy from the American College of Healthcare Sciences.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

Which one of these terms is most helpful to you? Leave a note in the comments!

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