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A Concise Guide to Plant Oils.

The Aromatherapy Encyclopedia: A Concise Guide to Over 385 Plant Oils, by Carol Schiller and David Schiller Basic Health Publications; 28812 Top of the World Drive, Laguna Beach, California 92651 Softcover; [c]2008; $19.95; 234 pp.

Aromatherapy is enjoying great popularity now; and for those seeking a quick reference guide, we have the Aromatherapy Encyclopedia: A Concise Guide to Over 385 Plant Oils, by Carol Schiller and David Schiller.

After a brief history of the use of essential oils that dates back centuries, the authors begin their book with warnings for observing safety measures in the selection and handling of the oils. Among the safety considerations, special precautions need to be taken for those on medications, pregnant and nursing women, and those with sensitive skin. Key, though, is learning the proper dilution of the plant oils.

The dilution of the essential oils is accomplished by adding various vegetal oils. Called carrier oils, they will determine whether the resulting product is liquid or solid. The oils can be applied as creams, used in baths, and inhaled though various techniques.

The reference guide in this book includes the carrier oils, the essential oils, and the infused oils. For each entry, the oils are described by botanical name, family, and the parts of the plants. A category called "History and Information" can include a real mixture of information. It usually begins with the geographical location and growing habits of the plant, and then it may include the historical uses of the oil, the current uses in other countries, the other uses of the plant, such as dyes, and just interesting facts about the plant.

The other categories in each entry are "Practical Uses" and "Documented Properties." The authors clarify that "Practical Uses" refers to the tried and proven everyday uses; and "'Documented Properties' refers to properties documented in other publications." There are no footnotes, so discerning the distinction between these categories will likely send the reader to the bibliography, where you will find pages of listings for handbooks and encyclopedias for medicinal plants and flowers. Those looking for the documentation that supports the efficacy of the uses will need to refer to the books listed in the bibliography.

Another problem with the lists for "Documented Properties" and "Practical Uses" is that they can be contradictory, as in the case of Ledum groenlandicum. Practical Uses include calming, reducing stress, and improving mental clarity and alertness. One of the Documented Properties for this plant oil is use as a stimulant. Then, the Caution under "Aromatherapy Methods of Use" advises users to "avoid driving or anything that requires full attention after using the essential oil." There is not information to reconcile these conflicting messages.

There are cautions in most listings, but the reader would be well advised to read the book carefully to determine safest use of the essential oils. One example of why this is necessary can be found in the listing for lemongrass. The Practical Uses list includes many desirable attributes such as balancing the nervous system, promoting restful sleep, and repelling insects. The category "Documented Properties" notes that among other things, lemongrass is an abortifacient. The Caution mentions only the issue of dry or sensitive skin, so it is up to the reader, especially the pregnant one, to locate the pertinent precautions. Another precaution not mentioned in the book at all is the need to consider the health and sensitivity of those sharing the environment with the person using aromatherapy.

Essential oils can be powerful substances, and knowledge will give the user the greatest benefit with the least risk. Though this book is called an encyclopedia, it may be best utilized as a quick reference guide. The serious student and user will want to seek more comprehensive information elsewhere.

"Since the beginning of recorded history, aromatic plants have been used to scent, beautify, and heal the body."

review by Katherine Duff
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Title Annotation:The Aromatherapy Encyclopedia: A Concise Guide to Over 385 Plant Oils
Author:Duff, Katherine
Publication:Townsend Letter
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2010
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