Carrier Oils For Aromatherapy



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Antibacterial Effects Of Carrier Oil

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  • Antibacterial Effects Of Carrier Oils


    An early antimicrobial study of natural oils showed that sweet almond oil, when added to cultures of bacteria, reduced the number of viable bacteria by 98% (Hill & Marc h 1922). In another test the bactericidal activity of various natural oils on Staphylococcus aureus was studied and the time required to reduce the number of viable organisms to zero was measured, sweet almond oil taking 3-4 days indicating much lower activity than the other oils tested (Bello 1942).
  • Ingestion of Oils - The beneficial effects of vegetable carrier oils on the skin are normally the main consideration for aromatherapists. However, many bodily systems can be helped by the ingestion of certain vegetable oils, because  all the associated nutrient properties of the plant are relevant to cold pressed oils. This is not necessarily the case with refined oils.
  • To take full advantage of the vitamin and mineral content of the oils that must be ingested because the molecules are generally considered to be too big to penetrate the skin ( the topic of skin absorption and carrier oils is considered further in the next section). The oils can be taken, in salad dressings or by the spoonful at doses recommended by a suitably qualified person.
  • Of particular importance, in terms of diet, are the triacylglycerols which are based on the essential unsaturated fatty acids, eg linoleic and linolenic acids. A deficiency in these acids can result in ill health and poor vision. Other important factors concerning nutrition are mentioned briefly below.
  • Essential fatty acid deficiency because of poor diet is rare in developed countries. One effect of EFA deficiency is a high rate of loss of moisture resulting in a dry skin condition which can be corrected by topical applications of oils rich in EFAs (Prottery et al 1979, Prottey et al 1976,Hartop & Prottey 1976).
  • However, fatty acid metabolism can also be impaired by complaints such as psoriasis and atopic eczema, resulting in dry skin conditions: topical application of products containing EFAs is of benefit (Coupland 1992, Brod et al 1988). Essential fatty acid deficiency is being increasingly recognised as a complication of long term fat-free parenteral nutrition (Fleming et al 1976). Remember that oils said to be 'rich' in essentially fatty acids are present as their triacylglycerols.
    Lecithin is a compound of fatty acids, glycerine and phosphorous, which acids in the emulsification and therefore the absorption of fats .It is stored in the gall bladder as part of the bile and works together with cholesterol for vital body functions. It is also found in the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and the sheath protecting the nerves. Lecithin keeps fluid cholesterol from hardening and sticking to artery walls or forming gall stones. It contains choline and inositol, which also aid the metabolisation of fat. Lecithin is found in avocado, sesame and soya oils.
    Cholesterol is a sterol, made up from fatty acids and alcohol, and is found in animal fat: it is not as bad for us as many people seem to think . In fact it is vital to the well being of our bodies as it is involved in the production of bile, several hormones and vitamin D, and is essential for healthy functioning of nerve tissue.
  • Our bodies manufacture cholesterol in the liver as well as extracting it from food. The body can regulate the amount produced but problems can arise if the intake of cholesterol is too great for the body to cope with; it may then build up in the arteries to give rise to a condition known as atherosclerosis, where the cholesterol sticks to the inner walls of the artery causing the passageway to narrow, or even block in extreme cases.
  • Cholesterol does not dissolvein the blood serum and is circulated attached to lipoproteins (fat/protein molecules). It is thought that there are good and bad lipoproteins: low density lipoproteins (LDL) are generally generally regarded as the bad ones because they deposit cholesterol: high density lipoproteins (HDL) are thought to be beneficial in clearing cholesterol from the artery walls, whence it is excreted via the liver. Oils high in bound-monounsaturated fatty acids  (eg olive oil) appear to favour a high HDL : LDL ratio.
  • The whole issue is extremely complicated, and no firm answers are available at the moment. Trials have thrown conflicting results, some stating that there is little to be gained by increasing the amount of unsaturated fats in the diet with respect to atherosclerosis and coronary diseases , and others saying that replacing saturated animal fats with unsaturated vegatable oils leads to better health and longer life.
  • However, the weight of evidence would seem to be saying that we would all stand a greater chane of good health if we reduce overall fat intake, to abstain from animal fats and stick to bland based mono-and polyunsaturated oils. However, Erasmus (1986) thinks it is probable that neither meat eaters nor vegetarians need to fear high cholesterol levels or cardio vascular disease, providing they take their food from unrefined sources, ie avoiding refined denatured sugars, starches, fats and oils.

    Whilst it is true that some margarines are manufactured from unsaturated vegetable oils, clearly some form of transformation is needed to change the liquid oil into the solid margarine. This modification is brought about by a process known as hydrogenation, which involves bringing the polysaturated oils into contact with hydrogen in order to turn them into more saturated, solid fats. The purpose of this is to increase the keeping quality of the material and give it a longer shelf life, and to harden it so that it will spread in a satisfactory manner.
  • In carrying out this process the nature of the oil changes, either partially or completely as double bonds are destroyed, from unsaturated to saturated. The reaction can be controlled and the amount of saturation regulated so that the product does not become too hard. Hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated oils may be mixed together to form soft margarines. Soya oil is often lightly hydrogenated because it can develop a bad taste and smell with time, even if kept in the refrigerator.
  • During the processing the structural form of some of the unsaturated fats is altered, and so-called trans varieties are obtained which are not found in nature. It has been suggested that in the long term these may block the formations of prostaglandins in the body. Current scientific evidence suggests that the body employs trans fats as it would the saturated variety and cannot make use of their altered double bonds, indeed they can behave in a way similar to saturated fats - namely, they raise blood cholesterol levels (Emmerson & Ewin 1996). Accordingly it is recommended that we should not exceed the current average intake of trans fats (HMSO 1991). On average, only 2% of our energy intake comes from trans fats, whereas 16% comes from saturated fats (HMSO 1990).
  • It may possibly be better therefore to eat small amounts of naturally saturated fat, such as better, rather than an artificial saturated products such as most margarines.
    When unsaturated oils are used in cooking it should be remembered that the increasing temperature gives a greater rate of degradation by oxidation. This means that these oils are fine for salad dressings, as there is no heat involved, but when frying or when smoking hot oil is required (ie when using a wok) the resulting high level of oxidation can make both the oil and the fumes toxic.
  • Oils and fats hvaing a high smoke point and which are more resistant to high temperatures include (Erasmus 1993):
    coconut and tropical oils
    olive oil
     safflower oil - high oleic content
    sesame seed oil
    sunflower oil - high oleic content
  • Dietary oils could also have been classified as a function of their heat resistance . In Fact, in France, there are two categories of dietary oils: oils containing more than 2% -linolenic acid whose label must bear the wording 'vegetable salad oil' and those containing not more than 2%  y-linolenic acid, whose label must bear the wording 'vegetable salad and cooking oil'.
  • This distinction (French Decret of December 2, 1973) was introduced to address the toxicity attributed to degradation  products formed upon heating oils. In fact,according to the relevant professioal organisations, it appears that contrary to currently accepted ideas , the quantity of products formed is practically the same regardless of the polyunsaturated fatty acid content (Bruneton 1995). The most important point is probably the manner in whaich the oil is used , with common sense and good housekeeping  - moderate cooking temperature and frequent renewal of the frying oil.
    Twenty years ago it was difficult if not impossible to remove completely oil stains from clothing. However modern soap powders are capable of dealing  adequately with oily stains on towels , covers and overalls  but it is still best if they are dealt with at once, before drying of the oil to a varnish takes place.
    Fixed oils result from a chemical reaction between glycerol and long chain fatty acids which may be saturated, monosaturated or polyunsaturated . Triacylglycerols formed from unsaturated fatty acids predominate in vegetable oils.
  • Reference: Carrier Oils For Aromatherapy  & Massage : Len Price with Ian Smith & Shirley Price

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