An Aromatic Glossary of Useful Terms

From "Jeanne Rose - The Aromatherapy Book"

A-Z Aromatherapy Help

The Writings of Jeanne Rose


 AT = Aromatherapy      EO = Essential Oil      PEO = Pure Essential Oil

Absolute - 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.

Acid - 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 are unhealthy).

Acidophilus- 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.

Adulteration- 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).

Aesthetician- A licensed professional who recommends and practices skin care and the use of treatments for beauty and health.

 Alcohol- 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 skin moisture.

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.

Alkaline- A substance or solution with a pH of 7.0 or above.  Most soaps and detergents are alkaline.

Allantoin - 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.

Amino Acids- 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.

Ammonia- 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.

Amphoteric- 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.

Anhydrous Lanolin- 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 lanolin).

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.

Argil- A type of clay used in products to absorb skin impurities.

Aroma- 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 fruit."

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

of specific feelings - relaxation, exhilaration, sensuality, happiness and achievement - directly to the pleasure center of the brain (the seat of emotions, memory, creativity and sensuality).

Aromatherapy- 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 antiseptics.

Ascorbic Acid- 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.

Baking Soda- 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 texture.

Balsam- 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.

Barrier Agents- 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.

Beeswax- 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.

Benzoic 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 products.

Biotin- 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.

Boric Acid- 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.

Calcium Carbonate (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 favorite:

Rosemary Tooth 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.

Carotene- 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.

Carrageenan- 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.

Castor Oil- An herbal oil extracted from the Castor bean and used in masks, night creams, lipsticks and other cosmetic products.

Chalk- See Calcium Carbonate.

Chelating Agents- 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.

Chemotype- 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.

Chlorophyll-  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.

Cider Vinegar- 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.

Cocoa Butter- 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.

Coconut Oil- 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 allergic reactions.

Collagen- 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.

Concrete- 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)

Cordial- 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 cordial.

Decoctions- 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.

Demineralized Water- Water that has had the minerals and ions removed.  Considered necessary for high-end body-care products.

Detergent- 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.

Diatomaceous 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.

Distillation- 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 (see still).

Diuretic- Something that causes an increase in the production of urine.

Dolomite- 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.

Emollient- 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 reactions.

Emulsifier  - 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.  Sometimes allergenic.

Emulsion- 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, 1984.

EO- These initials refer to Essential Oil.  It is usually identical with PEO.

Essence - 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.

Essential 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. 

Expectorant- Something that causes one to cough up or spit up phlegm.

Extract- A prepared perfume material or the alcoholic solution of the odorous part of a pommade or something that is obtained by distillation.

Fixative - 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 intact.

Glucose- A type of sugar from Grape or Corn and used in cosmetics and medicine.  Soothes irritated or burnt skin.

Grape Seed Oil- An ultra-fine oil expressed from the seeds of Grapes and used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy.  Nonallergenic.

Grapefruit Seed Extract - An extract derived from Grapefruit seeds that has preservative and anti-bacterial qualities.  A good stabilizer for aromatherapy products.

Gum- A sticky substance secreted by some trees and shrubs.

Gum Arabic - A gum from Acacia senegal that is slowly soluble in water and provides a gelatinous acid base for nonoily cosmetics.  Makes a demulcent and emollient base and is very soothing to all skin surfaces.  Has been known to cause allergic or irritant reactions.  See also Jeanne Rose Herbs & Things, Chapter 3: Acacia, gum.

Gum Tragacanth- An emollient and demulcent, yields a thick mucilage that when combined with water is useful in lotions and creams.

Herb- (1) A seed-producing annual, biannual or herbaceous perennial that does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of the growing season - this is a botanist's definition; (2) A plant or plant part valued for it's medicinal, savory, cosmetic or aromatic qualities - this is the definition that was used by the ancients as well as by modern herbalists and which includes any part of any shrub, tree, flower, seed, fern, algae, lichen, etc., and plant; (3) The leafy top of an herbaceous plant considered separately from it's root - generally a cook's definition.  Compare Celery, Celery root, Celery seed, Celery oil.

Honey- A delicious food produced by bees, it tests on the acid side but is soothing and is used as an emollient or preservative in some bodycare products.  Sometimes causes allergic reactions.

Hormone Creams- Contain synthetic estrogens and are used as firming creams.  Only temporarily firms, smoothes and plumps up the skin.

Humectant- Added to creams and lotions to help the skin retain moisture.  Draws moisture from the air.  Glycerin is a good example.  Sometimes causes allergic reaction depending upon the specific ingredients.


Hydrate- The ability to restore or maintain the normal fluid proportion in the skin or body.  Hydrating agents are used in cosmetics to keep the skin natural, moist, firm and young-looking.

Infused Oil- Results when an herb or plant part is soaked or macerated in oil, then heated gently and the oil strained out.  The resulting oil is called infused.  This process is used for Calendula-infused oil and others, which are generally used as carrier oils in aromatherapy products.

Infusion- Boiling water is poured over an herb and the herb is soaked or "infused" for a period of time and then strained.  The resultant liquid is the infusion and the herb leftovers can be used in poulticing.  Essential oils can be added to the infusion for increased efficacy in facial steams, lung lubrications, hair steams, etc.

An example for a Healing Facial Steam: Bring 1 quart of water to a boil, turn off the heat, and add 1 ounce of mixed herbs (for normal skin use a mixture of Peppermint, Camomile and Rose).  Steep, soak, infuse for 5 minutes.  Add 2 drops of PEO of Rose or Chamomile.  Put your face over pot, cover with towel, inhale the steam and let steam play about the face for 5-10 minutes.  Now you may strain out the herbs and use them to poultice or to make a facial or hair pack, and the infusion can be poured into your bath for a fragrant, healing bath.

Inhalation - A method of treating mental and physical problems through the inhalation of the volatile, essential oils of aromatic and medicinal plants rather than the drinking of the herbal tea or the injection of the oils.  Inhalations can be used to stimulate the brain.  The inhaled essential oils reach the body through the lungs and bloodstream or through the nose - then to the limbic system of the brain - with a release of hormones and neurochemicals to create mental/emotional effects.  Example: Use 3 drops of PEO in a diffusor.

Irritant - A substance that irritates, such as Poison Oak or Nettles or some essential oils such as Clove oil when used on open sores.

Jojoba Oil- A vegetable wax that is extracted from Simmondsia chinensis.  We call this an oil because it comes in a liquid form from the plant, but chemists have determined that the beans actually product a wax.  This is now a substitute for the banned whale oil and spermaceti that was once used to produce sparkling white, smooth cosmetics and fine-grade machine oil.  Jojoba oil does not go rancid and is used to dissolve the sebum in plugged hair pores.  This encourages fresh new hair growth.  Jojoba is an excellent carrier "oil" for aromatherapy products.

Kaolin- A type of clay.  When used in products it aids the absorption of excess oil secreted by the skin.  Best for oily or problem skin.  This is a very fine particle powder that is often applied to draining wounds and fistulas to absorb the moisture from these secretions.

Kukui Nut Oil - From a Hawaiian plant considered to be very soothing, emollient and good for damaged or slow-growing hair.  Considered a scalp and hair restorative.

Lanolin - A wax that is produced by oil glands in sheep to waterproof their wool.  After the sheep is sheared the lanolin is extracted or separated from the wool and used in cosmetics and ointments to smooth and soothe.  Lanolin is yellow, sticky and unctuous and is easily absorbed by human and pet skin.  Can cause allergies in those who are sensitive (see also anhydrous lanolin)

Lecithin- Derived from a phospho-lipid that makes up 30% of egg yolks, lecithin is an excellent emulsifier and is used in creams and lotions as an anti-oxidant to prevent rancidity.

Lotion - A smooth liquid applied externally to hands or body for softening, soothing.  Made as a medicinal, cosmetic, cleanser or astringent depending on the herbs or essential oils used.  Some lotions in addition are oily.  A creamy liquid used as a cosmetic is also called a lotion.

Maceration - A process of extracting fragrant oils from the plant material.  It is similar to enfleurage but uses hot fat rather than cold fat to immerse the petals and achieve the goal.  To macerate is to soften or soak  in warm fluid for a time to separate the solid matter from its elements.

Medicinal - A remedy used in treating physical or mental ailments.

Menthol- A naturally occurring substance in certain kinds of Mints, usually M. arvensis or Peppermint herb.  An essential oil used in drug and cosmetic products because it is a counter-irritant, is cooling and has soothing properties.

Mineral Oil - A heavy oil derived from petroleum.  Not recommended for use in body-care products because it leaves a nasty residue on skin and hair and if used internally has the ability to be absorbed and drag along oil-soluble vitamins and minerals from the body that are then excreted in the feces.  Not recommended for babies or children.

Moisturizer - Something that helps the skin retain its natural moisture or adds moisture.  Some herbs have moisturizing capabilities, and certain essential oils such as Jasmine oil and Rose oil when added to lotions and creams can increase the moisturizing capability of these products.

Mucilage - A substance that swells up in water and dissolves in the process.  Forms a sticky, slimy, gelatinous mass that can be used as an emollient in cosmetics.

Odor Description - How do you describe the 10,000 odors?  We do not really have a vocabulary of odoriferous words.  What is "sweet" to me may be "cloying and heavy" for you.  Get a few bottles of different essential oils.  Smell them!  Write down your reactions.  Start with the easy oils such as Clove oil, Peppermint oil, Sandalwood oil and a flower oil such as Rose oil or Tuberose oil.  Describe the scent with color, with sound, with taste, with as many adjectives as seem to fit.  In other words, develop your own odor vocabulary.  Write this down and compare with my descriptions.  Then as you read along you will more or less know what I am describing. (For more information, see: "Words That Smell & Words That Stink" The Aromatherapy Book)

PEO - When you see these initials it means Pure Essential Oil.  This is usually identical with EO or Essential Oil.

pH - This is a scale of number from 0 to 14  that is used to measure the alkalinity or acidity of a substance.  Neutral is 7.0, and below that is acid such as vinegar or honey.  Above 7.0 is alkaline such as soap.  Human skin and hair is about 4.0 to 6.0.

Pommade or Pomade - These are prepared perfume materials obtained by enfleurage.  The fat that is saturated with the essence of the flower after the enfleurage process is termed the pommade or pomade.

Resin - A hard, brittle substance (Mastic, Amber, Copal) that is transparent or translucent and usually yellow to  brown.  Formed as a plant secretion and obtained as an exudate (recent or fossilized) or as an extract of plants.  Often obtained from Firs and Pines.  Resins have antibacterial properties and are used in industry, medicine, incense and cosmetics.

Rosin - Like a resin but usually darker, a bitter, friable resin obtained from the oleoresin or dead wood of Pine trees by the removal of the volatile Turpentine oil, etc.  Used in varnish, lacquer, soap and industry.

Salve- A soothing or healing medicinal or cosmetic ointment generally made with healing substances such as herbs infused in oil, strained, and the herbal oil then solidified with wax.

Shellac - A natural resin that is secreted by the Lac insect and deposited on trees.  It is collected, purified and used for industrial purposes and for body care or as hair spray.  In the '40s and '50s one could always tell who used a hair spray with shellac in it because their hair-dos formed perfect hard shapes unflappable in the wind and sent out little dandruff puffs of flakes throughout the evening.  I read that now in the '90s shellac-based hair sprays do not flake (which I sincerely doubt).  Also, if your hair does not move in the wind, maybe you are using the wrong spray?

Skin - The stuff that covers all creatures and forms the first line of defense against bacterial, alien, fungal or other substance invasion.  Read a good physiology text for a scientific description of skin - ideally you already know the basics: Several layers of cells with glands and follicles that  accomplish wondrous healthful benefits.  Creams and lotions can soften the external layer, and face-lifts can change your perspective.

Soap - Combine a fat or oil with a base like lye [potassium carbonate (from wood ashes) or calcium hydroxide] and use the appropriate measurements and temperature gradients, and a wondrous chemical change will occur that turns fat and lye into soap.  This is called saponification.  Generally a well-made soap will be slightly alkaline, which when applied to the skin temporarily changes the pH of the skin - the soap combines with the dirt, strips it off the skin, you rinse with water - dirt gone and the skin quickly reverts to it's normal, slightly acid pH.

Spice - A spice is generally described as the dried parts of those very aromatic plants that make their home in the tropics: the hard parts of plants such as berries (Allspice or Black Pepper), flower buds (Cloves), roots or rhizomes (Ginger or Vetivert) or bark (Cinnamon).  Spices have their essence in these hard parts of plants, while the herbs have their essence in the soft parts.  Herbs usually are at home in the temperate climates and these include leaves (Rosemary), flowers (Rose), stems and leaves (Angelica).

Still - The equipment used in distillation to separate the plant material from its delicate essential or volatile oils usually comprised of (1) a RETORT, which is the chamber that holds the plant material and takes the heat; (2) the HEAD, which collects the steam; (3) the TUBE, which sends the steam to the condensor; and (4) the CONDENSOR, which is where the steam separates into hot water and volatile oils.  Aristotle described the use of stills in 350 B.C. (See The Aromatherapy Book for a diagram.

Synergist - A substance that when combined with another increases the effectiveness of both.

Talc - Mostly magnesium silicate, it is a substance that occurs naturally and is used in baby powders, makeup, creams, etc.  Unfortunately, most talc occurs in conjunction with arsenic.  Talc is a lung irritant.  Use other powders such as Cornstarch or baking soda as your absorbant powder and for your baby.  Herbal powders are also very effective and can be made from equal quantities of powders of Orris root, Orange peel, Lemon peel and Sandalwood.

Tea - This means two things: (1) the liquid that is made from the Tea plant, Camellia senensis (contains theophylline and is the best bronchodilator known, and (2) the liquid that is made when you combine water and herbs, strain and drink it.  This is another confusing herbal term.  A tea is an infusion that is used cosmetically or medicinally - when lots of herb to water is used and infused for a long time it is generally called an infusion; when a little bit of herb is steeped in lots of water for 3-5 minutes, the resulting beverage is generally considered a tea.  Did I confuse you further?

Terpeneless Oil - Terpeneless essential oils are processed perfume or flavor materials from which all monoterpenes have been removed (C10H16).  This is usually done to improve the solubility of the essential oil and to concentrate the active aromatic scent and to increase stability.  Gattefosse considered terpeneless essential oils to be superior because they were more easily absorbed when used in subcutaneous or intra-muscular injections and were less irritating when used externally.  Also the fragrance was more "gentle."  He conceived the use of terpeneless Lavender oil for all sorts of deep wounds and sores.

Tincture - An alcoholic solution containing medicinals or aromatics; about 50% alcohol.  To make a tincture at home, infuse 1-4 oz of herbs or plant materials directly into 1 cup of 100 percent alcohol such as vodka or brandy.  Shake daily for 10 days, strain and use.

Tisane- Historically a nourishing decoction having a slight medicinal quality.  It was originally made form Barley and called a ptisane.  We could consider the Chinese herbal soup a modern-day tisane.  However, most people would define a tisane as a beverage tea made from flowers and drunk simply for pleasure and taste delight.

Unguent- A preparation made from fat or oil, usually with a medicinal or cosmetic purpose.  It liquefies upon application to the body.

Volatile oil- An oil that vaporizes quickly and easily; an oil that easily evaporates.  It is also called an essential oil and contains the plant hormones and delicate chemical constituents of the plant.  Antonym=Fixed Oil or Fatty Oil.  Example: Peppermint oil is an essential or volatile oil that is obtained by steam distillation from Peppermint leaf and is easily evaporated, while Olive oil is a fixed or fatty oil that is obtained by pressing the Olive fruit and does not evaporate.

Water-  When this term is used in cosmetics or body care it usually means the waters in which significant amounts of essential oils have been dissolved.  This happens during distillation of many essential oils such as Peppermint leaf water, Orange flower water and Rosewater.  An herb water can also be a 2% solution (2 ml essential oil steeped in 4 oz distilled water, shake vigorously, shake regularly and use).  This can be either a medicinal or cosmetic substance.

Recently when my dog was hit by a car and needed twice-daily disinfectant soaks as well as wet bandaging and then dry bandaging, I used an herb infusion for the soaks, then Tea Tree oil water (2% solution) for the wet dressings.  The vet said it was just short of miraculous how quickly the wounds healed and closed up.  Cosmetically, Lavender or Orange flower waters are used therapeutically on the skin as well as to "set" makeup.

Water Bath-Also known as a bain-marie.  A pot containing water in which is placed another pot containing the substance being cooked or heated; used for cooking delicate or sensitive ingredients such as Chocolate foods or fragile cosmetic products.

Wax- An organic compound that melts at low temperature, is solid at room temperature (except for Jojoba), is water-repellent and gives solidity to creams and salves.


*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.



     We'd like to  thank Jeanne Rose, herbalist/aromatherapist extraordinaire, for generously allowing us to use writings from her many fine books.  Her wisdom is truly a gift to all of us.

     We highly recommend all of the books and classes that she offers.  You can see her teaching schedule, and all other information at her informative site

Address:  Institute Aromatic Studies - 219 Carl Street - San Francisco, CA 94117 / Tel: (415) 564-6785  FAX: (415) 564-6799 /

      Ms. Rose is personally available for both individual and business consultations on many subjects pertaining to Herbs and Aromatherapy.  For more information, please visit the Aromatherapy and Herbal  Consultation and Formulation page at the Jeanne Rose web site. 



See Jeanne Rose Spotlights & Articles (and some related articles):



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