Carrier Oils

Carrier Oils

By Hwaa Irfan

Because of the different skin sensitivities from person – to – person, and the different constituents from essential oil – to – essential oil, often it is best to apply undiluted essential oils via another medium. In aromatherapy that medium can be a carrier oil, a cream, or an infusion.

Carrier oils are in general vegetable based oils, which originate from the fatty part (seeds, kernels or nuts) of a plant. Carrier oils allow for the therapeutic value of the essential oil to be applied without causing an allergic reaction. There are different types of carrier oils of which more and more are becoming available, and each carrier oil in turn have their own properties, and can be used for massage.

Carrier oils in general can be bought at the local grocery store, or herbalists, which are as local as the grocery shop in Middle Eastern countries. The Middle Eastern herbalist is equivalent to the Western health store that sells natural oils and aromas. The oils should be cold pressed, and fresh without additives. The dust on the bottle/container is a good indicator as to how long it has been on the shelf. When selecting a carrier oil it should be checked for rancidity. The oil should be of good quality to ensure the required therapeutic effect.

Carrier oils can go rancid over a period of time, unlike essential oils, so they should be kept in dark glass containers with tight fitting tops, and stored in a cool dark place.

One also has to choose the right carrier oil for the right essential oil for synergy. In aromatherapy that synergy is based on:

  • The symptoms to be treated
  • The underlying cause of the symptoms
  • The biological landscape
  • The psychological landscape
  • The emotional landscape

Here are some examples:

Almond Oil, Sweet (prunus amygdalus)

Sweet Almond Oil is clear with a tinge of yellow – bronze. Compared to most carrier oils, it is one of the cheapest having a shelf life of 12 months. This is an all-purpose that can be used for most essential oils and suits all skin types. It has a light, sweet nutty aroma, and is slightly thick (i.e. medium viscosity). It has a good synergy with the skin, and is easily absorbed leaving a hint of oil on the skin when massaged. Sweet Almond oil hydrates and re-conditions the skin and contains:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Choline (trace amounts)
  • Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Saturated fats
  • Phystosterols

Therapeutic Value

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-hepatotoxicity
  • Antioxidant
  • Cephalic
  • Cordial
  • Emollient
  • Laxative (slightly)
  • Nervine
  • Tonic (Immunity)

In Ayurvedic and Unani medicine, sweet almond oil/Roghan badam is used as a nutrient for the brain as well as the nervous system, and to treat skin psoriasis and eczema. Recent research has found that it lowers the risk of colon cancer, and elevates good cholesterol, lowers bad cholesterol, and rejuvenates the skin from scar tissue post operation.


According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it may lower blood sugar levels.

Coconut Oil (Cocos nucifera)

Coconut oil has been a very much misunderstood oil because of its high fatty oil content, negating that its therapeutic qualities are in this content. Now that it has become a part of the healing arts in therapy, the benefits can be seen to out-pace any assumptions.

Until recently coconut oil was only used in the West as a lathering agent in soaps, and for cosmetic purposes only. We all know that it is a solid, which liquefies at 76° Fahrenheit. However, fractioned coconut oil has now made it possible to use it as a carrier oil, due to the removal of a chemical chain, as is done to make camphor white oil. Fractioned coconut oil is liquid at room temperature, which has increased its use in aromatherapy. The scent is minimal therefore not overpowering when adding essential oils and the shelf life is quite long.

Fractioned coconut oil has no aroma, is very light, colorless, non-greasy, and is absorbed easily by the skin thus making a good massage oil. It also has a very long shelf, as it does not go rancid, and the price is quite reasonable. It is good for all skin types, especially dry or inflamed skin. The high fatty oil content is synergistic, which nurtures a healthy skin for all skin conditions, as well as offering healing qualities to the skin. It contains:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Choline (trace amount)
  • Iron
  • Lauric acid
  • Capric acid
  • Caproic acid
  • Caprylic acid
  • Myristic Acid
  • Palmitic acid
  • Stearic acid
  • Oleic acid
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: Linoleic Acid
  • Monounsaturated Fat: Oleic Acid
  • Poly-phenol: Gallic Acid
  • Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Phytosterols

Lauric, capric, and caprilic acids are polyphenols, which not only give coconuts their distinctive aroma and taste, but are also antioxidants. These polyphenols are also present in Virgin Coconut oil.

Therapeutic Value

  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antioxidant
  • Calmative
  • Nutritive (hair)

When lauric acid is absorbed, the human body converts it to monolaurin, which then acts as an antibacterial, and as an antiviral in the treatment of herpes, listeria, and influenza for example.

Monolaurin is also acts as an antiviral and antiprotozoal, which is used by the human body to destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, influenza, various pathogenic bacteria and protozoa such as giardia lamblia.

It is effective in speeding up the healing process pertaining to bruises and cuts, and is effective with throat and urinary throat infections. Coconut oil is also proactive in overcoming fungal and yeast infections pertaining to thrush, candidiasis, athlete’s foot, and nappy rash.

Having a cooling affect as it throws of heat, fractioned coconut oil relieves stress especially where there is mental fatigue. It balances good and bad cholesterol, and the saturated fat content of coconut oil has antibacterial properties that lead to problems with digestion. It contains less calories than other fatty oils, and is easily digested.

Coconut oil assists in the absorption of calcium and magnesium, and prevents any progress in tooth decay. It is well known for taking care of the hair as a nutritive and as a conditioner. Regular massage of the scalp with coconut oil keeps the scalp free from dandruff, and lice. It helps damaged hair to recuperate. It is a good skin moisturizer, delays wrinkling and the sagging of skin, and is effective in the treatment of psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema.


None indicated.

Grapeseed Oil (Vitus vinifera)

Grapeseed oil is a light oil, with a slightly sweet, but nutty aroma. However, unlike the other oils it is in the main a solvent extraction so some trace elements of chemicals might be present. Grapeseed oil cannot be extracted through cold press because the seeds are small, and the yield is little. It is probably the cheapest, providing a lighter alternative to Sweet Almond Oil, which is helpful for quick massages. It is clear with a touch of yellow – green, and has a shelf life of 6 – 12 months, and so it should be kept in a dark colored glass container in a cool place.  It is an all-purpose oil, and if one is looking to create a slight sheen to the skin, this is the oil to use.

It contains:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Beta-Carotene
  • Tocopherols
  • Steroids: Campesterol, B-Sitosterol, Stigmasterol
  • Linoleic acid – omega-6 fatty acid
  • Oleic acid – omega-9 fatty acid
  • A-linoleic acid (omega-3 fatty acid)
  • Palmitic acid
  • Stearic acid
  • Oligomeric proanthocyanidin
  • Palmitoleic acid (trace amount)
  • Icosanoic (trace amount)
  • Icosenoic (trace amount)
  • Docosanoic (trace amount)

Therapeutic Value

  • Astringent
  • Cicatrisant
  • Emollient
  • Hypotensive
  • Lowers blood cholesterol

Grapeseed oil is useful for those whose skin does not absorb oil easily without that greasy after effect. It is also useful for sensitive skins as it contains no allergens. It is regenerative in nature to the skin, repairing damaged tissues, and helps to maintain normal cell structure. As a mild astringent it tones the skin, and helps to ease acne.


Because it is extracted with a solvent, it may cause an allergic reaction on the skin.


Aromatherapy Series:

It All Makes Good Scents!

Amber Oil

Angelica Root Oil

Anise Oil

Bath Oil

Basil Oil

Bay Oil

Bergamot Oil

Bitter Almond Oil

Bitter Orange Oil

Black Seed Oil

Calendula Oil

Camphor Oil


3 thoughts on “Carrier Oils

  1. Pingback: Dec 7, Massage Oil Recipe » Learn Massage Techniques

  2. Pingback: Aromatherapy Recipes Questions Answered | Alternative Herbal Treatment

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