TIMELESS Holistic Health Glossary

Find the meanings of terms commonly used with essential oils, Aromatherapy, Holistic Health and Natural Perfume Making. We are hoping this Glossary will be a valuable reference for our readers. If you have questions, or there are terms you are looking for and don't find here, please let us know, so we can improve our resource.


Abortifacient : Has the potential to cause abortion of a fetus.

Absolute : A highly concentrated liquid or semi-liquid solvent extract of the fragrant components of botanicals. A common solvent used is alcohol. Abbreviated Abs.

Accord : A harmonious blend of the fragrant notes of several essential oils in a perfume.

Active Principle : The chemical component of a substance that has been identified as having a specific therapeutic effect.

Acupressure : The practice of applying a thump or pressure to specific points along the body's meridians to help re-establish the flow of energy along those lines.

Acupuncture : The practice of using fine needles at specific points in the body to help restore energy balance and normal biological function.  Acupuncture was developed in China, and is now practiced aroung the world.

Acute Pain : Pain that has a known cause and of limited duration, usually one month or less.

Adaptogen : A substance which promotes balance or has a regulatory effect on the body. Many essential oils are adaptogens.

Adaptogenic : Having the ability to produce different effects, according to the individual's needs. For example, some essential oils can be either stimulating or sedating depending on the state of the individual using them.

Adulteration : The process of blending a botanical product or essential oil with a synthetic material or other essential oil to dilute, extend or standardize the product. Essential oils that we refer to as Therapeutic grade have NOT been adulterated.

Alcohol Extract : A concentrated herbal extract.

Allergy : Hypersensitivity to a substance ( antigen ), which causes an unwanted physical reaction. Allergies can be mild, moderate, or life-threatening.

Allopathic : A contemporary, mainstream approach to health care which uses medication, surgery and medical procedures such as dialysis to treat illness and provide symptom relief.

Alopecia : Excessive loss of hair, sometimes related to medication or stress. Baldness.

Amenorrhea : The absence of menstruation for reasons other than normal menopause.

Analgesic : Reduces or relieves pain.

Anaphrodisiac : Decreases sensual awareness and sexual desire.

Anesthetic : Reduces or eliminates sensation. Numbing.

Anosmia : The absence of the sense of smell.

Anti-catarrhal : Reduces inflammation of a mucous membrane, thus decreasing the production of mucus. May also refer to an agent which helps eliminate mucus.

Anticoagulant : Delays or prevents coagulation of the blood. Blood thinner.

Antidepressant : Helps reduce or alleviate depression.

Anti-inflammatory : Helps reduce or eliminate inflammation.

Antipyretic : Prevents or helps reduce fever.

Antiseptic : Helps control or eliminate infection.

Anti-spasmodic : Helps reduce or eliminate spasms in smooth muscle.

Anti-spastic : Helps reduce or eliminate spasms in skeletal muscle.

Antitoxic : Weakens or deactivates a toxin in the body. Toxins may be introduced, as with a snake bite, or may be formed by microorganisms which have invaded the body.

Antitussive : Helps reduce or relieve cough.

Antiviral : Inhibits the growth or reproduction of a virus.

Apertif : Stimulates the appetite.

Aphrodisiac : Increases sensual awareness and sexual desire.

Aromatic : Containingvolatile oils, which create a highly fragrant, spicy or pungent taste or smell.

Aromatogram : A scientific test to evaluate the effectiveness of an essential oil against a microorganism. An essential oil is introduced into a culture growing in a petri dish. The culture may be bacterial, fungal or viral. The greater the zone of inhibition, the greater the effectiveness of the essential oil against the specific microbe.

Astringent : Causes the contraction of cellular tissue. A natural skin toner is an astringent.

Atony : The lack of normal muscle strength or skin tone.

Attar : A highly fragrant product of the co-distillation of a botanical substance with an aromatic wood. Attars are often used as perfumes or in perfume making. Also spelled Ittar.

Aura : The energy field which surrounds all things in nature. Various layers of the aura are connected to the physical body through a system of energy spheres called chakras.

Ayurvedic Medicine : The traditional system of medicine in India, which preceded and evolved independently of Western medicine. It is now practiced as an alternative medicine in the West. A holistic approach, it emphasizes diet, herbal remedies, exercise, meditation, breathing and physical therapy.

Balsam : The aromatic, resinous exudates of some trees and bushes.

Balsamic : Expectorant, soothing. Loosens and helps in the elimination of phlegm.

Beneficial Bacteria : Not all bacteria are bad! Bacteria which help our bodies to digest foods, fight infection and stop bleeding are beneficial. Yogurt culture is an example of beneficial bacteria.

Body Electronics :  The practice of altering electrical flow in the body to promote healing.  The practitioner may use electrodes or sustained accupressure to change the current from AC to DC current.

Bradycardia : Abnormally slow heart rate.

Cardiotonic : Stimulates the heart muscle.

Carminative : Helps reduce flatulence (intestinal gas) and aids digestion.

Carrier : A base substance such as vegetable oil, lotion, sea salt or water used to dilute essential oils before use.

Catarrh : Inflammation of a mucous membrane resulting in excessive production of mucus.

Cellulite : The accumulation of excess fat and fluid under the skin, especially in areas around the hips, thighs and buttocks. Cellulite gives a lumpy, dimpled appearance to the skin.

Centering : The practice of focussing inward to connect to the inner self and self guidance. Centering enhances the ability to perceive subtle differences in the environment and other people.

Chakra : Sanskrit word which refers to the energetic spheres which control the flow of energy throughout the body.

Chemotype or CT : The designation of varying chemical compositions of the same species of plant. The same botanical species grown in different soil conditions and a different climate can produce dramatically different ratios of chemical components. Example : Rosemarinus officinalis CT Verbenone.

Cholagogue : Increases the flow of bile to the digestive tract.

Chronic Pain : Pain that occurs repeatedly over several months, occurs for more than one month after a healed injury, or is associated with a lesion which is not expected to heal.

Cicatrizant : Helps heal the skin by reducing scar tissue, spots and marks.  (See Vulnerary)

Clinical trials : Scientifically planned and monitored experiments to test the effectiveness of a new treatment, drug, botanical or essential oil.

CO2 Extraction : A method of herbal extraction using carbon dioxide.

Cold Pressed or CP : An oil extraction process using mechanical pressure and minimal heat, that is commonly used for many citrus and fixed oils. Using low heat, typically below 120 degrees Fahrenheit, reduces deterioration of valuable oil components.

Complementary Medicine : Approaches to health care which are not part of mainstream medical practice. The term complementary implies the appropriateness of considering alternative approaches to enhance the effectiveness of standard medical treatment.

Compress : A cloth applied to the body for therapeutic use. Compresses can be used warm or cold, depending on the desired effect.

Concrete : A semi-solid wax obtained by solvent extraction.

Constitution : The health and strength of the body.

Contraindication : A condition or symptom that makes a particular medication, treatment or procedure inadvisable.

Cystitis : Inflammation of the bladder.

Cytotoxic : Damages or destroys cells.

Decoction : Extraction of an herb using hot boiling water as a solvent. Tea is an example of a common decoction.

Demulcent : Soothes, softens and protects mucous membranes.

Deodorant : Masks odors or destroys the source of odors 

Depressant : An SNS (sympathetic nervous system) depressant causes drowsiness or coma by its action on the brain.

Depurative : Promotes the removal of waste materials from the body.

Dermatitis : Non-specific term for inflammation or disease of the skin.

Dermatosis : Irritation of the skin without inflammation.

Detoxification : The physical removal of a poison and or waste products from the body. This process often has dramatic emotional, psychological and / or spiritual effects on the person as well.

Diaphoretic : Sweaty, or promotes sweating.

Distillate : A by product of steam distillation in the production of essential oils. Also known as Hydrosols or Floral Waters, Distillates contain valuable botanical components left behind in the distillation process, and are also used in Aromatherapy. Some pioneer distillers are currently exploring processes where the Distillate is the primary product, and the Essential Oil is actually the by product. These methods are producing some very high quality Distillates.

Distillation : A process which uses heat to purify and separate different components of a liquid based on differences in the vapor pressures of the components. Steam distillation is the most common method for producing essential oils today.

Diuretic : Increases the volume of urine produced by the kidneys, which usually results in increased elimination through urination.

Doctrine of Signatures : A classic theory which asserts that the way a plant looks and grows reveals its inherent therapeutic qualities.

Doshas : Ayurvedic Medicine describes three basic mind / body types : vata, pitta and kapha. An imbalance of the doshas is thought to contribute to illness 

Douche : Water used for cleansing any part of the body, but most commonly the vagina. Botanical substances or essential oils can be added to the douche to increase its therapeutic value.

Dry-down : The scent which is still perceived on a scent strip 24 hours after initial application. This term is mostly used in perfume making, to indicate how the scent changes over time.

Dysmenorrhea : Painful menstruation.

Dysosmia : Any defect in the sense of smell.

Embrocation : A therapeutic treatment which involves rubbing a lotion or oil onto the body 

Emetic : Induces vomiting.

Emmenagogue : Promotes healthy menstruation by helping regulate the flow of menstrual fluids

Emollient : Reduces inflammation and softens the skin.

Endorphins : Chemicals produced in the brain that act as the body's natural pain killers.

Enfleurage : A process for extracting fragrances from flowers which are too delicate to distill or do not yield essential oils by distillation. Flower petals are placed onto a layer of fat or oil for a period of time and then removed. This process is repeated many times. The resulting oil is highly fragrant, and called Pomade.

Enzymes : Proteins produced in the body and by some plants which stimulate biochemical reactions which promote healthy body functions. Many enzymes are used in the gut to break down foods and make nutrients available for use at the cellular level.

Essential Oils : A wide variety of volatile chemical compounds produced by plants, which are typically very fragrant. These oils can be extracted using steam distillation or mechanical expression, and are the therapeutic oils used in Aromatherapy.

Estrogen : A steroidal hormone that works in conjunction with other hormonal compounds in the body to develop and maintain female secondary sexual characteristics. The level of estrogen in the body naturally changes as progress from childhood, through adulthood and past menopause.

Exfoliation : The process of removing dead skin cells, revealing a healthy layer of skin below. Sloughing.

Expectorant : Promotes elimination of mucus from the airways 

Expeller Pressed : Machine pressing of oils, which induces heat from 140 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit 

Extraction : Any process of removing components from raw botanical materials.

Exudate : A natural, fluid material secreted by plants. Exudate is sometimes observed on a plant spontaneously, and often after the plant is wounded. Many trees exude resins which are collected and distilled for essential oils.

Fat Soluble : Dissolves in fat or oil.Fat soluble compounds will not dissolve in water.

Fatigue : Feeling weak and becoming tired easily, often unable to participate in one's normal activities or focus on a task.

Febrifuge : Reduces fever.

Fixative : A material which slows down the evaporation rate of volatile compounds. Used in perfume making and the production of many natural products. Some essential oils are designated as base notes, and serve as fixatives for natural perfumes.

Fixed Oils : Non-volatile oils derived from plant materials. Also referred to was vegetable oils, they are often used as carriers in Aromatherapy.

Floral Water : Also called Hydrosol or Distillate, Floral Waters are generally the by products of steam distillation in the production of essential oils.

Folded Oil : A highly concentrated oil produced by redistilling the essential oil, sometimes several times.

Galactogogue : Promotes the production and flow of milk.

Gas Chromatography or GC : A method of analysis which separates the various volatile compounds in a liquid and recording the results on a graph. Percentages of each compound are obtained with this method. Although the exact compounds present cannot be determined with GC, it is often done together with Mass Spectrometry, which gives more detailed information.

Germicidal : Destroys germs, typically bacteria.

Grounding : Promotes wellbeing by allowing an individual to be present and regain focus. Many essential oils with deep earthy fragrances tend to be grounding.

Gtts : drops

Head space : The enclosed air space above an aromatic substance. It is good practice to keep essential oils in small bottles and limit the head space to help preserve the quality of the oil.

Healing Touch : A healing practice used to help focus energy to promote relaxation, prevent illness, accelerate wound healing and provide comfort in the dying process. The practitioner uses light touch to help align energy flow and reconnect mind, body and spirit.

Hemostatic : Stops bleeding or hemorrhage and helps stabilize blood flow.

Hepatic : A tonic for the liver, supports liver function 

Hepatotoxic : Toxic to the liver.

Holism : An approach to health care which promotes wellness and harmony between mind, body and spirit.

Holistic Medicine : A philosophy of healing that considers the patient as a whole person, not simply a collection of symptoms or a disease process. It can also involve family and friends, as relationships are a vital aspect of our whole selves.

Homeostatic : Balancing, stabilizing.

Hospice : A service of care for people with terminal conditions and their families. The focus of hospice care for the patient is on meeting their needs on the physical, emotional, social and spiritual levels. Care for the family's emotional and spiritual needs are important as well.

Hydrolate or Hydrosol : Also called Floral Waters or Distillate, Hydrosols are generally the by products of steam distillation in the production of essential oils.

Hypertension : A condition in which blood pressure is measured to be higher than normal.

Hypnotic : Induces sleep. May also refer to the state of altered consciousness experienced under the influence of hypnosis.

Hyposomia : A decreased sense of smell.

Hypotensive : A condition in which blood pressure is measured to be lower than normal. Also, an agent which decreases blood pressure.

Hypothalamus : A region of the forebrain, and part of the limbic system, the hypothalamus functions as a control center for parts of the body through regulating pituitary secretions. It controls body temperature, appetite, water balance and sexual activity.

Imagery : The use of visualization or imagination to promote symptom relief, relaxation and healing as well as helping support the immune system. Imagery can involve any or all of the senses.

Immunity : The state of being unsusceptible to a particular condition. One can have a natural immunity to a condition, or can become immune through vaccination or previous exposure. Some essential oils help to promote a strong immune system.

Industrial Grade : Refers to a product which is produced for industry. Essential oils which are referred to as industrial grade are often used in the production of items such as cleaning products. These oils are not considered therapeutic, and are not recommended for use in Aromatherapy applications. Also called Manufacturing Grade.

Infused Oil : A prepared oil that has been saturated with the essences of a botanical through maceration and / or steeping the botanical in the oil. The resulting oil is strained, and used in a variety of Herbal or Aromatherapy applications.

Infusion : An herbal remedy prepared by steeping plant material in hot water to release its essence. It may be consumed as a beverage (tea), or used in a variety of Herbal or Aromatherapy applications.

Insomnia : The inability to fall asleep or frequent waking from sleep.

Intention : A conscious goal or purpose to act in a focused way, with the belief that in doing so, one can create an intended outcome.

Intuition : The experience of having knowledge about something without the use of rational thought processes or inference.

Intuitive : Refers to having access to knowledge apart from the confines of the five senses.

Ittar : A highly fragrant product of the co-distillation of a botanical substance with an aromatic wood. Ittars are often used as perfumes or in perfume making. Also spelled Attar.

Laxative : Promotes bowel evacuation.

Liniment : A topical therapeutic preparation that is rubbed onto the skin or applied on a dressing to promote healing.

Lipid :  Oil or fat

Lipophilic : Molecular compounds which are attracted to, and therefore easily mixed with oils and fats.

Lymphedema : The accumulation of lymph as soft tissue and swelling, usually in a limb. This condition is not completely understood, but is related to the inflammation, obstruction or removal of lymph glands or channels.

Manufacturing Grade : Refers to a product which is produced for industry. Essential oils which are referred to as industrial grade are often used in the production of items such as cleaning products. These oils are not considered therapeutic, and are not recommended for use in Aromatherapy applications. Also called Industrial Grade.

Mass Spectrometry or MS : A method of compound identification used to analyze chemical substances, including essential oils. Typically done together with Gas Chromatography.

Menopause : Normal cessation of menstruation, accompanied by many hormonally influenced changes. Menopause is sometimes referred to as the Change of Life.

Meridians : According to the tradition on which the practices of acupuncture and acupressure are based, meridians are the pathways along which the body's vital energy flows 

Midwifery : Midwives promote healthy pregnancy and childbirth practices by providing education and support during pregnancy, assist in the labor and delivery phases and provide valuable follow up care for the new parents.

Mucolytic : Breaks up mucus, allowing for easier elimination.

Narcotic : Has the potential to produce stupor. This term is especially applied to opioid drugs.

Nature Identical : A component which has a chemical structure identical to a structure found in nature. The product may be natural or artificial.

Naturopathic Medicine : A medical practice based on understanding and respect for the healing power of nature. It is based on natural principles of health and holism.

Neat : Undiluted. Essential oils designated as safe to use “neat” do not need to be combined with a carrier for use on the body.

Nephrotoxic : Toxic or harmful to the kidneys.

Nervine or Neurotonic : Tones and helps stabilize the nervous system.The percentage of each compound present is useful in understanding the nature and quality of the oil.

Neti Pot :  Use of a neti pot helps clear the sinuses and draw out excess fluid by rinsing with a saline solution introduced through one nostril and expelled through the other. This is a simple process which can be very helpful in reducing sinus congestion, although it can be an awkward procedure and not tolerated by some. A neti pot can be purchased at most pharmacies, and include instructions for their use. For safety, use only uniodized salt and filtered, distilled or boiled water in a neti pot. Always clean and thoroughly dry the pot between uses.

Neurotoxic : Toxic or harmful to the nervous system.

Note Classifications : Volatile oils (including essential oils) evaporate at different rates, which has led to a classification of these odorants as top, middle and base note compounds. Top notes evaporate quickly, middle notes more slowly, and base notes evaporate very slowly.

Oil Pulling :  An ancient Ayurvedic practice used to reduce the load of bacteria in the mouth and sinuses, and can help clear sinus congestion. Take a tablespoon of Sesame or Sunflower oil into the mouth and swish all around for 20 minutes, then spit it out. Rinse with water and spit again. Four drops of pure Tea Tree or Lemon essential oil can be added to the oil for increased antibacterial effect. Follow this routine daily for 40 – 50 days, then as desired. Bacteria will cling to the oil and be removed, whitening the teeth and reducing bad breath, gingivitis and the risk of sinus infection. Some sources report many other health benefits.  

Oleoresin : The product of an extraction process using select solvents, typically for natural flavorings or spices, to maintain food safety standards.

Oxidation : The chemical reaction of combining with oxygen through exposure to the air.

Pain Scale : A scale used to monitor pain in a healthcare setting. A common pain scale uses ratings of 1 to 10 to describe a patient's experience of pain before and after treatment.

Palliative Care : An approach to caring for an individual with a focus on quality of life. Palliative Care is appropriate for many patients living with progressive, incurable illnesses, or for individuals approaching death. 

Parturient : Having labor pains. Pertaining to the act of childbirth.  An agent which aids in the process of childbirth. 

Pathogenic : Disease causing.

Perfume Grade : A grade of essential oil which may or may not be standardized. It is not intended for oral use, but may be suitable for general Aromatherapy applications.

Permeability : The ability to allow the transfer of liquids or gases through minute openings in a membrane.

Phagocytosis : A process in which specific cells in the body engulf and break down microorganism and cellular debris.

Pheromone : A substancesecreted by an individual of a species, which is able to be perceived by smell by another individual of the same species, and provides a simple form of communication.

Photosensitization : The process of the skin becoming sensitive to sunlight by the presence of certain chemicals on the skin. Exposure to sunlight after use can potentially cause inflammation. Cold pressed citrus oils are considered photosensitizing, and should not be used on the skin if prolonged exposure to sunlight is expected within 12 hours of application.

Phytohormones : Plant compounds which mimic the activity of human hormones.

Phytotherapy : The practice of using plants and plant sourced products in the prevention and treatment of disease.

Placebo Effect : A non-medicinal product is given as if it were medicine, and it can have the same or similar effect as medicine. This phenomenon is attributed to the belief and expectations of the patient creating benefit from the therapy. The mind is powerful medicine.

Pomade : Perfumed oil obtained from the process of enfleurage 

Probiotic : Any substance or process which favors the beneficial bacteria in the body, while inhibiting harmful microorganisms.

Prophylactic : Preventive 

Psychosomatic : A mental state which creates physical symptoms.

Pulmonary : Pertaining to the lungs.

Purgative : Stimulates evacuation of the bowels.

Rectification : A second distillation of an essential oil to remove residue and sometimes color.

Reflexology : A practice based on the concept that specific points on the hands and feet correspond to organs and tissues throughout the body. Massage or pressure is used on these hand and foot points to benefit the associated body part.

Regenerative : Promotes new cell growth and supports repair of damaged tissues.

Rehabilitation : Therapeutic activities after illness, injury or surgery with the goal of restoring function and / or reducing pain.

Reiki : A Tibetan healing practice that uses gentle touch and non-invasive techniques to restore and balance life force energy.

Rejuvenative : Promotes a youthful appearance.

Relaxant : Relieves strain, nervous tension and stress.

Renal : Pertaining to the kidneys.

Restorative : Revives and strengthens the constitution 

Rubefacient : Causes the skin to redden.

Seborrhea : Excessive secretion of sebum and oils which results in acne, alopecia (baldness) and other skin disorders.

Sedative : Soothing. Reduces irritation, anxiety and distress 

Shiatsu : A form of acupressure which utilizes the meridians to help balance and energize the body systems

Singing Bowls :  Tools of Tibetan Sound Healing.  The bowls resonate at frequencies which can balance energies and promote healing.

Stimulant : Temporarily speeds up physiological processes, thereby producing an increase in activity .

Stomachic : Digestive tonic, may increase appetite 

Subcutaneous : Beneath the skin 

Surfactant : Lubricating agent that reduces surface tension.

Sympathetic Nervous System, or SNS : The part of the autonomic nervous system which stimulates the heart, raises blood pressure, and prepares for physical action. Activation of the SNS is commonly known as the “fight or flight response”.

Synergy : The simultaneous activity of two or more substances whose combined effect is greater than the sum of each one working separately.  Synergy blends of essential oils can be highly therapeutic.

Tachycardia : Abnormally fast heart rate.

Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil : There are no established FDA standards for designating an essential oil as “therapeutic grade”, and there has been a lot of controversy within the essential oils industry and professional Holistic Aromatherapy community regarding the use of the term. TIMELESS Essential Oils uses this term “therapeutic” to identify oils which have GC-MS analytics (scientific chemical testing) which support the assertion that the oils are fresh, high grade and unadulterated.

Thrush : Fungal infection of the mouth or vagina with Candida albicans.

Tibetan Sound Healing :  The use of singing bowls, which resonate at frequencies which can balance energies and promote healing.

Tincture : An alcohol extraction of a botanical in which the solvent is retained as a dilutent.

Tonic : Invigorates, restores and stimulates the body.

Toxin : Poison 

Tranquilizer : Calms the nerves, and may induce sleep.

Unrefined : The virgin first pressing of a botanical.

Urticaria : Hives, often a sign of an allergic response.

Var : Abbreviation for a variety of a species. Example : Citrus reticulata var tangerine.

Variables : Factors which influence the occurrence of a phenomenon. In research, variables can be the indicators which are measured, or related factors which are considered to have an influence on the findings of the study.

Vasoconstrictor : Causes narrowing of the blood vessels, tending to increase blood pressure.

Vasodilator : Causes dilation (expansion) of the blood vessels, tending to lower blood pressure 

Volatility : The rate at which a substance evaporates.

Vulnerary :  Protects wounds from getting infected, by topical application.  (See Cicatrizant)

Water Soluble : Dissolves in water. Water soluble compounds will not dissolve in oil.

For a little over a year, we enjoyed having TIMELESS Aromatics, a small retail shop in South St Paul, Minnesota.  It was fun to meet many of our local customers !  Current events have made it difficult for many small businesses to keep doors open, and we made the decision to close the shop.  Thank you to all who shopped at TIMELESS Aromatics.  We look forward to continuing to serve you online.