|Profile For Wheatgerm Oil
Latin name: Triticum vulgare. Aroma: Wheatgerm has a stronger aroma than most carrier oils. Colour: A strong orange colour.
Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B6, F, and rich in vitamins E. Mineral content: A, C1, Co, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, S, Si, Zn.
Method of extraction: Milling the grains of wheat for white flour separates out the wheat germ, which contains 25% protein, and a wide selection of vitamins and minerals. The oil is extracted from the germ and then extracted in a process that is similar to maceration.
About the plant and its environment: A cereal grass native to West Asia but widely cultivated in subtropical and temperate regions. The stems, up to 1 metre (3 feet) high, each bear a cylindrical head of up to a hundred flower clusters grouped in vertical rows. T. durum is used for the making of semolina and pasta, while T. aestivum is used for bread. The wheat grain consists of the husk (bran) 12%, the germ 3% (containing vitamins, minerals and protein, with the endosperm, consisting mainly of starch, making up the rest.
About the oil: The oil contains high levels of vitamin E, a natural antioxidant, so it can be added to other carrier oils to act as a preservative. Although it is fairly expensive, wheatgerm oil is the richest food source we have for vitamin E; soybean oil also has a high tocopherol content.
Therapeutic properties (internal use): In growing children, the oil helps to maintain healthy spines, bones and muscles. It can also be taken to help prevent eczema, indigestion and the development of varicose veins and it is said to be anticoagulant. Wheatgerm oil has antioxidant properties due to the high tocopherol content and helps to remove cholesterol deposits from the arteries and is a useful food oil in the battle against low density lipoprotein; the pharmaceutical industry uses the antioxidant properties of tocopherols, often in synergy with ascorbic acid.
Therapeutic properties (external use):
- rich in lipid soluble vitamins therefore very good for revitalizing dry skin.
- believed to help relieve symptoms of dermatitis.
- beneficial for tired muscles, making a good base for after sport massage.
Wheatgerm is useful on ageing skin where its natural antioxidants are an effective weapon in the war against free radicals, softening the skin and making it more supple because of its cell regenerative properties.
Carrier Oils General Information
Essential oils are concentrated and powerful and most cannot be used directly on the skin or they will cause irritation. Because of there concentration they need to be diluted in what are called 'carriers'. Most carrier oils are simply used for lubrication, but a few have therapeutic properties of their own, which can be chosen to complement those of the essential oils used with them. For example, peach kernel, apricot kernel and particularly avocado oil are all rich and nourishing and help dry and ageing skins. Wheatgerm oil (rich in Vitamin E) is used to reduce scar tissue after injury or operations and also facial scarring caused by severe acne. Wheatgerm is also a natural antioxidant which helps to prevent other oils from becoming rancid (i.e. oxidising). Small amounts (up to 10%) will improve the keeping ability of any other oil by two or three months.
Cold Pressed Oils - Cold pressed vegetable oils are the best and are generally superiour oils. In the cold pressing process, excessive heat is avoided in order to minimise changes to the natural characteristics of the oil.
Traditionally, there are two methods of cold pressing. In one, the raw material (seeds, nuts or kernels) is simply pressed with a hydraulic press and the oil is squeezed out. This process is only used for soft oily seeds and plant material such as olive, sesame and sunflower etc.
Harder seeds, such as safflower, require more force and a large, powerful screw device known as an expeller is used to crush the plant material, which may be passed through the expeller more than once. The crushed shells, etc are removed from the oil by a succession of filters, the last of which is made of paper. The oil obtained is usually clear (avocado is an exception as it is usually cloudy, especially in cold conditions) and has its taste and nutritional properties intact.
Macerated Oils - Macerated oils have additional properties to all the vegetable oils described because of the way they are produced. Particular parts of certain plants are chopped up and added to a selected carrier oil (usually sunflower or olive) and the mix is agitated gently for some time before placing in strong sunlight for several days. All of the oil-soluble compounds present in the plant material (including the essential oil chemicals) are transferred to the carrier oil, which consequently contains extra therapeutic properties. The macerated mixture is then filtered carefully to remove all the added plant material.
Organic Vegetable Oils - Strictly speaking, organic oils can only be produced from organically grown plant material using approved processes. The rules for organic processing generally exclude the use of chemicals, and a truly organic fixed oil is obtained only from plants which are both organically grown and organically processed.
Vegetable Oils - Vegetable oils constitute the bulk of the mix used to perform an aromatherapy massage. There function is to carry or act as a vehicle for administering the essential oils to the body, hence the term carrier oil. They also act as a lubricant, making it possible to carry out massage movements. All carrier oils are emollient, to a greater or lesser degree.
Basic Vegetable Oils - Sweet almond, apricot kernel, grapeseed, peach kernel and sunflower are among the most common carrier oils, and can be used with or without essential oils for a straightfoward body massage. They are generally pale in colour, not too thick and have very little smell.
Special Vegetable Oils - Certain vegetable oils tend to be more viscous and heavier than basic ones, and can be rather expensive. These include avocado, olive, sesame, rose hip and wheatgerm. The really rich oils such as avocado and wheatgerm are seldom, if ever used on their own. It is more usual to add 10-25% of these two to 75-90% of a basic carrier oil.
Massage Carrier Oils
For massage with essential oils use a carrier oil made specifically for that use. These are all extracted by cold-pressing, ie they are put under high pressure in their natural, raw state when first harvested to squeeze out the oil, and neither heat nor steam is used in the process. This retains the nutrients in the oils ( the proteins, minerals, vitamins, etc) that allow them to be readily absorbed by the skin. Virtually any vegetable oil can be used as a carrier, but anything other than a specific massage carrier will have several drawbacks. All will be too heavy to be easily absorbed by the skin, and most are not cold-pressed and will often contain additives, flavorings or colouring. Ordinary vegetable oils have little or no therapeutic value in themselves, whereas massage carriers will have their own benefits. Baby oils and other mineral oils are not suitable for aromatherapy massage as they are specifically made to lie on the surface of the skin and will not be absorbed.
There are several different massage carrier oils produced, but we have detailed here the most often used carrier oils:
- Sweet Almond
- Peach Kernel
- Evening Primrose
Carrier Oils Storage Information
All oils, essential and carrier, have a limited 'shelf life' and over time will degenerate by oxidisation and become rancid. Adding Wheatgerm to any blend will extend its life, and a blend with essential oils will keep for longer than the carrier alone. The best method is to mix only as much as you will use for one treatment.