Essential Card Activities


The Essential Cards were originally produced as a revision aid in preparation for an advanced- level aromatherapy examination, which required knowledge of a substantial amount of information on a large number of essential oils - common English and botanical (Latin) names, genus, country/ies of origin, extraction method and part of plant used, dominant note, aroma, major chemical families, actions, indications, contra-indications and safety guidelines. The Caddy Classic Profiles were featured on both sides of the oil cards to assist memorisation of each oil's chemical make-up, and proved to be effective beyond this scope.
The flexibility of the card format, which aptly reflects the multi-faceted nature of essential oils, allows these to be considered in many different configurations that highlight characteristic similarities and crucial differences. Cards are very user-friendly and make learning fun. One important consideration when creating the Cards was ensuring that their information content, being highly condensed, was thoroughly reliable, logically structured and clearly formulated. The revised Essential Cards' visual information also includes an illustration of each oil's 'mother' plant, based on carefully researched pictures. We have endeavoured to offer a balanced blend of visual information and data, and hope that you find the Cards beneficial and enjoy using them!
It is important to note that the Essential Cards are not in themselves a substitute for other sources of information, and only act as a complementary tool to more extensive reference materials (see Further Reading section), as either a learning aid for students or a handy reference system for more accomplished aromatherapists.

The Essential Cards can be used in a range of activities to increase the aromatherapy student's familiarity with the oils. These will vary according to a selected focus, some being more information-related, others more visual. We have listed a few of these, which you can vary according to your own ability and learning requirements, increasing the number of questions per oil to raise the level of difficulty (this will be clear once you have performed our activities).
It is important to remember that each essential oil acts as a synergistic entity, whose effect as a complete whole is greater than the sum of its constituents' individual effects. While the oils' amazing complexity cannot be totally explained by a few single factors, the Essential Cards can help you to gain a sense of each oil's individuality as represented by its unique Profile. The properties that may be presented by chemical constituents of the various families are listed in the Key Card (1.3 in Pack 1, or 2.3 in Pack 2), and Card 1.2 (or 2.2) emphasises the likely precautions to be implemented with particular chemical families (see under 'Symbols & Terminology').
We highly recommend that students keep an exercise book (or a section in a folder, or even a computer file or folder) specifically dedicated to recording Essential Card activities. Using the Cards can prompt observations and insights, and generally enhance your fluency in understanding essential oils. You could record scores and times achieved in performing the activities, the names of Profiles you remember easily, or which you find difficult to recognise, etc.

Examine each oil's Profile in turn. Observe which colour/chemical family dominates the Profile (note: the families are always listed in the same sequence, so this order does not reflect their proportion; establish this from the Profile). Then use the Key Card (1.3 or 2.3) to read its possible properties. Read the properties listed for other families present in significant amounts. This exercise should give you an idea of the oil's character and its mode of action, and whether it may be safe or require particular caution (refer also to the CAUTION guidelines on Card 1.2/2.2).
Now turn the card over and read the oil's ACTION and CAUTION sections, and establish for yourself how these compare to your perception of the Profile. By the time you have been through the pack, you should already feel quite familiar with the nature of the chemical families.....

This exercise will help you to relate to the Profiles in terms of safety guidelines. Sort the oil cards out in sets according to precautions. Totally safe oils have no stated precautions. Oils that may irritate the skin or mucous membranes state 'low %' (may contain significant amounts of oxides, aldehydes, phenols, or even monoterpenes). Phenols can be quite aggressive, and ketones tend to accumulate in the liver and are very powerful, so even relatively low amounts of these families may stipulate 'moderation'. One group to watch out for is that of lactones & coumarins, in particular furocoumarins, which may cause oils to be phototoxic, even when only present in small quantities (these contra-indicate exposure to UV rays for 12 hours following application to the skin). Once you have grouped all the cards into sets, complete the following chart, listing the oils under each particular type of caution, and write down any observations this exercise may prompt.


SAFETY GUIDELINES Essential Oil/s Observations
no special precautions    
use neat on skin (first- aid)    
low %    
limited shelf-life    
CONTRA-INDICATED USE Essential Oil/s Observations
early pregnancy    
pregnancy (whole)    
citrus-sensitive skin    
exposure to UV rays    
kidney disease    

The above chart covers most types of caution, though a few rare ones have been omitted (see if you can find these, and list them together with the corresponding oil/s).


Once you have familiarised yourself with the Profiles, arrange them in sets according to their dominant chemical family. Then refer to the Key Card (1.3 or 2.3) for their possible properties.
Enter your results in the following table to highlight common traits, starting by the oil with the highest content of the particular chemical family, listing other oils in order of decreasing content - but consider only oils where that family's key-colour dominates.


Chemical family:

Possible properties:


Essential Oil Plant family Part of plant Dominant note Contra-indications


Now try your hand at this simple game, either solo or with a friend or two: shuffle the oil cards (18 with one pack, or 36 with two) and place them profile- side up in a pile. Take the top card from the pile (taking turns if two or more people are playing) and place it in front of you, face down so only the Profile is visible. Every time you take a card, place it next to a card with the same dominant chemical family (e.g. West-Indian Lemongrass and Lemon-Scented Eucalyptus, which are both rich in aliphatic aldehydes). If you have no other card with the same dominant chemical family, place it separately to form another set. The game is finished once the pool has been used up. If several players took part, each establishes which is their largest set. The one with the largest set of all is the winner.
If playing solo, develop this activity as a study exercise: turn each set over in turn, note similarities or differences in these oils, and establish which dominant family occurs the most frequently.
If playing with others, each player could use this activity to focus on her/his most represented dominant chemical family. Write down the names of all the oils in this set, as well as the possible properties of the dominant family (listed on the Key Card). If you are really studious, try to memorise this information - but don't worry, just writing it down will help you take it in!

For this activity, you will already need to be familiar with the Profiles, e.g. by performing the previous activity. It can be undertaken either alone or with a friend (or several!).... Shuffle the 18 oil cards (or 36 if you have both packs), place them Profile-side up in a pile, then pick the top one. Look only at the Profile side: examine it carefully, notice which colour/chemical family predominates, which is the second largest, what minor but impactful families it contains, think about the Profile's possible nature and which oil it could represent. Then state out loud which oil you believe it to be. You can time yourself, using an egg timer or a watch, allowing yourself one or two minutes - gradually reducing the time to seconds! Once you have stated your answer, turn the card over - if your answer is correct, keep the card, otherwise, replace it at the bottom of the pack. If several people are playing, take turns, continuing in this manner until no cards remain in the pool. The winner is the one with the most cards.

If playing alone, each time you have completed a round (gone through the whole pile once), take the pile of those that you got wrong, shuffle them, place them Profile-side upwards in a pile, and play another round. Repeat this process until you have guessed all the oils correctly. Keep a record of your score (number of successful answers per round, number of rounds, overall time). Try and play this game regularly, when you have a quiet period during the day, and compare your results with the previous ones, each time trying to reduce the number of incorrect answers, rounds, and time. Your performance will no doubt impress you after only a few games!

To help you with your study of the oils and their chemical profiles, make notes on the ones you got wrong: write down each oil's name - and which one you thought it was, and why. This should enable you to identify particular characteristics that differentiate the challenging Profile from any it may resemble.

A more demanding variation on this game consists in stating both the common English name and the botanical Latin name correctly in order to win each card.

Now, how about a game of Snap? This game requires a double set of oil cards, so you will need to find a friend who has a set identical to yours (totalling 36 if using a single pack, or 72 if using both). Shuffle all the oil cards together and deal them all out so that each player has the same number of cards. Players act simultaneously, each placing a card on a pile, Profile-side upwards, so both Profiles are clearly visible side by side. When the two cards match, the first player to shout Snap! collects the pool, which she/he then uses as playing stock.... However, take care! The cards may just look similar, and before the game continues, VERIFICATION must take place: turn the cards over to ensure they actually are identical! If the player was right, she/he takes the pool, then starts the next round - but if the two Profiles were different, the piles remain in place, and the following round is started by the next player, leaving the false alarmist's turn to last!

The game carries on until one player has succeeded in winning all the cards.

This game should be easier to play once you have undertaken other activities that sharpen your recognition of the individual Profiles!

Once you are familiar with the oils, test your wits on an aromatherapy version of Happy Families.

This game (for 2-4 players) consists in collecting sets in terms of specific criteria, such as plant family, dominant note, part of plant used, extraction method, contra-indications (but not Profiles, as these will be visible to all).

Shuffle the oil cards (preferably 36 - if you don't have both, try and get together with a friend who has the other pack), deal 7 cards to each player, and place those remaining profile-side up in a central pool. Players now study their cards' information, which they keep hidden from their opponents. Group your cards in terms of the most frequently occurring factor (for example you may have three oils originating from the same country, four with a dominant top note, and five obtained by distillation. In this case you might ask for other distilled oils - although this could prove to be a highly popular factor).

The player next to the dealer starts the game (which proceeds clockwise, or vice-versa according to preference!) and asks another for an oil card presenting a particular feature, e.g. 'May I have a distilled oil, please?' If the card could not be supplied, the player takes the top card from the central pile. The next person then takes a turn, but may not specify the same factor as the previous player (though the following player may).

The game proceeds with each player taking a turn until all the cards in the pool have been used. The winner will be the one who has collected the largest set of any single specification. It helps to know your oils well for this game, as this increases your chances of asking for a frequently occurring factor.

Familiarity with the Caddy Classic Profiles is definitely an asset in this game, as the Profiles are visible to all. A player who recognises the Profile correctly and knows information on the oil will know what questions to ask in order to obtain a desired card. The big test in this case is trying to remember who picked up which oil card!

Test each other individually or in teams! Shuffle the oil cards, place them in a central pile, information-side down. Take it in turns to pick up a card, then ask the other side a question relating to this card, with team members also taking turns. The level of difficulty can be agreed prior to starting. If the answer is correct, the respondent keeps the card, otherwise read out the correct answer, then replace the card at the bottom of the pile.

If a player is asked the same card again, when it re-emerges from the pool, they could be set a different question - or the same one to test their short-term memory!

The winning side is the one with the most cards once the pile has been used up.

To use this as a study exercise, record all the questions you answered incorrectly. Print out a copy of the following table for each player, and enter the question and its correct answer. If the question is asked more than once, tick it off when the correct answer is given (without consulting the chart!) By the end of the game, swap charts with the opponent and ask each other all the questions that still remain to be answered correctly. Correct answers get ticked off. Incorrect ones get a cross. The winning side is the one with the least crosses.


Question Correct Answer


The information on the Essential Cards was inspired by many sources, which we recommend for more extensive study of the many facets of aromatherapy. The following works are grouped according to their particular focus:

Essential Oils in Colour, by Rosemary Caddy (Amberwood Publishing Ltd, 1997)
L'aromathérapie Exactement, by Pierre Franchomme & D Pénoël (1990)
The Essential Oils, vols. 1-6, by E Guenther (Van Nostrand, New York, 1948)
The Aromatherapy Workbook, by Shirley Price (Thorsons, 1993)

Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, by Gabriel Mojay (Gaia Books Ltd, 1996)
The Art of Aromatherapy, by Robert Tisserand (The C W Daniel Company Ltd, 1994)
The Fragrant Mind, by Valerie Ann Worwood (Bantam Books, 1995)

Aromatherapy: an A-Z, by Patricia Davies (The C W Daniel Company Ltd, 1995)
The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils, by Julia Lawless (Element Books Ltd, 1992)
The Aromatherapy Book, by Jeanne Rose (North Atlantic Books, 1992)
The Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy, by Chrissie Wildwood (Healing Arts Press, 1996)

The caution guidelines in the Essential Cards have been kept as simple as possible, whilst taking expert opinions into consideration. Guidelines vary amongst authors regarding age categories and which oils can be used safely for babies, children, pregnant women (at various stages of pregnancy), and more specific conditions. The important thing to remember is dosage (see Dilution Guide, on Card 1.2 or 2.2): due to their synergistic wholeness, pure essential oils are often safe even though some of their isolated constituents may not be. If an oil is not indicated as being unsafe (i.e. contra-indicated) for babies, then it may be used, as long as the recommended dilution is not exceeded. Before treating anyone, always establish the appropriate dilution to be used, and check the precautions and contra-indications.
Another area that is subject to much controversy is that of homoeopathy. Most practising homoeopaths ask their patients to avoid coffee, camphor, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, and strong smelling substances. Anyone using homoeopathy should discuss this matter with their practitioner, as opinions vary regarding the use of other remedies, the period of time after which incompatible substances may be used, etc. Homoeopathic remedies can be constitutional (working at a deep, long-term level), or acute (alleviating more immediate, short-term symptoms). As a general guideline, other remedies should be avoided for several hours after taking an acute remedy, or several days after taking a constitutional remedy, and this time should be doubled for contra-indicated substances.