Book Review of Shadows: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless



The definitive A-Z reference guide to essential aromatherapy oils. Aromatherapy expert Julia Lawless shares her extensive knowledge in this detailed and systematic survey of more than 190 essential aromatherapy oils. From commonly used oils such as lavender and tea tree oils to the more obscure oils including deertounge, oakmoss, cananga, and angelica, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils offers a wide variety of uses and cures for everything from wrinkles to kidney stones. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils gives detailed information on the most commonly available and widely used flower oils and aromatics including: the exact origins, synonyms, and related plants, methods of extraction, the herbal/folk tradition for each plant, the uses of each plant, aromatherapy applications, home and commercial uses. This easy-to-use volume lets you access essential information in a variety of ways with a Therapeutic Index, a Botanical Index, and Botanical Classifications, plus safety information. – Weiser Books

Essential oils are one of my favourite witch tools! I use them for dressing candles, making potions and perfumes, mixing up magickal floor washes and I’ll even add magickal blends to my paints when I’m creating. I rarely use the oils for health reasons, beyond Tea Tree and Lavender that is, but thought I was pretty well-versed the general uses of the oils. I was so wrong. This is a mistake I’ve seen a lot of witches make recently – conflating magickal uses with physical and health uses of herbs and oils. This book doesn’t touch on the magickal uses of essential oils outside of some folklore and history, which makes it an awesome place to start.

I found this book to be incredibly helpful and FULL of information. I mean, there’s stuff in here I didn’t even know I needed to know. Before it gets into the individual oils it begins with history and folklore about aromatics and oils, covers safety topics, explains aromatherapy and alchemy, and even explains how essential oils are made and how they can be used. It talks about flower waters, facial steams, baths, and lotions and the type of oils to use depending on some basic uses.

If you’re worried about being a super beginner who can’t read latin names or botanical classifications, the book has you covered! I kept the full glossary of terms at the back of the book marked so I could flip back to it while reading and it really helped. Being able to read botanical names and recognize classifications is also good if you work with herbs in their natural form. In The Witching Herbs by Harold Roth he talks about how different types of similar plants (different sages, for example) can have different magickal properties, so this is good info for shopping for herbs in general.

Since this is a newish subject matter to me I decided to check out some reviews by people more skilled with EOs to find out if the book was as good as I thought, and I actually found a lot of negative reviews – but they were all for previous versions. Issues like a lack of colloquial terms, poor organization, and generally just not being friendly to beginners all seem to have been corrected in the version I got directly from Weiser, which I found really cool. It’s nice to know the author has gone back and updated her work, and really listened to complaints from those who read the book before.

If you’re anything like me you might be thinking “well I’m only using these oils for magickal purposes, not health ones, so why do I need to know this stuff?” and the answer is that EOs can actually be harmful and dangerous. If you’re using the oils on candles or in baths or room sprays these are coming into contact with you and your skin and respiratory system! It’s important to know the “real life” qualities of the materials you use for witchcraft. As an easy example, almost every oil in here warns AVOID DURING PREGNANCY, even ones like White Sage, Mugwort and Cedar!

The actual oils are all presented in encyclopedia format in alphabetical order and include botanical information, synonyms, distribution and location info, herbal and folk traditions, extraction, uses, safety data and even the chemistry of the oil itself. It’s easy to search by going alphabetically, or looking it up in the index in the back. You can also quickly search for specific oils based on their uses or even health conditions.

I’m not an expert at using oils for health or aromatherapy just because I read it, but this is one I can definitely see me using as a regular reference book going forward and I recommend it to anyone who works with essential oils already or is just starting out.


Ever wondered what my crystal ball rating system actually means?

The Fat Feminist Witch Rating System:

๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ- I literally cannot live without it now
๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ โ€“ YASS
๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ โ€“ Itโ€™s good, but itโ€™s not for me
๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ”ฎ โ€“ Nah
๐Ÿ”ฎ โ€“ Iโ€™m literally angry this even exists




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