Aromatherapy or Essential Oil Therapy as it is also called is the science of using the aromatic essences from plants for holistic healing. Essences from plants are extracted using natural methods from their roots, leaves, blossoms, and seeds. The aromatherapist uses them to synchronize the physical, mental, and spiritual energies of the patient’s body. In this way, the body’s natural healing processes are activated and the patient regains wellness and health.
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Aromatherapy – History and Present Times
The first mention of the use of is in historical accounts dating back 6,000 years. Ancient healers in Rome, Greece, Egypt, India, and China used essential oils to make perfumes, cosmetics, and medicines that were later used for hygiene, healing, and in rituals. Some of the oils were also used in spiritual advancement.
Medical practitioners in Europe have been using aromatherapy since the early years of the 20th century. The phrase, “aromatherapie” was first coined in 1937 by the French researcher, perfumer, and chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who talked about it in his book “Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy.” In the book, he revealed the results of the clinical tests he had conducted in which he made the clear distinction between using plant essences for medical purposes and their application in creating perfumes.
In France, the UK and the USA, Canada, and other countries of Europe, aromatherapy is now being included by doctors into regular treatments to fight against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other infections. Although many researchers are still skeptical about whether aromatherapy is actually effective, new clinical studies and practical science have found that it does work to enhance a person’s mood and contribute to good health.
It must be remembered that the essential oils used in aromatherapy have specific components and distillation modalities that are different from other herbal products. Aromatherapy products contain lighter Phyto molecules.
Aromatherapy works on your body in different ways:
- When you inhale the aromatherapy essential oils, phytoncides, and other organic volatile compounds, particular sections of your brain such as the amygdala and hippocampus are stimulated that are in turn linked to the olfactory system. This system relays a signal to the limbic system that brings to mind memories and arouses emotions. The limbic system, in turn, produces chemicals that make you feel relaxed or invigorated.
- Since aromatherapy is typically given in conjunction with massage therapy, the combination of scent and touch can have a therapeutic effect.
- When absorbed by the skin, the essential oils work to destroy microbes and fungi and also stimulate the thermal receptors.
- Aromatherapy essential oils are known to interact with the body’s enzymes and hormones to have various positive effects on it.
How Aromatherapy is Administered
Since aromatherapy is a holistic form of treatment, the therapist selects the essential oils that are best suited for the patient’s physical and mental health. She will begin by asking you questions related to your regular routine, diet, medical history and other details of your health. She will also check with your general practitioner before prescribing treatment. The therapist may choose a combination of procedures to administer the healing depending on your expectations from the treatment.
In France, aromatherapists use an aromatogram to work out the exact type of essential oil to use. They test a sample of the patient’s tissue or secretion and culture it in Petri dishes with agar. Different essential oils are infused with the tissues to determine the ones that react most effectively against the particular microorganism strain. The oils that work best to fight the infection are used to treat the patient.
To administer the therapy, your therapist mixes the oils with a carrier oil that also works to provide the necessary lubrication. Do let your therapist know if you have any nut allergies so she uses carriers that are not derived from nuts and seeds. While the initial aromatherapy session may last for around two hours, subsequent sessions take about an hour and a half.
Aromatherapy essential oils can be taken in various forms such as:
- By inhalation – The oils may be diffused in the air so you can breathe them in or you could breathe the oil in directly. Such inhalations work very well to cure congestions and respiratory infections. They also serve as excellent psyche enhancers.
- Topical application – The oils are applied directly on your skin such as during massages and baths. They can also be used to cure skin conditions.
- Prescription drugs – The oils may be given in oral form.
Benefits of the Therapy
Aromatherapy can be very beneficial for your mental and physical health. For instance:
- Relieves stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression
- Promotes better digestion
- Helps you sleep better and relieves insomnia
- Alleviates pain in the muscles and headaches
- Promotes better blood circulation
- Eases menopausal and menstrual problems
- Regulates blood pressure and pulse rates
- Helps cure burns and infections
Side Effects of the Therapy
Although aromatherapy typically does not have any side-effects, you must take care to follow the instructions of your therapist carefully, especially when taking oral supplements. Also, check with your therapist before using the essential oils around the eyes or mouth. Some common side-effects may include:
- Mild headaches, light allergic reactions or maybe, nausea
- Sensitivity to sunshine or ultraviolet light if you’re using oils extracted from citrus sources
- Could interfere with the effectiveness of any conventional medicines you might be taking
Contraindications of the Therapy
Aromatherapy is safe to use for people of all ages above 5 years. However, if you have any of these conditions, you might want to use the essential oils with caution.
- Allergies of any kind including hay fever
- Chronic lung disease
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pregnancy (some essential oils can cause contractions)
- Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure (patients must avoid oils like spike lavender and rosemary since they act as stimulants)
Essential Oils and Their Uses
Some of the best known essential oils and the medical conditions for which they can be used are:
- Basil Oil – Can be used to alleviate migraines and headaches and is an excellent agent to relieve depression. It can also be used to help you concentrate better. Pregnant women should avoid it.
- Citronella Oil- Belonging to the lemongrass family, it works to repel insects.
- Eucalyptus Oil – When combined with peppermint, eucalyptus can be used to help with colds and the flu.
- Jasmin Oil – Works as an aphrodisiac.
- Clove Oil – Most commonly used to cure toothaches, clove oil is good for digestive issues such as flatulence, vomiting, and nausea. It can also be used to calm muscle spasms.
- Lemon Oil – Can be used to elevate the patient’s mood and can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Tea Tree Oil – Widely used as a mouth rinse, tea tree oil is good for curing infections and disinfecting surfaces.
- Yarrow Oil – Acts as an anti-inflammatory agent for joint pains and can be used to cure colds and the flu.
- Bergamot Oil – Can be used to ease skin conditions when combined with eucalyptus oil and is especially helpful in case of chickenpox. You can also use the oil to alleviate digestive and urinary illnesses and symptoms of stress.
- Geranium Oil – Use it as an antiseptic or diuretic. It also works as an excellent astringent.
- Sandalwood Oil – Has aphrodisiac properties.
- Black pepper – Eases aches and pains, and stimulates blood circulation. You can also use it to cure bruising.
- Thyme Oil – Very helpful in alleviating stress, anxiety, and nervousness. Use it effectively to remove fatigue.
- Lavender Oil – Has many positives including helping with insomnia, migraines and headaches, and stress. Minor cuts and burns respond very well to the oil.
- Peppermint Oil – Works very well for relieving aches and pains, and headaches and migraines. You can also use the oil to clear congestion and ease digestive problems.
- Cedarwood Oil – Can be used to alleviate urinary infections and relieve stress and anxiety. Often used in massage therapy, it can help ease skin conditions.
- Chamomile – Works well to cure depression and stress. Can be used as an antibiotic and antiseptic agent.
- Rosemary Oil – Improves brain function by boosting memory and powers of concentration. Use it to alleviate urinary tract and liver infections, and to ease aches and pains.
Results of Clinical Trials
Clinical trials have proved that aromatherapy can help relieve depression, nervousness, and anxiety among patients. It can also help cure nausea, help them sleep better, and improve their quality of life. Here are the results of some studies:
- In 2004, The Journal of Palliative Medicine published the results of a study conducted on 42 people with advanced cancer. It was found that patients who received massages using essential oils could sleep better and were less anxious.
- In 2011, a study was conducted in a UK hospital on patients with cancer. They were given aroma sticks to inhale. Close to half the patients talked about how they slept better and felt more relaxed. They also reported that they felt less depressed and nauseous.
- In 2004, a study using aromatherapy was conducted on patients who had just undergone surgery. It was found that by breathing in essential oils, patients were able to manage their sickness better.
- In 1998, a study on the effectiveness of aromatherapy for treating alopecia showed that close to 50% of the patients showed improvement.
- In 2011, a study on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia showed that using essential oils could improve their cognitive abilities.
Various studies conducted on patients all over the world have shown that they responded well to aromatherapy. When taken under the supervision of an expert caregiver, using essential oils is an effective, non-invasive method for healing. Aromatherapy is an ancient science and people all over the world have found that it can help them with many physical and mental ailments.
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