WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY?
Aromatherapy can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It is an art and science which seeks to explore the physiological, psychological and spiritual realm of the individual's response to aromatic extracts as well as to observe and enhance the individual's innate healing process. As a holistic medicine, Aromatherapy is both a preventative approach as well as an active treatment during acute and chronic stages of illness or 'dis'-ease.
It is a natural, non-invasive treatment system designed to affect the whole person not just the symptom or disease and to assist the body's natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself by the correct use of essential oils.
“Aromatherapy is essentially an interaction between the therapist, client and essential oils, working together to bring forth the healing energy which will help the client regain their sense of well being and vitality.” Jade Shutes
Origin of the word “Aromatherapie”.
The term “aromatherapie” was coined by Rene Maurice Gattefosse in 1928. He utilized the word to imply the therapeutic use of aromatic substances (essential oils). Since the beginning of Aromatherapy, the practice has encompassed human pathology and the treatment of different conditions (emotional and physical) with essential oils. As Aromatherapy developed into a practice it adopted an holistic approach which encompasses the body, the mind and the spirit (energy).
As an holistic therapy Aromatherapy is able to work on several levels of the individuals well being.
THE ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF AROMATHERAPY.
With origins dating back 5000 years, Aromatherapy is truly one of the oldest methods of holistic healing.
Ancient man was dependent on his surroundings for everything from food, to shelter and clothing. Being so keenly aware of everything around him, and how it could be used for survival, he quickly discovered methods to preserve food and treat ailments through herbs and aromatics.
Aromatherapy, as it is practiced today, began with the Egyptians, who used the method of infusion to extract the oils from aromatic plants which were used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes as well as embalming.
At a similar time, ancient Chinese civilizations were also using some form of aromatics. Shen Nung's herbal book (dating back to approximately 2700 BC) contains detailed information on over 300 plants and their uses.
Similarly, the Chinese used aromatics in religious ceremonies, by burning woods and incense to show respect to their Gods - a tradition which is still practiced today. The use of aromatics in China was linked to other ancient therapies such as massage and acupressure.
Aromatherapy has also been used for many centuries in India. Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, uses dried and fresh herbs, as well as aromatic massage as important aspects of treatment.
The Greeks acquired most of their medical knowledge from the Egyptians and used it to further their own discoveries. They found that the fragrance of some flowers was stimulating while others had relaxing properties. The use of olive oil as the base oil absorbed the aroma from the herbs or flowers and the perfumed oil was then used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes.
The Romans learned from the Greeks and became well known for scented baths followed by massage with aromatic oils. The popularity of aromatics led to the establishment of trade routes which allowed the Romans to import "exotic" oils and spices from distant lands such as India and Arabia.
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the use of aromatics faded and the knowledge of their use was virtually lost in Europe during the dark ages.
Essential oils are the highly concentrated essences of aromatic plants. Aromatherapy is the art of using these oils to promote healing of the body and the mind.
Each of the essential oils used in Aromatherapy can be used either alone or in combinations to create a desired effect. Before using essential oils as part of an Aromatherapy treatment, it is important to understand the effect that the oil(s) have, and how it works.
The oils are found in different parts of the plant such as the flowers, twigs, leaves and bark, or in the rind of fruit. For example, in roses it is found in the flowers, in basil it is in the leaves, in sandalwood in the wood, and so on.
The methods used to extract the oil are time consuming and expensive and require a high degree of expertise. Given that it takes in excess of 220 pounds of rose petals to produce only 4 or 5 teaspoonsful of oil, it is a process probably best left to professionals!
Due to the large quantity of plant material required, pure essential oils are expensive, but they are also highly effective - only a few drops at a time are required to achieve the desired effect.
Synthetic oils are available at a lesser price, but they simply do not have the healing power of the natural oils.
HOW ESSENTIAL OILS WORK.
Essential oils have an immediate impact on our sense of smell, also known as "olfaction". When essential oils are inhaled, olfactory receptor cells are stimulated and the impulse is transmitted to the emotional center of the brain, or "limbic system".
The limbic system is connected to areas of the brain linked to memory, breathing, and blood circulation, as well as the endocrine glands which regulate hormone levels in the body. The properties of the oil, the fragrance and its effects, determine stimulation of these systems.
When used in massage, essential oils are not only inhaled, but absorbed through the skin as well. They penetrate the tissues and find their way into the bloodstream where they are transported to the organs and systems of the body.
Essential oils have differing rates of absorption, generally between 20 minutes and 2 hours, so it is probably best not to bathe or shower directly following a massage to ensure maximum effectiveness.
TEN BASIC ESSENTIAL OILS.
overall first aid oil; antiviral and antibacterial, boosts immunity, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic
anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, digestive, relaxant, antidepressant
antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic
stimulating to circulation, relieves pain, decongestant, improves circulation
antifungal, antiyeast, antibacterial
astringent, stimulating to circulation, antiseptic, astringent
digestive, clears sinuses, antiseptic, decongestant, stimulant
decongestant, antiviral, antibacterial, stimulant
antidepressant, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory
balancing to mind and body, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory
SOME STRENGHTS AND WEAKNESSES OF ESSENTIAL OILS.
Oils can directly or indirectly affect the body's physiological systems. For instance, a couple of drops of peppermint taken orally can aid digestion and inhalations of mucolytic oils can relieve respiratory symptoms. Used topically for their antiseptic and soothing effects, essential oils can successfully treat minor skin conditions. It has been demonstrated that the application of certain essential oils to the skin can produce vaso-dilation which in turn causes warming of underlying muscles, however this is an indirect effect of the oil acting on the superficial tissues, it is not a pharmacological effect produced as a result of the oil entering the systemic circulation via the skin. In addition, because of the effect of relaxation on the brain and the subsequent sedating or stimulating of the nervous system, essential oils can also indirectly raise and lower blood pressure and possibly aid in normalization of hormonal secretion.
Because of olfaction's direct connection to the brain, sending electrical messages directly into the limbic system, essential oils can have effects on emotions and mental states. Perception of odors can have a major impact on memory, learning, emotions, thinking and feeling. As therapeutic agents, essential oils work similarly to tranquilizers but in a subtle organic way. Most scents uplift spirits and calm the nervous system. For example, lavender is calming and sedative; basil, rosemary and peppermint are uplifting and stimulating; and jasmine and ylang-ylang are exciting or euphoric.
WHAT CAN AROMATHERAPY DO FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?
Aromatherapy can be used for treatments from acne (Rosemary and Geranium) and other skin problems such as eczema (Chamomile), dry, chapped (Rose, Lavender, neroli) , oily, insect bites, athletes' feet and other fungal infections (Tea Tree). Respiratory ailments such as sinusitis (Eucalyptus, Lavender, Thyme, Peppermint) , bronchitis, coughs, sore throats, the common cold, the 'flu', other types of nasal congestion - which may be due to allergies (some essential oils used may be Eucalytus, Rosemary, Roman Chamomile, Peppermint); It can be used in mouth washes for bad breath (Myrrh) and toothaches (Cloves); for those suffering from head aches (Peppermint and Rosemary) and migranes, arthritis and joint pains (anise, black pepper, Marjoram, Ginger,) including backaches (massage with essential oils added to the massage oils), and everything in between. Nursing homes and medical facilities are using Aromatherapy on Alzheimer's Disease (Bergamot ans Lavender) and other aging related health concerns - memory problems (Rosemary), agitation (Bergamot,Lavender, ylang ylang), nervous legs (Bergamot, Lavender). Everyone benefits in the use of essential oils from babies to adults, even the family pet - great for deodorizing and disinfecting (pine oils and lemon).
The aroma has an emotional effect on everyone. From stress relief to being uplifting for fatigue relief (grapefruit), anti depression (basil, chamomile, grapefruit, rose, ylang ylang) and for grief (Rose, Marjoram), it can have a calming (Chamomiles) and relaxing effect especially for those troubled with insomnia (Lavender, Chamomile and Neroli); it is wonderful for meditation (Frankincense) and enhancing memory (Rosemary); some people feel it can be an aphrodisiac; it can give relief to those troubled with PMS (prementral syndrome), it can aid in digestion and and many more far to numerous to list.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF AROMATHERAPY?
The different types of Aromatherapy are cosmetic, massage and olfactory. Regardless of which type of Aromatherapy you choose, essential oils should always be diluted in a carrier oil or water.
·Cosmetic Aromatherapy combines essential oils with facial, skin, body and hair care products containing all natural ingredients.
·Massage Aromatherapy combines the healing touch of massage therapy with the aromatic benefits of essential oils.
·Olfactory Aromatherapy releases essential oils into the environment around you either by inhaling or diffusion. For inhalation, you can either dispense the essential oil into a handkerchief or spray a mixture of essential oils and distilled water into the air and breathe in. Diffusion is the evaporation of the aromatic components of an oil into the atmosphere using Aromatherapy equipment.
Several different devises are used to fill the air space of a room. Some use heat as a means of "evaporating" the essential oils; this spreads the essential oil vapor throughout the room. Candle diffusers and ceramic or brass rings placed on light bulbs are commonly used. Other diffusers consist of an electrical air pump and glass nebulizer, which micro-ionizes the volatile oil, thus allowing for the most efficient form of inhalation treatment.
Modern day scientific research has been, and continues to be performed which verifies not only the emotional but the physical benefits that aromatherapy provides.
Through research and awareness we have come to better understand and appreciate what nature has to offer us. We know the effects of "clear cutting" our forests and polluting our skies. And we ask for change. We realize that in order to sustain this earth, for the generations far beyond ours, we have to preserve, and protect it. At the same time, we know that we need to look after ourselves.
We are all seeking answers for the illnesses that pervade our society, and the stresses that this fast paced modern life place on us. Conventional medicine has given us some of those answers in the form of prescription drugs and surgery, but still, we ask for more.
Therapies and medicines that were once viewed as alternative, cloaked in a shroud of skepticism, have risen from the shadows, providing a complement to conventional medicine. Aromatherapy is one such example, and a very powerful one, of a complementary therapy widely practiced today.
For some of us, we don't even know we're doing it. When you burned that scented candle last week, you were practicing Aromatherapy. When you walk through a fragrant garden, you are doing it again! In fact, virtually all of the bath and body care products we use contain some form of essential oils - the basis of Aromatherapy.
This is one of the reasons Aromatherapy is so popular today. It is easy to practice, readily available, and effective as a therapy.