- Complementary Health Practices
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the ancient practice of using plant oils for health and wellbeing. Using the distilled oils from roots, leaves and flowers, aromatherapists promote physical and psychological wellness through baths, inhalations, facials, candles and massage.
What is the history of aromatherapy?
Plant oils have been used by many different cultures for both medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
Ancient Chinese cultures burned incense to foster harmony and wellbeing. The Egyptians used plant oils for cosmetic reasons, and are credited for inventing perfume. They also used oils from plants such as myrrh, cedarwood, clove and nutmeg to embalm their dead.
The Greeks and the Romans used the oils as perfumes, as anti-inflammatories and to heal wounds.
In the 11th century, an Arab physician named Avicenna developed distillation as we know it today. This enhanced the use of essential oils through the Middle Ages, where distilled oils were used as both medicine and perfume.
Today, aromatherapy is used in North America and Europe, particularly in France, for its therapeutic qualities.
What are the principles of aromatherapy?
Plant oils are distilled without the use of chemicals by heating the plant through boiling or steaming until the oil vaporizes. The oil is then used in a variety of different ways, such as for massage, as a steam inhalation, as bath oil or as vaporizers for a living space.
What are the benefits of aromatherapy?
Different oils have different properties and can cause a variety of reactions depending on the individual client. For instance, lavender oil is thought to have relaxing properties, so aromatherapists tend to use lavender oil on a client who is suffering from stress or anxiety. Lavender is also thought to act as an antiseptic on burns, acne and insect stings.
Aromatherapy can be used to treat or lessen symptoms of stress-related conditions such as headaches and insomnia and to ease discomfort associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Topical treatments of certain essential oils can be used to treat skin problems, cuts and burns. Steam inhalations can be used for asthma and colds.
Is aromatherapy safe?
If done correctly, aromatherapy is a very safe practice. However, because some plants contain harmful toxins, it is important to understand the oil and how to apply it. Never put undiluted oils directly on the skin (except lavender and tea tree oil for certain skin conditions), and keep them away from the eyes and from open flames. Oils should also never be swallowed.
What happens in an aromatherapy session?
There is no current state licensing program to train aromatherapists. However, many massage therapists, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists are cosmeticians trained in aromatherapy and use it within their practice.
Aromatherapy is most commonly used in conjunction with a massage. The aromatherapist will interview the patient regarding their lifestyle, medical history, diet, and sleeping patterns. They will then ask about any specific conditions one may wish to address before choosing the oil, or allowing the patient to choose pleasing oil for the massage.The practitioner should use high quality oils from organically grown plants and often mixed with carrier oils such as grape-seed or almond oil, or made into a cream or lotion for skin applications.
Can I use aromatherapy on my own?
Yes, aromatherapy can be a useful tool for stress-relief and relaxation at home. Many people take aromatherapy baths by adding a few drops of certain oils such as lavender, geranium, rose, sandalwood or spruce oil to a hot bath and soaking for at least ten minutes.
Another technique to try at home is a steam inhalation. Add four drops of oil such as peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, or chamomile to a bowl of steaming hot water. Place a towel over your head to keep the steam from dispersing too quickly and lean over the bowl, inhaling deeply for about ten minutes. Inhalation of steam with chamomile or lavendar can assit with relaxation. Inhalation with eculuptus can relieve a stuffy nose and congestion associated with colds or flu.
What are some common essential oils?
- Lavender oil has a fresh and floral scent. Its relaxing fragrance helps with depression, anxiety and stress.
- Rosemary oil smells herbaceous and fresh. Its uplifting scent is commonly helps with fatigue.
- Rose oil smells floral and sweet and helps with symptoms of depression.
- Patchouli oil is a deep golden brown, and smells earthy and woody. It is commonly used to help with symptoms of stress and fatigue.
- Sandalwood oil smells rich, earthy and sweet. The oil is clear and slightly yellow. It is used to help with symptoms of depression and stress, and for promoting happiness and peace.
- Lemon oil has a bright citrus scent. It is used to help with fatigue, memory, concentration, and promoting overall happiness.
- Sage oil is a bright earthy and herbaceous oil that is used to help with symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue and feelings of loneliness.
- Peppermint oil has a concentrated minty scent and is used used to help with symptoms of fatigue, vertigo, nausea, headaches, and to help with memory and concentration.
How do I find an aromatherapist?
Many massage therapists are also trained in aromatherapy, and if not, they might be able to direct you to someone.
Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine. Time, Inc.
Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies by Anne Woodham and Dr. David Peters.
Alternative Healing: The Complete A-Z Guide to more than 150 Alternative Therapies by Mark Kastner, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., and Hugh Burroughs. Henry Holt and Company: 1996.
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