What is Aromatherapy? Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being.

The inhaled aroma from these "essential" oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream and can promote whole-body healing. A form of alternative medicine, aromatherapy is gaining momentum. It is used for a variety of applications, including pain relief, mood enhancement and increased cognitive function.

There are a wide number of essential oils available, each with its own healing properties.



Application Of Essential Oils

How you apply essential, or aromatherapy, oils has an impact on their healing capabilities. Because they are so highly concentrated, it is not often recommended that you apply essential oils in their pure form directly to the skin. You will experience better results if you use small amounts of the oils diluted in water or with a carrier oil or massage lotion.

Baths
Adding aromatherapy oils to your bath is an easy way to cash in on their health benefits. Simply add a few drops to the bathwater and blend it before submerging yourself. The aroma will trigger your olfactory sense, which will in turn enhance your circulation and help to bring about physical balance.

Aromatherapy Massage
Probably the most popular method of aromatherapy application is massage. Blending drops of essential oil with carrier lotions (almond, cocoa butter, shea butter, etc.) can affect the body both psychologically and physiologically -- depending on which essential oil you use. Peppermint is known to energize the senses whereas lavender is a known relaxing agent. The olfactory sense is triggered using essential oils during massage, and some oils are absorbed into the skin and ultimately the blood stream to produce healing effects.

Aromatherapy Vapor Inhalation
One of the cornerstones of aromatherapy treatment is the vapor technique. Since many essential oils are thought to alleviate sinus or respiratory issues, steam inhalation is a very popular application method. A rule of thumb for many essential oils is to add five drops to steaming water and inhale the aroma using a towel tent (place the towel around your head so the aroma doesn't escape while you inhale it).

Lotions/Creams/Salves
Add a few drops of essential oil to your favorite carrier lotion, massage oil or cream (cocoa butter, shea butter, any unscented lotion base to create your own fragrant blend) to stimulate healing properties.

Compress
Add a few drops of your preferred essential oil to a bowl of warm water. Dip a washcloth into the blend and wring out. Using the washcloth as a compress, apply it to areas of the body that need pain relief, such as muscles, forehead or stomach. Warm essential oil compresses are great for menstrual cramps as well.


Aromatherapy Mood Blends

Aromatherapy is based on the principle that natural fragrances, or essential oils, from certain plants or flowers can affect our moods, and consequently how we think or feel at any given time.

In fact, practitioners of Aromatherapy base their entire belief system on the ideology that essential oils, or aromatherapy oils, have medicinal benefits including antidepressant and antibacterial properties, and plenty in between!

Certain essential oils can trigger physical or emotional effects on their own. For instance, lavender is a widely known calming agent, whereas peppermint is a mood lifter. Other oils are blended to achieve a desired physiological or psychological effect. Blending ylang ylang with grapefruit relieves stress.

The following are popular essential oils (and blends). Add a few drops into a diffuser, a pot of hot water, or simply to a cotton ball to achieve the desired effect.

*Do not apply drops directly to your skin; blend with carrier oils or lotions if you want to apply it that way.


Stress Relief
Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Patchouli, Vanilla, Ylang Ylang

Anxiety/Fear
Bergamot, Chamomile (Roman), Cedarwood, Frankincense, Jasmine, Lavender, Neroli, Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood

Self Esteem
Bergamot, Cypress, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Orange, Rosemary

Sadness/Grief
Bergamot, Chamomile (Roman), Clary Sage, Frankincense, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Rose, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang

Fatigue
Basil, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Ginger, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lemon, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sandalwood

Agitation
Chamomile (Roman), lavender, Mandarin, Sandalwood

Isolation
Chamomile (Roman), Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Rose

Memory Boosters
Basil, Cypress, Lemon, Peppermint, Rosemary

Aphrodisiac
Clary Sage, Jasmine, Patchouli, Rose, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Ylang Ylang


Aromatherapy History

Little is known about the history of aromatherapy, or where it originated specifically, but the Egyptians are credited with developing one of the first distillation machines to extract oils from certain plants -- cedarwood, clove, cinnamon, to name a few -- which were used to embalm the dead. The practice of using infused aromatic oils as a mood enhancer, however, is thought to have roots in China.

The Greeks also played a role in the history of aromatherapy. Megallus, a Greek perfumer, developed a fragrance he called megaleion, which consisted of myrrh. The "father of medicine" Hippocrates is said to have practiced aromatherapy (before it was dubbed so) for healing purposes. Greek mythology claims the gods were gifted with the knowledge of perfume and fragrance.

The actual term "aromatherapy" first originated in 1937 when French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse invented the word after a burn incident spurred his curiosity about the healing power of essential oils. On the heels of Gattefosse's "discovery" that lavender oil helped to cure his burn, French surgeon Jean Valnet used essential oils to help heal soldiers' wounds in World War II, proving the medical benefits of aromatherapy.



Safety With Aromatherapy Oils

Aromatherapy has many benefits, but it is imperative that safety precautions are taken when handling essential oils. While they may seem harmless (they are extracted from plants, after all), many need to be diluted before applying directly to the skin.

Safety Tips

  • Read all label warnings and cautions
  • Keep essential oils away from your eyes. If an oil comes into contact with your eye, flush it out with large quantities of warm water and immediately seek medical advice
  • Keep essential oils away from children, who may think they can ingest them because of how they smell
  • Use only the suggested amount; misuse can lead to headaches and/or nausea. If you suspect you’ve used too much, drink plenty of water and get some air
  • Essential oils should be diluted before being applied to the body. Because they are so concentrated, it is not advisable to rub essential oils directly onto the skin. This can cause redness, burning, itching and irritation. If the oil comes into contact with your skin, coat the area in a cream or vegetable oil and then wash with warm, soapy water
  • Never consume essential oils, unless called for in specific recipes. If you do ingest the oil, drink and rinse mouth out with milk, and seek medical advice
  • Read the warnings on essential oil packaging; some oils shouldn’t be combined with other medication or alcohol, or taken if you have certain medical conditions (like epilepsy or low blood pressure)
Essential oils have wonderful medicinal benefits, but if used improperly the effects can be hazardous to your health.

(The above information is re-printed from www.aromatherapy.com)


Disclaimer

This information has been provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health routine.

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