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Aromatherapy

What Is It?
How Does It Work?
What Happens During Treatment?
What Is It Used For?
Side Effects/Cautions
Recommended Books


What Is It?

Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils extracted from plants to improve health and treat common ailments. The aromatic essences are believed to contain medicinal properties and are used in massage, steam inhalations, compresses, or added to bath water.

The use of aromatic oils to treat illness has been practised for thousands of years, but the term “aromatherapy” was coined in the 1920’s by the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who used it to treat soldiers wounded during World War I. Gattefosse classified essential oils according to their "healing" properties: antitoxic, antiseptic, tonifying, stimulating, calming, etc. The modern concept of using aromatherapy as a holistic therapy was developed by Austrian biochemist Margaret Maury during the 1950s.

Aromatherapists use up to 130 oils which can invigorate and uplift the mind and body, or soothe and relax, reducing stress and promoting general wellbeing.

How Does It Work?
Aromatherapy is believed to use the mechanisms of olfaction (the smelling of aromas), the absorption of aromas through the skin, and the influence of aromas on the brain. Proponents suggest that when the aromas from essential oils enter the nasal cavity, they stimulate odour-sensing nerve cells which send impulses to the limbic system, the part of the brain associated with memory and emotion. Depending on the type of scent used, emotional responses can exert a calming or energising effect on the body. Some suggest that certain aromas may stimulate the adrenal glands to produce steroid-like hormones that reduce pain and inflammation. Oils inhaled or rubbed onto the skin may react with hormones and enzymes in the bloodstream to produce healing effects. Aromatherapy may also work by evoking pleasant memories, such as a grandmother’s lavender-scented bedroom.

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What Happens During Treatment?
Aromatherapists use only the purest, most highly concentrated essential oils extracted from various herbs, trees and other plants. Your therapist will ask about your general health and reasons for seeking treatment. Certain oils will then be selected and mixed according to your specific requirements. Aromatherapy is often used as a home remedy, as essential oils are easy to obtain and use. Aromatherapy can be applied in a number of ways:

• massage to soothe the muscles - oils are mixed with a “carrier oil” such as sweet almond oil
• steam inhalations for respiratory problems
• diffusion sprays to calm the nerves
• adding a few drops of essential oil to a bath for relaxation
• hot or cold compresses for bruises or to soothe aches and pains
• applied to pillows for a restful sleep
• heating oil in an oil burner

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What Is It Used For?
Aromatherapy has been used to relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia, to ease the pain of arthritis, and to treat cuts, bruises, colds, headaches, nausea, digestive problems, aching muscles and many other ailments.
Aromatherapy should be seen as a complementary therapy and not a replacement for traditional medical treatments.

Side Effects/Cautions
Aromatherapy oils should never be taken internally. They are very potent and some may be poisonous if swallowed.

Some oils can trigger bronchial spasms in asthmatics - consult your doctor before using any aromatherapy treatment.

Test for allergic reactions by mixing one drop of essential oil with a few drops of vegetable oil and dabbing this on your skin. Wait 24 hours to see if any reaction occurs.

Certain essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy, including sage, rosemary, juniper, basil and thyme. These can induce miscarriage if used in excessive amounts.

References

Find an Aromatherapy Practitioner

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Recommended Books

Prices are in US Dollars

 

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Oils in Aromatherapy and Herbalism (Illustrated Encyclopedia S.)
Julia Lawless

This book contains a wealth of information about 165 essential oils. It is a wonderful reference guide for the begining as well as the experienced aromatherapist. Detailed information about each oil includes; botanical name, safety data, current & historical uses, blending companions, method of extraction, uses for common ailmants, main chemical constituants, and photographs pf the plant. There are also narrative sections on the historiacal roots of aroatherapy,blending, perfumery, and an explination of chemical constituants. This book is concise, comprehensive , and gives information on more than just the most common oils.
- Jason D Florin, reviewer.

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The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
Valerie Ann Worwood

There are plenty of good books on herbs, and some of them devote a chapter to essential oils, but there's nothing comparable to Worwood's work. Her premise is different from other herbalists--she believes that the most effective way to use herbs medicinally is by external application or inhalation. Both methods allow the essential oil to enter the bloodstream without passing through the digestive tract. Her book prescribes oils for everything from basic first aid and treating common ailments to natural cosmetics and body care, fragrance for the home and office, and cooking with essential oils. A good addition to alternative medicine collections.
- Katharine Galloway Garstka, Intergraph Corp., Huntsville, Ala.

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The Fragrant Mind: Aromatherapy for Personality, Mind, Mood, and Emotion
Valerie Ann Worwood

This encyclopedia of aromatherapy presents the latest scientific research about aroma's effects on the mind and body. This title goes beyond listing aromas for specific ailments: it tells how to mix oils for massage, how to understand herbal mood enhancers, and how to review the information on aromatherapy and personality. An essential handbook.

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 More Aromatherapy Books

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