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Introduction to Aromatherapy

February 10, 2009

Picture from acpharm.com

Picture from acpharm.com

Ric Williams

What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the term used to describe the use of essential oils (or plant essences) for therapeutic use. The term came into being in the 1920’s when French chemist Rene -Maurice Gattefosse  burned his hand during a perfumery experiment and soothed it by plunging it, quite by accident into some lavender water. Noticing the dramatic healing effect Gattefosse was inspired to try more.

Aromatherapy is now a thriving arm of the natural therapies market with many people seeking comfort each day from this art form that works to sooth and revive mind, body and spirit.  Each plants aroma has been studied and its emotional reaction mapped. Some oils have also been shown to have anti-bacterial properties as well as many other therapeutic benefits.  From its beginnings in the fragrance market to its therapeutic status now, the Aromatherapy market is going from strength to strength.

The pleasure of Aromatherapy is enhanced not only by the oil’s smell but by the delivery method of the treatment. Massage plays a key part in this therapy aiding relaxation and feeling of serenity.  At other times the oils are to be added to a bath or to be vapourised through oil burners and diffusers. Essential oils are now widely available and are a staple of the home formulators ingredient stash.  As pleasent and natural as they are, essential oils can cause problems in certain situations. In this article we will look at all aspects of Aromatherapy to give you the inside information

Some of the symptoms alleviated by essential oils.

If you pick up any aromatherapy book you will find something to cure (or at least alleviate) most conditions. While there may well be something for everyone we are going to focus here on some key areas being:

Puffiness (brought on by water retention)

Muscle Aches and pains

Body Odour

Insomnia

Puffiness.

Puffiness can be a symptom of poor circulation and/or water retention. This may be related to mensturation, allergy or illness. Oils that can help allieviate these symptoms are chamomile, lavender and calendula. Make sure that medical attention is sought is puffiness persists.

Muscle Aches and pains.

Aches and pain can be a sign of injury so this needs to be ruled out first. Aches related to mensturation, muscle strain, bruise and over-use can be soothed by the analgesic oils of which camomile, lavender, rosemary and Bergamot are examples.

Body Odour.

For the person wanting to avoid synthetic deodorants a mixture of bactericidal oils, deodorant oils and detoxifying oils should be blended together. You could try a mix of Bergamot, cypress, lavender, fennel, rose and / or rosemary.

Insomnia

Many essential oils have a calming and soothing effect and make good bed companions. Chamomile is a well known favourite but ylang ylang, neroli and lavender are also effective seditives when either diffused into the bedroom or massaged in a blend before bed.

How the oils work.

The oils stimulate the nasal cavity which opens up to carry the aroma towards the brain. The olfactory cells (smell receptors) sit at the top of the nasal cavity and are covered with tiny hairs. It is these hairs that capture the aroma and pass the aroma signal onto the brain via the two olfactory bulbs. In the brain it is the cerebral cortex that decodes the message. Interestingly, the cerebral cortex is the area of the brain that controls memory, thought, language and consciousness. Maybe that is why smell is such a powerful memory jerker!


From the brain to the body.

After the brain receives this smell signal the brain sends signals around the body to react. The brain being in control of all body functions can affect the blood pressure, mood and digestion. How exactly the oil works is still being investigated, does smell trigger memory which then affects the body or does smell trigger a body response regardless to previous experience? If memory was a key player then someone using lavender for the first time as an adult may not immediately feel relaxed whereas an adult smelling lavender after using it as a baby for relaxation may assume that mental state.

Your start up aromatherapy kit.

If you have been inspired to try aromatherapy at home you will need a few things to get you started. Some favorites are

Tea Tree Oil (melaleuca alternifolia) – A great product for treating cold sores, infection control, head lice treatment, candida and acne.

Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia) – Great relaxant, skin healing, mild pain relief, analgesic.

Peppermint (mentha piperata) – digestion, colds, cooling the system and refreshing the mouth.

Chamomile ( matricaria chamomilla) – soothing, calming and anti-inflamatory.

Rosemary ( Rosmarinus Officinalis) – great natural anti-oxidant, stimulant for nervous system and heart tonic.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2014 2:35 am

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