Aromatherapy is one of the oldest known methods of holistic healing, equipped to rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit with the use of a fragrance or aroma.
Aromatherapy is an alternative and complementary health science that uses the psychological benefits of herb essences to manage a wide range of illnesses. The volatile and essential plant oils (the pure essence of plants) are used, through the sense of smell, to promote health and in treating several diseases ranging from stress, arthritis, obesity, cancer, pain reduction and dementia.
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, cloves and nutmeg to embalm their dead.
The Greeks and the Romans used the oils as perfumes, an anti-inflammatory 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 a 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, 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 each individual. 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 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 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 used to help with symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue and feelings of loneliness.
- Peppermint oil has a concentrated minty scent and is used to help with symptoms of fatigue, vertigo, nausea, headaches, and to help with memory and concentration.