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What is Aromatherapy?

by Tom Lang

Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses extracted aromatic essences from plants, known as essential oils, to balance, harmonize and enhance the health of body, mind and spirit. 

Aromatherapy is used to help reduce pain, anxiety, itching, hair loss and to enhance short-term memory and relaxation. Essential oils are also proven beneficial in dental mouthwash.

The primary goal of aromatherapy is to help the body’s natural healing process through the holistic therapeutic use of essential oils. They are used for the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and health imbalances and to help individuals regain their sense of well being and vitality.

This holistic approach takes into account the whole person, physically, emotionally and psychologically, rather than simply treating the symptoms of a health problem.

The Fascinating History of Aromatherapy

Oils from plants have been used to treat health problems for about 2,000 years.  The tombs of Pharaohs contained urns filled with aromatic resins.  Therapeutic use of plant oils was widespread in ancient China, India and the Middle East. Roman soldiers wounded in battle had honey and myrrh applied to their wounds to help prevent infection and to promote healing.

In 1910 the French chemist Gattefossé burned his hand badly while working in his cosmetics lab. He famously claimed his hand healed remarkably quickly after he treated it with lavender oil. It was Gattefossé who created the term ‘Aroma-therapie’ in 1937.

The French surgeon Jean Valnet applied essential oils as antiseptics to the wounds of soldiers during World War II to help prevent infections.

There is scientific evidence that essential oils have therapeutic potential.

Most people are familiar with the essential oil Citronella because it’s the active ingredient in the candles that are used to repel mosquitoes!

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

Aromatherapy is based on how aromas or fragrances can positively change brain activity and on the direct positive chemical changes caused by the  application of diluted essential oils to skin. The goal of aromatherapy is not to directly cure health problems but to strengthen the immune system to aid the body’s ability to heal itself.

How Are Essential Oils Used in Aromatherapy Treatments?

Aromatherapy can be applied through:

  • Aerial dispersal: to spread a particular fragrance or therapeutic oil into the air or for disinfecting.
  • Direct inhalation: as a decongestant, to expel mucous, to treat respiratory tract infections, to elevate mood or for other psychological effects.
  • Direct skin applications: for use in massage, skin care, before or after baths, in compresses and bandages.

Instead of seeking aromatherapy treatments when you feel run-down or sick, it’s smarter to incorporate aroma therapy massages and baths into your regular routine, thereby discouraging ill-health in the first place. Aroma therapy massages and baths feel fantastic! The aromas are incredibly soothing.

As Hypocrites, the father of medicine, said 'the way to good health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day'.

Safety Precautions

Due to the very concentrated nature of essential oils they are nearly always diluted with a carrier oil like olive oil, coconut oil or grape seed oil, before being applied to skin.

Essential oils from organically grown plants should be used to avoid pesticides and harmful chemicals found in conventional oils. 

Just like chocolate can be toxic to dogs, some essential oils can be harmful, or even toxic, to cats and other animals.

As with all health-related products, you should consult with a qualified health practitioner before using any essential oil or aromatherapy treatment.

Make Life Magical!