The art of aromatherapy had been practiced for thousands of years. Strong evidence was found to link aromatherapy to many ancient traditions. Though aromatic oils have been used to treat and cure various ailments and conditions for centuries, the formal study on their properties only started in 1928.
In its simplest form, aromatherapy is the use of essential plant oils for therapeutic purposes. They are normally employed to relieve a person from stress and a variety of stress-related conditions. They are also used for promoting an individual’s general well being and in invigorating the body and the psyche.
Aromatherapy works by inducing the olfactory nerve cells with aromatic oils, which then carries out the message to the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling memory and emotions.
Aromatherapy is concerned in the workings of both the physical and emotional aspects of the person under treatment. Physically, aromatherapy helps in relieving specific conditions through the stimulation of the nervous, immune and circulatory system. In emotions however, they may evoke pleasant memories and uplifted moods.
Although the medical community is not in agreement over whether aromatherapy in itself is instrumental to healing various medical conditions, the idea of recovery through aromatherapy is widely accepted.
Essential oils are derived from the distillation of the elements of a plant like the leaves, roots, flowers, stems and bark. They hold the true essence of the plants from which they originally came in high concentration. Though termed as oil, essential oils normally do not have the real properties of oil. Some essential oils are yellow like that of the lemongrass and orange and many are clear.
These oils are used in a variety of methods: through inhalation, by adding them in the bathwater and by the application of the diluted oil on the body.
The use of oil in aromatherapy is only restricted to those with unadulterated qualities. The purest of the essential oils alone have the therapeutic values.
The following is a list of the most common essential oils used in aromatherapy. Some of which are used as carrier oils (also known as vegetable oils or base oils):
– Almond, Sweet
– Apricot Kernel
– Cocoa Butter
– Evening Primrose
– Macadamia Nut
– Rose Hip
– Shea Butter
Below are listed essential oils that are not advisable to use in aromatherapy, especially if not supervised by a professional aromatherapy practitioner.
– Almond, Bitter
– Birch, Sweet
– Boldo Leaf
– Broom, Spanish
– Deer Tongue
Aromatherapists put into practice the workings of aromatherapy in a spectrum of work environments including:
– private practice
– mobile visiting practice
– natural health clinics
– beauty therapy clinics
– health clubs
– hospices and
– nursing homes.
In spite of the lack of formal research on aromatherapy, therapists and European physicians are often prescribing certain aromatic oils for a range of complaints including colds and flu, insomnia, sinusitis, migraines, digestive problems and muscle pains. It must be understood though that aromatic oils must never be taken orally and should be first tested to determine the degree of skin’s sensitivity to some oils.
Aromatherapy provides a natural way to deal with insomnia, relaxation, anxiety, and stress. The primary purpose of aromatherapy is to produce an odour that induces an effect on the human body. The smells from aromatherapy work on a subconscious level. Smell can affect the way that human beings react. Different smells can stimulate the brain and evoke feelings that are then associated with that smell. Aromatherapy is used for mental and emotional well being. The oils of aromatherapy are often used to stimulate or relax the person as needed. Some aromatherapy oils are chamomile, patchouli, sandalwood, neroli, Ylang-Ylang, and marjoram.
There are a few different ways that you can enjoy the smells of aromatherapy such as putting a few drops in your bath water, the oils can be used for massage, or you can even sprinkle a few drops on your pillow at night. Chamomile is a bit more versatile as you can drink it in the form of tea or use the oils in something similar to an incense burner. If you look into aromatherapy for the sole purpose of insomnia there will be actual recipes that you can make yourself that act very well for insomnia. One in particular is a mixture of two drops of jasmine and four drops of lavender. This can be used in a diffuser or you can place drops of it surrounding your bed. Just make sure that it is in a place where you will be able to smell it best. This mixture can also be used for a massage.
Aromatherapy candles are also available in the various scents that are mentioned above, they are a great added touch but likely do not release enough fumes to assist in combating something as tough as insomnia. In conjunction with aromatherapy, meditation and yoga work excellently as a way to free the negative energy from your body that is causing you to lose precious sleep. Besides helping with just insomnia it will lead you into a more healthy life in general.
The most popular aromatherapy oil used today is lavender. Lavender is very versatile and can ever be grown in your own backyard. It also works great for digestive related issues and as a very effective antidepressant. Further, it calms nerves, relaxes the body, and promotes sleep.
Sometimes the everyday stresses of life can build up and a combination of aromatherapy oils can be literally magical in creating a harmonic balance, a sense of well being and relaxation, and promoting sleep.
Going on a trip is usually thought of as a wonderful experience, one that you and your family may have planned and looked forward to for some time. To have the most fun, to get the most out of the experience, it’s important that you and your loved ones have the means to overcome those little ailments and discomforts that can make the experience range from mildly unpleasant to downright unbearable. How can we include a little ‘trip insurance’ to our already overstuffed luggage? Aromatherapy has an answer with some readily-available essential oils.
Motion sickness, bug bites, digestive difficulties, and general travel weariness, to name a few, are common discomforts experienced when venturing away from home. A small collection of inexpensive essential oils can provide great relief from these amusement-threatening ailments. Treatment with these oils is simple, ranging from inhaling a little oil from a tissue, to adding to a bath, to drinking a drop with a warm cup of water. And, thankfully, relief often comes quickly because of the oils’ powerful properties and compatibility with our own bodies.
We’ll begin with ‘getting there’, any trip starts with traveling. By car, boat, plane, or otherwise, motion sickness commonly affects many people, particularly children. This can easily make the ‘traveling’ portion of your experience absolutely no fun. Enter peppermint essential oil.
Peppermint has long been used to calm uneasy stomachs, and is easily used. One drop (it is strong!) in a cup of warm water, sweetened if you like, can be sipped before and during the voyage. For the fussy ones, a drop can be added to a small amount of honey and taken from a spoon for the same effect.
Ginger essential oil is also known for its calming of upset stomachs, a little inhaled from a tissue or diluted in a carrier oil and rubbed on the abdomen can bring relief. One can also add a drop of ginger to warm water and drink it as a strong tea, this may be effective for some food-related stomach issues as well, particularly when combined with the abdomen massage method.
Peppermint can also be uplifting to the weary driver or passenger, a drop or two placed on tissues in the car or near your seat will release the aroma into your surroundings. Be careful with this oil however, as getting it on sensitive areas of the skin (directly under the nose, and certainly near the eyes) can cause irritation. Tissues with the oil on it should not touch these areas directly.
Lavender has been called ‘a medicine chest in a bottle’ due to its wide range of effects. The aroma of lavender is uplifting and relaxing, useful for stress in congested airports or crowded highways. Breathing this very safe essential oil is effective for adults and children alike, inhaling drops from a tissue directly, or from one’s placed in your surroundings can help you and your companions be at ease.
Lavender essential oil is also an effective wound-healer because of its anti-inflammatory, mild antibacterial, and skin-regenerative actions. It can be used directly in case of burns, mixed 50:50 with tea tree and put on band aids to prevent infection, or blended with thyme linalol and eucalyptus (2:4:2) and added to a bowl of water for an effective disinfectant wash.
Lavender is very useful for treating bites and stings, just place a little ‘neat’ (undiluted) on the affected area. This versatile oil is also a component of an insect repellent blend composed of equal parts of lavender, thyme linalol, and peppermint, and a double-dose of lemongrass essential oil. A drop or more placed on tissue or cloth about your room can keep the insects out of your space; 3 drops of this blend per teaspoon of carrier oil can be regularly applied to the skin, or you may mix a similar amount into any lotion you may have.
Lavender can also be used in combination with geranium, chamomile, peppermint and eucalyptus oils in relieving the effects of jet lag. Getting out of this weary state as quickly as possible makes any trip more enjoyable. This requires getting yourself and companions in-synch with local time, having good rest at night and perhaps a gentle lift in the mornings and throughout the day.
To get yourself into the swing of local time, relax and be ready for bed with equal parts of lavender and geranium essential oils, chamomile may also be used in place of the geranium, and works especially well for soothing children (if they are irritable for ANY reason). Add a few drops to a bath or use in a massage oil. For a morning eye-opener, do the same using equal amounts of peppermint and eucalyptus. You will find these useful at other times when you need a little clarity and lightening-up.
Lemon also has some wonderfully diverse uses. It is effective as an antibacterial, but not so strong as to be an irritant. Adding several drops per quart to your drinking water will help purify it, and the water can act as a disinfectant to be used in washing your fruits and vegetables. The need for this certainly depends on your location, but it is not a bad idea whenever bacterial contamination may be a possibility. Further, regularly drinking water with added lemon oil can gently stimulate the lymphatic and digestive systems, helping alleviate that sluggish feeling that often accompanies extended plane and car travel.
Eucalyptus, the narrow leaf variety is a favourite – has a great range of uses as well. It can cool the body when too hot, and protect it when too cold. It is found in almost all formulas used to relieve congestion, can support circulation, and bring lightness to a travel-weary head.
Eucalyptus oil can be used like peppermint to uplift and invigorate during long intervals in an automobile. It can be added to a cool bath or used on a cold compress in cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke (accompanied by, of course, copious amounts of water and electrolytes!), and used in a similar manner to reduce fever.
Eucalyptus oil may be blended with geranium as a massage oil (3 drops eucalyptus and 2 drops geranium per teaspoon of carrier oil) to relieve heat cramps. For congestion relief, to a drawn bath, add 1 drop eucalyptus, 3 drops lemon, 2 drops thyme, and 2 drops tea tree, soak and breathe deeply, or simply add a few drops to a steaming bowl of water and inhale.
These are just a few examples of ways to make your travel experiences more enjoyable with aromatherapy. With a little effort, you can expand your knowledge of these oils, discover further uses, and find other oils that work well for your particular needs.
These essential oils are readily available, and fairly inexpensive, though caution should be used when buying oils, as some can be adulterated, and others are mass-produced with techniques that may limit their therapeutic benefits. The more pleasant and ‘well rounded’ an oil’s aroma, generally the higher the quality. Your nose will know! And as with any aromatherapy application, start slowly, essential oils deserve a healthy respect.
I remember when I first discovered aromatherapy several years ago. I was fascinated by essential oils and excited to try using them. Looking back, I realize I should have done a bit more research before diving into aromatherapy. I offer you the advice I wish I’d had when I was an aromatherapy novice:
1. Buy One or Two Aromatherapy Books
Choose just one or two books to start your aromatherapy library. Select books that are general resources, which will give you some basic information and help you discover the areas in which you have the most interest.
2. Join Aromatherapy Discussion Forums
Facebook Groups, Instagram pages and other forums are great resources for aromatherapy newbies. Read past discussions, ask questions, and learn from others.
3. Choose Five or Ten Essential Oils to Start
Though you may be tempted to buy more, try to begin with just five or ten different essential oils. Essential oils can be quite expensive, so you may want to experiment with a few at first and then invest in more if you decide to pursue aromatherapy further.
4. Make Sure to Buy 100%, Pure, Unadulterated Essential Oils
When you buy essential oils, choose a well-known and reputable manufacturer. Synthetic, fragrance, and perfume oils are not essential oils; they contain man-made chemicals and have no aromatherapeutic value.
5. Buy at Least One Carrier Oil
For nearly all topical aromatherapy applications, you will need to dilute essential oils into a carrier oil. Good all-purpose carrier oils include sweet almond oil, sunflower oil, and grapeseed oil. Buy cosmetic grade carrier oils, and use only a few drops of essential oil(s) per ounce of carrier oil.
6. Store Your Oils Properly
Essential oils should be stored only in dark glass containers. Since essential oils are volatile, keep the lids tightly closed. Essential oils and carrier oils should be stored away from heat and light. Carrier oils will go rancid eventually, so it's best to buy smaller quantities.
7. Learn How to Do a Patch Test
Essential oils can cause adverse reactions, due to allergy or due to sensitization over time. A patch test helps to determine whether you might react to a particular essential oil. Learn how to perform a skin patch test on yourself with each new oil you want to use topically.
8. Don't Use Aromatherapy with Children or Pets
Until you are thoroughly familiar with essential oils and associated safety issues, don't use them on children or pets, or while pregnant or breastfeeding. Cats, in particular, may be adversely affected by essential oils. Make sure essential oils are kept out of reach of children.
9. Don't Ingest Essential Oils
Though you will read conflicting information about taking essential oils internally, you should avoid doing this. Some essential oils that are fairly safe to use topically may be quite toxic if taken internally. In addition, some essential oils may interact with prescription or over the counter drugs.
As you experiment with and learn more about aromatherapy, you will become more confident using essential oils. There is so much to explore, so be safe and have fun!