The term aromatherapy is described in the dictionary as “a method of treating bodily ailments using essential plant oils”. The word itself is made up of “aroma” meaning fragrance and “therapy” or treatment. Aromatherapy doesn’t just treat an ailment or an illness though, aromatherapy treats the whole person as an individual, physically, emotionally and/or mentally.
Aromatherapy has become more popular in the last 20 years, though the use of plants for medicinal purpose has been dated back as far as 18000BC. More recently, the move towards complementary therapies is due to many people looking for a more natural way to treat common ailments and take some responsibility for their own well being. Aromatherapy treatments are now widely available in beauty salons, fitness clubs, hairdressers as well as complementary health centers. There is even a slow shift to health centers and hospitals referring patients to a qualified aromatherapist.
Aromatherapy offers a way of preventing illness as well as treating it. Where most synthetic remedies treat the area that is unwell, then travel around the body causing possible side effects, essential oils balance the body, returning it to its natural healthy state.
Essential oils can be used in many different ways; perfumes, baths, skin preparations and in home remedies, but the most effective ways to use the oils is by inhalation and massage.
Smell is the only body sense where the receptor nerve endings are in direct contact with outside world and the nose is the only organ with direct access to the brain. The oils stimulate the olfactory nerves at the back of the nose and this message then gets sent to the part of the brain that is the emotional centre or the limbic system. The limbic system is connected to the part of the brain responsible for memory, breathing, blood circulation and hormones. Inhalation is the fastest way for the oils to get into the bloodstream. This is particularly good for lifting emotions and stimulation, relieving headaches, stress and respiratory problems; it can also help ward off infectious illness.
Not only does aromatherapy massage stimulate the circulation of blood and lymph, it reduces high blood pressure, stimulates the immune system and relieves aches and pains. This is all without adding the benefits of essential oils yet! Massage is one of the best methods of use for any emotional problems, as the act of touch is healing in itself. Combining essential oils with the massage is a powerful way of balancing the body. The body absorbs the essential oils which makes it the best way to treat any skin conditions, stress and water retention. It is also a great way for bonding with babies and children.
Davis, P. Aromatherapy, An A-Z. 2000. Vermillion: London
Price, S. Aromatherapy Workbook. 2000. Thorsons: London
Battaglia, S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. 1997. Watson Ferguson & Co: Brisbane, Australia