Aromatherapy is an ancient therapeutic treatment that enhances well being, relieves stress and helps in the rejuvenation and regeneration of the human body. It has been used throughout history in the traditional medical practices of the world's greatest civilisations. Nowadays, Aromatherapy is widely accepted by orthodox and complementary practitioners as one of the most comprehensive of the natural therapies.
Aromatherapy oils are pure essences extracted or distilled from plants. Flowers, leaves, roots, resins, seeds and fruits of many herbs, shrubs and trees are used to provide aromatic oils, each with their own unique healing properties. Some oils are used for their balancing effects on the nervous and hormonal systems, some for their ability to improve the function of bodily systems. Many oils have a powerful antiseptic action, while others act as natural painkillers. Rosemary essential oil has a stimulating effect; Lavender is used for its ability to calm and sedate.
How Are Aromatherapy Oils Used?
Essential oils are absorbed into the body in two ways:
1. The Skin (The Integumentary System)
Aromatic molecules are so tiny they easily pass through the skin into the bloodstream,which circulates them throughout the body. Essential oils are applied to the skin using the following methods:
Massage: a base of vegetable oil such as sunflower, sweet almond or jojoba is blended with a few drops of essential oil or oils and used to massage the body, allowing the aromatic molecules to penetrate the skin.
Compresses: a few drops of the chosen oil or oils are added to a small quantity of water. A cloth is soaked in the aromatic water then applied to the affected body area, allowing the essential oil molecules to penetrate the skin.
Bathing: a few drops of essential oil or oils are added to freshly run bath water, or to a foot or hand bath, allowing the aromatic molecules to penetrate the skin.
2. The Sense of Smell (The Olfactory System)
Aromatic molecules are inhaled through the nose and transmitted via the Olfactory Bulb to the Limbic System. This is the part of the Brain which influences the nervous and hormonal systems, and which is connected to higher functions such as memory and emotional behaviour. Essential oils are inhaled via the following methods:
Direct Inhalation: a smelling strip, or a bottle of undiluted essential oil is held about 10cms below the nostrils and several deep in-breaths allow the aromatic molecules to be taken in through the nose up into the limbic brain.
Dispersion: essential oils are sprinkled or sprayed onto bedlinen, furniture, tissues and handkerchiefs, allowing the aromatic molecules to be inhaled.
Evaporation: a few drops of essential oils are combined with water and placed over a lighted candle. Heat causes the volatile aromatic molecules to diffuse into the atmosphere for a subtle form of inhalation. Burning essential oils is an effective way of disinfecting the air and of repelling unwanted insects.