The term aromatherapy, a combination of words meaning “odor" and "treatment,” was coined by the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse in 1937 when he successfully used lavender oil to cure his burn. However, aromatherapy existed long before that. It has been in use since thousands of years ago in Egypt, China and India - the cradles of ancient eastern medicine that take a holistic view of the body rather than healing only the parts. In Europe, aromatherapy has long been practiced in Greece. Since then, the popularity of aromatherapy has risen as anecdotal evidence coming from various sources to attest for its medical and psychological benefits.
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative treatment that deviates from the more conventional chemical-based pills and liquids. It uses the natural oils from plants in healing physical and psychological conditions and promoting the overall health of individuals through topical and aerial applications. These natural oils are extracted from plants using various processes such as distillation, expression, enfleurage, solvent extraction and maceration.
Natural oils are also known as essential oils, coming from the purest essence of the plant, and are believed to have a high rate of absorption through the skin and into the bloodstream, enhancing total body well-being. They provide relief from physical ailments, stress and anxiety and increase brain and memory functions.
Application Methods of Aromatherapy
The use of aromatherapy can be done in two ways: topical application, in which you apply the essential oils directly to the skin, or inhalation, via aerial diffusion or direct breathing.
1. Topical application comes in the form of massages, baths, lotions and salves
Massage is the most widely used method of topical aromatherapy. You mix drops of essential oil with massage lotions, oils and gels. Your skin absorbs them and carries them to the bloodstream, producing healing and relaxing psychological and physical effects. The fragrance from the essential oils prompts the body’s sense of smell and brings about harmony and balance between mind and body. Using peppermint essential oils energize your muscles and alert your mind, while lavender produces a relaxing effect, freeing your mind from stress.
For baths, blend essential oils with the bathwater before you submerge. The scents arising from the warm bath water enter your lungs, producing a calming effect on tired muscles and stressed minds.
For the moisturizing lotions applied on the skin daily, put a few drops of the essential oils into the lotion and watch your skin turn from dull to glowing. Mixed with salves for burns and rashes, they promote better healing of skin.
2. Direct Inhalation and Aerial Diffusion
Direct inhalation is a very easy process. Find a quiet spot and disengage your mind from all thoughts. Then put a few drops of the essential oils in the palms of your hands, rub them together and cup your palms over your nose. Inhale the aroma from the cupped palms and feel the soothing effect on your mind and senses. Similarly, you can just uncap the bottle of the essential oils and inhale the aroma that escapes the bottle.
Direct inhalation also has physical benefits, aside from the mental relaxation you get. It can decongest the sinuses and aid in expectoration. Eucalyptus is a very popular essential oil used for this purpose. If your child has colds, you can put a few drops on the upper front part of the kid’s pajamas and watch him sleep soundly and breathe easily.
Aerial diffusion involves putting 10-15 drops of essential oils into a nebulizer or diffuser. These types of equipment use the evaporation method to scatter the aroma of the essential oils into the environment. Heat is usually employed for evaporation, and this is good if fragrance is the only objective. For therapeutic purposes, use a diffuser that employs room-temperature air to blow the oils up and out of the diffuser into the atmosphere. This is very effective for respiratory infections, migraine headaches and for disinfecting the atmosphere of viruses and bacteria.
The Popular Essential Oils and Their Benefits
There are so many kinds of essential oils and each one offers numerous mental, psychological and physical benefits. To assist you in finding out what essential oils to use for which condition, the common afflictions are listed and beside them are their corresponding treatments using essential oils and aromatherapy:
Mental and Psychological Conditions:
- Addiction -- Jasmine and patchouli
- Anorexia -- Bergamot
- Anxiety -- Bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, lavender, marjoram, patchouli and rose
- Depression -- Bergamot, sage, chamomile, lavender, marjoram, patchouli and rose
- Depression following childbirth -- Jasmine
- Insomnia -- Marjoram
- Stress -- Bergamot, orange, cedarwood, lavender, marjoram and ylang-ylang
- Analgesic (pain reliever) -- Chamomile
- Antiseptic and antibiotic -- Chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree
- Cardiovascular – Sandalwood, ylang-ylang and rose
- Gastrointestinal ailments (including the liver, gallbladder and spleen) -- Eucalyptus, chamomile, lemon, marjoram, patchouli, rosemary and rose
- General body malaise/physical fatigue -- Bergamot, marjoram and tea tree
- Migraine headaches -- Eucalyptus, peppermint, my grain and rosemary
- Muscle aches and pains -- Eucalyptus, rosemary and tea tree
- Respiratory ailments (colds, asthma, sinusitis, etc.) -- Cedarwood, eucalyptus, jasmine, lavender, marjoram, rosemary and tea tree
- Skin diseases (acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc.) -- Bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, lemon, patchouli, sandalwood and tea tree
- Urinary tract infections -- Cedarwood, chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender and sandalwood
- Wounds and burns -- Lavender
- Aphrodisiac -- Jasmine, sandalwood and ylang-ylang
- Energy booster -- Peppermint
- Hair growth -- Rosemary and ylang-ylang
- Hyperactivity -- Marjoram
- Immunity booster -- Lemon and tea tree
- Ant repeller -- Peppermint
- Memory booster -- Rosemary
- Mood Lifter -- Chamomile, lemon and peppermint
Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years and has been used by several different cultures. Before resorting to chemical therapy, try aromatherapy. Be kind to your body; don’t automatically reach for a pill to relieve symptoms of an ailment. Know what your problem is and try the corresponding essential oils. You will feel the physical pains go away, the stress of the day’s activities and your anxiety leave your mind. A sense of balance and peace will return and you’ll be thankful you discovered aromatherapy.
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