Aromatherapy has recently been at the forefront of many press releases and articles. In 2006 it was suggested that this popular Complementary Therapy could be described as a therapy that ‘smells nice’, but without any substantiated evidence that treatments could improve the standard of health in an individual. In 4BC Hippocrates, the father of medicine was reputed to have said ‘the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day’.
Obviously the jury is still out!
Is it a therapy that just ‘smells nice’?
In days gone by the word ‘nice’, was commonly used when discussing fine food or complimenting a good meal, but in fact Aromatherapy is very closely linked with the foods we eat and the reactions we have to food. Our physical and emotional state depends on the balance of our five senses (or even six). Consider your reactions to the following examples, or better still think of your own experiences-
- Freshly squeezed orange juice, sipped from an ice cold glass beneath a tropical sky.
- Ice cold lager on the hottest day of the year.
- Roast Chicken cooked with rosemary and thyme served on a damask tablecloth in front of a roaring log fire.
- Warm oven-baked muffin, accompanied by a frothy cappuccino served in an Italian café.
Hopefully your reactions to the above examples were positive, could you smell the coffee, could you feel the heat of the fire, could you taste the fresh herbs, could you hear the chatter at the café, could you see the perfect sky? Did you want your feelings to last?
Aromatherapy uses the abundance of nature, to balance our senses and to make us more aware of the pleasures that are around us at all times. So, yes Aromatherapy does ‘smell nice’ but it is SO much more.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatic plants and oils have been used for thousands of years in religion, medicine and cosmetology and natural aromatics and perfumes constituted one of the earliest trade items of the ancient world. The term Aromatherapy only came into existence in the 1920s and is the modern name for the ancient art of applying to the body, pure essential oils obtained from plants, herbs, flowers, fruits and trees. Immediately one can see the connection with our emotions and food.
What are Essential Oils?
Brush your hand over a rosemary bush, breathe in the heady fragrance of a rose on a beautiful summers evening or enjoy the sedative aroma of lavender. All these aromas are available to each of us naturally, but do we take full advantage of what they can offer? Essential oils used in Aromatherapy are derived from organically grown plants where possible. The most common form of extraction is by distillation, but there are other methods depending on the essential oil required. The essential oils are broken down into chemicals such as alcohols, ketones and phenols, and these chemicals are understood to have therapeutic properties.
Just for the record
Rub a clove of garlic on the soles of your feet, wait a few minutes and then smell your breath!
During the plague years, labourers who worked in lavender fields escaped infection.
There are more than 10,000 different odours that the human nose can smell.
Essential oils are actually non-oily!
Sixty thousand rose blooms are required to produce 1oz of rose oil.
The quality of an essential oil can vary from year to year, just like the vintage of a fine wine.
How do Essential Oils work?
The aromas released by the essential oils act on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain influencing the hormone system, so in theory an aroma can affect libido, mood, metabolism and stress levels. Essential oils are absorbed into the body either through the pores of the skin during a relaxing massage, or by inhalation through the nose. It is believed that minute molecules within the oils enter through the bloodstream into the nervous system, thereby influencing emotional and physical well-being, but also strengthening the immune system with their anti-microbial properties.
Is Aromatherapy safe?
Aromatherapy is safe when used correctly and professionally. An Aromatherapist will be happy to assist you with the purchase of oils and will supply you with your personal blend after a treatment that you can continue to use at home under his/her direction. It is inadvisable to purchase essential oils from unknown manufacturers for use at home.
What can Aromatherapy do for me?
The aim of an Aromatherapist is to correctly ascertain your needs and objectives to a treatment and this can be achieved through a thorough consultation. The majority of aromatherapy treatments consist of massage with essential oils blended specifically for your treatment. The essential oils chosen will be added to a carrier oil for your massage. An Aromatherapy Massage is very suitable for stress related disorders, but many people choose to receive regular treatments as a preventative measure to maintain and promote good health.
Aromatherapy is more than a therapy that ‘smells nice‘. Our senses are part of our life that can be used to promote health, vitality and longevity by the application of essential oils. By addressing our physical conditions, emotional moods, memories, hopes and dreams we may be able to prevent ourselves from developing chronic conditions caused by our inability to accept the rhythms of our natural life or welcome nature into our lives.
Aromatherapy should never be regarded as an alternative to orthodox medical treatment.
Jill Ingham Dip.ITEC BABTAC, VTCT. AC Reg
Member of the Aromatherapy Consortium