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What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of highly aromatic essential oils, extracted from plants, and used to treat a variety of illnesses and disorders.

Essential oils are introduced into the blood stream and carried into the body via massage, thus being absorbed by the skin, or by inhalation. The oils are believed to have an effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that influences the endocrine (hormonal) system, thus bringing about changes within the body. 

Aromatherapy affects the mood, the stress levels, and the metabolism of the patient.

Essential oils are extracted from plant roots, flowers, leaves, stems, berries, and even some trees. They contain essential oils, usually extracted from resins. The oil is obtained by a variety of different methods, a few of which are; steam distillation, maceration (plant is plunged into hot oil), and expression (e.g., crushing the rind of citrus fruits to obtain oil).

Main uses

Stress-related conditions, eczema, acne, asthma, colds, cystitis, menstrual problems, pregnancy and labour, digestive disorders, insomnia, headaches, and muscular aches and pains.

What to expect when you visit a therapist?

This document provides general information of what to expect when you visit a therapist, and a general theory behind how the discipline works. It must be noted, however, that every therapist works in an individual way, and may subscribe to slightly different theories on how the discipline works. It is always advised that you ask to see relevant qualifications and discuss the treatment offered to you by the practitioner if you are in any doubt whatsoever.

You will be asked questions relating to your medical history and perhaps that of your immediate family. Lifestyle questions, such as stress levels, diet, exercise regimes, and sleep patterns will be asked to ensure that an holistic approach is taken.  

Your own expectations of the treatment and what you hope the therapy will achieve will also be discussed. Therapists will be sure to ask you if you are pregnant or have epilepsy as some oils are not to be used when either of these two conditions are present. With respect to the answers you gave, therapists will chose oils that they feel would best suit your needs and will administer them in the form of a massage.

As the essential oils are mixed in with a carrier oil and the oil is absorbed through the skin, you will obviously need to take your clothes off and lie on a couch. 

Your body will be fully covered with towels and / or blankets with only the area that the therapist is working on being exposed at any one time.  

The molecules of oil are absorbed into the body and go on to affect the nervous system. The massage will also help stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory system and a feeling of relaxation will occur.  

Therapists use only high-grade essential oils, and the massage can take anywhere between 60-90 minutes. You can have as many treatments as you like either once a week or fortnightly.  

It is important to drink water after the massage as toxins are released into the system due to the action of the massage, and you may develop a slight headache if you don’t.

Some therapists may give you oils to add to a burner or bath. As only a few essential oils can be used neat on the skin, you will be advised by the therapist as how to safely use the oils at home. 

History (in brief)

Herbal oils are centuries old being used as medicines as well as cosmetically.  

There are references in the Bible to myrrh, calamus, cassia, and cinnamon.  

A key person in the history of essential oils is Ali ibn-Sina (Avicenna), a Persian physicist and philosopher, who invented distillation in 1,000 AD.  

Before his discovery, herbs were infused in caster or olive oil. The Crusaders brought the idea of oils to Europe in the Middle Ages, but there was a decline in their use around the time of industrial production.

In 1910, René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, burned himself in his laboratory and poured oil of lavender onto the burn, noticing some days later that the burn had healed quite quickly with much less of a scar than he would have anticipated. This incident encouraged him to study oils in more depth.

Other key names in the history of aromatherapy are Dr Jean Valnet and Marguerite Maury who took the study of essential oils forward in France.   

General Guidelines

As with all complementary medical treatments, consult an Aromatherapist for specific health conditions.

Use caution during pregnancy, and do not use during first three months.

Use caution if you suffer from epilepsy.

Use caution if you have seizures.

Use caution if you suffer from high or low blood pressure.

Use caution if you suffer from asthma.

Use caution if you suffer from cancer.

When using Aromatherapy oils yourself

Always use high quality pure essential oils.

Never apply undiluted oils to the skin.

Do not take oils internally.

Not all Aromatherapy oils are safe for everyone; emotional and skin reactions to oils may vary, so it always best to consult a qualified Aromatherapist for specific health conditions.

How does Aromatherapy Work?

Our sense of smell is ten 10,000 times more sensitive than our other senses – the invisible world of scent surrounds us with powerful influences. 

Think of familiar smells – peppermint, rose, sweet basil, cedar – and how each one inspires in you different feelings.

Unlike synthetic fragrances, pure essential oils are natural compounds derived from plants; their biochemical composition stimulates our brains, effecting mood and well-being.

Important Safety Tips for Essential Oils

Always read and follow all label warnings and cautions.

Keep oils tightly closed and out of reach of children.

Never ingest essential oils.

Don’t use undiluted oils on your skin. Dilute oils with vegetable oils, 1-3 drops per tablespoon.

Keep oils away from eyes and mucous membranes.

Skin test oils before using. Dilute a small amount and apply to the skin of your inner arm. Do not use if redness or irritation occurs.

If redness, burning, itching, or irritation occur, stop using oil immediately.

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