Aromatherapy

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Aromatherapy is a holistic healing process for the body and mind with the use of fragrances. The basis of this therapy lies in the essential oils contained in plant materials. These can be found in leaves, flowers, roots, seeds, bark and resin. These oils are highly concentrated and when extracted, can either be used in a pure form or diluted and blended with other oils to produce the required strength. Essential oils are medicinal and fragrant and travel through the blood stream reacting with hormones and enzymes. When the fragrance is inhaled the nerve ends in the nose transmit pleasurable signals to the brain which reacts to the positive power of the fragrant aroma inducing pleasant memories, restoring emotional balance and encouraging relaxation and energisation. Many of these fragrant oils have antiseptic and antitoxic qualities and often act as an antidote to viral infections, inflammations, aches and pains. [1]

Aromatherapy has been extensively studied and is considered one of the fastest growing options in alternative medicine. Studies have been done to determine how different plant oils affect us and most of the properties of this research have found their way into an aromatherapy product. There are well over a hundred different essential oils with antiseptic properties. In order to get the maximum benefit out of these aromatherapy essential oils, they have to be made from pure, natural materials. Synthetic oils are not effective. These natural oils have been found to have anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, antidepressant and even expectorant properties. They also stimulate and relax our minds and bodies. [2]

Contents

History of Aromatherapy

Although the term aromatherapy was not used until the 20th Century, the foundations of aromatherapy date back thousands of years. The use of essential oils in particular date back nearly one thousand years. The Chinese may have been one of the first cultures to use aromatic plants for well-being. Their practices involved burning incense to help create harmony and balance. Later, the Egyptians invented a rudimentary distillation machine that allowed for the crude extraction of cedarwood oil. It is also thought by some that Persia and India may have also invented crude distillation machines, but very little is known. Oils of cedarwood, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and myrrh were used by the Egyptians to embalm the dead. When a tomb was opened in the early 20th century, traces of the herbs were discovered with intact portions of the body. The scent, although faint, was still apparent. Although the cedarwood the Egyptians used was distilled by a crude distillation process, the other oils the Egyptians used were most likely infused oils.

The Egyptians also used infused oils and herbal preparations for spiritual, medicinal, fragrant and cosmetic use. It is thought that the Egyptians coined the term perfume, from the Latin per fumum which translates as through the smoke. Egyptian men of the time used fragrance as readily as the women. An interesting method that the men used to fragrance themselves was to place a solid cone of perfume on their heads. It would gradually melt and would cover them in fragrance. The Greeks learned a great deal from the Egyptians, but Greek mythology apparently credits the gift and knowledge of perfumes to the gods. The Greeks also recognized the medicinal and aromatic benefits of plants. Hippocrates, commonly called the "father of medicine" practiced fumigations for both aromatic and medicinal benefit. A Greek perfumer by the name of Megallus created a perfume called megaleion. Megaleion included myrrh in a fatty-oil base and served several purposes: (1) for its aroma, (2) for its anti-inflammatory properties towards the skin and (3) to heal wounds.

The Roman Empire built upon the knowledge of the Egyptians and Greeks. Discorides wrote a book called De Materia Medica that described the properties of approximately 500 plants. It is also reported that Discorides studied distillation. Distillation during this period, however, focused on extracting aromatic floral waters and not essential oils. A major event for the distillation of essential oils came with the invention of a coiled cooling pipe in the 11th century. Persian by birth, Avicenna invented a coiled pipe which allowed the plant vapor and steam to cool down more effectively than previous distillers that used a straight cooling pipe. Avicenna's contribution lead to more focus on essential oils and their benefits. Within the 12th century, an Abbess of Germany named Hildegard grew and distilled lavender for its medicinal properties. Within the 13th century, the pharmaceutical industry was born. This event encourages great distillation of essential oils.

During the 14th century, the Black Death hit and killed millions of people. Herbal preparations were used extensively to help fight this terrible killer. It is believed that some perfumers may have avoided the plague by their constant contact with the natural aromatics. Within the 15th century, more plants were distilled to create essential oils including frankincense, juniper, rose, sage and rosemary. A growth in the amount of books on herbs and their properties also begins later in the century. Paracelcus, an alchemist, medical doctor and radical thinker is credited with coining the term Essence and his studies radically challenged the nature of alchemy and he focused upon using plants as medicines. During the 16th century, one could begin purchasing oils at an "apothecary," and many more essential oils were introduced. During the 16th and 17th centuries, perfume starting being considered an art form, and it was more clearly defined as its own field. During the 19th century, perfumery remained a propserous industry. Women would have their jeweler create a special bottle to hold their treasured perfume. The 19th century also was important scientifically as major constituents of essential oils became isolated.

During the 20th century, the knowledge of separating the constituents of essential oils was used to create synthetic chemicals and drugs. It had been believed that by separating the major constituents and then using the constituents alone or in synthetic form would be beneficial therapeutically and economically. These discoveries helped lead to "modern medicine" and synthetic fragrances. This actually weakened the use of essential oils for medicinal and aromatic benefit. During the earlier part of the 20th century, a French chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé became interested in the use of essential oils for their medicinal use. Previously, he focused on the aromatic use of essential oils, but his interest in their medicinal use grew after an accident heightened his curiosity. While working, he burned his arm rather badly. By reflex, he plunged his burned arm into the closest liquid which happened to be a large container of lavender essential oil. The burn he suffered healed quickly and left no scar. Gattefossé is credited with coining the term aromatherapy in 1928 within an article where he supports the use of using essential oils in their whole without breaking them down into their primary constituents. In 1937, Gattefossé wrote a book called Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones végétales that was later translated into English and named Gattefossé's Aromatherapy. It is still in print and widely read.

Other highly respected 20th century aromatherapists include Jean Valnet, Madam Marguerite Maury, and Robert B. Tisserand. Jean Valnet is most remembered for his work using essential oils to treat injured soldiers during the war and for his book, The Practice of Aromatherapy, originally entitled Aromathérapie in French. Austrian Madam Marguerite Maury is remembered as a biochemist who avidly studied, practiced and taught the use of aromatherapy for primarily cosmetic benefit. Robert B. Tisserand is an English aromatherapist who is responsible for being one of the first individuals to bring knowledge and education of aromatherapy to English speaking nations. He has written books and articles including the highly respected 1977 publication The Art of Aromatherapy. The Art of Aromatherapy was the first aromatherapy book published in English. From the late 20th century and on into the 21st century, there is a growing resurgence to utilize more natural products including essential oils for therapeutic, cosmetic and aromatic benefit. The use of essential oils never ceased, but the scientific revolution minimized the popularity and use of essential oils in one's everyday life. Today's heightened awareness regarding the use of synthetics coupled with the increased availability of aromatherapy information within books and the Internet has refueled the use of essential oils for therapeutic, cosmetic, fragrant and spiritual use. [3]

Applications of Aromatherapy

It is mainly divided into two #Inhalation #External Application. [4] Inhalation are of two types (a) direct inhalation and (b) indirect inhalation. In the case of direct inhalation Aromatherapy remedy is applied directly to the effected area. But in indirect inhalation the persons surroundings are treated with the chosen scent. Inhalation is the more widely used method of delivering scent. In earlier days, the herb was burned and the fumes inhaled by the ailing individual for relief. Today, there are many other alternative methods to accomplish inhalation therapy, like use of oil diffusers, potpourri cookers, vaporizers, inhaling the fragrance directly from the bottle or soaking cotton balls etc. Oil diffuser is a machine specially designed as a system of delivering fragrances from an oil or oil blend into the air. Vaporizer is a device used for converting liquid to gaseous form for inhalation. Potpourri is a combination of different aromatic substances generally heated to infuse the air with a pleasing aromatic blend. External application is also employed in both the healing and the magical facets of Aromatherapy. External application include Massage therapy, Aromatic bath etc. Thus through external application, the individual is actually taking in the healing properties of the essential blend through the skin. For massage therapy, appropriate oil must be produced. This is done by diluting the oil remedy with a carrier oil. Carrier oils are oils of low scent or no scent used to dilute more pungently aromatic oils or blends.

There are different methods for preparing Aromatic baths. Of these two easiest and least complicated methods in the preparatory stages is narrated below. One is to introduce the essential oil or oil blend into a small amount of Epsom salts and to dissolve the salts into a tube of hot or warm water. Another method of creating an aromatic bath is to introduce the essential oil (blend) directly into the bath water.

Precautions to be taken by the Aroma therapist

  • Do not apply the remedy to an area where the skin is broken
  • See that the oil is not an irritant and the subject displays no negative reaction
  • Aroma therapist must know well the properties of the remedy and the sensitivities of the client.
  • In Aromatherapy, depending on the nature of ailments different methods are chosen. The ultimate purpose of Aromatherapy is to deliver the virtues of the scent to the client in a way that will most benefit his or her condition. [5]

Verifying Essential Oil Quality and Purity

Essential oils are not only distilled and used for the purposes of aromatherapy, they are also more commonly used in the personal fragrancing, home fragrancing, cosmeceutical, food/beverage and other industries. The standards for essential oil quality and purity are highest for aromatherapy use. The purity and quality of essential oils affects their therapeutic value, aroma, color and flavor when applicable for the food and beverage industries. The higher the quality of a particular distillation of oil, often the higher the price the oil commands. Because essential oils with particular characteristics command significantly higher prices, there is a large temptation for distillers and suppliers to adulterate (alter) essential oils. Aspects of an essential oil's purity and quality can be quantifiably tested. Some aspects of an oil's quality, namely on an olfactory level, however, is a more subjective process. [6]

Aromatherapy for Emotional Well-Being

The use of essential oils may assist, sometimes greatly, with particular emotional issues. Additionally, the proper use of essential oils may enhance the emotional outlook and provide support and help balance the emotions during the day. The use of essential oils for emotional well-being is what is often first thought of when someone thinks of the term "aromatherapy." Essential oils are comprised of naturally occurring chemicals that work in synergy with one another. Because essential oils evaporate quickly (known as being "volatile"), their molecules are easily inhaled. Without providing an intimidating lesson in olfaction (the science of the sense of smell), the inhalation of these naturally occurring synergistic chemicals provide triggers to our brain. These triggers effect our emotions. Inhalation of these wondrous molecules also provides physical benefit which may also work together to aid in our emotional state. Sweet orange oil is a good example. The smell of orange helps provide emotional balance and bring on a positive outlook. Sweet orange oil is a wonderful oil to use alone or in a blend for those winter blues that often occur in the colder, grayer times of the year. The aroma of sweet orange oil also blends nicely with many oils and has the added advantage of being one of the more inexpensive essential oils. It is also generally regarded to be one of the safer essential oils to use.

Borrowed from Essential Oils for Emotional Well-Being page located within AromaWeb's Oil Profiles area, below is a list of emotional states and the oils that are commonly known to be of help. When using any oil, it's important to follow all safety guidelines and safety issues that pertain to the particular oil. Not all oils provide the same level of benefit for all persons. Past memories associated with particular aromas can have a positive or negative effect. Rose essential oil, for instance, is known for aiding during times of grief. Your past experiences with the aroma of rose oil, however, may impact its effectiveness for use during times of grief. If you had a loving grandmother who often smelled of rose, for instance, your reaction when smelling rose may differ than if you had an abusive grandmother who typically smelled of rose. If your rose-smelling grandma died, your reaction to the aroma of rose will be impacted by your past associations with the aroma.

Following are the essential oils for particular emotional conditions Anger: Bergamot, Jasmine, Neroli, Orange, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Roman Chamomile, Rose, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang Anxiety: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Geranium, Lavender, Mandarin, Neroli, Patchouli, Roman Chamomile, Rose, Sandalwood, Vetiver Confidence: Bay Laurel, Bergamot, Cypress, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Orange, Rosemary Depression: Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Helichrysum, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange, Roman Chamomile, Rose, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang Fatigue, Exhaustion and Burnout: Basil, Bergamot, Black Pepper, Clary Sage, Cypress, Frankincense, Ginger, Grapefruit, Helichrysum, Jasmine, Lemon, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Vetiver Fear: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lemon, Neroli, Orange, Roman Chamomile Sandalwood, Vetiver Grief: Cypress, Frankincense, Helichrysum, Neroli, Rose, Sandalwood, Vetiver Happiness and Peace: Bergamot, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lemon, Neroli, Orange, Rose, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang Insecurity: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Frankincense, Jasmine, Sandalwood, Vetiver Irritability: Lavender, Mandarin, Neroli, Roman Chamomile, Sandalwood Loneliness: Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Helichrysum, Roman Chamomile, Rose Memory and Concentration: Basil, Black Pepper, Cypress, Hyssop, Lemon, Peppermint, Rosemary Panic and Panic Attacks: Frankincense, Helichrysum, Lavender, Neroli, Rose Stress: Benzoin, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Mandarin, Neroli, Patchouli, Roman Chamomile, Rose, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang

References

  1. Aromatherapy
  2. Aromatherapy
  3. History of Aromatherapy
  4. Applications of Aromatherapy
  5. Precautions to be taken by the Aroma therapist
  6. Verifying Essential Oil Quality and Purity
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