Introduction to aromatherapy

by | Nov 20, 2017 | Body

ripe oranges on a tree

Ever scratched the skin of an orange to enjoy the uplifting scent it releases? This is aromatherapy in action as what you were exposed to was the volatile oil found in an orange skin. Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of aromatic plant oils to achieve psychological and physical wellbeing. Essential oils and absolutes may be extracted from many plant parts such as flowers, leaves, barks, woods, resins, fruit rinds and seeds, and all evoke different emotional responses.

Quality is everything

Aromatherapy relates to the use of pure essential oils and should never be confused with ‘fragrant’ oil use, the latter being synthetic creations with no therapeutic value. The complex nature of aromatic plant constituents may be used in many ways, though one of the most relaxing and rewarding is when massaged into the skin. The combination of aromatherapy, calming music, and intuitive, holistic massage results in a profoundly restorative therapy that balances your physical body, mind and spirit/energetic aspects. Stress is eased, and wellbeing is promoted as your body’s innate healing abilities are activated.

Essential oils don’t just smell good

Aromatherapy oils are not only used for their aroma but their physiological effects, hence why only professional-quality oils should be used in your treatment. Essential oils and absolutes exert their effects in different ways – from the more subtle influence on our emotions via the olfactory system to their more powerful therapeutic impact, both topically and systemically depending upon their application. In all cases, they are powerful tools to enhance wellbeing.

Whilst one of the most common ways to apply aromatherapy is via massage, the use of essential oils does not stop there. Many people enjoy their favourite blends on an oil burner or by using a diffuser – once again, it is important to note that fragrant oils are synthetic and should not be used. In fact, inhaling synthetic fragrances adds to your toxin burden and something worth considering if your aim is to lead a less toxic life in general.

A word of warning…

I have noticed a number of businesses and individuals promoting the use of essential oils internally in recent times. As someone qualified in aromatherapy as well as botanical (herbal) medicine I am well aware of the dangers of doing so and do not recommend any ingestion of essential oils except under strictly controlled circumstances, for example, there are some herbal medicines that incorporate essential oils into their formulations, but these are evidence-based and tightly regulated.

In addition, many essential oils for sale are not what are considered ‘food grade’ so should not be consumed for this reason. Further, essential oils are concentrated compounds that can irritate the delicate gastrointestinal lining, and many of their most active constituents (chemical ingredients within the oils themselves) can be toxic to the liver and nervous systems when not dosed appropriately and using the correct application methods.

Professionals are there to help

Aromatherapy is a profoundly worthwhile treatment modality when used correctly, with all ages responding positively to its effects. Selecting and using the correct essential oils can offer a myriad of benefits from inhalations for respiratory concerns, topical skin applications for everything from beauty creams to relief from itchy skin symptoms, deeply relaxing or invigorating massage blends, oil burner blends to help you relax, or perhaps to improve your concentration. Continue to enjoy your choice of oils, but for therapeutic purposes always consult a qualified aromatherapist or herbalist first.

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