Aromatherapy – A Modern Therapy Rooted in History

Aromatherapy is a word which we see everywhere nowadays from face creams to washing up liquid, air freshener to bubble bath. But what is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy uses natural essential oils obtained from plants in a holistic tailor-made treatment which aims to balance the whole person and improve physical health and emotional well-being. Essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic essences from plants obtained by steam distillation, extraction or expression. Every essential oil is different and will have its own aroma, properties, chemical composition, and price – dependant on the production method used and the yield from the plant material. Some Aromatherapists will also make use of hydrolats or ‘floral waters’ in their treatments which are a by-product of the steam distillation process.

Essential oils are known to have been used for thousands of years for their therapeutic properties. The Egyptians used aromatic substances in medicine and cosmetics where common oils used included frankincense, cypress, myrrh, elemi and cedarwood which are all used in aromatherapy today. The Chinese may have used aromatics even before the Egyptians, and the Greeks and Romans also made extensive use of perfumed oils for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. During the Middle Ages, herbs were cultivated by monasteries and aromatics were used as antiseptics through perfumes and fumigation during the Great Plague. The term “aromatherapie” was coined in 1928 by Gattefosse who extensively researched the dermatological and medicinal effects of essential oils following the successful treatment of a severe burn with neat lavender oil.

Today aromatherapy is enjoying a comeback as a complement to allopathic medicine and many GPs are making referrals to Aromatherapists.  Aromatherapists now work in a wide range of healthcare settings including GP practices, hospitals, intensive care, palliative care, stroke recovery and care of the elderly.   The benefits of aromatherapy on a physical, mental and emotional level are beginning to be rediscovered as are the benefits of massage which is one of the main ways that essential oils are administered today.

In an aromatherapy treatment the essential oils are selected for the individual, combined with a carrier oil which is selected based on skin type, and then usually applied using an aromatherapy massage – a soothing, relaxing massage that helps the essential oils to be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream where they are metabolised in the body.  Clients may also be provided with blends for use at home in massage, the bath, as a compress or inhalation.

When blended correctly essential oils can have a relaxing or uplifting nature. Some oils are warming, stimulating and reviving and it is acknowledged that essential oils are antibacterial and that many are antimicrobial and antiseptic.   Aromatherapy, when used regularly, can soothe or relax everyday stresses and strains and stressful lifestyles and depending on the individual and the essential oils used, the aromas can also have a positive effect on emotional health.

If you would like to learn more about aromatherapy or if you have any questions then contact me.

Ann Wyatt, October 2016

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