What is aromatherapy and what are essential oils?

December 14th, 2011

By Stefanie Payne, Executive Editor at CityRoom Inc.

What is aromatherapy?  Aromatherapy is the practice of using volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being.

What are essential oils?  Essential oils are derived from concentrated plant areas.  Although called “oils” they are not oily to the touch.

How they reach the bloostream:  Targeting the central nervous system, essential oils take two routes, inhalation through the olfactory system and topical application to the skin. Natural mood stimulants and memory boosters, essential oils are key additives to products that are meant to promote internal reaction while soothing and healing externally.

How they work:  This form of alternative medicine is meant to reduce risk of disease, boost mood and improve overall health.  When applied topically with the help of carrier oils, (such as sweet almond and grapeseed oil,) essential oils communicate with the olfactory system while penetrating the blood stream. Depending on the ailment and the extract used, neurons in your brain recognize the aroma while the blood disperses the anecdote to the affected area of the body.

These potent extracts should never be applied in their undiluted form. 

Rene Maurice Gattefosse

History:  Aromatherapy has been used for more than 6,000 years by the ancient Greek, Romans, and Egyptians. The Egyptian God of healing, Imhotep, recommended using essential oils for massage and bathing to fend off ailments and infection.

The name aromatherapy was declared by French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse in the late 1920’s, aroma meaning fragrance and therapy meaning treatment.  He began the modern day therapeutic use of essential oils.  Gattefosse used lavender oil to heal a severe burn wound and once realizing that he had no scars from the treatment, began his research into plant essences.  These antibacterial and anti-fungal essences were later used as antiseptics and in holistic therapy.

Benefits:  Some of the benefits of using aromatherapy include reduction pain from ailments such as depression, stress, arthritis, anxiety, muscular pains, premenstrual syndrome, sleep abnormalities, and boosting immunity.  Those with epilepsy, high blood pressure and who are pregnant should consult a physician before using holistic care.

Safety concerns: When used correctly and safely, essential oils have been found to offer many benefits.  However, oils used in aromatherapy are highly concentrated and should be used with care.  Apply small dot to skin inside of forearm to test for allergies.

Pass up fragrance oils, which have chemical additives that reduce the intended beneficial qualities and increase the likelihood of allergic reaction.  True aromatherapy oils do not have added chemicals.  Do not buy products that do not list the ingredients on the bottle.

With over 90 varieties of essential oils to choose from, it can be tricky to choose.  Licensed massage therapists and holistic wellness therapists will use aromatherapy products that are tested and safe.

When buying aromatherapy oils avoid the following extracts – they should NOT be used in their pure form: 

Almond, Bitter Aniseed, Arnica leaf, Camphor, Cassia,  Cinnamon Bark, Elecampane, Bitter Fennel, Horseradish, Jaborandi Leaf,  Artemisia Mustard, Thymus Pennyroyal (European), Pennyroyal (N. American), Pine (Dwarf), Rue, Sage, Salvia, Sassafras, Savory, Southernwood Artemisia Tansy, Wintergreen, Gaultheria Wormseed, Wormwood.

If allergic reaction (or any negative reaction) occurs, wash affected area with milk (2% or more milk fat).  If ingested, especially by children, call the poison control center.

 

 


 
 
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