The Art And Science Of Aromatherapy
The use of aromatherapy can be defined as the art and science of using aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize, and promote wellness and vitality in the body|mind|spirit. The use of medicinal plants’ essence oils, and their secondary metabolites found in the extracted oils of these medicinal plants, have been used for centuries for their health-promoting and therapeutic effects. However, it was not until 1910 when Renee Gattefose coined the term ‘aromatherapy’ was the field recognized.
Mixtures of volatile compounds extracted from medicinal plants form the “essence” of the treatment in the form of “essential oils”. These oils are then used directly, indirectly, or inhaled to achieve their therapeutic effects which may range from stimulation to sedation. Aromatherapy may be used with other complementary therapies to act synergistically to manage symptoms. Safety testing on essential oils has found very few side effects limited to minor skin irritation (particularly with the citrus oils and sunlight) to some hormonally related side-effects related to breast enlargement.
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How is it Used?
Direct Route: Used topically or, on occasion, orally, there is a direct effect of essential oils on the body. Used in lotions, the oil is absorbed into the deeper tissues of the skin and exerts its effects through absorption.
Indirect Route: Effect is achieved through inhalation which stimulates the olfactory system, which, in turn, affect the limbic system of the brain and the secretion of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, the endorphins, and noradrenaline.
What conditions are most often treated by aromatherapy?
Mood is one of the most popular conditions to be addressed using aromatherapy as adjunctive therapy. Evidence shows an impact on depression, anxiety, stress through aromatherapy’s actions on the brain through the olfactory system and the effects on the serotonergic pathway and the monoamine oxidase system, both involved in the depressive process. Depression can also be related to poor sleep. Ylang Ylang is especially good for inducing a sense of well-being.
Insomnia affects over 39 to 47% of premenstrual women and 35 to 60% of postmenopausal women. Essential oils derived from bergamot, jasmine, lavender, rose and geranium all have proven phytotherapeutic effects on sleep disorders. Sleep pillows, infused with essential oils, used with diffusers, or massage oil infused with one of these essential oils, may all promote more restful sleep. Lavender oil is particularly useful for sleep and relaxation.
Respiratory problems such as bronchitis or chest congestion may be helped by eucalyptus, camphor or tea tree oil. Skin ailments, depending on the nature of the problem, may be treated topically with the antibacterial tea tree oil, or, if aging is the problem, one might choose clary sage. Clary sage has been used topically to improve the appearance of cellulite as well.
Gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and vomiting are often treated with a ginger tincture either through inhalation or ingestion. Gastrointestinal side-effects of chemotherapy have been treated successfully with aromatherapy using ginger, rosemary or other oils topically and by inhalation. Pain and inflammation have been treated with Lavender, Peppermint, Chamomile, Cannabidiols. If properly used and best if combined with other synergistic lifestyle and nutritional therapies, aromatherapy has a place in treating the individual and their environment as part of a therapeutic lifestyle treatment plan.
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