Introduction to Aromatherapy
THE USE OF AROMATIC PLANT EXTRACTS
French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé coined the term "aromatherapy" in 1928, after spilling lavender essential oil on a burn he had sustained in a laboratory explosion. He noticed it’s soothing & healing properties and dedicated the rest of his life to the research of essential oils. He even used his new discovery to treat wounds and sterilize his equipment while he was a medic in the First & Second World Wars.
Fragrance oils, gums & resin have been used for medicinal & spiritual purposes for thousands of years. The earliest recorded history of using aromatic plant materials used were in incense, ointments, perfumes, medicinal poultices, & crudely distilled alcoholic beverages. There are records going back as far as ancient Egypt & Persia where plants were soaked in fatty oil’s & alcohols. Arabs alchemists were the first to distil ethyl alcohol from fermented sugar & eventually created Hydro distillation (steam). Today’s essential oil’s have come along way from this, & are the result of highly advanced distillation techniques.
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What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils to achieve balance and harmony within your body. It’s not all about the aroma. Essential oils are nature at its most concentrated, extracted from bark, flowers, leaves, resins, roots and/or fruits of a plant or tree. Each drop contains a complex network of molecules. It’s for this reason that these oils must be diluted in a carrier oil before use.
Essential Oils vs Carrier Oils
Essential oils, also known as volatile oils, are oils extracted from plant material threw the process of distillation. As the word suggests, volatile oils are not stable & will evaporate if left open to the air. They have a tendency to dissolve in fats, while repelling water. Essential oils don't leave an oily residue and some can even be used to dissolve grease.
Carrier, also known as fixed oils, are fatty oils that are obtained threw extraction or expression of plant material. Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils. Here are a few common carrier oils and their properties.
Common Essential Oils
Each essential oil has its own unique properties, just like the plant it was extracted from. Use caution when using essential oils for the first time. Essential oils are very concentrated & cause cause irritation depending on your level of sensitivity. Always do a small patch test. Some essential oil are unsafe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, like some medicinal herbs.
Basil aromatherapy clears congestion in the head & chest. It can be beneficial for cold & flu symptoms, sinus & respiratory problems and is used to refresh & uplift while relieving tension.
Topically basil essential oil soothes insect bites, sore muscles & joint pain.
Frankincense Aromatherapy comes to mind and eases nervous tension, anxiety & stress related complaints, as well as helping to relieve respiratory problems, congestion in the lungs, asthma, cough, & bronchitis.
Topically frankincense essential oil aids in the healing of cuts, wounds, burns and skin blemishes, as well as softens wrinkles and dry, chapped and sagging skin.
Lemon aromatherapy opens congestion in the lungs due to asthma, bronchitis & coughs.
When used topically it balances oily skin, heals acne, insect bites, cuts & warts. It also stimulates circulation & aids rheumatism. When ingested, it supports the immune system against cold & flu symptoms.
Peppermint aromatherapy is ideal for relieving congestion, cold & flu symptoms, asthma and to enhance mental clarity.
Topically peppermint essential oil treats acne and headaches. It can also be used on the back of the neck to cool on a hot day.
When ingested this essential oil alleviate nausea & heartburn.
Sandalwood aromatherapy soothes coughs, bronchitis & sore throats, as well as being used as a sedative to relieve stress, insomnia & depression.
Topically sandalwood essential oil helps heal acne, dry, chapped skin & minor rashes.
Ylang Ylang Aromatherapy gently lifts the emotions, aids depression, helps reduce tension, anxiety, anger & stress.
Topically Ylang Ylang essential oil treats insect bites, skin irritations, acne & oily skin. It also improves circulation and calms the heart & aids with blood pressure.
Cedar aromatherapy is grounding & stabilizing.
Topically cedar essential oil repels insects, stimulates circulation & eases arthritis pain. It treats acne, eczema, psoriasis & oily skin.
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Jasmine aromatherapy lifts the spirits & encourages feelings of optimism. It calms stress, anxiety & nervous disorders.
Topically jasmine essential oil soothes & softens dry, sensitive or irritated skin. When ingested it eases menstrual cramps & labor pains.
Myrrh aromatherapy eases cold & flu symptoms, bronchitis, cough, sore throat & asthma.
Topically myrrh essential oil heals sores & wounds, as well as treating rheumatism. It is soothing & stimulating and is ideal as a massage oil. It also softens wrinkles & dry, chapped and sagging skin.
Rose aromatherapy combats depression, tension headaches & anxiety. It can also inspire romantic feelings & balance sexual dysfunction.
Topically Rose essential oil aids dry, sensitive & ageing skin.
When ingested it eases menstrual pain & irregularity and can improve digestion.
Tea Tree aromatherapy can help clear congestion in the head, sinuses & lungs and can benefit cold & flu symptoms, bronchitis & asthma.
Topically Tea Tree essential oil is a powerful disinfectant that can treat acne, oily skin, herpes, warts & cold scores.
Chamomile aromatherapy has deep calming effects mentally & emotionally. This oil is gentle and can be used for children & babies.
Topically chamomile essential oil soothe cuts, rashes, insect bite, eczema & acne. It can also dull aching muscles & joint pain.
When ingested this essential oil calms upset, nervous stomachs, aids digestion, as well as being a remedy for insomnia.
Lavender aromatherapy can alleviate nervous conditions, tensions, stress, headaches & insomnia.
Topically, lavender essential oil can soothe burns, psoriasis, inflammation, sores & dandruff
Patchouli aromatherapy stimulates erotic feelings & calms stress.
Topically patchouli essential aids some skin problems like sores, acne, athletes foot & oily skin, as well as reducing dandruff or impetigo.
Rosemary aromatherapy helps relieve cold & flu symptoms, asthma and can ease stress related conditions, mental exhaustion & tension headaches.
Topically rosemary essential oil treats acne, eczema & skin irritation. As it is mildly stimulating it can benefit muscular aches & pains and improve circulation.
Vanilla aromatherapy calms stress & anxiety as well as inducing feelings of peace & serenity, and stimulates the production of epinephrine. It can be used as an aphrodisiac or to curb the cravings of sweets.
Olive oil strengthens, hydrates & soothes skin. It prevents drying & encourages circulating to improve complexion. It is also minimally processed.
Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil is a antioxidant that protects form free radicals & drying out. It's a great oil for the facial skin because it helps regulate sebum production.
Skin soothing coconut oil helps speeds cell turnover. it has antibacterial & antifungal properties and leaves a less greasy residue than most oils
Avocado is excellent for rehydrating the skin. It prevents oxidation, reduces scarring, protects form the effects of the sun & can help heal sun damage. It is also great for hair growth and mature skin.
Apricot oil has some wonderful regenerative properties. It encourages cell turnover, tightens skin and brightens & enhances the complexion.
Jojoba oil has a thinker consistency than most oils. It penetrates deeply into the skin while protecting and reinforcing the top layer of skin. It has anti-inflammatory properties & can help reduce the appearance of scars.
Almond oil is a versatile and nutrient dense oil that has a mild scent & flavor.
Evening Primrose Oil
Though this is not a commonly used oil, Evening Primrose oil has some amazing properties. It promotes the production of a hormone that inhibits the inflammatory process. It is antioxidant, anti-aging, activates microcirculation & protects from UV damage.
Aromatherapy Card Deck, by Skye Alexander, published by Fair Winds
The Healing Power of Essential Oils, by Eric Zielinski, Published by Harmony Books
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromathrerapy, Completely Revised and Expanded, Published by New World Library
An Atlas of Natural Beauty, by Victoire de Taillac & Ramdane Touhami, Published by Simon & Schuster