Aromatherapy for the balance of body and mind
Aromatherapy is the systematic use of volatile plant oils known as essential oils for the treatment or prevention of disease. It is a form of complementary therapy designed to balance the body, mind and soul
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. The inhaled aroma from these essential oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream and can promote whole-body healing.
A form of alternative medicine, aromatherapy is gaining momentum. It is used for a variety of applications, including pain relief, mood enhancement and increased cognitive function. There are a wide number of essential oils available, each with its own healing properties. Little is known about the history of aromatherapy, or where it originated specifically, but the Egyptians are credited with developing one of the first distillation machines to extract oils from certain plants -- cedar wood, clove, cinnamon, to name a few -- which were used to embalm the dead. The practice of using infused aromatic oils as a mood enhancer, however, is thought to have roots in China.
The Greeks also played a role in the history of aromatherapy. Megallus, a Greek perfumer, developed a fragrance he called megaleion, which consisted of myrrh. The "father of medicine" Hippocrates is said to have practiced aromatherapy (before it was dubbed so) for healing purposes. Greek mythology claims the gods were gifted with the knowledge of perfume and fragrance.
One of the reasons that aromatherapy has been so hugely successful is because it uses a holistic approach, whereby the aromatherapist takes into account a persons medical history, emotional condition, general health and lifestyle before planning a course of treatment. The whole person is treated - not just the symptoms of an illness - and this are in direct opposition to the modern trend of just treating the presented condition.
Backache, irritable bowel syndrome or headaches, for example, are often the result of stress and not actually a physical problem. Therefore no amount of pill-popping is really going to provide a long term solution since it only masks the symptoms without addressing the problems. By looking at the causes of the stress and providing treatments to ease and manage it, the aromatherapist will alleviate the condition in a much more efficient manner.
Essential oils, and other aromatic compounds are used for the purpose of altering a person's mood, cognitive function or health. The modes of application of aromatherapy include:
- Aerial diffusion: for environmental fragrancing or aerial disinfection
- Direct inhalation: for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, expectoration as well as psychological effects
- Topical applications: for general massage, baths, compresses, therapeutic skin care
In addition to therapeutic benefit at the emotional and physical level, essential oils are helpful in other applications. Essential oils can be used in household and laundry cleaners. Some oils act as a natural insect repellent and pesticide. You may recall using citronella candles during the summer to keep mosquitoes away. Citronella essential oil is the ingredient in the candles that is responsible for repelling the mosquitoes.
Some of the more popular fragrances used in aromatherapy are as follows:
Cultivated in India, Iran, France, Corsica, Egypt, Italy, Lebanon, China and Morocco, it is a commonly-used fragrance in Hindu and Muslim traditions during weddings.
- Tones the skin
- Prevents scarring
- Increases skin elasticity
- Eases anxiety, depression and lethargy
Produced in India, Indonesia and China, it is used in powder form in Hindu religious ceremonies.
- Has strong antiseptic effect
- Softens the skin and helps in the treatment of broken veins
- Has a very relaxing effect
Bath Oil: Add 5-10 drops of any of these essential oils to your bath. Mix the water gently with your hand so that the oil forms a film on top. A thin film of oil will envelop your body when you slip into your tub and will penetrate your skin and diffuse into the tissues.
Massage Oil: Add 10 drops of essential oil to 20 ml of almond oil. When massaged into the body, the oil is completely absorbed by the skin within half-an-hour to two hours and penetrates the tissues deeply.
Vaporization: Essential oils can be used as air fresheners. Put a few drops of essential oil on a source of heat. This could be a light bulb, a radiator or a small bowl of hot water. The oil evaporates and perfumes the air.
Eau De Toilette: Take three drops of essential oil and add it to 100 ml of distilled water. Keep the mixture in a dark, air-tight bottle. It will stay fresh for a few weeks. Shake the bottle well before use and spray to apply.