Scents play a big role in our lives. Some fragrances may recall memories or transmit sensations. Who has not felt better after going to sauna with eucalyptus smell? Or associated flowers` scents to the feelings of calm and peace? Aromatherapy took advantage of this basic human instinct to treat diseases, provide well being, skin care and relaxation. It can be defined as the therapeutic use of essential oils for prevention and/or auxiliary treatment of physical, psychological and energetic problems.
The true Aromatherapy consists on the therapeutic application of 100% essential oils in baths, massages, compresses, diffusions, internal use, etc. Before being used, the essential oils are frequently dissolved in neutral lotions such as vegetal oils, cereal water or cereal alcohol. This preserves chemical properties and chemical/physical activity in the human body.
According to "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils", the favored technique of aroma therapists is the massage, because it ensures that the oils are absorbed in the skin and into the blood stream. On this method, the essence is diluted into base oil (jojoba, avocado, peanut, soy, peach kernel oil, etc). Another book, "Aromatherapy: Healing for the Body & Soul", emphasizes the importance of rubbing the oil in the skin. The author, Kathi Keville, claims that the human touch warms the body, relieves stress, relaxes and encourages deep breathing.
Aromatherapy is known for bringing well-being and stress relieve to people, but this is only one of its possible benefits. This therapy can affect the body chemistry; the emotions and attitudes; and the ability of the body to function. The book "Aroma Therapy: Healing for the body and soul" cites a wide range of therapeutical uses for Aromatherapy:
- Reduction of pain, inflammations and spasms;
- Stimulation of the immune system, hormone production and blood circulation;
- Skin infections;
- Heal of respiratory and digestive problems;
- Emotional problems, like depression and panic.
Some essential oils, like camphor, thuja and red thyme, can cause damage to the patients due to their high toxicity levels, which can cause severe dermal irritation. Essential oils should not be applied directly at the skin; they should be diluted in a carrier oil or cream. It is also suggested to do a patch test on the skin before using the essential oil, because some people can be very sensitive or have allergic reactions. Some oils, like the lemon and the verbena, when exposed to the sun, may cause spots.
The "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils" warns that pregnant patients or the ones who have diabetes, high blood pressure and epilepsy can not be massaged with some essential oils. It is recommended that they inform the therapist about their condition. It also adverts that essential oils should not be used at home to treat serious medical or psychological problems.
The oils have different properties. Some of the most common essential oils are:
Calming - chamomile, lavender, geranium;
Uplifting - ylang ylang, clary sage, rose, neroli, lemon, fennel;
Energizing - rosemary, thyme (white), grapefruit, cinnamon;
Cleansing - rosemary, tea tree, lavender; frankincense;
Decongesting - eucalyptus, pine, tea tree, peppermint;
Although nowadays Aromatherapy has become a widespread practice around the world, it is still considered a complementary medicine in the majority of the countries. In France, Aromatherapy is part of the formal education in Medical schools. During history, medicinal and aromatic plants were used to purify and scent places, scare away evil spirits, treat skin and other physical disorders as in the use of infusions, in the mummification process in ancient Egypt and Roman baths.
According to The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), the organization that promotes and supports the practice of this method, there is no licensure or laws for Aromatherapy in the US. NAHA determined that to become an aroma therapist is necessary to be graduated in a course of at least 200 hours. Some professionals incorporate the training of this technique with their licensed work. It is the case of many massage therapists, acupuncturists, doctors and nurses.