What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a gentle, relaxing and healing therapy, which combines the sense of smell and touch to treat a patient. It is the use of organic essences of aromatic plants, herbs, flowers, seeds and trees that can be safely used to aid healing and maintain health and wellbeing. Knowledge of how to make use of the beneficial effects of essential oils dates back to around 3500BC, where the priestesses of the Egyptian temples would burn resins such as Myrrh to clear the mind and the Romans used orange and clove to ward off infectious diseases.
It was the chemist, Frenchman Rene Gattefosse, who coined the modern word “aromatherapy” in the early 1900s, when he was working in a laboratory and badly burnt his hand whereupon he plunged his hand into the nearest bowl of liquid – it happened to be the essential oil of lavender; the hand healed with exceptional speed and virtually no scarring. Since WW2, aromatherapy has continued to develop in different ways in different countries, in France there are over 1500 medical doctors who have trained in aromatherapy, whereas here in the UK, it has become part of the complementary therapy movement. Today, it is used by thousands of people from all walks of life, including Royalty.
How does it work?
Aromatherapy uses therapeutic benefits derived from various oils and their interaction with the patient’s sense of smell and energy.
Each oil has its own unique healing properties and fragrance (for example rosemary essential oil is stimulating and aids digestion, whereas Frankincense is deeply relaxing and a rejuvenating essential oil for skin care).
Therefore essential oils are blended with the client’s health and emotional needs in made and each treatment is tailor-made to suit that individuals needs on the day the massage takes place.
There are numerous ways in which essential oils can be administered (i.e. bath, compress, creams, lotions steam inhalation or a diffuser). An aromatherapy massage is one of the most effective and beneficial treatment techniques. Essential oil constituents pass through the skin and from there are taken into the bloodstream and can therefore be carried to all the cells of the body.
An aromatherapy massage is a deeply relaxing therapy – when massage is used in combination with the healing qualities of essential oils it constitutes a powerful therapy affecting physical, emotional and spiritual levels. During an aromatherapy massage, emotions are often realised, alongside the accumulated knots and nodules, it is therefore different and much gentler than sports massage and Swedish body massage.
What can aromatherapy help with?
Physical illness that has continued over a long period of time causes a negative emotional state, and this can eventually lead to a compromised immune system. This situation can be particularly devastating since the weakened immune system will now be more vulnerable to further infection, and another new infection can lead to even further emotional depression. A downward spiral of emotional and physical health can ensue, producing a vicious cycle of illness that can be very difficult to break without the correct treatment.
Scientists have proven that negative and positive emotions really can change the complex chemistry of our bodies, and these changes can have a negative or positive effect on the immune system. For example, some research has shown how prolonged stress can cause the body to over-produce cortisol and adrenalin which are hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy that can be used alongside standard orthodox health treatment as a natural way to help patients cope with stress, chronic pain, nausea, and depression and to produce a feeling of well-being. Some people find that this therapy can help relieve bacterial infections; stimulate the immune system; fight colds, flu, and sore throats (i.e. using tea tree, eucalyptus and lemon essential oils). Aromatherapy massages can also improve and increase circulation; and help treat acne, headaches, indigestion, premenstrual syndrome and muscle tension resulting from stress.