Aromatherapy is holistic treatment that basically means ‘treatment using scent’ and is carried out by the assorted application of essential oils that are fragrant essences extracted from natural sources like herbs, flowers, fruits, grasses and seeds.
Essential oils have distinct qualities that are useful for therapeutic purposes, improving mental and physical well being and helping to prevent illness.
There are an enormous number of different oils available and they can be used in three different ways: inhaling, absorbing or consuming.
Inhaling is the most common method for aromatherapy treatment and is easily done by purchasing a diffuser or by adding a tiny drop of oil to hot water and breathing in the resulting steam. Alternatively it is possible to create a facial sauna over a bowl of hot water mixed with essential oil, or to take an aromatherapy bath and add the oil to a good long soak.
Absorbing essential oils is done through massage ensuring direct contact with the skin or a herbal oil compress on specifically affected skin areas, but for this method it is vital to blend the oils with a carrier oil to ensure that the skin is not damaged.
For anyone who is new to aromatherapy or has sensitive skin, always carry out a skin test first before any form of general usage where the oil will come into physical contact with the body.
Consuming essential oils should be done with a lot of care as not every essential oil is safe for eating and drinking. There are many cookbooks and recipes for food and hot teas that use only those aromatherapy oils that are safe so it is always best to check before proceeding.
In case of accidental consumption, consult a physician.
Essential oils need to be stored safely and correctly out of the reach of children and away from direct sunlight because they are flammable. When purchasing always check the oil is pure and not a synthetic fragrance, or if buying a pre-made blend then ensure that is the correct one for the treatment purposes that are intended. Oils are highly concentrated and need to be used sparingly or diluted into more neutral carrier oils such as sweet almond, virgin olive or vegetable oil.
There are some very simple everyday ways to get started with aromatherapy.
For treating colds and flu sprinkle 2 to 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil onto a pillow or bedding before going to sleep, or alternatively sprinkle onto a tissue to carry throughout they day and inhale when required. Eucalyptus has properties that help to clear blocked nasal passages and relieve sinus headaches.
For a sore throat or mouth ulcer place five drops of tea tree oil in a cup of water and use this to gargle with until the water is gone. Tea tree oil is has antiseptic properties and is good for treating infections. Adding it to shampoo is also an easy way to help relieve dandruff.
Lavender oil is very relaxing and can be used when sprinkled into bath water to help relieve stress and prepare both body and mind for sleep. Deeply inhaling lavender oil on a tissue or handkerchief before a big meeting or a job interview can provide instant stress and anxiety relief.
For treating muscles aches and tension prepare a massage oil by blending together rosemary and lavender essential oils into a diluting carrier oil. The basic rule is to add 1 drop of each essential oil for every 2 teaspoons of carrier oil. Other great mixtures for massaging are sage with eucalyptus, or cypress with thyme. For menstrual cramps try a relaxing back and hip massage using clary sage oil that is diluted into a sweet almond carrier base.
Clove oil is highly effective for the treatment of toothache before seeing a dentist. Simply place a drop of oil onto the finger and rub gently onto the gum line and cheek.
Essential oils are natural products, but even natural products can have unwanted side effects if they are not used properly, therefore some care should always be applied when using them. If the practitioner or patient is pregnant or already taking prescribed medication consult a qualified aromatherapist before commencing use.