Aromatherapy is the use of oils from herbs and other aromatic plants to achieve relaxation or relief from a disorder. Depending upon the plant, the aromatic, or essential, oil is extracted from the leaves, flowers, roots, seeds, fruit, bark, or resin and then diluted with water or an unscented oil such as jojoba. These solutions may be massaged into skin, inhaled from steam, added to bath water, or used in a compress.
Aromatic plants, usually applied externally, have been used in many folk remedies since ancient times. Familiar examples include vaporized eucalyptus oil to ease nasal congestion and juniper liniment for the relief of muscle aches. Modern aromatherapy was born in the 1920s, when a French chemist, Dr. Rene Maurice Gattefosse, burned his hand while working in a perfume laboratory. He plunged the injured hand into a container of lavender oil and was amazed by its speedy healing with minimal scarring. He then began to research the healing properties of other aromatic oils.
Aromatherapy is used by trained therapists who often practice other alternative therapies such as massage. Some of the methods can be self taught and used at home.
When It Is Used
Practitioners treat a range of medical and emotional problems, including headaches, premenstrual tension, muscle pain, skin disorders, fatigue, insomnia, and stress.
How It Works
There are two basic mechanisms involved the sense of smell and the absorptive quality of skin. Practitioners contend that inhalation of a certain scent prompts the brain to release neurochemicals that counter stress and fatigue. They also believe that some oils exert a medicinal effect when absorbed by the skin. Medical benefits of aromatherapy have not been proven, however, and doctors generally discount any therapeutic benefits other than a placebo effect and relaxation.
What To Expect
Aromatherapists combine massage and the use of aromatic oils. A session varies according to the problem being treated. The entire body is massaged to relieve stress and general itchiness. A facial massage is used to treat headaches and sinus congestion, whereas the back may be massaged to alleviate backache or menstrual cramps. In addition to massage, an aromatherapist may recommend soaking in a tub of warm water containing a few drops of one or more aromatic oils. Depending upon the oils used, this may induce drowsiness or provide an invigorating lift.
Anca de Cercel N.D.Institut ANCA