What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the systematic external use of essential oils in holistic treatments to improve physical and emotional well-being. Essential oils, extracted from plants, possess distinctive therapeutic properties, which can be utilised to improve health and prevent disease.
These natural plant oils are applied in a variety of ways:
Massage (most used method)
Baths (add a few drops to warm water)
Inhalations (not for asthmatics)
Aromatherapy is an especially effective treatment for stress-related problems and a variety of chronic conditions. It can be used on any age but the training is required to ensure the aromatherapist blends oils safely as they are chemical substances which can be harmful if misused.
Essential Oils - An essential oil is an aromatic, volatile substance extracted from a single botanical source by distillation or expression. Essential oils have been utilised in fragrances, flavours and medicines for thousands of years. There are some 400 essential oils extracted from plants all over the world. Some of the popular oils used in aromatherapy today include chamomile, lavender, rosemary and tea tree.
Is there any evidence? -Many researchers have shown that when they are applied to the skin or inhaled, essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream and metabolised in the body, (Preen C. (2005) Today’s Therapist (35) 2-4) substantiated by Aromatherapy Science, Pharmaceutical Press 2006 Chapter 7 p.78.
Clinical trials have shown that when applied topically, some essential oils, including Tea Tree oil, have antibacterial and [antimicrobial/antiseptic] properties (Hay et al. Arch Dermatol. 1998; 134:1349-1352) and that Peppermint oil may optimise/maintain a healthy digestive system (Stevensen C.J. Fundamentals of CAM, Churchill Livingstone 1996:137-148).
There are many studies that demonstrate how essential oils can positively affect mood and the sense of well-being. Buckle J. Alternative Therapy Health Med.1999 (5):42-51 states that “studies suggest that essential oils …. induce mood changes”. Essential oils also impact on brain wave activity, creating either stimulating or relaxing effects (Stevensen 1996).
What happens in a typical aromatherapy session?
The aromatherapist will ask questions about your medical history, general health and lifestyle. This will help him or her decide which essential oils are most appropriate for you as an individual. The aromatherapist may wish to contact your GP, with your permission, to inform him or her that you are receiving aromatherapy treatments. After selecting and blending appropriate essential oils, the aromatherapist will usually apply the oils in combination with massage. A session normally lasts for 60 to 90 minutes, and usually costs between £50 and £90.
To find a qualified aromatherapist, you can contact one of the professional associations. Most have on-line search facilities for public referral. You can also contact the voluntary self-regulatory body, the CNHC, but as this is a voluntary register, not all aromatherapists will be registered.