What Is Aromatherapy?

| July 10, 2011

Aromatherapy is the systematic use of volatile plant oils known as essential oils for the treatment or prevention of disease. It is a form of complementary therapy designed to treat the whole person and not just the symptom or disease by assisting the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself.

Essential oils consist of tiny aromatic molecules that are readily absorbed via the skin, and whilst breathing they enter the lungs. These therapeutic constituents next enter the bloodstream and are carried around the body where they can deliver their beneficial healing powers. Because they are highly concentrated, only a small quantity of essential oil is required to bring about results.

When using good quality essential oils correctly, the soothing combination of beautiful aromas, massage, aromatic baths and other treatments all work to regulate, balance, heal and maintain your entire being by working with nature, and not against it. A far cry from allopathic medicine, which tends to take a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ approach.

A holistic approach

Today, aromatherapy is one of the most popular of all complementary therapies, offering a wide range of highly effective treatments to both the acute and chronic stages of illness and disease. At the same time, regular use of aromatherapy treatments and home-use products can help to strengthen the immune system, thereby establishing a preventative approach to overall health.

One of the reasons that aromatherapy has been so hugely successful is because it uses a holistic approach, whereby the aromatherapist takes into account a persons medical history, emotional condition, general health and lifestyle before planning a course of treatment. The whole person is treated – not just the symptoms of an illness – and this is in direct opposition to the modern trend of just treating the presented condition.

Backache, irritable bowel syndrome or headaches, for example, are often the result of stress and not actually a physical problem. Therefore no amount of pill-popping is really going to provide a long term solution since it only masks the symptoms without addressing the problems. By looking at the causes of the stress and providing treatments to ease and manage it, the aromatherapist will alleviate the condition in a much more efficient manner.

Stress makes you sick

It has long been known that stress accounts for a staggering amount of illness in modern society, and aromatherapy offers one of the finest ways of combating the ravages of stress without having to resort to drugs which can be habit forming and damaging to your health. This is yet another reason that aromatherapists believe taking an holistic approach with aromatherapy promotes positive physical and mental balance.

Scientists and doctors have known for a long time 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, research has shown how prolonged stress can cause the body to over-produce cortisol and adrenalin which are hormones produced by the adrenal glands.

These two hormones are normally secreted to produce a burst of energy as part of the ‘fight or flight’ response, and of course this response is an essential tool for survival. Prolonged periods of emotional and psychological pressures however, means that the over-production of these hormones can begin to weaken the integrity of the immune system because they reduce the level of T-helper cells, and inhibit the production of natural killer cells.

Evidence based results

Research is continually re-affirming the efficacy of aromatherapy treatments, and the results are now very hard to dismiss. A recent study in the USA has confirmed the long held belief of aromatherapists that Jasmine is a powerful relaxant and an effective aid to restful sleep. The researcher explained that the purpose of the study was specifically to investigate some of the beliefs behind aromatherapy.

Dr. Bryan Raudenbush and his colleagues at the Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia, found that people who slept in rooms fragranced with Jasmine appeared to sleep more peacefully and reported higher afternoon alertness than when spending the night in a Lavender-scented room, or one with no added fragrance at all. Similar research around the world has proven time and again the wide range of benefits that can be received from the multifaceted art of aromatherapy.

Cruelty-free therapy

This natural form of complementary therapy dating back to ancient times is being warmly embraced by today’s environmentally conscious and caring society, in which people are increasingly unwilling to accept the cruelty inflicted on animals in the unnecessary testing of drugs and beauty products.

The essential oils used within aromatherapy have been tried and tested on humans for thousands of years, and with great success. Therefore, when used correctly we can be absolutely sure of their safety and efficacy without the need to test them further on animals.

Copyright © 2002 Geoff Lyth

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