When it comes to science and medical breakthroughs it’s very easy to get caught up in the next greatest thing. New tests, new gadgets, new pills. However, in the process it’s important not to lose sight of the past…or what the past has to offer.
Aromatherapy is a perfect example. Used in one form or another by many cultures for thousands of years, this use of essential oils from fragrant plants fell mostly by the wayside until its resurgence in the early 1900s when the word “aromatherapy” was invented and its affect on diseases began to be studied. It gained even more attention in Westernized countries in the latter part of the 20th century when people began seeking more options to traditional medicine.
How It Works
Essential oils are the cornerstone of aromatherapy and are employed to help soothe both the body and the mind. Many different types exist with some of the more popular ones including lavender, lemon, tea tree, chamomile, peppermint and cedarwood.
To make essential oils, concentrated essences are taken out of the leaves, blossoms, roots or seeds of certain plants and then mechanically pressed or distilled with steam and/or water. The result is a highly concentrated essential oil.
Oils can be inhaled through an infuser, applied to the skin during a massage or added to a lotion or dressing. They are generally not ingested by mouth.
Different essential oils can provide different results so it is important to do the research or seek the help of an aromatherapist. Some may have antibacterial properties while others may work as an antifungal treatment and still others may show antiviral activity.
Certain essential oils can also affect mood. Lavender, lemon, bergamot and others can reduce tension, stress and depression while frankincense, rose and lavender have been shown to lessen anxiety in pregnant women.
Essential oils are generally safe as long as they are inhaled or used on the skin (avoiding the eyes). They can be fatal if drunk so never take by mouth unless closely supervised by an expert.
Occasionally side effects can occur including rashes or skin irritation, headaches or asthma. It is also possible some oils might affect certain medications so check with a medical professional if in doubt.
Pregnant women and people with asthma or allergies should consult with their healthcare provider before using aromatherapy.
Finally, essential oils are highly concentrated and very flammable so keep them away from candles or flames.
Whether by inhaling certain essential oils or by using them on the skin, aromatherapy can be a good way to help boost the body, mind and spirit.
National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy www.naha.org
Aromatherapy Overview from the University of Maryland Medical Center www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/aromatherapy-000347.htm