Aromatherapy is the use of the aromatic oils derived from plants for their healing properties. There has been long history of using plant oils in this way from as far back as the ancient Egyptians in their embalming process and as far afield as China and Greece.
It wasn’t until 1937 when the term aromatherapy was coined by French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé who discovered the healing properties of lavender oil when treating his own burns.
Although scientific research is often inconclusive with regards to the effectiveness of aromatherapy, it is agreed that many oils contain antibacterial and antiseptic qualities.
Aromatherapy is not typically viewed as a cure for ailments but as a complementary therapy to help prevent or treat illness by boosting the body’s immune system. It is increasing in popularity and the beneficial properties of different oils are being more widely recognised, we take a closer look.
The natural plant oils used in Aromatherapy are called essential oils. The oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves, stems and roots via distillation or simply pressing. Distillation is the predominant way of extracting the oil and uses steam to break down the plant to release the oil. The essential oils are highly concentrated and most need to be diluted before they can be used.
There are many essential oils all with their unique healing properties. Some of the more commonly used oils are:
Lavender Oil is one of the most popular and versatile of the essential oils and has many beneficial properties and is most commonly known for its relaxing effects. It is also an antiseptic (antibacterial), expectorant (eases congestion), analgesic (pain relieving), cicatrizant (assists in forming scar tissue for healing wounds), and can help calm the nerves and lift the mood. It can be used as a treatment or as a preventative measure.
Tea tree Oil or Melaleuca
Tea tree, also known as melaleuca oil, is a plant extract from Australia that’s been used as a topical treatment for centuries. It has antiseptic and antifungal properties to fight bacterial and fungal infections and is ideal for sanitising as well as medicinal purposes. It’s commonly used for the relief of symptoms of minor skin conditions, such as spots, pimples and blemishes
Lemon essential oil is extracted from the Citrus limonum (also known as Citrus Limon). The aroma produced by lemon oil is particularly uplifting and energy promoting. It is antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory.
Peppermint is renowned for aiding digestion. It is particularly good at easing heartburn and indigestion. Like many other essential oils it is antibacterial, antifungal and can help to reduce inflammation.
Essential oils can be mixed together to make tailored treatments. For example a preventative blend for fighting off colds could include orange, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary. The mix of oils can be used in the same way as single oils.
To reap the benefits of essential oils they are usually accessed by inhalation of oil infused steam, or massaged into the skin using a carrier oil or lotion to dilute.
Aromatherapy massages are one of the most popular forms of aromatherapy treatment. The essential oil is mixed with the massage oil or lotion so you will benefit from the aroma of the oil as well as being able to absorb it directly through the skin.
You can simply add a couple of drops of an essential oil into your bath and inhale the steam as well as absorb some of the oil through your skin.
You can inhale the vapour more directly by using a steam bath. Add around 5 drops of a particular essential oil to a bowl of hot water and cover your head and the bowl with a towel.
Find a health centre or spa offering aromatherapy treatments or massage here.
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