What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy, sometimes also referred to as aromatic or scent medicine, is the art of healing the body using naturally distilled essences from different parts of plant to improve and enhance your everyday emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. These essences are known as essential oils.

Aromatherapy commonly associated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), is the use of volatile liquid plant materials, known as essential oils (EOs), and other aromatic compounds from plants to affect someone’s mood or health. When aromatherapy is used for the treatment or prevention of disease, a precise knowledge of the bioactivity and synergy of the essential oils used, knowledge of the dosage and duration of application, as well as, naturally, a medical diagnosis, are required. In the Anglo-Saxon world, even among “natural” practitioners like herbalists or naturopaths, aromatherapy is regarded more as an art form than a valid healing science. At best, it is viewed as a complementary and seldom the only treatment prescribed.

Research About Aromatherapy:

Among claims made for various essential oils are that they can:

  • Heal minor cuts and insect bites.
  • Aid breathing and loosen mucus secretions.
  • Promote relaxation and sleep.
  • Soothe muscle aches and pains.
  • Energize or enhance memory.
  • Soothe digestive problems.
  • Relieve pain.
  • Kill organisms that cause infection and disease,┬áincluding bacteria, viruses and fungi.

But scientifically speaking, not much is known for certain about how essential oils produce their effects, or even whether commonly used essential oils live up to the claims made about them. Some researchers speculate that the placebo effect is a factor in some use of aromatherapy ,that is, the aromatherapy is effective because the user believes it will help, not because of any direct physiological effect of the essential oil. Along the same lines, an essential oil may help simply because of memories or feelings you associate with the oil’s scent. For instance, if cinnamon reminds you of how hot apple cider warms and comforts you on a winter night, then an essential oil from cinnamon may induce you to relax. Your relaxation may, in turn, have positive effects on your health. Some essential oils do seem to have direct medicinal properties. More scientific research is needed to establish how effective these oils are and how they can best be used.

Aromatherapy Cautions

In general, aromatherapy can be safely practiced at home as long as you follow some basic safety guidelines. Most important, if you suspect or know that you have a health problem, see your medical doctor for an evaluation and to discuss treatment

options before you try to resolve the problem through aromatherapy. Heed the following guidelines:

Research details about the reported effects and any possible safety considerations of the specific oils you plan to use. For instance, people who have sensitive skin or lung conditions should not use certain oils because they may cause irritation. Also, some essential oils tend to cause allergic reactions, and some are especially toxic.

Let your medical doctor know that you plan to try aromatherapy, and ask whether the oils you plan to use may be harmful to you, given your individual medical history and current health. This is especially important for people with long-term health problems, those taking medications, pregnant women, and children and older adults.

For purposes of aromatherapy, use only pure essential oils, which occur naturally in plants. Manufactured fragrances are not pure essential oils, and their properties may be different, even if they seem to smell the same.

If you buy a prepared product that claims to be aroma therapeutic (such as bath products, skin and hair care products, candles or incense) read the label to be sure the product actually contains essential oil. Some companies use manufactured fragrances rather than essential oils in these products. Candles that contain manufactured fragrances have been known to cause headaches. Also, manufactured fragrances should never be used in diffusers.

Research the brand of essential oils you plan to use to find out about the company’s concentration. Two different brands of the same essential oil may have different concentrations.

Because of the dangers of side effects and overdose, you should not ingest drinks made with essential oils, unless you are working closely with a skilled aromatherapy practitioner. Overdose of essential oils may cause nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, agitation, convulsions and coma. Pregnant women and very young children should not ingest essential oils.

Because they are volatile, essential oils tend to be flammable. Take care to keep concentrated essential oils away from heat or flames. Avoid prolonged use; it may cause you to become hypersensitive to the oil, leading to skin reactions or reactions in the kidney, and liver or other organs

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