Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils, the volatile portion of aromatic plant products. Essential oils are aromatic essences generally distilled from the bark, roots, flowers, stems, leaves, or other plant elements. The aroma and chemical composition of essential oils can produce therapeutic and medical benefits through inhalation and absorption through the skin.
Aromatherapy is effective in the treatment of a variety of common ailments such as inflammation, acne, wounds, indigestion, bruises, PMS, concentration and memory difficulties, fatigue, insect bites, muscular and rheumatic pains, stress, nausea, and anxiety. Aromatherapy is utilized in a variety of settings including home, spas, hospitals, and clinics and in a wide range of applications such as skin and hair care, pain management, to reduce side effects of chemotherapy, and to promote relaxation and well being of patients in palliative care and intensive care units.
Essential oils often vary greatly in quality due to various factors such as distillation standards and conditions under which the plant was grown. Not all products that contain the word “aromatherapy” in their labels are derived from pure oil essences. Some also contain perfume or fragrance oils or other synthetic ingredients. Consumers seeking aromatherapy products should determine the product does not contain fragrance oils or other synthetic components by checking the ingredient label. Therapeutic-grade oils differ from perfume-grade oils, which are synthetic and lack therapeutic properties.
The chemical components of essential oils exert specific mind-body effects. Each essential oil produces a different effect depending on which component predominates in the essential oil. Oils can also be blended synergistically to produce a specific therapeutic action or aroma. Synergistic blends often produce increased therapeutic benefits in comparison to oils used independently.
When inhaled, essential oils affect the brain and nervous system. Oil molecules enter the lungs, are absorbed by the bloodstream and produce psychological and physical benefits. When applied to the skin, oils are diluted with a carrier oil (apricot kernel oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil) before applying the oil to the skin for absorption into the bloodstream. Essential oils are often too concentrated to be applied directly to the skin, although specific oils, such as sandalwood, ylang ylang and lavender, may be applied directly. Essential oil application to the skin is often utilized for a variety of hygiene and health conditions. Some of the more commonly used essential oils include:
∑ Eucalyptus, which has analgesic, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Used for skin disorders, headaches, neuralgia, arthritis, coughs, sinusitis, flu, bronchitis, and aches and pains.
∑ Ylang Ylang, which has sedative, stimulant, anti-infectious, and tonic properties. Used for high blood pressure, palpitations, acne, stress related disorders, insomnia, digestive disorders, and insect bites.
∑ Lavender, which has analgesic, tonic and stimulant properties. Used for cuts, bruises, hypertension, migraine, headache, insomnia, sciatica, allergies, sprains, flu, and rheumatism.
∑ Sandalwood, which has astringent, sedative, antiseptic, and tonic properties. Used for bronchitis, stress related conditions, insomnia, nausea, and coughs.
Aromatherapy is a complementary health modality which can be integrated into allopathic health care plans. Individuals should discuss essential oils with their physician before using aromatherapy products to complement medical conditions.
For information about Acupuncture & Massage College’s Oriental Medicine and Massage Therapy programs call Joe Calareso at (305) 595-9500.
For information about aromatherapy for health and wellness ask for Dr. Richard Browne, Acupuncture Physician.