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Aromatherapy is Nothing to Sniff At

Posted Nov 14 2010 9:00am

A note from Victoria:

Today’s guest post is by Katherine McKenney. Katherine McKenney is a natural beauty blogger who is studying Aromatherapy. When she’s not studying essential oils, or mixing up natural beauty products in her kitchen, she can be found hosting Natural Beautee Parties at her Natural Beautee blog .

Aromatherapy is Nothing to Sniff AtEverywhere you look these days essential oils are turning up in your moisturizer, shower gel, and even your laundry detergent. Part of me is pleased that people are becoming increasingly aware of essential oils but the other part of me is worried that without the proper education people may not realize the full potential that they have, or even worse misuse them which can be dangerous.

If you look at the word “aromatherapy,” there are two obvious components to the word but I get the impression that generally people associate aromatherapy more with the “aroma” component and less with the “therapy” component. In fact, aromatherapy is a serious complementary therapy which uses essential oils to treat the individual through three different methods: inhalation, topical application, and orally. So how does it work?

Aromatherapists treat the individual in a holistic sense, by doing diagnostics through questioning and using the feedback to blend the different oils to suit that individual’s needs. Then depending on the ailment, the aromatherapist will select the appropriate method. For example, colds, depression or anxiety might be treated through inhalation, whereas skin and muscle conditions might be treated through blending and applying the oils through massage.

In the US and UK, essential oils are not prescribed to be taken internally, although in France some doctors are actually trained in this. Note: Unlike synthetic chemicals and drugs which are built in a lab to have a very specific physiological action, essential oils have wide ranging and multiple actions. This is why they can treat both on a physiological, energetic, and emotional level.

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant and flower essences made through either distillation or cold pressing processes. They are extremely potent, so only used in small quantities (usually a few drops per bottle of product). Generally your body will let you know whether or not a certain essential oil is good or bad for you. If you hate the way an essential oil smells, that’s your clue!  For example, neroli is an amazing essential oil for skincare. It helps replenish and repair dry, damaged skin, is great for mature skin, treating scars and stretch marks. However, try as I might, I can’t make myself like the way it smells. Sadly, neroli is just not for me. The best essential oils to use are those which are organic. This is because no pesticides have been used in the farming of the plants so you get a more pure oil.

Often, natural beauty products will be laden with essential oils and it can be hard for the beginner to figure out which oil or oils aren’t agreeing with them. A good way to start out is by making a trip to your local health food store and sniffing some of the essential oils. If you want to try your hand at mixing up something, a good product to make first is a facial oil.  Make sure you adhere to the right ratios, and when in doubt contact a local aromatherapist. When it comes to essential oils, less is more: start with less, as you can always add more!

I think part of the reason why aromatherapy may not be taken as seriously as it deserves as a complementary therapy is because of the confusion between the usage of essential oils. If you consider that about 95% of the world’s essential oil production is for the perfume and pharmaceutical industries then it’s no wonder because aromatherapy is a tiny part of the essential oil market share.

The majority of the time essential oils are in a product to make it smell nice as opposed to therapeutic purposes. I often see essential oils in share care products that are actually really inappropriate for skin care (for the record, the best essential oils for skin are lavender, german chamomile, geranium, palmarosa, and sandalwood). That’s not an exhaustive list but they are the first to go to when using essential oils in skincare.

Aromatherapy is Nothing to Sniff AtThere are a lot of interesting internet debates on what constitutes aromatherapy. I saw a particularly heated one between some poor lady who had bought a lavender soap and was trying to tell an aromatherapist that her soap was aromatherapy because she smelled the lavender when she took a shower. Well, if you don’t know what you’re talking about and you enter a debate with someone who has spent years studying and practicing the topic, it’s just not going to be a fair fight. What I did find interesting however was that the aromatherapist contended that using a soap could not be aromatherapy because the individual was not inhaling a high enough amount of essential oil to have a therapeutic effect.

The aromatherapist definitely had some points apart from dosage like the fact that the lavender wasn’t selected for any particular reason but I felt a little sad for the lady that the aromatherapist was trying to rain on her parade. The fact of the matter was that for the lady smelling lavender made her feel happy and relaxed so even if her emotions were due to the placebo effect, we shouldn’t judge her or try to exclude her by saying her soap wasn’t aromatherapy.

What do you all think? Can a soap be aromatherapy?

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