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Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Have you ever thought about fragrances and their effects? Depending on the smell, they can trigger different emotions. They can arouse, energize, cause hunger pangs, relax us, and repulse us. Aromatherapy is the practice of treating the body, mind, and spirit with essential oils that have been extracted from a variety of flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, and trees. Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that are extremely valuable to medicine, food, and the cosmetic industry. Did you know that many of these plant materials are the active ingredients in drugs prescribed by western medicine today? In the food and drink industry, many scents and flavors consist of essential oils, and sometimes the essential oils are used as a preservative.

History Of Aromatherapy

Although aromatherapy didnít receive its name until the 1900ís, itís been around for thousands of years. Throughout history, perfumed oils, spices, and resins, have been used for beauty, preservation, medicine, and spiritual purposes. Some of the earliest records date as far back as 4500 BC.

The Egyptians based their embalming process on aromatherapy concepts. The pharaohs not only used frankincense for embalming the dead, it was also used in medicine and perfume. During 1962, the Tomb of Tutankhamen was sent to France for analysis; a few of the essential oils discovered in the tomb were frankincense, myrrh, and spikenard. What was truly impressive was that their scents were still recognizable.

The Healing Powers Of Aromatherapy

The French Chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, was the person who coined the term aromatherapy. Gattefosse discovered by accident the healing powers of lavender essential oil. In 1920, he was severely burnt during a laboratory explosion. He quickly rinsed his hands in a vat filled with terpene free lavender essential oil. The pain was gone almost instantly. His burn healed in a matter of days without any scars or infection. Gattefosse was very influential in helping us understand the antiseptic use of essential oils.

Medical facilities are starting to incorporate aromatherapy practices in some of their procedures. In one study conducted at the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Trust, England, a total of 122 intensive care patients were examined for stress and anxiety indicators. They were examined before and after aromatherapy massage treatments. At the end of the study, the patients reported a positive change in their temperament and perceived anxiety while in ICU (Dunn, Sleep, & Collett, 1995).

Aromatherapy & Massage

The molecular structure of the plant essences enables them to quickly penetrate the skin, which encourages lymph flow, stimulates circulation, and detoxifies and revitalizes the cells. Since the essential oils rapidly enter our system they are a welcome and delightfully fragrant addition to an aromatherapy massage. Many massage practitioners are now incorporating aromatherapy into their list of services. A carrier oil usually serves as a base to which specific essential oils have been added (the essential oils used are usually based on the clientís preferences.) Occasionally, the massage oil is warmed with a device, such as an aroma stone; the fragrantly warm oil is massaged into the skin.

Aromatherapy In the Home

Aromatherapy is finding its way into many households not only because they gently scent and cleanse our homes. They are also a welcome change, for many, to the toxic cleansers that are on the market today.

Today, there is an increased interest in aromatherapy. You can find a wide variety of books and websites that focus on aromatherapy. Aromatherapy products have hit the mainstream, and you can now find many aromatherapy products in a wide variety of stores (just confirm that the ingredients used are truly essential oils as many are adulterated). Thanks to aromatherapy's popularity, there has been a renewed interest in the use of essential oils for fragrant, therapeutic, cosmetic, and spiritual use.

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