The art and science otherwise known as Aromatherapy is prevalent in most societal and cultural podiums of our society. On December 6, an article was published discussing the benefits that aromatherapy provides to our health. Throughout the article, one would presume that the author continued to raise an important question that is, “Has the eternal dilemma between traditional medicine and the old alternative medicine been revived once again?”
When going through aromatherapy, there are factors which are directly affecting our body in a multitude of ways. What must be mentioned is that its misuse along with the inclusion of harmful ingredients can become a highly dangerous element for our physiological and psychological systems, rather than being an element of great help for our welfare.
Now it is well known that the field of aromatherapy is extremely vast. However, it is worth stating that if this beautiful therapy is applied correctly that it could positively change our lives. That is why it is vital to clarify the concepts of aromatherapy in order to acquire a comprehensive outlook of the benefits that it provides and the proper ways to use the variety of essential oils.
Now before we continue to explain this interesting and beautiful science, we must consider the following questions: What is Aromatherapy? How does aromatherapy help us in our daily lives? What is the meaning of “psycho-aromatherapy”? How does aromatherapy affect our nervous system? What is its psychological dimension?
DEFINITION AND HISTORY OF AROMATHERAPY
Aromatherapy can simply be defined as the therapeutic use of essential oils, inherent in all aromatic plants. The oils that are extracted from the plants are highly concentrated forms of herbal energy, and represent the life force of every plant. These organic substances are too complex to be condensed into this article; having among its components many chemical compounds that after being extracted, become high-powered and liquid substances.
To give a clear explanation of what transpires during aromatherapy is difficult, however, the effects subsequent to the treatment are highly beneficial, and have been demonstrated throughout the history of mankind for thousands of years.
For example, In India, the essential oils have been integrated into many medicinal and meditational practices. The Vedic (2000 BC) literature speaks of the healing substances such as cinnamon, ginger, tuberose, myrrh, jasmine, rose, and many others. They too, with its application, gave a spiritual and philosophical approach to their sacred rites.
In China during the 12th century, Chan Shih-nan found and described a process that was employed and resulted in a fragrance of extraordinary elegance. This process consisted of taking orange flowers and placing them on a burner. While heating, the flowers will produce drops of liquid “sweat”. This liquid is then expressed in Agarwood and kept in a porcelain bowl, to produce “the fragrance of extraordinary elegance”. Chinese, texts dating back more than 3000 years B.C. also mention, “Shi-Che”, the goddess of perfume, and describes the practices used to enhance the environment with perfumes.
In Ancient Egypt, aromatherapy would be used during the coronation of a Pharaoh, and during the national celebration. It was believed that the aromatic cloud created and attracted the influence of the gods and repelled negative spirits. Consequently, incense became highly desirable and was burned daily in ancient Egyptian temples, and around many homes.
In the Ebers Papyrus, there are discovered descriptions of the use of flavorings for magical-mystical purposes and healing experiences as well. The Egyptians would use frankincense in their practices of exorcisms and love potions. The highest priests practiced enfleurage (process of extraction of aromatic oils of flowers).
In ancient Mesopotamia, the citizens used the cedar-of-Lebanon (Cedrus Libanis); the name comes from Lebanon lubuuno Akkadian word meaning “incense”. The Temple of Solomon was built twice the size of the aromatic tree, and after being destroyed in 586 BC, the temple was rebuilt with the help of the Persians using fragrance of cedar wood.
The ancient Greeks learned many tricks about the great benefits of essential oils from the Egyptians. For example, Dionysus was the god of the scents, flavors, wine and perfume. Cloris was the deity of flowers and Eros is an anagram of the rose. In the temple of Delphi, virgin priestesses were impregnated with oil baths. The historian Hippocrates disseminated the properties of essential oils in several of his books. The Greek physician Dioscorides prepared a wealth of information about plants and their common use, shaping it in the book, “Medic Matter”.
AROMATHERAPY IN MODERN TIMES
The word aromatherapy was coined in 1928 by the French chemist Gattefossé, when he was working in his family business of perfumery. Gattefosse had found himself fascinated by the therapeutic potential of essential oils when he accidently discovered that Lavender was able to quickly heal a burn on his hand, and help avoid a scar. Gattefosse also found that many of the pure essential oils were more effective as a whole when compared to synthetic substitutes or isolated active ingredients. Years earlier in 1904, Cuthbert Hall had shown that talc antiseptic, eucalyptus oil in its natural state was stronger than the isolated active main component “eucalyptol” or “cineol”.
Another French physician and scientist, Dr. Jean Valnet, used essential oils as part of the program in which he was able to treat specific medical and psychiatric disorders. The results of the program were published in the journal Aromatherapie in 1964.
The work of Valnet was studied by Madame Marguerite Maury who utilized Valnet’s research for beauty therapy. Maury collaborated with her customers to create what was a “strict complex personal scent in which she would adapt it to the temperaments of their client and particular health problems. Therefore, she went beyond any simple aesthetic goal of scented essences, and when selected properly, represented and influenced many medicinal agents.”
In some aspects, the word ‘aromatherapy’ can be misleading because it insinuates that it is a form of healing that works exclusively through our olfactory senses and emotions. This is not the case because apart from its essences, each essential oil has a unique combination of constituents which interact with body’s chemistry in a direct way, and effects certain organs or systems as a whole.
When oils are used externally in a form of massage treatment, they are readily absorbed through the skin and transported through the body. This can be demonstrated by rubbing a clove of garlic on the soles of the feet. Volatile oil content will be taken to the blood stream, and breath odor appears a little later. Interestingly, there is a difference in time that it takes for each essential oil to be absorbed through the skin. For example, turpentine is absorbed in 20 minutes, eucalyptus and thyme are absorbed between 20-40 minutes, anise and bergamot are between 40-60 minutes, and citronella, pine, lavender and geranium are all absorbed between 60-80 minutes.
For this reason, it is important to recognize that essential oils have three different modes of action, referring to how they interact with the human body. The first is the pharmacologically (chemical changes that occur when they enter the bloodstream and reacts with hormones, enzymes, etc.), the second is physiologically (when it affects the body’s system, whether they are sedated or stimulated), and lastly psychologically (when the substance is inhaled and the person responds to its smell).
USES OF THE AROMATHERAPY
The uses of Aromatherapy can easily be observed in the medical field; one being an allopathic view. An allopathic view calls for the medical use of ingredients or physical interventions to treat and/or suppress symptoms, or physiopathological processes of diseases or conditions. This view has been most beneficial for its chemical action on both the immune system attacking bacteria as viruses. Note that this application was developed in France and also applies in aesthetics, calling aromacology (psychology of scents that studies the relationship between psychology and odors) and its uses are being developed intensively in cosmetic application. The field of application takes a more holistic approach throughout the massages and other body and energy therapies with the anointing of essential oils. Undoubtedly is it these essential oils that are sought to restore the balance between body, mind and spirit; and improving the psychological and emotional effects to our well being.
Aromatherapy can be effective and simple at home in a variety of ways, some of which are for essences and some for its cosmetic and medicinal qualities. Some of these essential oils can be used as a perfume or to enhance a container of potpourri. Some can be added to the bath and be used to make individual beauty preparations. Aromatherapy can also be used to treat minor cases in first aid and to help and prevent many common complaints of headaches, colds, menstrual cramps, and muscle aches.
The essential oils used for aromatherapy should always be stored out of reach of children. Other uses include: in massages where oil should be selected to suit the patient’s condition and temperament, and combine them with based oil, such as sweet almond or grape seed oil.
It is also effective to use essential oils to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. A warm compress can be prepared by filling a pot with hot water and subsequently adding 4 to 5 drops of essential oil. Use a piece of cotton or flannel cloth with water from the pot and then placed on the affected area until cool wet. This process is used for back pain, rheumatism, arthritis, abscesses, as well as for sore ears and teeth.
Another way to use it is to improve the hair which is by using a few drops of essential oil to the final rinse process, or by adding it directly to the mild shampoo. It is also used in perfumed water baths. One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to use essential oils is pouring 5 to 10 drops of essential oil when the tub is full. From personal experience, the benefits are wonderful. The aromatic bath process has traditionally been used dating back to the ancient romans, to enjoy a sensual experience.
Essential oils can also be used as scents for bedrooms by burning incense and using an oil burner or an aromatic diffuser. These oils are also used in steam inhalers and also good for sinusitis, throat problems, and chest infections. Some people use it to help fight urinary as genital infections or thrush, cystitis or pruritus.
More advanced uses of essential oils can be seen in many places such as the workplace, in sports, and there are a variety of supporting materials for their own use. Recently hospitals have adopted these practices, and have been experiencing excellent results.
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