Aromatherapy is the evidence based, therapeutic use of essential oils to treat, influence or modify the mind, body and spirit by aromatherapists (professionally qualified therapists) to promote health and wellbeing.
Based on the needs of the individual a range of applications are employed by an aromatherapist including inhalation, diluted topical use and massage.
Essential oils have been used medicinally for hundreds of years and are selected for an individual based on their traditional use, clinical experience and from the results of modern scientific evaluation.
Contact an IAAMA Professional Aromatherapist for individual information.
"Essential oils are highly volatile, meaning that they readily evaporate, transforming from liquid to vapour". (Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy)
Essential oils are distinctly different to vegetable oils. A drop of vegetable oil is greasy and will leave a fatty mark on a piece of blotting paper. A drop of essential oil will evaporate completely on the blotting paper - apart from a possible colour mark.
In Aromatherapy, essential oil viscosity has an informal relevance to the concept of "thickness". For example, the difference between the flow rate of a vial of water as opposed to a vial of honey. Some essential oils such as the citrus oils are "thin" and flow easily whereas a oil such as vetiver is "thicker" and flows much more slowly in comparison. Therefore, the viscosity of an essential oil is irrelevant to the quality of an essential oil. Viscosity is a physical property and varies depending on the plant source of the essential oil.
If an essential oil is diluted in a vegetable based carrier oil, the resultant blend will feel "slippery" between the fingers due to the presence of the carrier oil. But again this is not an indicator of quality as the vegetable oil can be good quality - it is merely a blended dilution of essential oil and carrier oil.
Often used terms such as "therapeutic grade" and "medical grade" are commonly used for marketing purposes and are not related in any way to any Australian Therapeutic Goods Association standards. Bottles of essential oils should have both the common name and botanical name of the origin plant used for the distillation. Reputable suppliers will declare on the label if the essential oil has been diluted with a specific carrier oil. Some rare and expensive oils are diluted with a carrier oil.
Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils to improve one’s health and wellbeing. Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that can be powerfully therapeutic when used correctly. Conversely, they can be very harmful if not used carefully and within the safety guidelines established by qualified essential oil researchers and professional aromatherapists.
Including Aromatherapy in your lifestyle can be a wonderful way to promote positive health for yourself and your family.
• Essential oils should not be applied undiluted to skin or mucous membranes. This is because essential oils are highly concentrated. Serious concerns including skin irritation, adverse reactions and sensitivities can result. True Lavender and tea tree are exceptions to the rule, and can be used neat on a small area such as an insect bite or pimple.
• Diluting an essential oil means mixing the essential oil with a quality vegetable oil. (e.g. almond, macadamia, jojoba, coconut) or a hand cream base. For use in a bath they can also be mixed into liquid soap before being added to the bath water. Essential oils do not dissolve in water.
• Always use essential oils in the correct dosage. If in doubt, check with a qualified Aromatherapist.
• Some oils can cause skin sensitisation or allergic reactions in some people. Some may also cause photo sensitivity, which means you are more susceptible to sun damage when you use them on your skin. This includes many of the citrus oils.
• Some health conditions may require extra caution when using some essential oils. For example, essential oils applied on the skin can increase the uptake of skin patch delivered medications such as HRT or nicotine patches. Some essential oils affect blood clotting and should be avoided by those on blood thinning medication or when having surgery. People with asthma may be more sensitive to some essential oils. Some essential oils affect how the liver processes certain classes of medications.
• Less is Best. When using essential oils, use the smallest amount of essential oils that will get the desired result. A small amount of essential oil goes a long way.
• Some essential oils are considered hazardous. These include horseradish, wormwood, sassafras, camphor, wintergreen, pennyroyal, rue, onion, and bitter almond. Again, consult with a qualified Aromatherapist for more information.
• Store essential oils in a dry, dark and cool place away from heat and light. Be aware of use by dates on the bottle. Essential oils can evaporate and/or change their chemical structure over time if stored incorrectly, making them more irritating to the skin and mucous membranes.
• Some people require lower dilutions. For example, no more than 1% dilution for children aged 2-6 years, and even less for younger children, due to their skin being more permeable than adults.
• Essential oils should not be applied directly to the face of children under 2 years old. Similarly, elderly people may have more permeable skin and be at greater risk of sensitization to essential oils.
• Some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy, and generally, dilutions of 1-4% are considered safe to use during pregnancy.
• It should be noted that the amount of oil in each drop from essential oil bottles varies enormously between brands. Drops should not be relied upon as an accurate measure when diluting essential oils.
• Essential oils should not be taken internally unless receiving a detailed consultation and prescription from a trained and qualified Aromatic medicine practitioner.
In Australia, one of the most common methods of administering essential oils is through massage. Essential oils are highly concentrated and it is therefore necessary to dilute them in a “carrier’ prior to application to the body. Using a carrier also allows even distribution of the essential oils over a broad surface as well as facilitating absorption.
Vegetable and nut oils are the most common carriers used in massage, but essential oils also mix in other substances like liquid soap for applications such as bathing.
Carrier oils could be more correctly termed “base” oils, as they are rich in nutrients and add their own unique qualities to the massage blend, enhancing the treatment benefits.
The most familiar carrier oil for massage is sweet almond oil which is suitable for all skin types and may benefit itchy skin conditions such as eczema .
Lesser known oils such as rich, velvety avocado oil, can be added to a lighter oil to treat parched, undernourished skin; or jojoba, not an oil at all, but a liquid wax, can be added to treat acne prone or oily skin conditions.
Like essential oils, these carrier oils have a shelf life and should be stored in dark containers, in a cool, stable environment.
Mineral oils are not suitable for Aromatherapy treatments.
Work environments are increasingly becoming competitive, demanding, hectic and impersonal – creating the perfect setting for stress and its subsequent effects on individual health.
With longer hours spent in the workforce, individuals are working in situations that can have detrimental impacts in their emotional and physical wellbeing. Apart from the competitive nature of today’s workplace and the lack of job security, more and more workers are faced with longer hours commuting to work, and then hours sitting in artificial lighting, exposure to harmful effects of computers and chemicals, dealing with deadlines and competing demands. Many of these global pressures are beyond our own sphere of control.
AROMATHERAPY AND ITS POSITIVE EFFECTS ON WORKPLACE STRESS
Aromatherapy is the art and science of using essential oils to promote health and wellbeing. When used carefully and by following a specific set of principles, aromatherapy can be an empowering way to reduce workplace stress.
The use of different essential oils can release stress, improve confidence, increase motivation and enhance work performance. Some essential oils can promote more open communication, while others can improve memory, focus and concentration.
There are many ways to bring aromatherapy into the workplace. Essential oil diffusers allow the aromatic molecules to be released into the atmosphere, thereby through inhalation the molecules enter our bodies reducing stress, improving concentration and reducing the spread of airborne viruses and bacteria.
Air-conditioners can have a drying effect on the skin, and computers can irritate the eyes. Hydrosols can be spritzed on the face to increase hydration and help to freshen and revitalise the stale air.
A qualified aromatherapist can provide you with more information.
Our respiratory health can often be compromised by the lifestyle choices we make whether it is living stressful fast paced lives, making poor food choices or inhaling toxic or poor quality air. Poor lifestyle choices may compromise our ability to fight off the viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory ailments such as colds and flu, sinusitis and bronchitis.
A growing body of research and clinical trials has proven that essential oils are very effective for alleviating respiratory problems. The most effective method of using essential oils for respiratory infections is by direct inhalations, compresses and upper back and chest massage. The choice of specific essential oils when preparing a treatment plan requires a deep understanding of the therapeutic properties of the essential oils and also the clinical features and aetiology of the health condition being treated.
At the first signs of a cold, immediate inhalation of an appropriate mix of essential oils will often halt the progression of the symptoms. A qualified professional aromatherapist can provide effective essential oil blends for various respiratory ailments.
The International Aromatherapy and Aromatic Medicine Association, is the leading independent non-profit professional association dedicated to support aromatherapy practitioners in Australia and overseas.