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Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils. Essential oils are natural plant extracts.
In the hands of a qualified therapist, essential oils are the only remedy that can be used to treat internally, externally and vibrationally, making them truly wholistic. A qualified therapist can customise the remedy and method of application to meet your individual needs.
Aromatherapy is both an ancient art and a modern science, however products using the term ‘Aromatherapy’, commonly found on supermarket shelves, should not be confused with the therapeutic work of a qualified Aromatherapist. It is more than a smelly massage!
What can it do for you?
Aromatherapy can treat a variety of conditions, help manage symptoms and act as a complementary therapy to modern medicine. Some examples:
- mood disorders
- reproductive issues
- ENT infections
- bronchitis and respiratory conditions
- autoimmune disease including rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis
- digestive disorders
- aches and pains including arthritis
- skin conditions
Fact sheet 1 aromatherapy – What is it? What are its benefits?
Fact sheet 2 aromatherapy and workplace stress
Fact sheet 3 aromatherapy and respiratory ailments
Fact sheet 4 Oils ain’t oils – selecting quality essential oils
Fact sheet 5 using essential oils safely
Aromatic medicine is a potent alternative to allopathic medicine. A trained practitioner will be using high grade essential oils in medical applications. Akin to Herbalists this therapy may include ingestion.
There is and Advanced Diploma in Aromatic Medicine available at leading schools around Australia. It provides competence in aromatic medicine. Practitioners at this level are self employed as independent practitioners and have the ability to prescribe for absorption by internal interfaces.
The value of natural plant oils for medicinal purposes, cosmetic application and food preparation has been recognised for thousands of years.
A form of aromatherapy (using infused oils) was very common in all ancient civilizations and formed part of medical and therapeutic applications thousands of years ago.
Aromatherapy was often associated with ritual and religious ceremonies in the ancient civilizations of India, China and of course our Australian aboriginal people, who have used the natural healing properties of plants such as Tea Tree, in continuous and unbroken tradition for 40,000 years.
Exotic perfumes from the Middle East, and the use of floral waters became popular in Europe during the middle Ages.
The Persians who are believed to have discovered the art of distillation were accomplished practitioners of aromatic medicine and the physician and scholar, Avicenna (AD 980-1037) wrote many books on the healing arts, including the use of essential oils.
This was the period in history when herbalism became the definitive healing modality. Many books were written by notable herbalists such as John Gerarde and Nicholas Culpeper.
Later, as the ability to identify and synthetise individual chemical constituents of essential oils became possible, their therapeutic use diminished, and essential oil use was almost exclusively reserved for the food, cosmetic and perfume industry.
The word “Aromatherapie” was not coined until 1928, when French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, discovered the powerful healing qualities of essential oils, (more specifically lavender) following the burning of his hand in a laboratory accident.
Another Frenchman, Army Surgeon, Jean Valnet, continued on with Gattefosse’s work and used essential oils extensively in the treatment of severe burns and battle wounds. Up until the 2nd World War, lemon and thyme essential oils were still being used to sterilise surgical instruments.
Doctor Valnet’s classic text, “Aromatherapie” translated into English as “The Practice of Aromatherapy” has been re-printed 9 times and is considered by many as the Aromatherapist’s bible.
The first book to be written in English on the subject, “The Art of Aromatherapy” by Robert Tisserand was not until 1977.
Essential oils are the “life blood” of plants and the corner stone of Aromatherapy.
They are extracted from various parts of a plant, for example lavender essential oil is produced by distilling the plant’s flowering tops; citrus oils are expressed (or squeezed) from the rind of the fruit; and sandalwood is distilled from the wood of the tree. Other essential oils are extracted from the leaves, seeds, roots or resin of a plant.
Essential oils are usually liquid at room temperature and although they will evaporate on contact with air, the volatility of essential oils varies from one oil to another.
These dynamic and chemically complex substances all posses a vibrant quality and distinctive fragrance, which may vary from year to year and according to the geographical location, harvesting and extraction process used in their manufacture.
In spite of their name, essential oils are non-oily, soluble in fats, such as carrier oils, but will not readily dissolve in water. Pure essential oils can be up to 70 times more concentrated than the original plant source and absorption into the bloodstream commences within a fraction of a second of application.
Many factors need to be considered when utilising the healing properties of essential oils. They are potent chemicals and therefore should be used sparingly and with care.
Pure essential oils should not be confused with fragrance oils which are synthetic copies of the real thing and have no therapeutic value.
Cost is a good indication of essential oil quality and prices will vary depending on the quantity of raw plant material required for production of an oil. For example, it is necessary to have approximately 2-5 tonnes of rose petals to produce one kilogram of essential oil, making it one of the most expensive, and only 200 kilograms of lavender flowers to produce one kilogram of oil.
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 readily in other substances such as alcohol, soap, honey, milk and egg white – for application other than massage, such as bathing.
Carrier oils could be more corrected termed “base” oils, as they are rich in nutrients and add their own unique qualities to the massage bland, 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.
Aromatherapy aims to promote and maintain health, and prevent dis-ease in body, mind and spirit.
Professional Aromatherapists are skilled and highly trained health practitioners who posses an extensive knowledge of up to 100 different essential oils and know the best method of application, to ensure safe, effective treatment outcomes, tailored to individual needs.
Volatile essential oils enter the body during inhalation via the millions of scent-sensitive (olfactory) cells lining the nose or through the skin, as in massage or water treatments.
In halation is particularly effective in treating emotional, mental and hormonal disorders as our sense of smell is linked directly to the part of the brain which regulates mood and triggers the release of chemicals to help regulate and balance hormones, stimulate or relax, assist memory and creativity.
Aromatherapy massage is designed to maximise the benefits of essential oils by using a combination of different movements and techniques such as lymphatic drainage which facilities and assists the elimination of toxins, and Swedish massage techniques that improve circulation, increase mobility and reduces pain.
Working on many levels simultaneously, Aromatherapy massage is very relaxing and eases stress and tension in the body and mind. It promotes healthy sleep patterns and can be extremely effective in treating emotional imbalance, including depression.
The unique and complex combination of chemicals in the individual essential oils are transported throughout the body via the bloodstream, enhancing the body’s own healing mechanisms and then eliminated without leaving harmful residue or creating unwelcome side affects.