Aromatherapy, as the name suggests uses the sense of smell for therapeutic purposes. Aromatherapy essential oils derived from aromatic plants are used to ease ailments such as aches and pains and other severe health problems. The oils are found in different parts of the plant such as the flowers, twigs, leaves and bark or in the rind of fruit. Aromatherapy oils are the concentrated essences that seek to heal the body and mind.
Find out how this practice has its roots in ancient times. Read up on essential oils that lend their healing touch to aid overall well being. There is a cornucopia of aromatherapy products lining the shelves of stores that heal and beautify your body. Aromatherapy candles are popularly used in homes today.
History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is the practice of using volatile plant oils or essential oils. Essential oils are in fact the pure 'essence' of a plant. They have been found to provide both psychological and physical benefits when used correctly and safely. There are more than 90 varieties of essential oils. Aromatherapy is a method of natural healing that dates back 6000 years. The Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Indians, Persians and ancient Egyptians used aromatherapy oils.
The Chinese and the Egyptians were the first to understand its power. The Chinese used aromatic plants by burning them to create harmony and balance. According to ancient Egyptian scriptures, Imhotep -the Egyptian god of medicine and healing recommended fragrant oils for bathing, massaging and embalming the dead. Egyptians invented a rudimentary distillation machine that allowed for the crude extraction of cedarwood oil. Hippocrates, commonly called the 'father of medicine' practiced fumigations for both aromatic and medicinal benefits. He used aromatherapy baths and scented massage and utilized aromatic fumigation to rid Athens of the plague. These oils were known not just for their aroma but their anti-inflammatory properties and capacity to heal wounds.
In the 16th century and 17th century, essential oils were distilled and sold at apothecaries and perfuming became a big industry. Women had special bottles created by their jewelers to hold their treasured perfume. The 19th century saw the isolation of the major constituents of essential oils. It was in 1928 that aromatherapy in its present form gained prominence. The French Rene Maurice Gattefosse coined the term aromatherapy for the therapeutic use of essential oils. He noticed that lavender oil helped in healing his burnt hand without leaving any scars. With the growing resurgence to harness the power of natural products, essential aromatherapy oils are being used for therapeutic, cosmetic and aromatic benefit.
Aromatherapy oils work on our sense of smell. When essential oils are inhaled, olfactory receptor cells are stimulated and the impulse is transmitted to the emotional center of the brain or 'limbic system'. This system is connected to areas of the brain linked to memory, breathing and blood circulation as well as the endocrine glands, which regulate hormone levels in the body. Oils used in aromatherapy are concentrated essences that are extracted from aromatic plants. Aromatherapy essential oils are used alone or in combination to achieve the desired effect.
Some of the better-known aromatherapy oils are extracted from nutmeg, lemon, lime, lavender, fir, sage, pine, sandalwood and basil. These essential aromatherapy oils soak through cell membranes and diffuse through the blood and tissues. The oils penetrate through the hair follicles and sweat glands. These oils are able to easily penetrate through the cells on account of their smaller molecular structure. Aromatherapy oils are known to possess anti bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Some oils possess hormone-like properties that help the body regain balance. The oils of clary sage and fennel are used for their estrogenic effect. Aromatherapy works upon the central nervous system thereby relieving feelings of anxiety and stress and depression. The beauty benefits gained from aromatherapy oils are also many.
The methods used to extract essential oil are time consuming and expensive and require a high degree of expertise. It takes more than 220 pounds of rose petals to produce merely 4 or 5 teaspoon of oil. Due to the large quantity of plant material required, pure essential oils are expensive. Since they are highly effective, a few drops of essential oil can produce the required effect. There is no dearth of synthetic oils available but these do not possess the healing power of aromatherapy essential oils.
Essential Aromatherapy oils
- Oils that are applied to the skin are absorbed into the bloodstream. The components of the various oils are believed to aid in improved health, beauty and hygiene conditions.
- They act as natural repellents and pesticides.
- Essential oils fight infection on account of certain hormone-like compounds that initiate regeneration.
- Essential oils should not be used undiluted on the skin.
- Some oils can cause allergic reactions for a few individuals.
- A few essential oils are best avoided during pregnancy or by those suffering from asthma, epilepsy or other health conditions.
- Never let children use essential oils without the presence of an adult who is knowledgeable about their use.
- Essential oils should not be taken internally.
- Essential oils are flammable.
Aromatherapy Beauty Care
Essential oils of aromatherapy are extensively used in beauty care products to give a natural glow to skin and the no side-effects tag adds to their demand over synthetic beauty care products. body lotions made with essential oils rejuvenate our body through massages and nourish our skin thereby avoiding skin dehydration. Deodorants and perfumes made of essential oil release natural odors and keep body odor at bay. Repellants are penetrating creams which when applied help us to keep off mosquitoes and sometimes even internal fungal infections. Other aromatherapy products for beauty care are hand creams, shampoos and lip balms.
- Aromatherapy candles
- Aroma perfumes
- Electronic aroma diffusers
- Aroma fog machines
- Bath and shower salts
- Aroma satchets
- Incense powders
Aromatherapy Candles have a soothing effect that helps in relaxing the body and calming the mind. Normally aromatherapy candles have only 2 ingredients: vegetable oil and pure essential oils and they are made with a 100% cotton wick to ensure a smoke and pollution free burn. Common examples for aromatherapy candle are the 'citronella' candles, which are used during the summer to keep mosquitoes away. Citronella essential oil is the ingredient in the candles that provides this benefit.