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Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy

Definition

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic essential oils to promote physical and psychological well-being. It is sometimes used in combination with massage and other therapeutic techniques as part of a holistic treatment approach.

Origins

Aromatic plants have been employed for their healing, preservative, and pleasurable qualities throughout recorded history in both the East and West. As early as 1500 b.c. the ancient Egyptians used waters, oils, incense, resins, and ointments scented with botanicals for their religious ceremonies.

There is evidence that the Chinese may have recognized the benefits of herbal and aromatic remedies much earlier than this. The oldest known herbal text, Shen Nung's Pen Ts'ao (c. 27003000 b.c.) catalogs over 200 botanicals. Ayurveda, a practice of traditional Indian medicine that dates back more than 2,500 years, also used aromatic herbs for treatment.

The Romans were well known for their use of fragrances. They bathed with botanicals and integrated them into their state and religious rituals. So did the Greeks, with a growing awareness of the medicinal properties of herbs. Greek physician and surgeon Pedanios Dioscorides, whose renown herbal text De Materia Medica (60 a.d.) was the standard textbook for Western medicine for 1,500 years, wrote extensively on the medicinal value of botanical aromatics. The Medica contained detailed information on some 500 plants and 4,740 separate medicinal uses for them, including an entire section on aromatics.

Written records of herbal distillation are found as early as the first century a.d., and around 1000 a.d., the noted Arab physician and naturalist Avicenna described the distillation of rose oil from rose petals, and the medicinal properties of essential oils in his writings. However, it wasn't until 1937, when French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé published Aromatherapie: Les Huiles essentielles, hormones végé tales, that aromatherapie, or aromatherapy, was introduced in Europe as a medical discipline. Gattefossé, who was employed by a French perfumeur, discovered the healing properties of lavender oil quite by accident when he suffered a severe burn while working and used the closest available liquid, lavender oil, to soak it.

In the late twentieth century, French physician Jean Valnet used botanical aromatics as a front line treatment

AROMATHERAPY OILS
Name Description Conditions treated
Bay laurel Antiseptic, diuretic, sedative, etc. Digestive problems, bronchitis, common cold, influenza, and scabies and lice. CAUTION: Don't use if pregnant.
Clary sage Relaxant, anticonvulsive, antiinflammatory, and antiseptic Menstrual and menopausal symptoms, burns, eczema, and anxiety. CAUTION: Don't use if pregnant.
Eucalyptus Antiseptic, antibacterial, astringent, expectorant, and analgesic Boils, breakouts, cough, common cold, influenza, and sinusitis. CAUTION: Not to be taken orally.
Chamomile Sedative, antiinflammatory, antiseptic, and pain reliever Hay fever, burns, acne, arthritis, digestive problems, and menstrual an menopausal symptoms.
Lavender Analgesic, antiseptic, calming/soothing Headache, depression, insomnia, stress, sprains, and nausea.
Peppermint Pain reliever Indigestion, nausea, headache, motion sickness, and muscle pain.
Rosemary Antiseptic, stimulant, and diuretic Indigestion, gas, bronchitis, fluid retention, and influenza. CAUTION: Don't use if pregnant or have epilepsy or hypertension.
Tarragon Diuretic, laxative, antispasmodic, and stimulant Menstrual and menopausal symptoms, gas, and indigestion. CAUTION: Don't use if pregnant.
Tea tree Antiseptic and soothing Common cold, bronchitis, abscesses, acne, vaginitis, and burns.
Thyme Stimulant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antispasmodic Cough, laryngitis, diarrhea, gas, and intestinal worms. CAUTION: Don't use if pregnant or have hypertension.

for wounded soldiers in World War II. He wrote about his use of essential oils and their healing and antiseptic properties, in his 1964 book Aromatherapie, traitement des maladies par les essences des plantes, which popularized the use of essential oils for medical and psychiatric treatment throughout France. Later, French biochemist Mauguerite Maury popularized the cosmetic benefits of essential oils, and in 1977 Robert Tisserand wrote the first English language book on the subject, The Art of Aromatherapy, which introduced massage as an adjunct treatment to aromatherapy and sparked its popularity in the United Kingdom.

Benefits

Aromatherapy offers diverse physical and psychological benefits, depending on the essential oil or oil combination and method of application used. Some common medicinal properties of essential oils used in aromatherapy include: analgesic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, sedative, antispasmodic, expectorant, diuretic, and sedative. Essential oils are used to treat a wide range of symptoms and conditions, including, but not limited to, gastrointestinal discomfort, skin conditions, menstrual pain and irregularities, stress-related conditions, mood disorders, circulatory problems, respiratory infections , and wounds .

Description

In aromatherapy, essential oils are carefully selected for their medicinal properties. As essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream through application to the skin or inhalation, their active components trigger certain pharmalogical effects (e.g., pain relief).

In addition to physical benefits, aromatherapy has strong psychological benefits. The volatility of an oil, or the speed at which it evaporates in open air, is thought to be linked to its specific psychological effect. As a rule of thumb, oils that evaporate quickly are considered emotionally uplifting, while slowly-evaporating oils are thought to have a calming effect.

Essential oils commonly used in aromatherapy treatment include:

  • Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobilis ). An anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Useful in treating otitis media (earache ), skin conditions, menstrual pains, and depression.
  • Clary sage (Salvia sclarea ). This natural astringent is not only used to treat oily hair and skin, but is also said to be useful in regulating the menstrual cycle, improving mood, and controlling high blood pressure. Clary sage should not be used by pregnant women.
  • Lavender (Lavandula officinalis ). A popular aromatherapy oil that mixes well with most essential oils, lavender has a wide range of medicinal and cosmetic applications, including treatment of insect bites, burns, respiratory infections, intestinal discomfort, nausea, migraine, insomnia, depression, and stress.
  • Myrtle (Myrtus communis ). Myrtle is a fungicide, disinfectant, and antibacterial. It is often used in steam aromatherapy treatments to alleviate the symptoms of whooping cough , bronchitis, and other respiratory infections.
  • Neroli (bitter orange), (Citrus aurantium ). Citrus oil extracted from bitter orange flower and peel and used to treat sore throat , insomnia, and stress and anxiety-related conditions.
  • Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis ). An essential oil used to treat stomach complaints and known for its reported ability to lift the mood while relieving stress.
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita ). Relaxes and soothes the stomach muscles and gastrointestinal tract. Peppermint's actions as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antimicrobial also make it an effective skin treatment, and useful in fighting cold and flu symptoms. In addition, research in 2002 found that peppermint scent helped athletes run faster and perform more pushups than control subjects with odorless strips under their noses.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ). Stimulating essential oil used to treat muscular and rheumatic complaints, as well as low blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, and headaches. Recently. Brain scans have shown that fragrance of rosemary increases blood circulation in the brain.
  • Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia ). Has bactericidal, virucidal, fungicidal, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a good choice for fighting infection. Recommended for treating sore throat and respiratory infections, vaginal and bladder infections, wounds, and a variety of skin conditions.
  • Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata ). A sedative essential oil sometimes used to treat hypertension and tachycardia.

Essential oils contain active agents that can have potent physical effects. While some basic aromatherapy home treatments can be self-administered, medical aromatherapy should always be performed under the guidance of an aromatherapist, herbalist, massage therapist, nurse, or physician.

Inhalation

The most basic method of administering aromatherapy is direct or indirect inhalation of essential oils. Several drops of an essential oil can be applied to a tissue or handkerchief and gently inhaled. A small amount of essential oil can also be added to a bowl of hot water and used as a steam treatment. This technique is recommended when aromatherapy is used to treat respiratory and/or skin conditions. Aromatherapy steam devices are also available commercially. A warm bath containing essential oils can have the same effect as steam aromatherapy, with the added benefit of promoting relaxation. When used in a bath, water should be lukewarm rather than hot to slow the evaporation of the oil.

Essential oil diffusers, vaporizers, and light bulb rings can be used to disperse essential oils over a large area. These devices can be particularly effective in aromatherapy that uses essential oils to promote a healthier home environment. For example, eucalyptus and tea tree oil are known for their antiseptic qualities and are frequently used to disinfect sickrooms, and citronella and geranium can be useful in repelling insects.

Direct application

Because of their potency, essential oils are diluted in a carrier oil or lotion before being applied to the skin to prevent an allergic skin reaction. The carrier oil can be a vegetable or olive based one, such as wheat germ or avocado. Light oils, such as safflower, sweet almond, grapeseed, hazelnut, apricot seed , or peach kernel, may be absorbed more easily by the skin. Standard dilutions of essential oils in carrier oils range from 210%. However, some oils can be used at higher concentrations, and others should be diluted further for safe and effective use. The type of carrier oil used and the therapeutic use of the application may also influence how the essential oil is mixed. Individuals should seek guidance from a healthcare professional and/or aromatherapist when diluting essential oils.

Massage is a common therapeutic technique used in conjunction with aromatherapy to both relax the body and thoroughly administer the essential oil treatment. Essential oils can also be used in hot or cold compresses and soaks to treat muscle aches and pains (e.g., lavender and ginger ). As a sore throat remedy, antiseptic and soothing essential oils (e.g., tea tree and sage) can be thoroughly mixed with water and used as a gargle or mouthwash.

Internal use

Some essential oils can be administered internally in tincture, infusion, or suppository form to treat certain symptoms or conditions; however, this treatment should never be self-administered. Essential oils should only be taken internally under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.

As non-prescription botanical preparations, the essential oils used in aromatherapy are typically not paid for by health insurance. The self-administered nature of the therapy controls costs to some degree. Aromatherapy treatment sessions from a professional aromatherapist are not covered by health insurance in most cases, although aromatherapy performed in conjunction with physical therapy, nursing, therapeutic massage, or other covered medical services may be covered. Individuals should check with their insurance provider to find out about their specific coverage.

The adage "You get what you pay for" usually applies when purchasing essential oils, as bargain oils are often adulterated, diluted, or synthetic. Pure essential oils can be expensive; and the cost of an oil will vary depending on its quality and availability.

Preparations

The method of extracting an essential oil varies by plant type. Common methods include water or steam distillation and cold pressing. Quality essential oils should be unadulterated and extracted from pure botanicals. Many aromatherapy oils on the market are synthetic and/or diluted, contain solvents, or are extracted from botanicals grown with pesticides or herbicides. To ensure best results, essential oils should be made from pure organic botanicals and labeled by their full botanical name. Oils should always be stored in dark bottles out of direct light.

Before using essential oils on the skin, individuals should perform a skin patch test by applying a small amount of the diluted oil behind the wrist and covering it with a bandage or cloth for up to 12 hours. If redness or irritation occurs, the oil should be diluted further and a second skin test performed, or it should be avoided altogether. Individuals should never apply undiluted essential oils to the skin unless advised to do so by a trained healthcare professional.

Precautions

Individuals should only take essential oils internally under the guidance and close supervision of a health care professional. Some oils, such as eucalyptus, wormwood , and sage, should never be taken internally. Many essential oils are highly toxic and should not be used at all in aromatherapy. These include (but are not limited to) bitter almond, pennyroyal , mustard, sassafras , rue, and mugwort .

Citrus-based essential oils, including bitter and sweet orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit, and tangerine, are phototoxic, and exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided for at least four hours after their application.

Other essential oils, such as cinnamon leaf, black pepper, juniper , lemon, white camphor, eucalyptus blue gum, ginger, peppermint, pine needle, and thyme can be extremely irritating to the skin if applied in high enough concentration or without a carrier oil or lotion. Caution should always be exercised when applying essential oils topically. Individuals should never apply undiluted essential oils to the skin unless directed to do so by a trained healthcare professional and/or aromatherapist.

Individuals taking homeopathic remedies should avoid black pepper, camphor, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils. These oils may act as a remedy antidote to the homeopathic treatment.

Children should only receive aromatherapy treatment under the guidance of a trained aromatherapist or healthcare professional. Some essential oils may not be appropriate for treating children, or may require additional dilution before use on children.

Certain essential oils should not be used by pregnant or nursing women or by people with specific illnesses or physical conditions. Individuals suffering from any chronic or acute health condition should inform their healthcare provider before starting treatment with any essential oil.

Asthmatic individuals should not use steam inhalation for aromatherapy, as it can aggravate their condition.

Essential oils are flammable, and should be kept away from heat sources.

Side effects

Side effects vary by the type of essential oil used. Citrus-based essential oils can cause heightened sensitivity to sunlight. Essential oils may also cause contact dermatitis , an allergic reaction characterized by redness and irritation. Anyone experiencing an allergic reaction to an essential oil should discontinue its use and contact their healthcare professional for further guidance. Individuals should do a small skin patch test with new essential oils before using them extensively.

Research & general acceptance

The antiseptic and bactericidal qualities of some essential oils (such as tea tree and peppermint) and their value in fighting infection has been detailed extensively in both ancient and modern medical literature.

Recent research in mainstream medical literature has also shown that aromatherapy has a positive psychological impact on patients. Several clinical studies involving both post-operative and chronically ill subjects showed that massage with essential oils can be helpful in improving emotional well-being, and consequently, promoting the healing process.

Today, the use of holistic aromatherapy is widely accepted in Europe, particularly in Great Britain, where it is commonly used in conjunction with massage as both a psychological and physiological healing tool. In the United States, where aromatherapy is often misunderstood as solely a cosmetic treatment, the mainstream medical community has been slower to accept its use.

Training & certification

Certification or licensing is currently not required to become an aromatherapist in the United States; however, many states require that healthcare professionals who practice the "hands-on" therapies often used in conjunction with aromatherapy (e.g., massage) to be licensed. There are state-licensed educational institutions that offer certificates and/or diplomas in aromatherapy training. Individuals interested in aromatherapy treatment from a professional aromatherapist may be able to obtain a referral from one of these institutions, or from their current healthcare provider.

Resources

BOOKS

Lawless, Julia. The Complete Illustrated Guide To Aromatherapy. Rockport, MA: Element Books Ltd, 1997.

Schnaubelt, Kurt. Medical Aromatherapy: Healing With Essential Oils. Berkeley, CA: Frog Ltd, 1999.

PERIODICALS

ORGANIZATIONS

Claps, Frank."Training Scents: You May be Able to Sniff Your Way to Better Workouts with Tricks from the Aromatherapist's Bag." Men's Fitness (May 2002):34.

Stanten, Michele, and Selene Yeager."Smell this for Instant Energy: the Easiest Way to Boost your Workouts. (Fitness News)." Prevention (April 2002):76.

National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. 836 Hanley Industrial Court, St. Louis, MO 63144. 888-ASK-NAHA. <http://www.naha.org.>

Paula Ford-Martin

Teresa G. Odle

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Ford-Martin, Paula; Odle, Teresa. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Ford-Martin, Paula; Odle, Teresa. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435100052.html

Ford-Martin, Paula; Odle, Teresa. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Retrieved September 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435100052.html

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy

Definition

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic essential oils to promote physical and psychological well-being. It is sometimes used in combination with massage and other therapeutic techniques as part of a holistic treatment approach.

Aromatherapy Oils
Name Description Conditions treated
Bay laurel Antiseptic, diuretic,
sedative, etc.
Digestive problems,
bronchitis, common cold,
influenza,
and scabies
and lice. CAUTION: Don't
use if pregnant.
Clary sage Relaxant, anticonvulsive,
antiinflammatory, and
antiseptic
Menstrual and menopausal
symptoms, burns, eczema,
and anxiety. CAUTION:
Don't use if pregnant.
Eucalyptus Antiseptic, antibacterial,
astringent, expectorant,
and analgesic
Boils, breakouts, cough,
common cold, influenza,
and sinusitis. CAUTION:
Not to be taken orally.
Chamomile Sedative,
antiinflammatory,
antiseptic, and pain
reliever
Hay fever, burns, acne,
arthritis, digestive
problems, sunburn, and
menstrual an menopausal
symptoms.
Lavender Analgesic, antiseptic,
calming/soothing
Headache, depression,
insomnia, stress, sprains,
and nausea.
Peppermint Pain reliever Indigestion, nausea,
headache, motion
sickness,
and muscle
pain.
Rosemary Antiseptic, stimulant,
and diuretic
Indigestion, gas, bronchitis,
fluid retention, and
influenza. CAUTION: Don't
use if pregnant or have
epilepsy or hypertension.
Tarragon Diuretic, laxative,
antispasmodic, and
stimulant
Menstrual and menopausal
symptoms, gas, and
indigestion. CAUTION:
Don't use if pregnant.
Tea tree Antiseptic and soothing Common cold, bronchitis,
abscesses, acne, vaginitis,
and burns.
Thyme Stimulant, antiseptic,
antibacterial, and
antispasmodic
Cough, laryngitis,
diarrhea,
gas, and
intestinal worms.
CAUTION: Don't use if
pregnant or have
hypertension.

Purpose

Aromatherapy offers diverse physical and psychological benefits, depending on the essential oil or oil combination and method of application used. Some common medicinal properties of essential oils used in aromatherapy include: analgesic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, sedative, antispasmodic, expectorant, diuretic, and sedative. Essential oils are used to treat a wide range of symptoms and conditions, including, but not limited to, gastrointestinal discomfort, skin conditions, menstrual pain and irregularities, stress-related conditions, mood disorders, circulatory problems, respiratory infections, and wounds.

Description

Origins

Aromatic plants have been employed for their healing, preservative, and pleasurable qualities throughout recorded history in both the East and West. As early as 1500 b.c. the ancient Egyptians used waters, oils, incense, resins, and ointments scented with botanicals for their religious ceremonies.

There is evidence that the Chinese may have recognized the benefits of herbal and aromatic remedies much earlier than this. The oldest known herbal text, Shen Nung's Pen Ts'ao (c. 2700-3000 b.c.) catalogs over 200 botanicals. Ayurveda, a practice of traditional Indian medicine that dates back over 2,500 years, also used aromatic herbs for treatment.

The Romans were well-known for their use of fragrances. They bathed with botanicals and integrated them into their state and religious rituals. So did the Greeks, with a growing awareness of the medicinal properties of herbs, as well. Greek physician and surgeon Pedanios Dioscorides, whose renown herbal text De Materia Medica (60 a.d.) was the standard textbook for Western medicine for 1,500 years, wrote extensively on the medicinal value of botanical aromatics. The Medica contained detailed information on over 500 plants and 4,740 separate medicinal uses for them, including an entire section on aromatics.

Written records of herbal distillation are found as early as the first century a.d., and around 1000 a.d., the noted Arab physician and naturalist Avicenna described the distillation of rose oil from rose petals, and the medicinal properties of essential oils in his writings. However, it wasn't until 1937, when French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé published Aromatherapie: Les Huiles essentielles, hormones végé tales, that aromatherapie, or aromatherapy, was introduced in Europe as a medical discipline. Gattefossé, who was employed by a French perfumeur, discovered the healing properties of lavender oil quite by accident when he suffered a severe burn while working and used the closest available liquid, lavender oil, to soak it in.

In the late 20th century, French physician Jean Valnet used botanical aromatics as a front line treatment for wounded soldiers in World War II. He wrote about his use of essential oils and their healing and antiseptic properties, in his 1964 book Aromatherapie, traitement des maladies par les essences des plantes, which popularized the use of essential oils for medical and psychiatric treatment throughout France. Later, French biochemist Mauguerite Maury popularized the cosmetic benefits of essential oils, and in 1977 Robert Tisserand wrote the first English language book on the subject, The Art of Aromatherapy, which introduced massage as an adjunct treatment to aromatherapy and sparked its popularity in the United Kingdom.

In aromatherapy, essential oils are carefully selected for their medicinal properties. As essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream through application to the skin or inhalation, their active components trigger certain pharmalogical effects (e.g., pain relief).

In addition to physical benefits, aromatherapy has strong psychological benefits. The volatility of an oil, or the speed at which it evaporates in open air, is thought to be linked to the specific psychological effect of an oil. As a rule of thumb, oils that evaporate quickly are considered emotionally uplifting, while slowly-evaporating oils are thought to have a calming effect.

KEY TERMS

Antiseptic Inhibits the growth of microorganisms.

Bactericidal An agent that destroys bacteria (e.g., Staphylococci aureus, Streptococci pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Salmonella enteritidis ).

Carrier oil An oil used to dilute essential oils for use in massage and other skin care applications.

Contact dermatitis Skin irritation as a result of contact with a foreign substance.

Essential oil A volatile oil extracted from the leaves, fruit, flowers, roots, or other components of a plant and used in aromatherapy, perfumes, and foods and beverages.

Holistic A practice of medicine that focuses on the whole patient, and addresses the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of a patient as well as their physical treatment.

Phototoxic Causes a harmful skin reaction when exposed to sunlight.

Remedy antidote Certain foods, beverages, prescription medications, aromatic compounds, and other environmental elements that counteract the efficacy of homeopathic remedies.

Steam distillation A process of extracting essential oils from plant products through a heating and evaporation process.

Volatile Something that vaporizes or evaporates quickly when exposed to air.

Essential oils commonly used in aromatherapy treatment include:

  • Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobilis ). An anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Useful in treating otitis media (earache), skin conditions, menstrual pains, and depression.
  • Clary sage (Salvia sclarea ). This natural astringent is not only used to treat oily hair and skin, but is also said to be useful in regulating the menstrual cycle, improving mood, and controlling high blood pressure. Clary sage should not be used by pregnant women.
  • Lavender (Lavandula officinalis ). A popular aromatherapy oil which mixes well with most essential oils, lavender has a wide range of medicinal and cosmetic applications, including treatment of insect bites, burns, respiratory infections, intestinal discomfort, nausea, migraine, insomnia, depression, and stress.
  • Myrtle (Myrtus communis ). Myrtle is a fungicide, disinfectant, and antibacterial. It is often used in steam aromatherapy treatments to alleviate the symptoms of whooping cough, bronchitis, and other respiratory infections.
  • Neroli (bitter orange), (Citrus aurantium ). Citrus oil extracted from bitter orange flower and peel and used to treat sore throat, insomnia, and stress and anxiety-related conditions.
  • Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis ). An essential oil used to treat stomach complaints and known for its reported ability to lift the mood while relieving stress.
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita ). Relaxes and soothes the stomach muscles and gastrointestinal tract. Peppermint's actions as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antimicrobial also make it an effective skin treatment, and useful in fighting cold and flu symptoms.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ). Stimulating essential oil used to treat muscular and rheumatic complaints, as well as low blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, and headaches.
  • Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia ). Has bactericidal, virucidal, fungicidal, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a good choice for fighting infection. Recommended for treating sore throat and respiratory infections, vaginal and bladder infections, wounds, and a variety of skin conditions.
  • Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata ). A sedative essential oil sometimes used to treat hypertension and tachycardia.

Essential oils contain active agents that can have potent physical effects. While some basic aromatherapy home treatments can be self-administered, medical aromatherapy should always be performed under the guidance of an aromatherapist, herbalist, massage therapist, nurse, or physician.

Inhalation

The most basic method of administering aromatherapy is direct or indirect inhalation of essential oils. Several drops of an essential oil can be applied to a tissue or handkerchief and gently inhaled. A small amount of essential oil can also be added to a bowl of hot water and used as a steam treatment. This technique is recommended when aromatherapy is used to treat respiratory and/or skin conditions. Aromatherapy steam devices are also available commercially. A warm bath containing essential oils can have the same effect as steam aromatherapy, with the added benefit of promoting relaxation. When used in a bath, water should be lukewarm rather than hot to slow the evaporation of the oil.

Essential oil diffusers, vaporizers, and light bulb rings can be used to disperse essential oils over a large area. These devices can be particularly effective in aromatherapy that uses essential oils to promote a healthier home environment. For example, eucalyptus and tea tree oil are known for their antiseptic qualities and are frequently used to disinfect sickrooms, and citronella and geranium can be useful in repelling insects.

Direct application

Because of their potency, essential oils are diluted in a carrier oil or lotion before being applied to the skin to prevent an allergic skin reaction. The carrier oil can be a vegetable or olive based one, such as wheat germ or avocado. Light oils, such as safflower, sweet almond, grapeseed, hazelnut, apricot seed, or peach kernel, may be absorbed more easily by the skin. Standard dilutions of essential oils in carrier oils range from 2-10%. However, some oils can be used at higher concentrations, and others should be diluted further for safe and effective use. The type of carrier oil used and the therapeutic use of the application may also influence how the essential oil is mixed. Individuals should seek guidance from a healthcare professional and/or aromatherapist when diluting essential oils.

Massage is a common therapeutic technique used in conjunction with aromatherapy to both relax the body and thoroughly administer the essential oil treatment. Essential oils can also be used in hot or cold compresses and soaks to treat muscle aches and pains (e.g., lavender and ginger). As a sore throat remedy, antiseptic and soothing essential oils (e.g., tea tree and sage) can be thoroughly mixed with water and used as a gargle or mouthwash.

Internal use

Some essential oils can be administered internally in tincture, infusion, or suppository form to treat certain symptoms or conditions; however, this treatment should never be self-administered. Essential oils should only be taken internally under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.

As non-prescription botanical preparations, the essential oils used in aromatherapy are typically not paid for by health insurance. The self-administered nature of the therapy controls costs to some degree. Aromatherapy treatment sessions from a professional aromatherapist are not covered by health insurance in most cases, although aromatherapy performed in conjunction with physical therapy, nursing, therapeutic massage, or other covered medical services may be. Individuals should check with their insurance provider to find out about their specific coverage.

The adage "You get what you pay for" usually applies when purchasing essential oils, as bargain oils are often adulterated, diluted, or synthetic. Pure essential oils can be expensive; and the cost of an oil will vary depending on its quality and availability.

Preparations

The method of extracting an essential oil varies by plant type. Common methods include water or steam distillation and cold pressing. Quality essential oils should be unadulterated and extracted from pure botanicals. Many aromatherapy oils on the market are synthetic and/or diluted, contain solvents, or are extracted from botanicals grown with pesticides or herbicides. To ensure best results, essential oils should be made from pure organic botanicals and labeled by their full botanical name. Oils should always be stored dark bottles out of direct light.

Before using essential oils on the skin, individuals should perform a skin patch test by applying a small amount of the diluted oil behind the wrist and covering it with a bandage or cloth for up to 12 hours. If redness or irritation occurs, the oil should be diluted further and a second skin test performed, or it should be avoided altogether. Individuals should never apply undiluted essential oils to the skin unless advised to do so by a trained healthcare professional.

Precautions

Individuals should only take essential oils internally under the guidance and close supervision of a health-care professional. Some oils, such as eucalyptus, wormwood, and sage, should never be taken internally. Many essential oils are highly toxic and should never be used at all in aromatherapy. These include (but are not limited to) bitter almond, pennyroyal, mustard, sassafras, rue, and mugwort.

Citrus-based essential oils, including bitter and sweet orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit, and tangerine, are phototoxic, and exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided for at least four hours after their application.

Other essential oils, such as cinnamon leaf, black pepper, juniper, lemon, white camphor, eucalyptus blue gum, ginger, peppermint, pine needle, and thyme can be extremely irritating to the skin if applied in high enough concentration or without a carrier oil or lotion. Caution should always be exercised when applying essential oils topically. Individuals should never apply undiluted essential oils to the skin unless directed to do so by a trained healthcare professional and/or aromatherapist.

Individuals taking homeopathic remedies should avoid black pepper, camphor, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils. These oils may act as a remedy antidote to the homeopathic treatment.

Children should only receive aromatherapy treatment under the guidance of a trained aromatherapist or healthcare professional. Some essential oils may not be appropriate for treating children, or may require additional dilution before use on children.

Certain essential oils should not be used by pregnant or nursing women or by people with specific illnesses or physical conditions. Individuals suffering from any chronic or acute health condition should inform their healthcare provider before starting treatment with any essential oil.

Asthmatic individuals should not use steam inhalation for aromatherapy, as it can aggravate their condition.

Essential oils are flammable, and should be kept away from heat sources.

Side effects

Side effects vary by the type of essential oil used. Citrus-based essential oils can cause heightened sensitivity to sunlight. Essential oils may also cause contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction characterized by redness and irritation. Anyone experiencing an allergic reaction to an essential oil should discontinue its use and contact their healthcare professional for further guidance. Individuals should do a small skin patch test with new essential oils before using them extensively (see "Preparations" above).

Research and general acceptance

The antiseptic and bactericidal qualities of some essential oils (such as tea tree and peppermint) and their value in fighting infection has been detailed extensively in both ancient and modern medical literature.

Recent research in mainstream medical literature has also shown that aromatherapy has a positive psychological impact on patients, as well. Several clinical studies involving both post-operative and chronically ill subjects showed that massage with essential oils can be helpful in improving emotional well-being, and consequently, promoting the healing process.

Today, the use of holistic aromatherapy is widely accepted in Europe, particularly in Great Britain, where it is commonly used in conjunction with massage as both a psychological and physiological healing tool. In the United States, where aromatherapy is often misunderstood as solely a cosmetic treatment, the mainstream medical community has been slower to accept it.

Resources

BOOKS

Schnaubelt, Kurt. Medical Aromatherapy: Healing With Essential Oils. Berkeley, CA: Frog Ltd, 1999.

ORGANIZATIONS

National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. 836 Hanley Industrial Court, St. Louis, MO 63144. (888) ASK-NAHA. http://www.naha.org.

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Ford-Martin, Paula. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Ford-Martin, Paula. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3451600173.html

Ford-Martin, Paula. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Retrieved September 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3451600173.html

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy

Definition

Aromatherapy is a holistic treatment based on the external use of essential aromatic plant oils to maintain and promote physical, physiological, and spiritual wellbeing. The essential oils may be used in massage, added to a warm bath, used to moisten a compress that is applied to the affected part of the body, added to a vaporizer for inhalation, or diffused throughout a room.

The term aromatherapy (aromatherapie in the original French) was coined in 1928 by a French chemist, René Maurice Gattefossé, to describe the therapeutic use of aromatic substances (essential oils) in wound healing. Gattefossé discovered the healing properties of essential plant oils accidentally; after burning his hand in a laboratory accident, he found that lavender oil healed his burns in a very short time. He then experimented with plant oils in treating soldiers wounded in World War I, and found that there were several essential oils that speeded physical healing. As the practice of aromatherapy expanded, it came to incorporate a holistic emphasis on healing or invigorating all levels of a person's being. In the United States and Great Britain, the contemporary practice of aromatherapy is often associated with naturopathy and Western herbal medicine. In Great Britain, aromatherapy is one of the most frequently used forms of alternative medicine; in the United States, many hospital-affiliated centers for the study of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) offer aromatherapy as well as other alternative approaches. Aromatherapy has also been added to holistic nursing board examinations in the United States within the last few years.

Purpose

One of the basic concepts of mind/body medicine is that a positive frame of mind helps to keep people in good health. Aromatherapists maintain that essential oils derived from plants help people to slow down, relax from stress , and enjoy the sensory experiences of massage, warm water, and pleasant smells. Aromatherapy is thought to improve a person's mental outlook and sense of well-being by affecting the limbic system via the olfactory nerve, or the sense of smell. The limbic system is the area of the brain that regulates emotions. Relaxing and pleasant smells stimulate emotional responses of pleasure and relaxation. From a holistic perspective, aromatherapy is a form of preventive health care. Most aromatherapists believe that aromatherapy should not be used as a substitute for mainstream medical or psychiatric care, but as an adjunct to it.

Aromatherapy is considered to be a useful complementary treatment for the relief of depression, anxiety, insomnia , panic disorder , stress-related physical disorders, menstrual cramps, and some gastrointestinal complaints. For example, peppermint oil calms gastrointestinal spasms when ingested, or taken by mouth. Arecent Scottish study found that aromatherapy has a measurably calming effect on the symptoms of dementia in elderly people.

Aromatherapy can be used by itself, or combined with Swedish massage, shiatsu, acupressure, reflexology, or light therapy to reinforce the positive results of these treatments.

Although there are professional aromatherapists as well as practitioners of holistic medicine who offer aromatherapy among their other services, people can also use aromatherapy at home as part of self-care. There are many guides to the various techniques of aromatherapy and the proper use of essential plant oils available in inexpensive paperback editions.

Precautions

People who are interested in using essential oils at home should be careful to purchase them from reliable sources. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the manufacture of essential plant oils. Consequently, instances of consumer fraud have been reported. In the case of essential oils, the most common form of fraud is substitution of synthetic compounds for natural essential oils, which are expensive to produce.

Another precaution is to avoid applying essential oils directly to the skin as a form of perfume. Some essential oils such as oil of orange or oil of peppermint are irritating to the skin if applied full-strength. When essential oils are used in massage, they are always diluted in a carrier oil.

A final precaution is to avoid taking essential oils internally without a consultation with a physician or naturopathist. Possible exceptions may be peppermint oil and aloe vera.

Description

Essential plant oils are prepared for use in aromatherapy in several different ways. Most are prepared by steam distillation, a process in which the flowers, leaves, or other plant parts are heated by steam from boiling water. The vapors that result then pass through a condenser that separates the scented water from the essential oil, which is siphoned off into a separate container. Other methods of extracting essential oils include expression, or squeezing, which is limited to citrus oils; enfleurage, in which flower petals are placed on a bed of purified fat that soaks up the essential oils; and maceration, in which the plant parts are crushed and covered with warm vegetable oil that absorbs the essential oils.

There are several different techniques for the use of essential oils in aromatherapy:

  • Massage: This is the technique that most people associate with aromatherapy. For use in massage, essential oils are mixed with a vegetable carrier oil, usually wheatgerm, avocado, olive, safflower, grapeseed, or soya bean oil. A ratio that is commonly recommended is 2.55% essential oil to 9597.5% carrier oil.
  • Full-body baths: In this technique, the essential oil is added to a tubful of warm (but not hot) water as the water is running. The dosage of essential oil is usually 510 drops per bath.
  • Hand or foot baths: These are often recommended to treat arthritis or skin disorders of the hands or feet as well as sore muscles. The hands or feet are soaked for 1015 minutes in a basin of warm water to which 57 drops of essential oil have been added.
  • Inhalations: This technique is used to treat sinus problems or such nasal allergies as hay fever. Two cups of water are brought to a boil and then allowed to cool for five to ten minutes. Two to five drops of essential oil are added to the steaming water, and the person leans over the container and inhales the fragrant vapors for five to ten minutes.
  • Diffusion: This technique requires the use of a special nebulizer to disperse microscopic droplets of essential oil into the air, or a clay diffuser that allows the oil to evaporate into the air when it is warmed by a small votive candle or electric bulb. Diffusion is recommended for treating emotional upsets.
  • Compresses: These are made by soaking four or five layers of cotton cloth in a solution of warm water and essential oil, wringing out the cloth so that it is moist but not dripping, and applying it to the affected part of the body. The compress is then covered with a layer of plastic wrap, followed by a pre-warmed towel, and kept in place for one or two hours. Aromatherapy compress es are used to treat wounds, sprains, bruises, sore muscles, menstrual cramps, and respiratory congestion.
  • Aromatic salves: Salves are made by melting together 1 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and 1 oz of beeswax in a double boiler over medium heat, and adding the desired combination of essential oils.
  • Internal use: Some essential oils such as oil of peppermint and cinnamon can be used to make teas or mouthwashes, or mixed with a glass of honey and water. The dose depends on the oil, but a physician, naturopathist, or other practitioner should be consulted.

Preparation

Aromatherapists recommend the use of fresh oils and oil mixtures in the techniques described above. Both essential oils and vegetable carrier oils deteriorate over time and should not be kept longer than one or two months; thus, it is best to mix only small quantities of massage oils or salves at any one time.

No special preparation for an aromatherapy treatment is required on the patient's part.

Aftercare

Aromatherapy does not require any particular form of aftercare, although many patients like to rest quietly for a few minutes after a bath or massage with essential oils.

Risks

There are no risks involved in external aromatherapy when essential oils are diluted as recommended. Not all essential oils, however, should be taken internally. Benzoin and other essential oils derived from tree resins should not be used internally.

A few cases have been reported of dissociative episodes triggered by fragrances associated with traumatic experiences. Patients in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any of the dissociative disorders should consult their therapist before they use aromatherapy.

Normal results

Normal results from aromatherapy include a sense of relaxation, relief from tension, and improved well-being.

Abnormal results

Abnormal results include skin irritations or other allergic reactions to essential oils, and the development of traumatic memories associated with specific smells.

Resources

BOOKS

Pelletier, Kenneth R., M.D. The Best Alternative Medicine. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Price, Shirley. Practical Aromatherapy. Second edition, revised. London, UK: Thorsons, 1994.

PERIODICALS

Buckle, J. "The Role of Aromatherapy in Nursing Care." Nursing Clinics of North America 36 (March 2001): 57-72.

Ilmberger, I., E. Heuberger, C. Mahrhofer, and others. "The Influence of Essential Oils on Human Attention: Alertness." Chemistry and the Senses 3 (March 2001): 239-245.

Simpson, N., and K. Roman. "Complementary Medicine Use in Children: Extent and Reasons." British Journal of General Practice 51 (November 2001): 914-916.

Smallwood, J., R. Brown, F. Coulter, and others. "Aromatherapy and Behaviour Disturbances in Dementia: A Randomized Controlled Trial." International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 16 (October 2001): 1010-1013.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. 601 Valley Street, Suite 105, Seattle, WA 98109. (206) 298-0126. <www.naturopathic.org>.

International Aromatherapy and Herb Association. 3541 West Acapulco Lane. Phoenix, AZ 85053-4625. (602) 938-4439. <www.aztec.asu.edu./iaha/>.

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). 4509 Interlake Avenue North, #233, Seattle, WA 98103-6773. (888) ASK-NAHA or (206) 547-2164. <www.naha.org>.

Rebecca J. Frey, Ph.D.

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Frey, Rebecca J.. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Frey, Rebecca J.. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3405700037.html

Frey, Rebecca J.. "Aromatherapy." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. 2003. Retrieved September 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3405700037.html

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy

Term used for treatment of illness and maintenance of general physical health using essential oils distilled from plants. Virtually unknown to the modern world twenty years ago, aromatherapy is now considered the fastest growing natural healing art in the United States.

Aromatherapy treatments were known in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and other civilizations, while early Arabian physicians developed the distillation of aromatic oils through experiments in alchemy. The term aromatherapy derives from the writings of the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, whose book Aromatherapie was published in 1928. However, the modern popularity of aromatherapy is generally traced to Marguerite Maury and Jean Valnet. Maury, after developing a new technique for the extraction and use of oils, published her findings in 1962, for which she earned the Prix international d'esthetique et cosmetologie. Jean Valnet also contributed to the field of aromatherapy by publishing the widely read book The Practice of Aromatherapy in 1964. Both of their works were picked up by the New Age movement in the 1980s and have become an integral part of the holistic health movement.

Essential oils are highly condensed vegetal extracts containing hormones, vitamins, antibodies, and antiseptics. They are considered the most concentrated form of herbal energy, widely used in pharmacy, cosmetology, and perfumery. Various experiments and studies have shown essential oils to be effective therapeutic agents, particularly in cases of disease associated with bacterial, viral, and fungal infection. Essential oils also support and strengthen the human immune system.

Contemporary aromatherapy can be loosely grouped into four main categories: esoteric aromatherapy, fragrance aromatherapy (or aromachology), massage or English aromatherapy, and medical aromatherapy. Esoteric aromatherapy is concerned with the energetic effects of essential oils on the subtle bodies. Aromachology studies the psychological effects of fragrances.

English and medical aromatherapy both address the effects of essential oils on the physical body. They insist upon the use of essential oils from single, identifiable plant sources. Essential oils are used both as natural tonics and as therapeutic agents. Medical aromatherapists use essential oils internally as well as by inhalation and by topical application. Aromatherapists trained in the English method dilute essential oils in other oils for massage, and diffuse the oils for inhalation. By way of diffusing, the healing is achieved through the olfactory senses, which lead from the nose to the limbic system, the most primitive area of the brain. Thus, the essential oils are said to affect the body in a primal and often subconscious manner.

The philosophy behind aromatherapy is connected to the Gaia Hypothesis, which conceptualizes the earth as a living organism, seeing plants and animals together as inextricable parts of that organism. In Aromatherapy Workbook, Lavabre writes, "Essential oils are the 'quintessences' of the alchemists. In this sense, they condense the spiritual and vital forces of the plants in material form. Therefore, they act on the biological level to strengthen the natural defenses of the body, and are the media of a direct human-plant communication on the energetic and spiritual plane." Aromatherapy postulates subtle energies of aromatic plants related to life force, which can be correlated with ancient Chinese concepts of Yin and Yang.

A basic tenet of aromatherapy is to match a specific remedy with a particular malady, designed for a unique body chemistry. As such, aromatherapy can employ a wide variety of plant oils to treat similar conditions. Examples of aromatherapy remedies for common conditions include:

Colds7ml Rosemarin officitualus verbanion, 3ml Eucalyptus globulus, 0.25ml mentha pepierita, for inhalation through a diffuser

HeadacheTwo drops lavender, rubbed on temples or back of neck

Muscle StrainMassage oil created with five drops eucalyptus, five drops peppermint, five drops ginger, diluted in one tablespoon vegetable oil

Stress Reduction Soaktwo drops lavender lavera, two drops glang glang, in one tablespoon epson salt, place in warm tub.

(See also Perfumes )

Sources:

Aromatic Thymes. http://www.aromaticthymes.com/. April 17, 2000.

Lavabre, Marcel. Aromatherapy Workbook. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press, 1990.

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. http://www.naha.org/about.html. April 17, 2000.

Schnaubelt, Kurt Ph.D. Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press, 1998.

. Aromatherapy Course, Cited Pierre Frandomine and Daniel Penoel, formula for colds. San Rafael, Calif., 1985.

Severns, Dorothy & Thorpe, Penni, Letter from Into the Scented Garden Aromatics San Mateo, Calif., 2000.

Stead, Christiane. The Power of Holistic Aromatherapy. Poole, England: Javalin Books, 1986.

The Burton Goldberg Group. Alternative Medicine: A Definitive Guide. Tiburon, Calif.: Future Medicine Publishing, Inc., 1997.

Thompson, C. J. S. The Mystery and Lure of Perfume. London, 1927.

Tisserand, Robert. Aromatherapy. 1977. Reprint, London: Mayflower, 1979.

Worwood, Valerie Ann. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. San Rafael, Calif.: New World Library, 1991.

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aromatherapy

a·ro·ma·ther·a·py / əˌrōməˈ[unvoicedth]erəpē/ • n. the use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils in massage or baths. DERIVATIVES: a·ro·ma·ther·a·peu·tic / -ˌ[unvoicedth]erəˈpyoŏtik/ adj. a·ro·ma·ther·a·pist / -pist/ n.

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aromatherapy

aromatherapy (ă-roh-mă-th'e-ră-pi) n. the therapeutic use of fragrances derived from essential oils. These can be inhaled through an infusion of the essential oils that produce them, or the oils can be combined with a base oil and massaged into the skin.

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aromatherapy

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