Aromatherapy is an ancient healing art which uses the natural perfumes of plants - their essential oils - to help prevent and treat health problems. It can help you relax, lift your mood and even sharpen concentration.
The practice of using fragrances to relax and heal the body has been around thousands of years and dates back to ancient Chinese civilizations. Aromatic oils remained in common use for a variety of medicinal purposes until relatively recently, but their use declined as modem pharmaceuticals took over.
Now, however, people are once again taking an interest in essential oils, Aromatherapy is increasing in popularity, both as a professional therapy and as a self-help remedy.
HOW IT HELPS
There are a number of common conditions which can be helped by aromatherapy, These include insomnia; headache and migraine; depression; digestive problems; skin complaints; poor circulation; rheumatism; sinusitis; depression; anxiety and stress, Aromatherapy is also being used more frequent1y in conventional medical settings to help treat a wide variety of patients including those with cancer, mental illness, and muscular -skeletal problems.
Aromatherapy's benefits occur as the oils are absorbed through the skin and the inhaled scent reaches the brain.
USING THE OILS One of the simplest and most common ways of using essential oils is by diluting them in a carrier oil such as coconut or almond oil and then massaging them
There's a wide selection of oils available, but some are more suitable for home treatment.
CLARY SAGE Known in the Middle Ages for its ability to heal eye problems, it's used as a relaxant to reduce anxiety.
lAVENDER One of the most versatile oils, lavender is the classic remedy for aiding relaxation and treating insomnia.
lEMON Oil from the rind has antiseptic properties and is refreshing and invigorating.
MARJORAM This is a delicate fragrance and is wonderfully calming and fortifying.
into the skin. This is thought to make the most of the fragrant oils because they are absorbed through the skin and seep into the bloodstream. At the same time, the scent reaches the brain through our sense of smell. The oils can also be added to bath water; used in inhalations, compresses or as room fragrances.
Aromatherapists sometimes recommend taking pure oils internally. This is not a do-it-yourself activity, and should never be undertaken without the advice and monitoring of a qualified practitioner.
FINDING A THERAPIST
You can find aromatherapists at many complementary healthcare centres, physiotherapy clinics, health spas and beauty salons. Many work from their own homes or places of business. Not all are qualified or experienced, so when choosing a therapist, try to get a recommendation from someone you trust or a professional body.
AROMATHERAPY AT HOME Essential oils are available from aroma therapists , some chemists and herbal or health shops. The most expensive, potent and desir-
Pregnant women must be cautious about using aromatherapy, as some oils could be harmful to mother and baby. Ask a therapist for advice.
NEROLI Oil Neroli oil, which has an orangy scent, helps calm the emotions and works as a sedative.
ROSE One of the least toxic oils, rose works as a powerful anti-depressant and helps with problems of the female reproductive system.
YlANG YlANG A sensuous, exotic oil, ylang ylang is reputed to work as an powerful aphrodisiac and stimulate sexual desire. It also has a sedative effect on the nervous system.
able are those that come in 'pure' form. Others may already be diluted in a carrier oil, or even be synthetically manufactured. The synthetic oils will provide scent but little therapeutic benefit
Essential oils are always diluted for massage - use no more than five drops of an essential oil for every 10ml (2tsps) of a carrier oil.
AROMATHERAPY BATHS This is a luxurious way to relax and also helps relieve aches and pains. Add six to 10 drops of essential oil to a full bath and swish the water around. Keep the windows closed,
PLAYING IT SAFE
so the vapours won't escape. Immerse yourself for 10 minutes or more, breathing deeply. Geranium, cedarwood, camomile and lavender are pa11icularly soothing, while clary sage, tangerine and ylang ylang have a revitalizing effect.
To soothe aching feet, try four to five drops of peppermint, lavender or tea tree oil in a footbath. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
OTHER WAYS WITH OILS
If you have a stuffed nose or blocked sinuses, place a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a paper tissue or on your pillow and inhale gently. Alternatively add a couple of drops to a small basin of steaming water and lean over it with a towel over your head. Inhale the steam for a few minutes to ease your breathing.
Compresses are excellent for muscular aches. Make a soothing compress with four to eight drops of oil and enough water to soak a cotton wool pad. Try camomile, marjoram, lavender or lemon.
BABIES AND CHILDREN Essential oils are useful for calming children so long as you take safety precautions. Lavender, camomile, rose, and tea tree oil added to baths, as massages or inhalants, or on the pillow or sheet are ideal. Children have an acute sense of smell, so use only one drop diluted in bath water for babies, and one to four drops in a child's bath.
Never apply undiluted oils to the skin as they are likely to cause irritation. If you have sensitive skin, apply a little diluted oil and leave overnight to determine if it's safe to use.
Essential oils should always be kept out of the reach of children.
Taken from THE HEALTH FILE A Complete Medical Encyclopedia, A MARSHALL CAVENDISH REFERENCE COLLECTION, NATURE’S CLINIC by DR JOHN CORMACK, WEEKLY Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia Singapore Malta RSA Other Countries Namibia.
BS MRCS LRCP, is the medical consultant to The Health File. The senior partner in an Essex based practice, he is also a member of the General Medical Council and has written for numerous magazines and newspapers as well as for the medical press. He is a regular broadcaster on television and radio and has scripted a number of award-winning educational videos.
Copyright Marshall Cavendish 1995, Printed in Great Britain, Published by Marshall Cavendish Partworks Ltd, 119 Wardour Street, London WIV 3TD
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