Aromatherapy is a rapidly growing method of using plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being. The essential oils being used during aromatherapy are volatile plant materials and also other organic compounds. They can be extracted from flowers, stems, leaves and other parts of plants. Aromatherapy is a natural, safe and free of adverse side effects. It affects the whole person not just the symptom or disease and assists the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself by the correct use of essential oils.
Some of the materials employed include:
- Absolutes: Fragrant oils extracted primarily from flowers or delicate plant tissues through solvent or supercritical fluid extraction (e.g., rose absolute). The term is also used to describe oils extracted from fragrant butters, concretes, and enfleurage pommades using ethanol.
- Carrier oils: Typically oily plant base triglycerides that dilute essential oils for use on the skin (e.g., sweet almond oil).
- Essential oils: Fragrant oils extracted from plants chiefly through steam distillation (e.g., eucalyptus oil) or expression (grapefruit oil). However, the term is also occasionally used to describe fragrant oils extracted from plant material by any solvent extraction.
- Herbal distillates or hydrosols: The aqueous by-products of the distillation process (e.g., rosewater). There are many herbs that make herbal distillates and they have culinary uses, medicinal uses and skin care uses. Common herbal distillates are chamomile, rose, and lemon balm.
- Infusions: Aqueous extracts of various plant material (e.g., infusion of chamomile).
- Phytoncides: Various volatile organic compounds from plants that kill microbes. Many terpene-based fragrant oils and sulfuric compounds from plants in the genus “Allium” are phytoncides, though the latter are likely less commonly used in aromatherapy due to their disagreeable odors.
- Vaporizer (Volatized) Raw Herbs: Typically higher oil content plant based materials dried, crushed, and heated to extract and inhale the aromatic oil vapors in a direct inhalation modality.
Some of the ways in which aromatic plant oils can be used include:
- Massage – Aromatherapy massage is a technique for helping to move the lymphatic fluids which is beneficial for your body as the lymph system moves the toxins. Applications of the essential oil on the skin can actually make your skin soft.
- Inhalation – Inhale essential oils directly. Simply smell them straight from the bottle. You can also pour hot water into a bowl and add a few drops of essential oil. Lower your face a few inches over the bowl and cover your head and the bowl with a towel, then breathe deeply and slowly.
- Compress – It is highly effective method for pain relief. Put 4-6 drops of oil into very hot or cold water. Use a folded piece of absorbent material and soak up the oil, wring out excess oil and apply to the affected area. Finally cover the area with the towel.
- Vaporizers and Oil burners – Add 6 drops to water and vaporised in a burner. Never leave a candle oil burner unattended, as it is a fire risk. Electric vaporisers are available and are safer to use when asleep or near children.
- Bath – Bathing can be helpful when used in combination with massage oils. Always take a bath first and then apply massage oil.
How aromatherapy works
Aromatherapy is the treatment or prevention of disease by use of essential oils. It also helps in pain and anxiety reduction, enhancement of energy and memory, stress reduction and relaxation, hair loss prevention, and reduction in itching. It works in two ways. One is the influence of aroma on the brain, especially the limbic system through the olfactory system. The other is the direct pharmacological effects of the essential oils. Clinical studies of aromatherapy in combination with other techniques show positive effects. Aromatherapy helps the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
- It can be useful for stress relief and relaxation
- It helps in relieving minor discomforts
- It boosts the immune system
- It also helps in boosting respiratory and circulatory systems
- It helps in mood enhancement, balance and well being
Essential oils can also be used in household and laundry cleaners. Some oils act as a natural insect repellent and pesticide. Citronella essential oil is the ingredient in the candles that is responsible for repelling the mosquitoes.