Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy

Relax, heal and ‘be in the moment’ with aromatic plant extracts and essential oils

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How can aromatherapy nourish you?

Aromatherapy is a holistic practice which involves using plant oils in carefully blended combinations to support physical, mental and emotional wellbeing[1]. The essential oils may be evaporated in an oil burner, added to bath water, or diluted in a carrier oil[2] and massaged onto the skin. 

It is believed that the practice of using aromatic plant oils to support healing and wellbeing may be almost 6,000 years old, based on the discovery of ancient Egyptian artefacts[3] thought to have been used for extracting essential oils. In its modern form, aromatherapy dates back to the work of a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, who coined the term in the early 20th century[4]. Gattefossé used lavender essential oil to successfully treat severe burns he sustained in a laboratory explosion. 

The aromatic compounds that give essential oils their characteristic fragrances can also have physiological and emotional effects[5]. It is very important to remember that even though they come from plants, these aromatic oils contain potent chemicals that can be toxic if ingested and can cause burns or irritation if they come in contact with the skin in their pure form[6]. Aromatherapy oils must be diluted in a suitable carrier oil if used for massage, and combined with a dispersant[7] if added to your bath. It is also recommended to never consume essential oils by mouth[8], even in a diluted form.

Benefits of aromatherapy

At the sensory level, aromatherapy is believed to affect the limbic system of the brain, which may stimulate the release of neurotransmitters that make you feel relaxed and peaceful, or energised and motivated[9], depending on what oils are used. Research indicates that aromatherapy may significantly promote calmness and reduce agitation in elderly people[10] with severe dementia. 

There is evidence to suggest aromatherapy massage may help alleviate anxiety and depression in cancer patients[11] for up to two weeks after treatment. Aromatherapy may also have beneficial effects on sleep quality in people with advanced cancer[12].

The results of a study comparing the application tea-tree oil with a synthetic acne treatment suggested that while both formulations may be effective in treating acne[13], there were less side effects associated with using the essential oil. There is evidence to suggest aromatherapy may have significant benefits for pain reduction, especially related to surgical procedures or childbirth[14].

Aromatherapy may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Acne and spots
Allergies
Anxiety
Arthritis, rheumatism and osteoarthritis
Asthma
Back pain
Cancer
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
Childbirth and labour
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
Cold sores and herpes
Concentration, focus and problem solving
Dementia and alzheimer's
Depression
Diabetes
Epilepsy
Fatigue, burnout and exhaustion
Fibromyalgia
Hair loss and alopecia
Headaches and migraines
Heart conditions and heart attack
Hypertension
IBS and bowel disorders
Insect bites
Insomnia and sleep disorders
Memory and cognitive function
Menopause and hot flushes
Mental health
Motion and travel sickness
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Muscle spasm, tightness and cramps
Nervous system and neurological conditions
Pain relief
Parkinson’s disease
PMT/PMS and menstrual issues
Pregnancy, birth and antenatal support
Sadness
Scars, burns and wound healing
Sciatica
Smoking and nicotine cravings
Stress and tension
Stroke
Thyroid issues
Tonsillitis
Vomiting and nausea
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What to expect from an aromatherapy session

Your aromatherapist will start by asking you about the condition you wish to treat, as well as enquiring about your medical history[15] and any known allergies that you may suffer from. The practitioner will then choose a combination of essential oils that are believed to have beneficial effects[16] for your health concern. 

A practitioner who combines massage with aromatherapy oils uses a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil[17] to dilute the purified extract to a safe concentration. Your aromatherapist will then massage the fragrant oil into your skin, and possibly also provide you with a personally customised blend[18] that you can take home and use in an oil burner or diffuser.

As long as essential oils are treated with respect and used with care, the main risk associated with aromatherapy involves the possibility of an allergic reaction[19]. If you are self-administering aromatherapy, for example by using an oil burner, always keep essential oils out of reach of children to minimise the risk of poisoning[20].

As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing aromatherapy. If you have an injury or other health issue, particularly if you have any known allergies, it is important to inform your aromatherapist. Your practitioner will be happy to address your concerns and customise the treatment to your individual requirements. 

References

  1. Using Aromatherapy for Mental and Emotional Health |  Psych Central
  2. How does aromatherapy treatment work? | healthline.com
  3. History of essential oils | fgb.com.au
  4. The Real Story of René-Maurice Gattefossé | oilwellessentials4health
  5. Aromatherapy | betterhealth.vic.gov.au
  6. Essential oils – Health warning | Department of Health, Government of Western Australia
  7. Bath Safety: how to use essential oils safely in the bath | tisserandinstitute.org
  8. Is it safe to consume essential oils? | choice.com.au
  9. Aromatherapy | goodtherapy.org
  10. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia | The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
  11. Effectiveness of Aromatherapy Massage in the Management of Anxiety and Depression in Patients With Cancer | Journal of Clinical Oncology
  12. Aromatherapy | cancercouncil.com.au
  13. A comparative study of tea‐tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne | The Medical Journal of Australia
  14. Immunological and Psychological Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage | Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  15. Visiting an aromatherapist | medicalnewstoday.com
  16. What is aromatherapy? | breastcancer.org
  17. Why Use Fractionated Coconut Oil With Essential Oils? | lovingessentialoils.com
  18. Aromatherapy | bupa.co.uk
  19. Irritant and allergic reactions to essential oils | tisserandinstitute.org
  20. Essential oil exposures in Australia | The Medical Journal of Australia

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