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What is Aromatherapy?


Aromatherapy is a branch of herbal medicine that uses the medicinal properties of the essential oils of plants and herbs. The use of plant essential oils dates back to the ancient times in Egypt, Italy, India, and China.

Aromatherapy means "treatment using scents". It is a holistic treatment of caring for the body with pleasant smelling botanical oils such as rose, lemon, lavender and peppermint. The essential oils are added to the bath or massaged into the skin, inhaled directly or diffused to scent an entire room. Aromatherapy is used for the relief of pain, care for the skin, alleviate tension and fatigue and invigorate the entire body. Essential oils can affect the mood, alleviate fatigue, reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. When inhaled, they work on the brain and nervous system through stimulation of the olfactory nerves.

The essential oils are aromatic essences extracted from plants, flowers, trees, fruits, bark, grasses and seeds with distinctive therapeutic, psychological, and physiological properties, which improve and prevent illness. There are about 150 essential oils. Most of these oils have antiseptic properties; some are antiviral, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antidepressant and expectorant. Other properties of the essential oils which are taken advantage of in aromatherapy are their stimulation, relaxation, digestion improvement, and diuretic properties. To get the maximum benefit from essential oils, it should be made from natural, pure raw materials. Synthetically made oils do not work.

Aromatherapy is one of the fastest growing fields in alternative medicine. It is widely used at home, clinics and hospitals for a variety of applications such as pain relief for women in labor pain, relieving pain caused by the side effects of the chemotherapy undergone by the cancer patients, and rehabilitation of cardiac patients.

Aromatherapy is already slowly getting into the mainstream. In Japan, engineers are incorporating aroma systems into new buildings. In one such application, the scent of lavender and rosemary is pumped into the customer area to calm down the waiting customers, while the perfumes from lemon and eucalyptus are used in the bank teller counters to keep the staff alert.

How does Aromatherapy work?

Aromatherapy works on our sense of smell and by absorption into the bloodstream. About 15 per cent of the air we inhale goes to the roof of the nose, where olfactory receptors transport odours straight to a part of the brain called the limbic system. This area is connected with instinct, mood and emotion, and it's thought that aromatherapy may stimulate the release of chemicals which in turn play a part in unlocking emotions (think how even the merest whiff of floor wax can zip you back to the classroom).

What is the history of Aromatherapy?

It's thought that ancient civilisations used 'aromatherapy' in many ways and for many reasons such as massage, bathing, medicinally, even for embalming bodies. The concept was probably originally used at around the same time in China, Egypt, the Middle East and by Native Americans, then brought to Europe by the Romans.

The practice of modern aromatherapy is largely attributed to a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé. He began investigating the healing powers of essential oils in the first quarter of this century after noting how lavender oil seemed to aid the healing of a severe burn on his hand. He also published the first book on the subject Gattefossé's Aromatherapy in 1937, which is still available in print. The word aromatherapy stems from two Ancient Greek words: 'aroma' meaning fragrance or pleasant smell, and 'therapeia' meaning healing.

In the UK, the concept was re-introduced by Robert Tisserand in 1969; he began the first aromatherapy training institute in the early 1970s, and has written several books on the subject.




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