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What is Aromatherapy and What Purpose does it Serve?

Aromatherapy Basics

Aromatherapy has been used for over 6,000 years and it’s more than just pleasant smelling scents.  The Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans all used aromatherapy oils.   The Egyptians were the first true aromatherapists, they used essential oils in every aspect of their lives, from bath and making cosmetics, to embalming.   The news of the many uses and knowledge of aromatherapy was then spread across the world due to the Roman’s passion for rose gardens.  Their use of herbs and the making of perfumes spread across the Roman Empire.   The Greeks then took that knowledge and expanded it into medical use, with Hippocrates suggesting that daily baths and massages with the oils could increase general wellbeing.

Using essential oils had all but disappeared in the 20th century, and aromatherapy as we know it was then developed in 1930.  The term was first used by Maurice Gattefosse, as he began to use oils for the purposes of therapy.  He was busy making perfumes for the family business when an explosion occurred, and his hand was badly burned.  He quickly plunged his hand into a bowl of liquid.  As it turned out, that liquid was lavender essential oil.  He was astounded at how quickly the wound healed, without scarring or infection.  He turned his attentions to essential oil’s medicinal properties, and the benefits for healing wounds and skin conditions.

Today the use of aromatherapy and essential oils is two-fold, benefiting healing and overall wellness.


The Science & Art of Aromatherapy

When you consider how smells can stimulate your mind by evoking memories, the idea behind aromatherapy starts to make sense.  Certain essential oils have the power to stimulate your brain, enhancing your body, mind, and spirit.

Some people may consider aromatherapy as an alternative medicine, but it shouldn’t be used instead of traditional medical care when dealing with serious illnesses.  It should instead by a complimentary medicine.

Essential oils are the oils extracted from trees and plants.  They are necessary to the plants biological process and emit a distinct scent.  In their purest form, the oils extracted from spices, flowers, herbs, woods, and fibers, are highly concentrated. They can be used individually or with other oils to create perfumes, bath oils, massage oils, and more.  They stimulate the mind and bring harmony and balance to the body.  Aromatherapy isn’t just for meditation and stress relief, it can help with physical issues, too.  Eucalyptus oil helps to combat sunburn, while violet oil helps battle obesity; tea tree is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal oil, that can be used for warts and acne, while peppermint and spearmint oils help with cramps and flatulence.    


Here are a few of the more common essential oils, and what they are frequently used for:

·        Lavender - probably the best known essential oil, lavender is excellent for menstrual cramps and headaches.

·        Orange – an oil to help combat stress and bring about calm.

·        Sandalwood-  it’s more than the perfect scent for perfumes, it’s also great for meditation and relieving stress.

·        Lemon – helps with fevers and colds.

·        Rose – relives stress, and the symptoms of menopause.

·        Peppermint – is energizing, and an excellent anti-inflammatory.

·        Rosemary oil – helps with fatigue and can relieve the symptoms of depression.



Essential Oils Uses

Essentially oils are generally measured in drops.  To avoid contamination, each oil should have its own dropper. Concentrated essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin, instead they must be mixed in a carrier oil.  Some examples of carrier oils are: olive oil, wheat germ oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, or sunflower seed oil.


Here are the ways you can use your preferred essential oils.

·        Bath – you can add the drops to your bath, or even a jacuzzi, hand or foot bath. You can then sit back and relax while your skin absorbs the oils, and you inhale the vapors.

·        Perfume – you can mix one, or a variety of oils, with a carrier to create your own perfume.

·        Massage – essential oils plus carried oil means you have your own massage oil, ready for a relaxing massage.

·        Air freshener – you can choose to add drops of essential oils to potpourri, or to a spray water bottle. You can also leave the cap of your bottle of essential oil and just allow the scent to escape naturally.

·        Compress – mix the drops of essential oil in a bowl of water and then use a washcloth to apply it to your skin.

·        Inhalation – mix drops of essential oil with a small bowl of hot, steaming water and inhale it for a few minutes. You can put a towel over your head, just ensure that the water isn’t too hot as steam can cause burns.


There are essential oils which are dangerous to pregnant women, people with sensitive skin, allergies, high blood pressure, or other physical conditions.   Before using any essential oil, you should consult your doctor, the directions, or an aromatherapist.

While essential oils have many uses, there are rules about how they should be used. As already mentioned the majority of essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin.  Particular strong oils, such as lemon, cinnamon, peppermint, clove bud, and tea tree and oregano, should always be diluted with water or a carrier oil.  

Essential oils should never be ingested; oils such as mustard, sassafras, bitter almond, tansy, mugwort, and wintergreen are toxic.  You should always keep essential oils away from the eyes.  Pregnant women should not use birch, clove bud, jasmine, cedar, sage, rosemary, or peppermint.  If you have high blood pressure, avoid thyme, rosemary, and safe. If you have any illnesses or physical condition you should speak to an aromatherapist or doctor before using any essential oil. 

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