Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy, which is highly popular in beauty business but at the same time is equally effective in curing various ailments. Aromatherapy basically uses essential oils extracted from plants, leaves, bark, and other parts of plants to cure diseases. Although the word ‘aroma’ may make you feel that the oils need to be inhaled only, but the fact is that they can be massaged into the skin and sometimes can be taken orally.
History of Aromatherapy
Essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes and in cosmetic products in countries like China, India, Greece, and Egypt for nearly 6000 years. René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist discovered the healing properties of lavender oil accidentally, when he applied it on his burns. This inspired him to analyze the chemical properties of essential oils and finally in 1928 founded the Science of Aromatherapy. By 1950s various professionals like massage therapists, beauticians, physiotherapists, and other health care providers began using aromatherapy. Aromatherapy became popular in US after 1980s and is now widely used in various lotions, creams, candles, and beauty products.
The Essential Oils
Essential oils are made from the concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, seeds, stem, and other parts of plants and then mixed into substances like oil, alcohol, lotion, etc. Each oil has its own combination of active ingredients and these active ingredients determine the utility of these oils. Some oils are meant to heal ailments like fungal infections, swelling or headaches. Others are used for emotional well being as they help in soothing tense nerves. For example, Orange blossom oil is supposed to have a soothing affect on tired nerves.
The essential oils should never be consumed orally unless your therapist asks you to do so. Whether inhaled or applied on the skin, essential oils therapy is gaining a lot of attention for alternative treatment of infections, stress, and other skin problems, however, still there is no scientific evidence about their effectiveness.
How does Aromatherapy Works?
Aromatherapy advocates believe that it works because the fragrances of the oils stimulate olfactory nerves. The nose then sends impulses to that particular part of the brain which controls memory and emotion and thus depending upon the type of oil, it results in calming or stimulating that particular body part. The oils are supposed to work with hormones and enzymes to bring changes in blood pressure, pulse and other body functions. Another theory believes that the fragrance of certain oils may stimulate the body to produce pain relieving substances. Massage is a popular way of using essential oils because during massage the skin absorbs the oils and the person gets to inhale it as well.
Use of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy promotes relaxation and helps in relieving stress. It is also popular for treating a wide range of physical and emotional/psychological conditions like burns, infections, depression, insomnia, and hypertension. But so far there is no scientific evidence about it.
Things to watch out for
Never swallow the oils used in aromatherapy as most of the oils are potent and can be harmful if taken orally. Aromatherapy should not be used on children below 5 years of age as they can be very sensitive to the strong oil. Besides, these oils should not be applied near eyes or mouth because it can cause irritation in membranes. People with certain ailments, mentioned below, should use them only after consulting the doctor.
- In lungs ailments like asthma, respiratory allergies, etc. as oils may cause airway spasms.
- In Skin allergies as they can irritate skin and membranes.
- Pregnant women should not use them as some oils like rosemary can cause uterine contractions.