Aromatherapy is a form of
alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known
as essential oils, and similar aromatic compounds from plants,
for the purpose of improving a person's mood, cognitive function
or health. An aroma therapist is the person who performs the
Aromatherapy, as it is practiced today, began with
the Egyptians, aromatherapy has been around for 6000
years or more. The Greeks, Romans, and ancient
Egyptians all used
aromatherapy oils who used the method of infusion to extract the
oils from aromatic plants which were used for medicinal and
The Romans learned from the Greeks and became well known for
aromatic baths followed by massage with aromatic oils. The
popularity of aromatics led to the establishment of trade routes
to India and Arabia.
The modern era of aromatherapy is dawned in 1930 when the French
chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse coined the term aromatherapy for
the therapeutic use of essential oils. He was fascinated by the
benefits of the use of lavender oil in healing his burned hand
without leaving any scars. He started investigating & studying
the effects of other essential oils for healing and for their
French army surgeon Dr. Jean used essential oils as
antiseptics. Later, Madame Marguerite Maury elevated
aromatherapy as a holistic therapy. She started prescribing
essential oils as remedy for her patients. She is also credited
with the modern use of essential oils in massage. It is at this
point that aromatherapy became an intriguing, semi-medical
modality which allowed the lay person to attempt self- therapy
for many common ailments.
Aromatherapy works the best when it works on the mind and body.
Because many essential oils are
potent antimicrobials, they can be useful in the treatment of
infectious disease. They are used as medicines, often in
combination with other herbal preparations, by a small group of
doctors in France. In nursing, essential oils are increasingly
used in pain management, anxiety/depression, and Alzheimer's
disease. Aromatherapy may be used in combination with other
forms of alternative medicine. Terms such as 'essential oil
therapy' 'clinical aromatherapy' and 'medical aromatherapy' have
been used by some journals, educational institutions and
practitioners, in order to distance themselves from association
with the commercial aspects.
What exactly are
aromatherapy essential oils?
Aromatherapy oils are
essential oils which are extracted from a variety of plants, and can be
taken from the seed, the flower, the bark, the fruit, the leaf or the root of
What are aromatherapy
essential oils used for?
They can be used to treat a variety of
illnesses, conditions and complaints. Some oils have a balancing effect on the
body, such as frankincense, some help the user to relax, for example lavender;
whilst others like rosemary and ylang ylang have an uplifting and stimulating
Why do aromatherapy
essential oils always have such long, complicated names?
All essential oils will be labeled with a
common name and a Latin name. So, for example, tea tree oil is also known as
Melaleuca alternifolia. The Latin name is made up of the plant’s family or genus
– in this case Melaleuca – and its species (alternifolia). Remember that not all
plants within the same family will give you the same results. Lavender, for
instance, can have very different results depending on whether true lavender or
sweet lavender is used.
Are aromatherapy oils safe to use?
As the oils are extremely concentrated, they
should be diluted before it is applied to the skin. If the oil is going to be
used for a massage, make sure to use a good carrier oil such as jojoba, almond.
You should be looking to have just two or three percent concentration of
essential oils. Aromatic oils should never be ingested, and should never
come into contact with the eyes. If this does occur, blot the eyes with olive
oil and then rinse well with water. There are certain oils that should not be
used by anyone unless they have been specifically advised to do so by a
qualified aroma-therapist. There are also many oils that should be used with
care especially where babies, children and pregnant women are concerned.
How do I know I've bought a good quality
aromatherapy essential oil ?
Is it thick, cloudy and with a smell like rancid
fat? Does it have no smell but pours like water? Answer 'yes' to either of the
first two questions-oils are improper.
Buy essential oils from a reputed
supplier. Oils should be in dark blue, green or brown bottles - often 10ml by
volume. They should have a label stating 'essential oil' rather than
'fragrance oil', 'perfume oil', 'room scent' etc. Ideally they should show the
Latin / botanical name of the oil to avoid any ambiguity or mis-selling of the
What are the different ways to use
aromatherapy essential oils ?
The different ways to use essential oils
- In a oil burner /
candle burner / electric vapouriser - either a few drops on a ceramic
dish or in a little water
- On a ceramic electric
light bulb ring
- A few drops on a tissue
near where you sleep. Avoid the pillow as it may end up in your eyes.
- In a massage oil -
there's nothing quite like a relaxing back massage
- In the bath
- In a foot bath
- In cosmetic and cleaning
- In candle wax
- In a compress
- Steam inhalation -
when you have a bad head cold
- Mouth gargles / washes
- Neat on the skin
I grow smelly plants in the garden. Can I
make my own aromatherapy essential oils?
Making your own essential oils is not a trivial
exercise. Most essential oils are obtained by a process called 'steam
distillation' which means boiling vast quantities of the plant material and
condensing out the aromatic vapours that emerge. Boiling requires a large copper
or stainless steel kettle and a decent fire. Condensing requires access to lots
of cold water and plenty of metal or glass tubing.
Some oils are easier to make. Cold expression is
often used to extract citrus oils. Basically the skin or peel is squeezed until
the oil bursts out.
Solvent extraction is done for using solvents,
later the oils and solvents are separated.
How can I learn more about aromatherapy
essential oils ?
Read all my pages for a start. Then have a look
at other Internet sites on aromatherapy. Then buy a good book on it. If you
still want to know more, then get yourself on an aromatherapy course -
especially one with a strong practical element which teaches massage therapy.
Practice makes perfect, as they say.
What careers are there in aromatherapy ?
Well amongst the more respectable ones, you
could get a job as an aromatherapist in the beauty or alternative therapy
fields. You could set up your own business working at home, or you could be
employed by a hospital, fitness centre, health club etc. You may wish to
specialise in the treatment of sports injuries or perhaps you would enjoy
treating the elderly or sick.
Can essential oils treat serious illness?
There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that
essential oils can help serious illness. If you have a serious illness, and have
tried conventional treatments with no success, then what is there to lose?
However, ALWAYS seek medical advice from a doctor first. Aromatherapy is no
substitute for modern medicine, no matter how much you would like to believe in
the healing powers of flowers and plants. In the past, aromatherapy was used
because the scientific understanding and vast array of man-made drugs were just
not available. The treatments proved moderately effective in treating
everyday ailments and infections,. Use aromatherapy but understand its
What evidence is there that aromatherapy does
any good at all ?
most doctors would say - circumstantial, anecdotal, historical but not
scientific. In fact, research has been done into the effectiveness of some
essential oils - especially the popular ones such as lavender, tea tree and
peppermint. The aniti-bacterial properties, and to some extent anti-viral
properties, of these oils are now well regarded. Have you noticed how the
essential oils are finding there way into a wide range of cosmetic and cleaning
products? How may times have you seen 'lemon' or 'pine' fresh cleaners? Or tea
tree shower gel and shampoo? Or rosemary bath oil? Is this just cashing in on a
trendy phenomenon (no doubt) or is there some real scientific evidence behind
it? Even if you dismiss aromatherapy out of hand, have some respect for times
past when essential oils brought healing, freshness and luxury to a squalid
world. We all appreciate gold, but remember it was on an equal with frankincense
and myrrh! Buy a bottle of each and find out why this could possibly be.
Where should I store my essential oils ?
They should be in dark (blue/ amber/green) glass
bottles, in the shade, away from heat, and sunlight.
How long do essential oils last ?
long as you keep them. Mother nature didn't make 'volatile' chemicals for
nothing. They degrade over time, losing their scent, perhaps becoming cloudy and
thicker, and even going a bit 'rancid'. Essential oils should smell divine. The
hotter it is and the more sunlight about (UV rays), the quicker they go off.
Base notes last longer than top notes. The answer to the question is anything
from months to a few years
Can I make shampoo, conditioners, shower
gels, body lotions etc. with my essential oils ?
best idea is to buy a neutral, odourless base cream / gel / lotion and add a few
drops of essential oil. The most popular oils for cleansers seem to be
rosemary, juniper, tea tree, lime, grapefruit, lemongrass, orange, cinnamon,
peppermint and ylang ylang.