A short definition of Aromatherapy is: A therapy and art that uses essential oils to enhance our physical and mental well-being. I'll explain the highlighted phrases a bit further:
Essential oils can be seen as the hormones of the plants, fruits or flowers that they have been obtained from. Make sure that you buy the oils from a reputed supplier and always buy the best quality that you can afford. Be careful to not buy synthetic oils because these can be very damaging to your body. Also watch out for adulteration of oils, so insist in smelling oils before you buy them.
Aromatherapy is an art since a large proportion of its success depends on creating the perfect blend of oils for the recipient. It is similar to mixing colours on a palette by a painter; you may end up with a sparkling beautiful colour or with mud. Blending takes place in your brain rather than in the bottle. To master this, you'll have to train your nose and brain by repeated smelling exercises.
Aromatherapy works on the Mind as well as on the Body. The effect on the mind is the most powerful one and helps in particular to overcome chronic disorders such as depression or stress. Since our sense organ is the nearest one to the brain, the effect of smell is so effective. Through application of essential oils to the body we can ease acute pains or other physical disorders like arthritis or eczema.
There are many ways to enjoy Aromatherapy and we'll look at the most popular applications on this page:
Massage - This is the best known application although it may not always be the most appropriate one. Note: Always dilute the essential oils in a cold pressed base oil when applying them to the body, eg. Jojoba or Sweet Almond oil. Use between 1 and 5% dosage (1-5 drops ess. oil per 5 ml base oil). Excellent for fatigue or lymph and muscular problems. Bath - Another very popular application for many problems, eg. stress, skeletal and muscular problems or for general relaxation. Don't forget to put a 'Don't disturb' sign on the door! Light a candle and play relaxing background music. Try meditation (min. 20 minutes) instead of reading a book. Maximal 8 drops ess. oil in a full size bath!!! Diffusion - Also known as 'burning' or 'vaporisation'. Essential oils are diffused into the air by heat or an airstream. Burners have a small water reservoir with a candle underneath. Up to 10 drops of ess. oil are floating on top of the water and will slowly evaporate. Ideal for creating 'moods' in a room (relax, party, romance) or for the sick room (flu, colds). Compress - Lesser known method but very effective for back or shoulder aches (hot compress - 60 degr C) or for fever, sprains and swellings (cold compress). Use approx 5 drops in 1 litre water. Steam - Use 2-4 drops ess. oil in a boil of steaming water. Drape a towel over your head and inhale the vapours. Ideal for blocked sinuses or any other respiratory problems. Not for asthmatics!
There are of course many other applications like just putting a few drops of ess. oil on your hanky to keep you alert during exams, but this should keep you busy for a while. Always make sure that you understand the properties of an oil before you apply it. Aromatherapy is a great therapy to enjoy but it does not lend itself for human experiments.
Extra caution is needed when used on pregnant women. Avoid the following oils: Basil, Clary Sage, Fennel, Hyssop, Juniper, Marjoram, Myrrh, Sage, Peppermint , Rosemary. No massage during the first 4 months of pregnancy! Use safe oils such as Lavender and Chamomile in the bath or on the lumbar.
In general, treat essential oils as medicine rather than 'just a nice smell'..... Keep them away from small children and never use them orally. The same effect can be achieved by using them externally, and it is much safer this way! If in doubt about any application: consult a good book or even better, a qualified therapist.
Don't miss-understand me however; Aromatherapy is generally a safe therapy and without any doubt the most wonderful therapy to undergo, whether you're seriously ill or just want to enjoy the relaxing effect of some of the oils.....