Aromatherapy/ essential oils


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What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for physical and psychological wellbeing. Aromatherapy as we know it today is a modern phenomenon but it has roots in past practices; Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, Persians and medieval Europeans all used aromatic oils. Many similar oils were used and for similar purposes for medical treatment as those which are used today, from skincare to relaxation and perfuming. With the advent of modern medicine, all natural branches of medicine, were neglected. But the twentieth century, with the spreading disillusion with modern medicine and its separation of the whole person and the symptom, its reliance on synthetic treatments and the sometimes negative side effects of these treatments, saw the resurgence of the science of aromatherapy. Today it is an evolving science, practiced by certified and experienced aromatherapists, licensed health practitioners and lay people for their own care at home.

What can aromatherapy be used for?

Some examples of common uses for aromatherapy:

treatment of stress, anxiety and depression and other nervous system conditions, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, colds, flu and other respiratory problems, sinusitis, immune system stimulation, skin conditions e.g. eczema, psoriasis, menstrual problems- PMS, menstrual pain, irregular periods, menopause, birth, headaches including migraine headaches, digestive problems, insomnia, concentration, natural perfumes.


What are essential oils?

Essential oils are the essence of the plant, some say the soul of the plants. They are taken from various plants usually by steam distillation but also can be cold pressed in the case of citrus oils. They are found in various parts of the plant.

They come from flowers

  •   rose, neroli, geranium, lavender

from leaves

  rosemary, tea tree, basil, thyme, eucalyptus, melissa, petitgrain, clary sage, sage, peppermint

from wood

  • cedarwood, ho wood

from roots

  •   ginger, vetiver

from berries

  •   juniper berry, black pepper

from seeds

  • carrot seed, coriander, cardamom

from twigs, needles

  •   cypress, sandalwood, cedarwood, pine

from the rind of fruit

  •   lemon, orange, grapefruit, mandarin

from grasses

  •   lemongrass, palmarosa

Some oils are thought of as essential oils but are actually technically absolutes, which means they are extracted by solvents. These oils include those from delicate and exotic flowers which would be destroyed by the steam and the heat of distillation, such as jasmine and some rare scents used in perfuming.



Recommended reading

Battaglia, S. (2003) The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. Second edition. Brisbane: The international centre of holistic aromatherapy.

Mojay, G. (1996) Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. London: Gaia.

Price, S. (1993) Aromatherapy Workbook. A complete guide to understanding and using essential oils. London: Thorsons

Tisserand, R (1988) Aromatherapy to heal and tend the body. Wilmot: Lotus press

Valnet, J. (1980) The practice of Aromatherapy. Essex: C.W. Daniel Company.

Wildwood, C (1996) The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy. London: Bloomsbury