Aromatherapy is considered to be a form of alternative medicine in which essential oils as well as other aromatic compounds are used to alter peoples' health, mind, mood, and cognitive function. Evidence has proven that essential oils and additional aromatic compounds may potentially have therapeutic properties. There is still more research needed to determine how efficient aromatherapy may be in treating certain medical conditions. Those that practice aromatherapy have stated that it can be used to reduce anxiety and pain, enhance memory and energy, and aid in relaxation. There is evidence that shows that the practice of aromatherapy has been around for many years.
The History of Aromatherapy
There is discussion of essential oils in De Materia Medica; written in the first century by Dioscorides. In the eleventh century, distillation was invented, and since that time, essential oils have been widely employed as a form of medicine and have been used for many other purposes as well. The modern concept of aromatherapy first began to develop in the early 1900s. The medicinal use of essential oils was pioneered by Jean Valnet, a French surgeon during World War II. Valnet used the oils as antiseptic to help treat wounded soldiers.
Essential oils are widely employed in aromatherapy. They are fragrant oils which have been extracted from plant material. Extraction is done using a solvent. Carrier oils are also popular in aromatherapy. They are generally a plant base that is oily and can be used to dilute essential oils to be used on the skin. Another common material is absolutes. Absolutes are fragrant oils that are primarily extracted from delicate flowers and other plant tissues. Infusions are also used in aromatherapy and are water based extracts made with various plant materials. In addition to the above listed materials, other widely used materials include herbal distillates, phytoncides, and vaporizers.
Aromatherapy Application & Common Uses
Aromatherapy application comes in a few different forms including aerial diffusion, topical applications, and direct inhalation. Aerial diffusion is is often used for aerial disinfection as well as environmental fragrancing. Topical applications are developed for baths, compresses, general massage, and various types of therapeutic skin care. Direct inhalation aromatherapy is generally used for decongestion, as well as respiratory disinfection, and to achieve a number of different psychological effects. Some commonly used essential oils include thyme oil, lemon oil, peppermint oil, sage oil, lavender, jasmine, and chamomile oils, among others. Peppermint oil is often employed as a natural bug deterrent. Jasmine, lavender, and chamomile, along with peppermint are often used to help reduce anxiety and distress. These oils are also used as antidepressants. Lemon oil can also be used for stress relief and the enhancement of one's mood. It has been suggested that sage oil may help to boost short term memory. It is also used as a dietary supplement.
Aromatherapy Safety Issues
Aromatherapy is a generally safe practice but there are some safety concerns. Essential oils are highly concentrated and therefore have the potential to irritate the skin. As long as the essential oils are diluted with a carrier oil when being used topically, they are safe and much less likely to cause skin irritation. Common carrier oils include olive oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil. When practicing aromatherapy with citrus oils, it is possible that a phototoxic reaction can occur. Certain essential oils that are perfectly safe for humans can be toxic to various domestic pets and as such proper care must be taken. Another concern with aromatherapy is that certain essential oils may negatively interact with conventional medicines.
Research into the potential health benefits of aromatherapy is ongoing. When practiced with the right precautions, aromatherapy can help to reduce stress and anxiety among other things. It is important to do proper research into the different types of essential oils before utilizing any of them. Some aromatherapy oils, while safe in some forms, can be toxic if taken internally. This makes proper research into aromatherapy essential. When using topical applications, it may be a good idea to test a small area first to ensure there is no skin irritation.