Aromatherapy is a natural treatment which uses the concentrated herbal energies in essential oils, derived from a wide variety of plant. Used in association with massage, inhalation, compresses and baths the oils add a sense of luxury to a treatment and have a beneficial relaxing effect. Each essential oil has its own unique fragrance and healing property, which works towards restoring balance within the body's systems.
Aromatherapy is one of the most popular complementary therapies, providing potential benefits to both the acute and chronic stages of illness and disease. Regular treatments can help to strengthen the immune system, thereby establishing a preventative approach to overall health.
How Aromatherapy works
An essential oil has many constituents and can be balancing, relaxing or stimulating to the systems of the body. Their effect can be diverse as they have three distinctive actions:
The skin is the largest organ of the body and the most common route for application and absorption. When applied the tiny molecules or constituents of the essential oils penetrate the skin by entering the hair follicles and sweat glands and are absorbed into the body's fluids. Some essential oils increase the circulation and efficiently help with elimination of toxins, whilst others promote cell regeneration and encourage the body's own natural healing abilities. Each oil has its own characteristics and aroma, exhibiting a varying number of properties and benefits which are unique to itself.
Inhalation of an essential oils aroma via the delicate sensory cells located in the lining of the nasal cavity initiates a signal to the limbic system, or emotional centre, of the brain, resulting in an effect on our moods and general state of mind.
Massage is one of the best ways to enjoy aromatherapy as you not only receive the therapeutic properties of the essential oils, but you also gain the benefit of the massage itself. The therapeutic action of the oils when brought together with the revitalizing effects of massage stimulates all of the organs of the body, plus the skin, muscles, nerves and glands. The increased circulation of the blood and lymph flow also assists with the clearing away of body toxins and cell waste.
Some available research evidence for aromatherapy:
Anderson, C., Lis-Balchin, M., Kirk-Smith, M. (2000). Evaluation of massage with essential oils on childhood atopic eczema. Phytother. Res. Sep;14(6);452-6.
Baker, J. (1998). Essential oils: a complementary therapy in wound management. Jorn. Wound Care. Jul:7 (7): 355-7. Review.
Barbour, C. (2000). Use of complementary and alternative treatments by individuals with fibromyalgia syndrome. J. Am. Acad. Nurse Pract. Aug:12 (8): 311-6.
Booker, D.J., Snape, M., Johnson, E., Ward, D., Payne, M. (1997). Single case evaluation of the effects of aromatherapy and massage on disturbed behaviour in severe dementia. Br. J. Clin. Psychol. May;36(Pt2):287-96.
Buckle, J. (2002). Clinical aromatherapy and AIDS. J. Assoc. Nurses Aids Care. May-June:13(3): 81-99.
Buckle, J. (2001). The role of aromatherapy in nursing care. Nurs. Clin. North Am. Mae:36(1):57-72. Review.
Buckle, J. (1999). Use of aromatherapy as a complementary treatment for chronic pain. Alter. Ther. Health Med. Sep;5(5):42-51. Review.
Burns, E., Blamey, C., Ersser, S.J., Lloyd, A.J., Barnetson, L.(2000). The use of aromatherapy in intrpartum midwifery practice - an observational study. Complement. Ther. Nurs. Midwifery. Feb:6(1):33-4.
Ching, M. (1999). Contempory therapy: aromatherapy in the management of acute pain? Contemp. Nurse. Dec;8(4):146-51.
Dale, A., Cornwell, S. (1994). The role of lavender oil in relieving perineal discomfort following childbirth: a blind randomized clinical trial.J. Ad. Nurs. Jan;19(1):89-96.
Daiki J.,Yuki, K., Miyako, T., Masashi, I., Katsuya, U. Effects of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer's disease. Department of Biological Regulation, School of Health Science, Faculty of Medicine, Tottori University, Yonago, Japan. Psychogeriatrics (2009)
Edge, J. (2003). A pilot study addressing the effect of aromatherapy massage on mood, anxiety and relaxation in adult mental health. Complement. Ther. Nurs. Midwifery. May;9(2):90-7.
Jardine, M. (2002). Aromatherapy: Introduction into a maternity service. Pract. Midwife. Apr;5(4):14-5. No abstract available.
Louis, M., Kowalski, S.D. (2002). Use of aromatherapy with hospice patients to decrease pain, anxiety and depression and to promote an increased sense of well-being. Am. J. Hosp. Palliat. Care. Nove-Dec;19(6):381-6.
Sigoutas-Emch, S., Fox, T., Preston, M. et al. (2001). Stress management: aromatherapy as an alternative. Sci. Rev. Alternative Med.,5(2):90-95.