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Aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine that uses essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds which are aimed at improving a person’s health or mood.
The essential oils used in aromatherapy have a different composition compared to other herbal products because the distillation used in aromatherapy recovers the lighter phytol molecules.
Aromatherapy is a widely used term for a range of traditional therapies that use essential oils. These may include massage oils, or any topical application that uses pure, essential oils – the essential oils are either absorbed through the skin or inhaled.
Application of aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is generally applied in one of three ways:
- Aerial diffusion – the oils evaporate into the air. The aim is to give the air a specific fragrance or to disinfect it.
- Direct inhalation – the person breaths the evaporating oils straight in. This is commonly used for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, as well as for psychological benefits.
- Topical applications – applied onto the skin. Commonly used for massage, baths, and therapeutic skin care.
What can aromatherapy be used for?
- Muscular aches
- Body aches
- Circulation problems
- Digestive problems
- Menstrual problems
- Menopausal problems
Popular aromatherapy products
- Basil – this is used to sharpen concentration and alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. Also used to relieve headaches and migraines. Should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Bergamot – said to be useful for the urinary tract and digestive tract. When combined with eucalyptus oil it is said to be good for the skin, and skin problems caused by stress, as well as skin affected by chicken pox.
- Black pepper – commonly used for stimulating the circulation, muscular aches and pains, and bruises.
- Citronella oil – this is a relative of lemongrass. It is commonly used as an insect repellent.
- Clove oil – a topical analgesic (painkiller) commonly used for a toothache. It is also used as an antispasmodic, antiemetic (prevents vomiting and nausea) and carminative (prevents gas in the gut).
- Eucalyptus – often used for relief of the airways for people who have a cold or the flu. Commonly combined with peppermint.
- Geranium oil – this is commonly used as a diuretic (makes you get rid of water), astringent (draws together or constricts body tissues and is effective in stopping the flow of blood or other secretions), and antiseptic.
- Jasmin – this is said to have aphrodisiac qualities.
- Lavender oil – commonly used as an antiseptic for minor cuts and burns. Also used to help people relax. It is said to relieve a headache and migraine symptoms. Also used to help people with insomnia.
- Lemon oil – used to give the person a mood-lift, also said to be effective for relieving the symptoms of stress and depression.
- Sandalwood – some say this has aphrodisiac qualities.
- Tea tree oil – said to have antimicrobial, antiseptic, and disinfectant qualities. Commonly used in mouth rinses.
- Thyme oil – said to help fatigue, nervousness, and stress.
- Yarrow oil – used for cold and influenza symptoms. It is said to help reduce joint inflammation.
What are the risks of aromatherapy?
It is important to follow the product instructions carefully. Concentrated products may be poisonous before dilution and should be handled with care. If you have any of the following conditions you should be extra careful/cautious about aromatherapy:
- If you have an allergy or allergies
- If you suffer from hay fever (a type of allergy)
- If you suffer from asthma
- If you have skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis
Be extremely cautious if
- You suffer from epilepsy
- You suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Have DVT (deep vein thrombosis)
- You are breastfeeding
- You are pregnant
Aromatherapy does sometimes have side effects. However, they tend to be very mild and do not last long. These include nausea, headaches, and some allergic reactions.
Skin sensitivity to sunlight – essential oils derived from citrus may make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light, making the person more susceptible to sunburn.
Some oils may change the effectiveness of conventional medicines – if you are not sure, check with a qualified pharmacist or doctor.