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Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve a person's overall emotional and physical state. Essential oils are derived from aromatic plants, and have been known for their healing properties. These chemical aromatics are extracted from the plants and then applied directly to the skin in a diluted form or used aromatically.
Aromatherapy can be an effective way to treat anything from anxiety and stress to digestive issues and headaches.
The use of essential oils to heal has ancient origins dating back thousands of years.
5000 years ago, the Ancient Mesopotamians used essential oils in ceremonies and rituals, believing the oils had spiritual qualities. The ancient Egyptians developed the first distillation machines that extracted oils from different plants, used for mummification.
The practice of using essential oils to enhance mood is thought to originate in ancient Chinese medicine. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates chronicled using essential oils to help fight the black plague and for medicine and healing.
Essential oils can also be credited for the popularization of personal hygiene, when the ancient Romans started using essential oils specifically for their fragrance. The actual term "aromatherapy" originated from Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, after he treated a burn with lavender oil. This was the turning point, where Gattefosse began to focus on natural healing properties in essential oils.
Essential oils are the naturally produced oils in different plants, spices, trees, flowers, and fruits. The oils can be extracted from the plants in various ways, depending on what plant is being used for extraction. Essential oils are estimated to be 80 times more potent than the dried form of the plant.
The most common way to extract essential oils from plants is through distillation. Plants are suspended over boiling water, where the steam from the water is used to pull the oils out of the plants. As the steam rises, it is captured in a vessel and pushed along a tube, then rapidly cooled causing it to condense back to water.
The essential oils that have been extracted from the plants do not mix with the water, and are separated and collected.
Expression is used to extract oils from citrus plants by placing the outer skin of the plant under enough pressure to release a liquid. This liquid is then put through a rapidly rotating machine that separates the oil from the juice of the fruit.
Essential oils that are extracted from fragile plants are often placed in solvent to soak. The solvent will draw out the fragrance and create a liquid that is then processed several times to separate the oil from the rest of the liquid.
Aromatherapists often avoid essential oils extracted through solvents, since there is a possibility that slight traces of the chemical solvent used to extract the oil may still be present in the final product.
Essential oils are commonly used aromatically or topically. The scent of essential oils can be inhaled, which can instantly affect the body and mind. Essential oils can also be added to diffusers, where the oils are mixed with water and finely misted into the air.
Diluted oils can also be applied directly to the skin as needed, allowing the particles of the oil to absorb into the skin and affected area. Oils can also be combined with massage oil and be used in aromatherapy massage.
It is important to note that essential oils should be diluted before being applied to the skin. Only certain essential oils can safely be applied to the skin, and they should not be exposed to the sun. Some essential oils should never be consumed, as they can be harmful. Check with your health care provider about the extended use of essential oils.
Essential oils can be used on their own or combined to make oil blends used to treat various symptoms including stress, headaches, and digestive troubles. The following are some of the most commonly used essential oils and what they can be used to treat:
Peppermint oil is used to alleviate headaches or the symptoms that may cause headaches, such as tension and muscle pain. It can also be used for joint pain relief, improving digestion and nausea, and clearing up certain skin conditions.
Lavender oil is used for relaxation, but it also has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. It can also be used to improve digestion and reduce inflammation in the joints.
Tea Tree oil has powerful anti-microbial capabilities, and it can be used to clean wounds and fungal infections. It can also be used to treat blackheads and acne, reduce inflammation, and prevent fungal and bacterial infections.
Oregano oil is often used to fight off cold and flu infections, ease upset stomach, and relieve menstrual symptoms. It can also be used to treat various skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
Lemon oil is a powerful anti-microbial that is often used as an air freshener or household cleanser due to its scent. It can also be used as a topical anti-fungal and can increase mood and concentration by reducing anxiety.