Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic plants for therapeutic or healing purposes. It is an holistic practice based on the use of essential oils as healing agents. Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy in the naturopathic tradition, using water, earth (e.g. clay), fire (e.g. heat, oil) and air (e.g. inhalation) to apply essences that aim to naturally balance and stimulate the body and mind.
Many plants produce volatile, aromatic compounds from flowering parts such as seeds and petals or non-flowering parts such as roots, leaves, stems, sticky resin or gum. Essences more than 400 plants are in standard use, commonly extracted from plants by steam distillation (to form essential oils) or solvent extraction (to form absolutes). Essential oils and absolute essences are applied to the skin (e.g. massage oils, creams, baths) or inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose (e.g. diffusers, pillow sprays, saunas).
Each essence has a unique chemical composition and is traditionally valued for distinct properties and effects on the mind and body. A few favourites that you may have heard of or used yourself are listed below, along with the properties they are traditionally valued for in aromatherapy:
Aromatherapy massage treatments involve application of specific essential oils to the body in a carefully selected carrier oil. Aromatherapy massage is typically a gentle, flowing massage treatment, providing the added benefits of being profoundly relaxing for both mind and body, as well as often improving skin condition, circulation and muscle tone.
Aromatherapy massage techniques include similar movements to those in Swedish massage, with flowing strokes, kneading, rhythmic tapping and shaking. However, aromatherapy massage has a strong emphasis on slow, gentle pressure throughout the treatment, flowing continuously as the essential oils are applied. In this way aromatherapy massage induces deep relaxation, calming the whole nervous system and allowing the body and mind to be receptive to the essences.
The Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT) summarises the practice and benefits of aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage as follows: “Essential oils, which are highly aromatic, are readily absorbed into the body via the skin and lungs, and are believed to affect the body on all levels – physically, mentally and even emotionally/spiritually. When combined with massage, which helps to soothe away muscular tension and improve circulation, an aromatherapy treatment can be either deeply relaxing or uplifting, depending on the oils and massage techniques used by the therapist. Aromatherapy is used by people for a variety of reasons. Some use it to help them manage or cope with specific physical, mental or emotional problems, while others use it as a means of relaxation, or to help maintain good health and a sense of general well-being. Aromatherapy massage and essential oils are commonly used in hospitals, hospices and other healthcare settings, to help support patients and their carers.”
If you’re interested in the history and origins of aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage, I’ve written a bit about it here:
Reflexation Therapy primarily offers treatments at therapy spaces in Falmouth (Greenbank) and Penryn Campus Sports Centre. I can offer treatments to clients elsewhere in Cornwall or at home, under special circumstances and by special arrangement. See Venues for more details.