Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant, aromatic plants for therapeutic or healing purposes. It is an holistic practice based on the use of essential oils, extracted from plants, as healing agents.
Essential oils have a potent smell or ‘aroma’ because of the aromatic chemicals in their makeup. Each plant’s unique combination of chemicals gives their essential oil extracts the properties that have made them valuable to aromatherapists over the years.
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 with the aim of naturally balancing and stimulating the body and mind.
Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
Many plants produce fragrant, volatile aromatic compounds from flowering parts such as seeds and petals or non-flowering parts such as roots, leaves, stems, sticky resin or gum. For aromatic plants, think ‘aroma’!
Essences from more than 400 aromatic 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 may be applied through the skin (e.g. massage oils, creams, baths) or inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose (e.g. diffusers, pillow sprays, candles, saunas).
In Aromatherapy Massage treatments or Essential Oil Blend consultations I will listen in to where you are at at the moment, and decide on which combination of oils would serve you best to relax, uplift or whatever you most need at the time. It is always a joy to create something unique to nurture the best of who you are.
A few favourite essential oils
Each essence has a unique chemical composition and is traditionally valued by aromatherapists 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:
- Lavender: calming, mood uplifting, muscle and joint tonic, respiratory tonic, skin healing, regulates female cycles
- Frankincense: deeply relaxing, respiratory tonic, skin regeneration, encourages letting go, assists spiritual development
- Myrrh: clears and calms the mind, clears respiratory system, improves skin condition
- Tea Tree: antimicrobial, clears skin infections, assists recovery from viral infections, stimulating, invigorating for the mind
- Rose: spiritually strengthening and uplifting, improves skin condition, improves circulation and female cycles
- Peppermint: muscle and joint tonic (proven to relieve pain for up to 6 hours), digestive tonic, spiritually uplifting and clears the mind
- Fennel: digestive tonic, clears the throat and chest, encourages letting go of unhelpful attachments, balances the emotions
- Ylang-Ylang: balancing, uplifting for emotions and self-esteem, calms circulatory conditions, stimulates male and female hormones
- Sandalwood: deeply relaxing, calming and uplifting for mood and self-esteem, calms skin conditions, calms nervous digestion
- Neroli: calming (relieves anxiety), reassuring (uplifts self-esteem), improves skin and circulation, calms digestion
- Vetiver: deeply relaxing, calming and grounding, relieves insomnia and anxiety, balances hormones, improves skin condition and digestion
- Jasmine: balancing, uplifting, calming, soothes grief and anxiety, respiratory tonic, helps relieve muscle spasms/strains
“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.”The Federation of Holistic Therapists
Origins of Aromatherapy
If you’re interested in the history and origins of aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage, you can read a bit about it here:
The short version is that aromatherapy has been around a LONG time and essential oils are a delight to work with, especially through massage, even for you and me today.