Health Tips: Introduction To Aromatherapy

Aroma therapy and how it can help the body, an introduction to the possibilities for healing using smells.

This alternative medical therapy combines massage with essential oils. The word "Aromathérapie" was coined in 1928 by a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, to describe the therapeutic action of aromatic plant essence. However, aromatherapy as we know it today, and the use of aromatherapy with massage, was popularized by an Austrian-born biochemist and beautician called Marguerite Maury, who worked in France. The art of aromatherapy harnesses the potent pure essences of aromatic plants, flowers and resins to work on the most powerful of senses - smell and touch - to restore the harmony of body and mind.

Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy in that it works on the person as a whole. Though it is an excellent way of treating minor ailments, stress and negative emotional states, it is not a substitute for conventional medical treatment. If symptoms persist, always consult a medical doctor. Never attempt to treat the following conditions: cancer, progressive neural disorders, heart conditions, advanced asthmatic conditions, post-operative states, severe varicose veins, very high blood pressure and epilepsy.

The history of Aromatherapy

It is likely that the Chinese were the first to discover the remarkable medicinal powers of plants as far back as 4,500BC, and the Greek alchemists continued discovering how to distil the oils by boiling and steaming. Traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, which incorporates healing oils, goes back at least 3,000 years. However, the ancient Egyptians were perhaps the most sophisticated in this respect, using essential oils as perfumes, healing tools, and embalming agents for mummification.

Essential Oils

The vital element in any aromatherapy treatment is the pure essential oil. These oils are very different from the heavy oils we use for cooking; they are concentrated essences, much lighter than water and highly flammable. They evaporate quickly, so they are usually mixed with other ingredients to trap their effectiveness. Because they are so concentrated, essential oils are measured in drops, which are extracted from an array of plant sources, including petals, leaves, seeds, nut kernels, bark, stalks, flower heads and gums and resins from trees. There are many ways of dispersing their fragrance and utilizing their therapeutic properties, including inhalation, therapeutic massage, fragrances, baths, shower, sauna, room sprays, pomanders, humidifiers, wood fires, scented candles, compresses and body and facial oils.

The essential massage

An aromatherapy massage using essential oils is a therapeutic treatment for both mind and body, which works mainly on the nervous system. Aromatherapy is both holistic and practical in that it helps to protect the body's life-saving immune system and energize or stabilize emotions. The highly potent essential oils penetrate the body via the skin and are also inhaled as the massage progresses.

The Consultation

An aromatherapy treatment generally consists of a full body massage using a specific blend of essential oils mixed into a carrier-oil. A good therapist will allow you to smell the oil and give your approval before she begins to work. An aroma therapist uses a massage bench. To help them to treat a wide variety of complaints, aroma therapists have many oils at their fingertips, but they never mix or use them until they have worked out a prescription for the receiver's individual needs.

Receiving the massage

Before the massage, have a cool shower and don't use an underarm deodorant or body spray before a treatment; and don't have a large meal or drink alcohol. Don't have a massage if you have flu or any serious condition. After the massage, drink a glass of still water immediately. Lie still for at least five minutes before getting up. Drink plenty of water for the rest of the day, as the kidneys will be active in eliminating the toxins. Avoid alcohol for at least 12 hours after the treatment to give the body a chance to detoxify thoroughly.

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