Twenty years ago I ran a health food shop and diet advisory centre here in Ireland and we sold essential oils for aromatherapy. I thought that I should learn more about it and took a course on the subject. It is not something that I have covered here on the blog, and I am looking forward to refreshing my memory from my course notes. and introducing you to this relaxing therapy at the same time.
What is Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses essential oils which have been extracted from specific sweet smelling plants for therapeutic massage. They are blended with specialised carrier oils to ensure that they are used in a diluted form and are easily absorbed by the skin. The oils can also be used to add these therapeutic aromas to our environment as well with the use of burners.
One of the first things that I learnt on my course, was that the original Coca-Cola was developed as a nerve tonic by pharmacist John Pemberton in 1886 by blending the essential oils of orange, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and neroli together. And of course the unknown secret ingredient to this day ‘7X’. How cool is that.
How does aromatherapy work
Essential oils enter the body through the skin mainly because of their very small molecules. Apart from being absorbed into the skin during a warming massage, the aromatic molecules are also breathed in, and when they hit the nerve receptors in the nostrils, it sets of a reaction resulting in brain activity. This also occurs when using essential oils to bath water which adds to the relaxation of being immersed in the warm environment.
The history of essential oils.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years as the mainstay of a healer’s medicine chest. With experimentation over centuries the uses and the recipes were refined and eventually became commercially available. One of the issues of course is finding unpolluted plant sources which is increasingly difficult. One of the largest growing areas for Lavender which is one of the most popular essential oils in in Provence in France. In the early days of its cultivation weeding was done by goats and sheep who fertilised the crop too!
These days there are very strict regulations governing the production of essential oils in the region and you can find out more here: http://www.albertvieille.com/en/products/82-lavender-haute-provence-a-o-p-essential-oil-france.html
Making your own essential oil preparations.
You can use essential oils in the preparation in many of the products that you currently buy in bottles and plastic. For example here in Ireland you can buy wonderful handmade soaps that contain all natural ingredients and feel and smell wonderful. I bought some when I was selling my books at Christmas fairs and there is no comparison to the shop bought products. Some also provide training days to get you started on making your own soaps and this is just one that is south of us.
Some of you might have used Arnica in the past in one form or another to reduce bruising or inflammation. It can also be used for painful joints, sprains and muscle strains. The problem with shop bought premixed lotions is that many can contain petroleum and other chemical additives. This first link will show you how to make your own arnica salve, using another of my essential natural ingredients for lotions…. coconut oil…
I do recommend that you buy your essential oils or products made from them from a reputable source and that you opt for the organic makes.
Medicinal benefits of essential oils.
Whilst essential oils have been used as I mentioned, for thousands of years, there is now a lot of scientific research into the the use of the oils in modern medicine. Some enlightened doctors actually have aromatherapists working in their practices. The oils have varied properties, some are effective against viral or fungal infections, some such as Arnica are useful as an anti-inflammatory and relieving pain.
My all in one essential oil.
The one essential oil that is always in my medicine cabinet and my toiletries is Tea Tree Oil. I discovered its benefits when I was learning about essential oils back in the late 1990s and I have used for mosquito bites, tooth ache, in a soap, shower gel, face cream and toothpaste ever since. It is a powerful oil and has antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, fungicide and insecticide properties, to mention just a few. Great for athlete’s food, or other fungal conditions as well as keeping hair clear of predators!
With regard to aromatherapy its primary property is as a stimulant and has that effect on blood circulation, hormone secretion and on the immune system. You do not take Tea Tree orally, but it is still effects your internal body systems with its absorption into the skin during massage. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect on sore muscles and joints.
Next time I will be giving you a list of essential oils, where they are extracted from and their uses.
But first a little safety warning.
- Never take essential oils internally.
- Keep out of your eyes and away from children
- Do not apply undiluted (ways to dilute and blend later)
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid the following: (hormone and other stimulating effects)
- Clary Sage
- Pimento Berry
- Birch Oils.
If you are going to be in direct sunlight within four hours avoid citrus essential oils such as Bergamot as they increase your sensitivity to the sunlight and can result in burning.
Thank you for dropping in today and I look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally