11 September 2008

Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine; botanical medicine that uses volatile plant oil, materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds from plants for the purpose of affecting a person's mood (psychological) or health (physical).

The modes of application of aromatherapy include :
  • Aerial diffusion for environmental fragrancing or aerial disinfection
  • Direct inhalation for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, expectoration as well as psychological effects
  • Topical applications for general massage, baths, compresses, therapeutic skin care
  • Oral, rectal, vaginal interfaces for infection, congestion, parasites, perfumery for body fragrancing, anointments
Absolutes, Phytoncides, Herbal distillates, infusion, carrier oils, CO2s, milk powder, sea salt, sugar and Hydrosols are also commonly utilized in aromatherapy. Although essential oils, CO2 extracts and absolutes are distilled in different manners, the term essential oil is sometimes used in writing as a blanket term to include CO2s and absolutes.

The Body Response to Aromatherapy

The olfactory region of the brain is closely associated with the limbic region - that being the center of emotions, memory, sex drive and intuition. The limbic system is also connected to parts of the brain that control heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and stress levels. Further, the olfactory region connects to the hypothalamus, which controls the entire hormonal system by influencing the pituitary. This gives us a good ideas as to why the aromatic compounds of plants (essential oils) can have an 'aromatherapeutic' effect.

The Benefit of Inhaling Essential Oils from aromatherapy

The olfactory system, your 'smell' sense, is the only one of the five senses directly connected to the brain. All other senses are routed first through the thalamus, then directed to the cerebral cortex and other brain regions. Because each sensing cell is in direct contact with the chemical being sensed, and the cell is in direct contact with the brain, the physiological response to smell is quick and powerful.

Not only does the aroma of the natural essential oil stimulate the brain to trigger a reaction, but when inhaled into the lungs, the natural constituents (naturally occurring chemicals) can supply therapeutic benefit. Diffusing eucalyptus essential oil to help ease congestion is a prominent example.

If not done correctly and safely, however, the use of essential oils can have severe consequences.

Physical Application of Aromatherapy

Besides physiological responses, other 'external' factors are affected. Some essential oils have been show in laboratory experiments to be extremely powerful antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics. They can provide therapeutic action by fending off invaders of our own system. Tea Tree, for example, is used in many dental formulations for its gentle yet effective antibacterial action.

Essential oils that are applied to the skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The constituents of essential oils can aid in health, beauty and hygiene conditions. Since essential oils are so powerful and concentrated, they should never be applied to the skin in their undiluted form. To apply essential oils to the skin, essential oils are typically diluted into a carrier such as a cold pressed vegetable oil, also known as a carrier oil.

Other Benefits

Essential oils are helpful in other applications. Essential oils can be used in household and laundry cleaners. Some oils act as a natural insect repellent and pesticide. You may recall using citronella candles during the summer to keep mosquitoes away. Citronella essential oil is the ingredient in the candles that is responsible for repelling the mosquitos.

Essential Oil Blends

Essential oils can be blended together to create appealing and complex aromas. Essential oils can also be blended for a specific therapeutic application. A synergistic essential oil blend is considered to be greater in total action than each oil working independently.

Aromatherapy Products

Not all aromatherapy products labeled with the word "aromatherapy" are pure and natural. Products that contain artificial ingredients do not provide true aromatherapy benefits. In fact, they provide no benefit or be harmful. At best, they provide only a fraction of the benefit that natural products supply.

Buyers seeking true aromatherapy products must look at the ingredient label to ensure that the product does not contain fragrance oils or unpure (chemical) components.

Some sellers of good-quality aromatherapy blends do not list their ingredients because they are worried that others may copy their creation. By asking the seller more about the blend, and listening to how they respond, you should have a better idea about the quality of the blend being sold. Good suppliers should be happy to provide you with a list of the ingredients. They understand that some individuals must avoid particular oils due to health problems.

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