What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for healing.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants. Each contains its own mix of active ingredients, and this mix determines what the oil is sued for. Some oils are used to promote physical healing -- for example, to treat swelling or fungal infections. Others are used for their emotional value -- they may enhance relaxation or make a room smell pleasant. Orange blossom oil, for example, contains a large amount of an active ingredient that is thought to be calming.

What happens during an aromatherapy session?

A case history will be taken where you will be asked about your medical history and symptoms. You may be asked to inhale various oils to determine your emotional reaction to them.

Following this a blend of oils specific to you will be mixed.  This blend will then be applied to most parts of the body during a deep but relaxing massage. 

What is aromatherapy good for?

Aromatherapy is used to treat a variety of conditions. In general, it seems to relieve pain, improve mood, and promote a sense of relaxation.

Several clinical studies suggest that when essential oils (particularly rose, lavender, and frankincense) were used by qualified midwives, pregnant women felt less anxiety and fear, had a stronger sense of well-being, and had less need for pain medications during delivery. Many women also report that peppermint oil relieves nausea and vomiting during labor.

Massage therapy with essential oils (combined with medications or therapy) may benefit people with depression. The scents are thought by some to stimulate positive emotions in the area of the brain responsible for memories and emotions, but the benefits seem to be related to relaxation caused by the scents and the massage. A person' s belief that the treatment will help also influences whether it works.

Other conditions for which aromatherapy may be helpful include:

          •     Anxiety

          •     Constipation (with abdominal massage using aromatherapy)

          •     Insomnia

          •     Pain: Studies have found that people with rheumatoid arthritis, cancer (using topical chamomile), and headaches (using topical peppermint) require fewer pain medications when they use aromatherapy

          •     Itching, a common side effect for those receiving dialysis

          •     Psoriasis

Should anyone avoid aromatherapy?

Women in early pregnancy, people with severe asthma, and people with a history of allergies should avoid all essential oils.

People receiving chemotherapy should talk to their doctor before trying aromatherapy.