Aromatherapy, which is also known as Essential Oil Therapy, utilizes naturally extracted essences from plants to promote spiritual, mental, and physical health through the enhancement of an individual’s healing processes.

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Essential oils are selected based on their medicinal properties and are absorbed into the blood stream through application on the skin or inhalation which triggers the desired pharmalogical effects. Aromatherapy is believed to produce psychological benefits as well. A systematic review of studies involving aromatherapy identifying the clinical benefits older adults with dementia showed that aromatherapy had positive effects on reduction of Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD), improvement in cognitive functions, increasing quality of life, enhancing independence of activities of daily living and so on.

History

The use of plant essences for healing date back to the beginning of recorded history. There is evidence that the ancient Chinese were using aromatherapy techniques as early as 3000 B.C. Shen Nung’s Pen Ts’ao from roughly five millennia ago, catalogs the use of over 200 botanicals. Ayurveda, a traditional Indian medicine dates slightly later, still utilizes botanical essences for holistic healing. Egyptians were known to utilize essential oils as early as 1500 B.C. The Romans and Greeks chronicled the use of botanicals ceremonially. 

The Greeks displayed a growing awareness of the medicinal properties of herbs. Pedanios Dioscorides wrote a text De Meteria Medica circa 60 A.D. which was considered the standard for roughly 1500 years. Dioscorides chronicled the medicina; properties of over 500 plants with almost 5,000 holistic applications. The practice of using essential oils found its way into the Arabian world as well, the naturalist Avicenna documented his findings using essential oils as a healthcare supplement. In 1937, a French perfumer and chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse first coined the term aromatherapy. He first got the idea to use oils for healing when he accidentally burnt himself and used the closest liquid he had available on the burn, lavender oil. Gattefosse outlined his early clinical findings in aromatherapy for a range of conditions. Today, the use of essential oils has been extended to encompass a holistic understanding of the modality and there are oils used for specific outcomes.

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Almost a decade later Jean Valnet, a French physician, used essential oil essence in treating WWII soldiers. In the mid-1960’s he wrote the book, Aromatherapie, traitement des maladies par les essences des plantes, that outlined the use of essential oils in medicine which helped to popularize the modality throughout France. The first English book published on the topic of essential oils in 1977, The Art of Aromatherapy, was written by Robert Tisserand and increased awareness of the modality in Great Britain. Today, Aromatherapy is practiced worldwide and the understanding of which oil produces a certain effect is well documented.

Conditions & Treatment

Aromatherapy Oils

Bay Laurel

Description: Antiseptic, diuretic, sedative, etc.

Conditions Treated: Digestive problems, bronchitis, common cold, influenza, scabies, and lice.

CAUTION: Don’t use if pregnant.

Clary Sage

Description: Relaxant, anticonvulsive, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic.

Conditions Treated: Mentrual and menopausal symptoms, burns, eczema, and anxiety.

CAUTION: Don’t use if pregnant.

Eucalyptus

Description: Antiseptic, antibacterial, astringent, expectorant, and analgesic.

Conditions Treated: Boils, breakouts, cough, common cold, influenza, and sinusitis.

CAUTION: Not to be taken orally.

Chamomile

Description: Sedative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and pain reliever.

Conditions Treated: Hay fever, burns, acne, arthritis, digestive problems, sunburn, menstrual and menopausal symptoms.

Lavender

Description: Analgesic, antiseptic, calming/soothing.

Conditions Treated: Headache, depression, insomnia, stress, sprains, and nausea.

Aromatherapy Oils

Peppermint

Description: Pain reliever.

Conditions Treated: Indigestion, nausea, headache, motion sickness, and muscle pain.

Rosemary

Description: Antiseptic, stimulant, and diuretic.

Conditions Treated: Indigestion, gas, bronchitis, fluid retention, and influenza.

CAUTION: Don’t use if pregnant or have epilepsy or hypertension.

Tarragon

Description: Diuretic, laxative, antispasmodic, and stimulant.

Conditions Treated: Menstrual and menopausal symptoms, gas, and indigestion.

CAUTION: Don’t use if pregnant.

Tea Tree

Description: Antiseptic and soothing.

Conditions Treated: Common cold, bronchitis, abscesses, acne, vaginitis, and burns.

Thyme

Description: Stimulant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antispasmodic.

Conditions Treated: Cough, laryngitis, diarrhea, gas, and intestinal worms.

CAUTION: Don’t use if pregnant or have hypertension.

From: Schnaubelt, Kurt. Medical Aromatherapy: Healing withEssential Oils. Berkeley, CA: Frog Ltd, 1999.Individuals should never apply essential oils to the skin unless advised to do so by a trained healthcare professional.

Preparations

The method of extracting an essential oil varies, methods include water or steam distillation, and cold pressing. Essential oils should be pure and extracted solely from botanicals. There are aromatherapy oils currently on the market which are synthetic, diluted, contain solvents, or are extracted from botanicals grown with pesticides or herbicides which can be toxic when used medicinally. Oils should always be stored dark bottles out of direct light and be properly labeled with all of the ingredients and their full classifications. Before using essential oils, individuals should consult a medical professional. Individuals should never apply essential oils to the skin unless advised to do so by a trained healthcare professional.