A Guide to Aromatherapy: Its Treatments and Benefits
29th Jun 23
Aromatherapy, as a complementary therapy, has been gaining traction over the last few decades, going all the way back to the ‘flower power’ era of the 1960’s – when people started to embrace alternatives to Western medicine in the East, as they began to travel more.
This was around the same time that massage therapy started to regain its place as a therapy that was beneficial to a person’s health and wellbeing.
Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy that’s used to promote balance and equilibrium physically, mentally and spiritually.
The science and art of aromatherapy involves the use of pure essential oils that are extracted from various parts of plants and trees. Essential oils are natural, aromatic, liquid substances that are often considered to be the ‘life force’ or ‘soul’ of plants, enriched with a multitude of therapeutic properties.
How Aromatherapy Works
Aromatherapy works in two ways. The physiological processes that enable this are:
- INHALATION – during which the aroma of the essential oils stimulates the limbic system (the part of the brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses) through our olfactory senses (our ability to detect smells).
- SKIN ABSORPTION – where essential oils enter the body through the layers of skin and enter the bloodstream, where the chemicals react to have the desired effect on the body.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
An article published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy describes Aromatherapy as a therapy that has the potential to promote health and wellbeing through massage, inhalation, baths, compresses, creams and lotions.
Some of these benefits are:
- Reducing stress, anxiety and nervous tension
- Relieving symptoms of depression
- Invigorating, calming or sedating the mind
- Stimulating sensory awareness
- Promoting activity and alertness
- Aiding sleep-related symptoms like insomnia
- Providing pain relief i.e. headaches/migraines, muscle aches/cramps, PMS/PMT
1. HOLISTIC AROMATHERAPY is aimed at treating the person as a whole – body, mind, spirit. This holistic approach to wellbeing focuses on finding the root cause(s) of an illness or condition rather than just the symptoms. A consultation is mandatory so that the Aromatherapist can ensure the selected essential oils are safe to use. Plus, beneficial to the client’s health needs at the time. The Aromatherapist will then select and create a bespoke blend of essential oils to use in your aromatherapy massage treatment.
An aromatherapy massage is the best way to speed up the absorption of essential oils by the skin. The Aromatherapist may also recommend the use of a bespoke essential oil blend after the massage treatment. they may do this by providing the client with an aromatherapy product blend like a rollerball, inhaler, bath salts, compress, balm or body oil to use in between treatments.
2. CLINICAL AROMATHERAPY also known as Medical Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine therapy. It can be beneficial in a hospital setting i.e. an inpatient or outpatient setting to help manage symptoms like pain, nausea, stress, anxiety, depression and general wellbeing of the patient.
Clinical Aromatherapy is also beneficial for pre-operative anxiety, oncology, palliative care, hospice, and end of life care. Due to essential oils being volatile and in some cases toxic, phototoxic or flammable, special care needs to be taken when using essential oils in a clinical setting. This is why, in such instances, it is especially important to seek Aromatherapy treatments from qualified Aromatherapists who are additionally trained to work in a clinical environment.
Who Can Benefit from Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is used to treat a number of conditions. It can be used in wide-ranging settings, from private therapy practices to wellness centres, health spas and hospitals. Aromatherapy treatments are more popular amongst women but can be equally beneficial for men. The below list of conditions that can benefit from Aromatherapy is not exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start.
Aromatherapy can help with:
- Musculoskeletal problems like muscle aches, sprains, strains, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout etc.
- Circulatory problems like unstable blood pressure, poor circulation, varicose veins etc.
- Digestive problems like constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, indigestion, etc.
- Women’s health issues like premenstrual syndrome (PMS), endometriosis, irregular periods, hormonal imbalances, menopause etc.
Aromatherapy is a treatment that can work for all. However safety and caution when using essential oils is key to maximising its benefits and preventing adverse reactions. This means that a thorough consultation must take place with a qualified Aromatherapist. This is to ensure that only essential oils that are safe for the client are being used, taking into account all medical conditions and any contraindications. If unsure, seek the advice and guidance of a professional Aromatherapist before booking a treatment.
Professional body registers (as listed below) are the ideal places to find qualified Aromatherapists. Organisations like these ensure that all professional Aromatherapists on their professional register have the necessary and required qualifications to set National Occupational Standards and abide by their Professional Code of Practice.
Here’s a list of such professional bodies
- Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT)
- International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA)
- International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA)
- Complementary Health Professionals (CHP)
- Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)
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