Years ago, alternative medicine meant something that was below-the-average, that was not-that-effective and that which was crippled all over. It was something that was frowned upon by traditional practitioners and their loyal followers. Only a few innovators were interested and only a very few knew the benefits of alternative medicinal systems. But things have changed now. Alternative medicine is no more looked down upon. Alternative medicinal systems have evolved as full-fledged systems with capabilities to operate on their own. Aromatherapy is an alternative system of health care which uses essential oils in curing ailments, skin disorders and other ill-health conditions.
What is aromatherapy, what are essential oils: Aromatherapy is all about essential oils or plant oils extracted from various plants or parts of a plant – from bark, stem, wood, resin, spices, herbs, seeds, kernels, flowers etc. The life-blood of plants, essential oils are the immune-shields which protect plant life from all types of infections. When extracted and used, they do the offer the same protection in human beings. Essential oils have a strong aroma and are often inhaled through the nose in aromatherapy. Sometimes, they are mixed with carrier or base oils and used for massaging or other topical applications.
Do essential oils work? Yes, they do. They have been in practice for 4000 years though only in the 20th century, the term aromatherapy came into being. Essential oils work because they contact the brain directly. The aromas inhaled by the nose reach the limbic system of the brain through the olfactory nerves. Since the limbic system is directly connected to parts of the brain which control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels and blood circulation, the aroma of essential oils affect all these parts to a great extent. Scientists have discovered that essential oils are the easiest and quickest ways to galvanize physical and psychological changes in the body. For instance, oils of lavender, rose, orange and jasmine have a tranquillizing effect (as they regulate the brain waves to form a rhythm), while that of basil, peppermint and cardamom yield a heightened energy response.
Aromatherapy origin and existence: Essential oils existed right from the ancient times. It is considered as the first of medicines, and was prevalent even before the use of herbs. The French chemist Rene Gattefosse was the first one to coin the term ‘Aromatherapy’ in the 20th century. The medicinal practice was widely used in ancient civilizations like Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, Persia and China.
Types of aromatherapy: There are no distinct types, but commercialization and modernization has brought in two different kinds of aromatherapy – essential oils for therapeutic purposes and essential oils for fragrance, pleasure, recreation or hygiene. Essential oils can be fragrances or perfumes and still lack in therapeutic value. For an essential oil to be therapeutic, it has to be within the therapeutic grade of aromatherapy. Also, an essential oil has to be extracted, prepared and stored well to be therapeutic.
Uses of aromatherapy: Aromatherapy has emerged from a fledgling science to a fully-developed system of alternative medicine. Essential oils are used in pain relief, as stress de-busters, in treating skin infections, in hair care, in several ailments and inflammatory conditions, as antivirals and in reducing symptoms of chronic diseases. Since the work of any aromatherapeutic product depends on the molecular structures of the oil used and its absorption into the body cells, aromatherapy works only if you use the right oils in the right measures. The whole science of aromatherapy is natural and herbal, hence, side effects are out of question.
What can ruin aromatherapy? Aromatherapy is a complementary form of medicinal system that treats symptoms of diseases. It cannot cure major illnesses like cancer or AIDS. Commercialization of all fragrant products as aromatherapeutic is abuse of the very term of aromatherapy. Any practitioner or user of aromatherapy should understand the limitations of the system of medicine and act accordingly, instead of being carried away by false promises of companies.