What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to achieve physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and balance.

These highly concentrated essential oils are extracted from various herbs and produced by steam distillation or cold pressing from a plant's flowers, leaves, branches, bark, rind or roots.

The oils are then mixed with a 'carrier' — usually a vegetable oil such as soy, evening primrose, almond or diluted in alcohol before being applied to the skin, sprayed in the air or inhaled.

Aromatherapists assign specific properties to each essence — for example, lavender is reputed to heal burns and relieve depression, inflammation, headaches, respiratory allergies, muscle aches and nausea, while peppermint is said to alleviate digestive problems; clean wounds, decongest the chest and relieve headache and muscle pain.

What can aromatherapy treat?

Whether aromatherapy has any significant effect on specific health disorders or not remains a matter for debate. However, aromatherapy can improve general well being. Our body’s response to the scented oils can help reduce stress, enhance relaxation and relieve anxiety.

Aromatherapy can help to relieve insomnia and alleviate the symptoms of cold and flu. There have also been claims that aromatherapy can treat impotence and ease the pain of arthritis.

What happens during an aromatherapy session?

The aromatherapist will work with you to develop a blend of essential oils (known as a 'synergy') that suits your needs.

The essential oils chosen will work well together aesthetically as well as addressing a particular complaint. If you complain of muscle ache, the aromatherapist may create a blend of oils to relieve muscle tension, as well as stimulate mental and emotional response to address the root causes.

The aromatherapist may massage the oils into the skin or use hot or cold compresses. You can also use essential oils at home — oil-containing compounds can be sprayed into the air, added to your bath or heated in an oil burner.

How many treatments will be necessary?

If the aromatherapy treatments seem to help, they can generally be continued as long as needed. However, if you sought aromatherapy for a specific health complaint and the symptoms continue, you should consult your doctor. Equally, if you develop an allergy to any of the products you are using, you should stop treatment immediately and seek medical advice.

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