Aromatherapy helped prevent disease, promotes a longer life, harmonize one's psycho-physical constitution, and increases mental clarity.
Today, aromatherapy is a very active movement in Europe, especially in France where it is now a recognized medicine reimbursed by medical insurance.
Plants from all over the world contain useful essential oils. These highly volatile oily substances to which the plant owes its perfume and flavor, are present between the cells and act as plant hormones, regulators, and catalysts. They may be considered as representing the vital elements or life force within the plant. Extraction methods are of utmost importance with purity being imperative in order to obtain good therapeutic results.
Aromatherapy requires an extremely high quality of essential oils. Synthetic substances cannot replace the real product. There are hundreds of chemical components in essential oils. Most of them are in minute quantities, and yet it is the precise combinations and ratios of elements which render each oil powerful. As a result, solvents or preservatives are not used in the preparation of first-quality essential oils. A steam-distillation method of extraction is used instead. This process consists of sending steam throughout the plants, which evaporates oils. The steam is then condensed and the oils separate from the water. This method yields a high quality oil. The best oils come from wild organic plants. The amount of oils found in each plant varies greatly and this is reflected in the price.
Basil: a nerve tonic for insomnia, congestion and colds
Clove Oil: an antiseptic used for toothaches,wounds and respiratory infections.
Eucalyptus Oil: clears respiratory passages good for skin infections
Frankincense: for all catarrh conditions, ulcers, boils, skin care, and laryngitis
Geranium: calming effect on the nervous system, kidney stones, skin care
Lemon: counteracts stomach acidity, powerful bactericide
Mint: headaches and vomiting, fevers and colds
Orange oil: sedative, slightly hypnotic, indicated for cardiac spasms
When aromatherapy is used for the treatment or prevention of disease, a precise knowledge of the bioactivity and synergy of the essential oils used, knowledge of the dosage and duration of application, as well as, naturally, a medical diagnosis, are required. In the Anglo-Saxon world, even among "natural" practitioners like herbalists or naturopaths, aromatherapy is regarded more as an art form than a valid healing science.
At best, it is viewed as a complementary and seldom the only treatment prescribed. On the continent, especially in France, where it originated, aromatherapy is incorporated into mainstream medicine. There, the use of the anti-septic properties of oils in the control of infections is emphasized over the more "touchy feely" approaches familiar to English speakers. In France some essential oils are regulated as prescription drugs, and thus administered by a physician. In many countries they are included in the national pharmacopeia, but up to the present moment aromatherapy as science has never been recognized as a valid branch of medicine in the United States, Russia or Germany.
Essential oils, phytoncides and other natural VOCs work in different ways. At the scent level they activate the limbic system and emotional centers of the brain. When applied to the skin (commonly in form of "massage oils" i.e. 1-10% solutions of EO in carrier oil) they activate thermal receptors, and kill microbes and fungi. Internal application of essential oil preparations (mainly in pharmacological drugs; generally not recommended for home use apart from dilution - 1-5% in fats or mineral oils, or hydrosoles) may stimulate the immune system, urine secretion, may have antiseptic activity etc. Different essential oils have very different activity; they are studied in pharmacology and aromachology.
It is significant to note the concept of chemotype in essential oil chemistry. Eucalyptus, for example, has many species, such as Eucalyptus globulus (main component is 1,8 cineole), Eucalyptus citriodora (citral), Eucalyptus menthol, and others. Properties of the essential oils of the same generic (common) name are not all the same; they can differ widely in their chemical components and in their therapeutic actions. Likewise, their chemical makeup depends on the method of extraction (e.g. pressed and distilled bergamot oil have different uses). The practitioner must be aware of these factors.
While the practice of aromatherapy is sometimes thought to be confined to inhalation, it may include various methods, including:
- Inhalation (directly or diffused into the air)
- Absorption through the skin (baths, massages, compresses)
- Absorption through the mucous membranes (oral rinses and gargles)
- Ingestion (occasionally prescribed, with caveats)
Aromatherapy is based mainly on the following therapeutic effects:
- Antiseptic effects: viricidial, bactericidal, fungicidal
- Anesthetic action (menthol, camphor)
- Central nervous system effects
- Metabolic / Endocrine effects
- Psychological effectsImmunostimulator
Fragrances can have a relaxing effect measured as an increase in alpha brain waves.
One of the best known essential oils for aromatherapy is lavender, which is recommended by practitioners for treating wounds, to enhance memory, and to aid sleep by combating anxiety and insomnia. Other popular scents include eucalyptus, rose, jasmine and bergamot.
Aromatherapy is among the fastest growing fields in alternative and holistic medicine. Aromatherapy is sometimes used in clinics and hospitals for treatment of pain relief, for labor pain, for relieving pain caused by the side effects of the chemotherapy, and for the rehabilitation of cardiac patients.