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What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant, concentrated oils from parts of plants, such as their flowers, fruit, stalks, roots, and bark, for the purpose of improving a person’s health and well being.
How does it help?
Although its name suggests that it is primarily a form of aroma or smell therapy, the essential oils are, in fact, intended mainly to be absorbed into the body via the skin, through massage, the lungs, and through inhalation. Aromatherapy is widely used to reduce stress, as well as to rejuvenate and detoxify the body. It is also used to treat a wide variety of other conditions.
What precautions should be taken?
There are several things to be concerned about, when using essential oils, in addition to the purity of the oils themselves. Some individuals experience a skin reaction to certain oils when they are applied, whereas others suffer skin irritation from overuse. More serious are instances in which oils are incorrectly taken internally. Individuals with conditions like high blood pressure or epilepsy should never treat themselves, and young children and pregnant women should be especially careful.
What are the risks?
Essential oils can be dangerously toxic if taken internally. Oils applied externally also can have a powerful, unintended effect, such as producing uterine contractions in a pregnant woman. In general, it is important not to overestimate the healing properties of oils. A physician should be consulted if a critical situation occurs.
How are the treatments done?
Although many gift boutiques have taken to marketing scented candles, pomanders and potpourri as “Aromatherapy”, genuine treatments rely on the use of highly concentrated essential oils extracted from various healing herbs. In most cases, steam distillation or cold pressing from a plant’s flowers, leaves, branches, bark, rind, or roots produces these oils. The volatile, flammable oils are then mixed with a carrier usually a vegetable oil such as soy, evening primrose, almond oil diluted in alcohol before being applied to the skin, sprayed in the air, inhaled. Although one can pursue treatments under the supervision of a certified aroma therapist, many people simply use the oils as a form of home remedy. There is a notable lack of agreement on such issues as the amount of oil necessary to achieve a desired effect, the most effective method of administration, and the length of time necessary to continue treatment.