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Aromatherapy Nature's Medicine
By Clare Cole

Aromatherapy is part of a natural healing tradition more than 8000 years old and has its roots in the most ancient healing practices. In recent years, this art has been rediscovered and developed into a total health system. The benefits are increasingly being recognised by the health sector and practised in hospitals, hospices and places of care such as homes for the elderly.

The name 'aromatherapy' was coined in the early part of the twentieth century by a French doctor and scientist, Ren Gattefoss. The word is used to describe the application of essential oils to revive, restore and maintain balance of mind, body and spirit by encouraging the bodys own healing powers. Whilst Gattefoss was working in the laboratory of a perfumery, he badly burnt his hand and looking for a source of cooling liquid, plunged it into the nearest available thing, which happened to be a vat of essential oil of lavender.

To his surprise, the burns healed quickly with very little scarring, inspiring him to research this subject further, the results of which he published in his book 'Aromathrapie' in 1937. Others who followed in Gattefoss's footsteps were Doctor Jean Valnet who as well as treating specific illnesses, used essential oils to treat soldiers in the Second World War. Madame Marguerite Maury, an Austrian biochemist pioneered using essential oils in massage. It is largely through her teachings that this knowledge has been passed down to the many aromatherapists today.

The essential oils are aromatic substances extracted or distilled from flowers, fruits and herbs. The essences are often thought of as 'The Life Force' of the plant and each one has its own powerful and unique therapeutic value. As with most complimentary health practitioners, it is the philosophy of an aromatherapist to look at the whole person, addressing both the cause and effect of the illness.

In doing so a combination of essential oils is blended especially for you in order to treat both your psychological and physiological needs. The oils are most commonly applied by massage, enabling them to penetrate the skin and absorb into the blood stream where they can perform various functions, for example, stimulating, cleansing, toning, promoting new cell growth, but most importantly balancing the body's systems and improving the bodys own defence mechanisms to help overcome ailments.

At the same time, as the oils evaporate, they are being inhaled and are sending messages out to our brain, affecting our emotions. Other ways to apply essential oils are by adding them to a bath, (max 8 drops) or a footbath, (max 6 drops), taking care as some essential oils when undiluted may irritate the skin. Hot and cold compresses are also effective in using essential oils, steam inhalation and the one that most people are most familiar with, using an essential oil burner to freshen the fragrance of a room.

Basil Ocimum basilicum - Insomnia, stress, irregular menstruation, sinusitis, focuses the mind
Bergamot Citrus Bergamia - Anti-inflammatory and cooling, good for skin conditions, uplifting, regulates appetite
Camomile Anthemis nobilis - Eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, nausea, pmt, stress, depression and insomnia
Frankincense Boswellia carteri - Excellent for mature skin, comforting and soothing, focuses the mind during meditation, helps asthma,clears mucus, cystitis
Geranium Pelargonium Graveolens - Balances hormones, regulates PMT(pre menstrual tension), improves circulation, detoxifying andgood for cellulite, relieves the spirits thus good for depression
Ginger Zingiber officinale - Eases joint pain, muscle spasm and sprains. Settles the stomach, stimulates appetite, eases flu andcold symptoms, warms emotions and sharpens the senses and memory
Jasmine Jasminum officinale - Relieves menstrual cramps and eases labour pains, beneficial for postnatal depression. An upliftingoil and known aphrodisiac
Lavender Lavandula augustifolia - Useful for treating all conditions. A good all rounder. Balances emotions, soothes and relievesaches and sprains, headaches, earaches, insomnia. Promotes rapid healing for scars and stretch marks. Antiseptic for burns andinsects stings
Lemon Citrus limon - Lowers blood pressure, stimulates immune system, protects against cold and flu infections, improvescirculation
Peppermint Mentha piperita - Reduces inflammations, cooling effect on sunburn. Flatulence, indigestion, nausea. Decongestant. Relievesheadaches, toothaches. Good for aching feet
Rose Rosa damascena - Rejuvenates skin - good for wrinkles.Relieves nervous tension, stimulates positive emotions. Providesemotional comfort in times of sadness or grief. Calms PMT and helps impotence /frigidity
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis - Rheumatism, arthritis, muscular aches and pains. Fluid retention and obesity. Stimulatescirculation. Relieves mental fatigue and lethargy. Good for high blood pressure. Flu, colds, sinusitis and chest infections
Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia - Colds and Flu. Cystitis and thrush. Clears infected wounds. Very good for acne and athletes foot.Boosts immune system. Effective for treatment of shingles, chickenpox and cold sores
Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata - Reduces high blood pressure, slows over rapid breathing. Reduces stress and anger. Balances the hormones, tonic for womb.

This is a small selection of essential oils and some of their uses. Please note that essential oils are very strong and should not be swallowed, used undiluted or in the first three months of pregnancy. If you are in any doubt, it is always best to check with a qualified aromatherapist.

This article was written by Clare Cole. She is a fully qualified aromatherapist and a member of The Aromatherapy Organisation Council. You can or email her on clare.blessings@btopenworld.com