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MORE THAN GOOD SCENTS
Chad Gatrell, Christine F, Maria B, Tina G Chad Gatrell March 18, 2009 Vol. 7, Issue 3
HISTORY OF AROMATHERAPY
Aromatherapy has historically been applied to improve innumerable health conditions and/or states of mind in various places all over the globe. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans have been identified as using essential oils for therapeutic purposes, including treatment of health conditions and diseases. Most medical documents relating to the use of aromatherapy in the ancient Mediterranean have been lost as a result of the destruction of the Royal Library of Alexandria. Aromatherapy spread from Greece and Rome to parts of the Middle East and into Central Europe, where it became popular in medieval times. Aromatherapy has been practiced in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Essential oils were also used by the Incans, Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs; the first great civilizations of the Americas. Aboriginal Australians have been using the Melaleuca species for medicinal purposes for possibly thousands of years. In the twentieth century, René-Maurice Gattefossé began scientific research into therapeutic properties of essential oils. Gattefossé’s research opened the door for many others to conduct research and publish books on the subject, thereby legitimizing the stature of aromatherapy as an alternative medicine. At present, aromatherapy is regarded as a complementary modality to massage therapy.
Did you know…Lavender can be applied directly to the skin to help alleviate the pain from burns, soothe and cleanse cuts and skin irritations, as well as promote tissue regeneration. On top of all this lavender oil also helps to relax the mind and body?
The Science of Aromatherapy
The immunological properties of essential oils make it a particularly virtuous product to be extracted for human use. Some nations, such as France, have gone so far as prescribing the use of essential oils in pill form for ingestion. However, in Canada, Aromatherapy is categorized as a holistic practice and is considered to be a complementary modality. For this reason, Canadians experience aromatherapy through more conventional methods: absorption or inhalation. Absorption is achieved whenever essential oils are rubbed on the skin. While spreading oils on the skin in pure form has more direct effect to the system, using carriers (dilute solutions) decrease the volatility of the oil. Therefore, carriers significantly reduce the amount absorbed, but prevent evaporation from taking place before the essential oil comes into contact with the skin. While an essential oil molecule may be volatile, its small size and fat-solubility are properties that make it ideal for moving through skin cells. Once absorbed into the skin, the oil diffuses into blood vessels that
help circulate the molecules through the body and into the brain, where the desired physiological response is generated. This process is most effective on hair and sweat glands, which bypass several layers of skin. Inhalation of essential oils evokes the same physiological processes used whenever people stop to smell anything. First, after the aroma has been inhaled, it becomes trapped in sticky mucus near the top of the nose where it is encountered by olfactory neurons. These neurons send a message to the olfactory bulb (primary scent organ), which, in turn, sends an impulse along a tube called the olfactory tract that connects to the cerebellum. Each impulse sent to the brain is processed by the limbic system (regarded as the memory/emotion control center). Once inside the limbic system, the amygdala analyzes the oil, referencing the smell in comparison to previous emotional experience (smoke = fire = danger). Once the smell has been identified, a reaction is produced by the hypothalamus, which controls the production of hormones, and the pituitary gland, where chemical messages are sent throughout the body via the bloodstream. This entire process happens in less a second. But, through the use of specific oils desirable therapeutic responses can be generated.
Aromatherapy and Massage
Aromatherapy has traditionally coalesced with massage therapy. It is a practice dating back to Ancient Egypt. This marriage presents the modern client with the best of both worlds. While the massage therapist utilizes palpation and communication in order to develop a treatment plan, that plan can be enhanced through the use of essential oils. The most obvious reason why massage is conducive to aromatherapy is because it allows the oil to enter the body in its most usual ways. When the massage therapist chooses to spread essential oils over the body as a lubricant, it is being absorbed and inhaled at the same time. Both entry methods allow essential oils to work their way into the body, where they can apply their specific properties to influence physiology. If, for example, the massage therapist is performing a typical relaxation massage, they will pair relevant massage techniques with an essential oil that has hypotensive, or relaxing effects. Each essential oil contains specific elemental properties that can have diverse effects. Therefore, if the massage therapist chooses to employ aromatherapy in his/her practice, they will not only make use of innumerable manual techniques, but must also be adept at identifying which oils suit a particular purpose. Additionally, the therapist must also be aware of contraindications and other potential dangers in both practices. So, while the use of aromatherapy improves conditions such as myalgia, digestive disorders, or even infections, it is just as important to realize that certain oils will incite adverse reactions. Contraindications of oils
must be considered when treating patients who are pregnant and hypertensive. Some oils may also have an adverse treatment on the skin when it is applied prior to acute or non-acute sun exposure. The catalogue of essential oils is vast, and vastly beneficial to massage therapist practitioners. Before choosing to employ aromatherapy in practice, it is crucial for the therapist to realize that essential oils, like massage techniques, are potent enough to cause harm if improperly applied.
Did you know… Lemon oil helps stimulate the brain to aid in learning and help retain new information?
Methods of Extraction
There are many ways to extract the oil from the plant source. They include: Steam distillation, solvent extraction, maceration, defleurage and enfleurage. The type of plant or the part of the plant that the oil is being extracted from will determine the best method for distillation. The best quality oils are distilled with low pressure and low temperature methods. This method maximizes the delicate compounds that have the most therapeutic effects. One way to tell good quality oil from better quality oil is price. The better the quality; the higher the price. These pictures depict some of the steps in the steam distillation process.
References Alternative Therapies. (2002). New Lanark, Scotland: Geddes & Grosset. (Original work published 2000). Essential oils desk reference (2005). (3rd ed., second printing.). United States, America: Compiled by Essential science publishing Martin, I. (2007). Aromatherapy for massage practitioners. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. Stewart, D. Ph.D., D.M.N. (2006). The chemistry of essential oils made simple. Marble Hill, MO: Care Publications. Stewart, D. Ph.D. (2005). Healing oils of the Bible. Marble Hill, MO: Care Publications. Youngliving.com. (n.d.). Therapeutic essential oils. Retrieved February 27, 2009, from http://www.youngliving.com/therapeutic.faces Youngliving.com. (n.d.). Therapeutic essential oils. Retrieved February 27, 2009, from http://www.youngliving.us/pdfs/PIP_Lemon.pdf Youngliving.com. (n.d.). Therapeutic essential oils. Retrieved February 27, 2009, from http://www.youngliving.us/pdfs/PIP_Lavender.pdf