Aromatherapy, also known as essential oil therapy has been known to humans for thousands of years. Using natural essences extracted from plants in an aromatic form, aromatherapy is believed to cure various psychological and physiological disorders. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, believed that aromatic baths and scented massages are a key to good health. The aromatic essential oils are said to improve the health of the mind, body and spirit. Ancient civilizations in South Asia and the Middle East often incorporated aromatic plant extracts in oils, resins and balms. In the 10th century, Persians invented the process of distillation of essential oils. Information regarding the same was first published in the 16th century in Germany.
The term ‘arimatherapie’ was initially coined by Rene-Maurice Gatteforsse, a French chemist and perfumer, in 1937, clearly referencing the therapeutic practice of using essential oils as a holistic treatment. Due to the varied characteristics and benefits of essential oils, aromatherapy is considered extraordinary.
Aromatherapy works through skin absorption and the sense of smell such as body oils, diffusers, bathing salts, inhalers, hot and cold compresses, clay masks and aromatic spritzers. Essential oils can be used alone or in combination and are readily available online, at medical stores and supermarkets. It is important to check the quality of essential oil under FDA regulations before buying one because adulterated products with additives and synthetic ingredients can be harmful.
Aromatherapy treatments claim to reduce stress, anxiety, soothe muscular cramps, improve digestion, ease labour pain, treat migraines, headaches, anxiety, improve sleep quality and boost overall immunity.
Aromatherapy also has the potential to cure/ treat conditions like asthma, menstrual issues, cancer, erectile dysfunction, arthritis, inflammation, alopecia and psychological issues like insomnia, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Clary sage, cypress, eucalyptus, fennel, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree, Roman chamomile are some of the most popular and widely used essential oils.
On consulting an aromatherapist, one is asked questions about their lifestyle and health, after which the aromatherapist comes up with an individual treatment plan. Since it is a complementary therapy, it can be tailored alongside any other medical treatment.
Essential oils are usually safe to use but certain precautions need to be taken while using them, especially if they are taken with any prescribed medication. Essential oils should never be used directly on skin without using a carrier oil to dilute them. A skin patch test must be done before using them. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should use these oils under proper supervision. Essential oils should never be swallowed. Improper use of essential oils can cause side effects like allergic reactions, nausea, skin irritation, asthma attacks, headaches and rashes.
Aromatherapy is also cheaper than other treatments and can be used as an alternative form of treatment by people belonging to lower-income groups. In the last few decades, aromatherapy has appealed to a large number of people all over the world. It is estimated that the worldwide market of aromatherapy will grow up to $5 trillion by the year 2050.
Essential oils can lift one’s mood with just a whiff of their fragrance, as it stimulates the olfactory system. When the molecules reach the brain, they affect the limbic system which regulates heart rate, blood pressure, emotions, memory and breathing.
Thus, aromatherapy can be used as a holistic treatment under the guidance of an expert.