5.3.6 Aromatherapy intro

From: Marcia Elston <samara.wingedseed.com> - http://www.wingedseed.com

What is Aromatherapy? Aromatherapy is a true medical science and is the skilled use of specific essential plant distillates (essential oils), singularly or in combination, for health and well being.

How Does Aromatherapy Work? The essential plant distillates (essential oils) interrelate with the human body within four distinct modes of action, pharmacological (as phytopharmaceuticals), physiological (physically and chemically), psychological (affecting mental states and processes) and incorporeal (spiritual). Our body uses the aromatic molecules (essential oils) both (1.) through our olfactory system which is connected to the limbic system in the brain where our most primal feelings, urges and emotions reside, (2.) and by inhalation and skin absorption of the low weight molecular structure of essential oils. Aromatherapy works best within a holistic approach to wellness.

Is Aromatherapy New? We know from the study of ancient manuscripts that priests in India some 4,000 years ago practiced aromatherapy very much like it is practiced today. Modern Ayurvedic medicine includes an aromatic component that has evolved from this ancient practice. Scent was very important to ancient Egyptians who used plant-oil infusions, gums and resins, as well as aromatic herbs and flowers in rituals, relaxation and skin care extensively in their culture. Modern aromatherapy, as we know it today, was revived in 1910 by the French chemist, Gattefosse, after having been badly burned in a laboratory explosion and plunging his arm into a nearby vat of lavender essential oil. The amazing speed of recovery and lack of scarring led him into a lifetime study of essential oils and their medicinal uses for skincare.

Can I Do This Myself? Most essential oils have been approved as G.R.A.S. (generally regarded as safe when used by various trades at their normal levels of use). However, these standards were developed by the food and perfume industries and were not developed specifically for the use of essential oils in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy, as a medical healing modality, has been in existence in England and parts of Europe for quite some time, and the United States is fast developing a similar model, however there is at present no FDA approval for the use of essential oils medicinally. An individual can use essential oils themselves (self medication) provided they are thoroughly familiar with the uses, safety precautions and contraindications and have available thorough and accurately referenced information on the potential hazards associated with using essential oils.

SAFETY FIRST! Essential oils are very potent and strong concentrated plant constituents (chemicals). Always keep essential oils out of reach of children and pets. Do not apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin. Avoid contact with eyes and mouth and other tender mucous membranes. Essential oils should never be taken orally. Essential oils are flammable and should be kept away from fire or flames. Some essential oils can cause dermatitis; always do a skin test with 2% dilution before applying to large area. Some oils are not recommended by use in infants and very young children, pregnant women, persons with epilepsy, hypersensitive individuals, just to name a few. Some essential oils can cause photosensitivity. Some essential oils may not work well when taking prescription drugs. Be well informed before you use any essential oil. The best manual on the market for the safety data of essential oils is The Aromatherapy Practitioner Manual by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger. This reference of over 350 plant extracts, in two volumes, includes an index of biologically active phytochemicals, clinical index and taxonomical index and is a must for anyone seriously considering using aromatherapy intelligently and effectively. When not used properly, essential oils can be harmful and they should never be used indiscriminately.

Where Can I Learn More? There are numerous and rapidly emerging educational programs and home study courses being offered throughout the United States and Canada. Here is a short list.

Valerie Cooksley, Principal Instructor
The Institute of Integrative Aromatherapy http://www.aroma-rn.com
Issaquah, WA

Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, Principal Instructor
Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy http://www.pacificinstituteofaromatherapy.com
San Rafael, CA

Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, Principal Instructor
The Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy http://ww.AtlanticInstitute.com
Tampa, FL

Michael Scholes, Principal Instructor
Michael Scholes School of Aromatic Studies http://www.michaelscholes.com
Los Angeles, CA

Laraine Kyle, Principal Instructor
The Institute of Integrative Aromatherapy http://www.aroma-rn.com
Boulder, CO

Jade Shutes, Principal Instructor
The Institute of Dynamic Aromatherapy http://www.theida.com
Seattle, WA

Dorene Petersen, Principal
The Australasian College of Health Sciences http://www.achs.edu/
Portland, OR