frequently asked questions and answers
More and more people are becoming
interested in aromatherapy and essential oils, and the beneficial
effects they can have on their lives, but how do they begin? Be
reassured - you do not need to have studied aromatherapy in depth before
being able to use certain essential oils safely and effectively.
To help those taking their first steps into the wonders of aromatherapy, we have put together this article on aromatherapy for beginners. The article aims to answer a few of the frequently asked questions about aromatherapy:
First, however, a word of warning...Essential oils may be natural, but even natural products can have side effects if not used properly, and some degree of care is needed when handling them. Essential oils should not (in general) be used in their undiluted state internally or on the skin. Keep them away from children, who can be fooled by thinking that their wonderful smells make them good to drink! Essential oils are also very volatile and, therefore flammable - keep them away from naked flames. If you are pregnant or already taking medication it is advisable to consult a qualified practitioner before using essential oils.
What is aromatherapy?
Although the term 'aromatherapy' didn't
come into use until about the 1900s, the use of essential plant oils to
promote physical and mental well-being and healing, has been practised
since ancient times.
We are all aware that certain smells can
trigger certain memories. Why is this? Our sense of smell is a powerful
thing, and the most over-looked of our five senses. When we breathe in
an aroma, the particles that make up the aroma bind to the part of the
brain that governs our sense of smell and emotions, having an almost
instantaneous effect on our moods and emotions. Inhalation is therefore
the most direct route between our brains and the outside world.
Different aromas can have different effects on our moods and emotions, and essential oils, which contain the pure 'essence' of a plant and are highly aromatic, have been found to have both psychological and physical effects on our system.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated, natural plant products, long-recognized for their medicinal and mood-enhancing effects. They are produced from specific parts of particular plant species; for example, lavender is produced from the flower, grapefruit from the peel and eucalyptus from the leaf, and the range of essential oils currently available is enormous.
What to look for when buying essential oils?
Essential oils are widely available, from chemists, health shops, via mail order and on the Internet. For the best effects, always buy pure essential oils; products containing artificial ingredients will not provide the same degree of benefit. Check the bottle carefully before you buy - just because the labelling mentions the word 'aromatherapy' is not a guarantee that the oils inside are pure and natural. Be wary of any product that does not list its ingredients as being pure essential oils (especially if buying a blend of oils) or one that uses the word 'fragrance' on its label. Keep your oils away from direct sunlight and in the container in which you bought them.
How do I use essential oils?
Essential oils can be used in a number of
different ways. The main ways are by inhaling their vapour or by
absorbing the oils through your skin during an aromatherapy massage.
Many essential oils have medicinal
effects. Most are antiseptic to some degree, notably eucalyptus, tea
tree and thyme. Others have actions against bacterial (lavender)
and/or viruses (eucalyptus and tea tree). Some have effects when
diluted and massaged into the skin.
Here are a few ways in which essential
oils can be used.