In brief, aromatherapy is the use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being. A base oil is used and then infused with other oils to make either a massage oil, inhaler, bath oiler or other natural cosmetic.
Although the term aromatherapy was not used until the 20th Century, the use of aromatic botanicals and aromatic oils date back thousands of years. Distillation and the use of essential oils dates back nearly one thousand years. The Chinese may have been one of the first cultures to use aromatic plants for well-being. Their practices involved burning incense to help create harmony and balance. Later, the Egyptians invented a rudimentary distillation machine that allowed for the crude extraction of cedarwood oil. It is also thought by some that Persia and India may have also invented crude distillation machines, but very little is known.
Essential oils are produced by steam or water distillation of the leaves, wood, petals, buds, needles, bark or roots of aromatic botanicals such as lavender, rosemary, cedarwood, rose, peppermint and cypress. While most essential oils are water or hydro distilled, citrus essential oils are either cold pressed or steam distilled from the rinds (peels) of citrus fruits. Aromatic oils that are not specifically produced by either steam or hydro distillation (or cold pressed in the case of citrus rind oils) are not considered and should not be referred to as essential oils.
The natural composition and aroma of essential oils can provide valuable psychological and physical therapeutic benefits. These benefits are usually achieved through methods that include inhalation and topical application of the diluted essential oil to the skin.
Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy that treats the mind, body and spirit. When essential oils are applied to the body during a massage, the essential oils enter the skin through the hair follicles where they are absorbed in to the blood stream and circulated around the body.
There are many benefits to Aromatherapy including:
At the start of a typical aromatherapy consultation, your therapist will ask about your medical history, general health, diet, sleep patterns and lifestyle. This is to help her decide which oils are most appropriate for you. After choosing your essential oils, the therapist will blend them with a "carrier" oil (such as grapeseed or almond), then gently warm the mixture. Adding heat to the oil helps your skin to absorb it more effectively.Depending on the treatment you're having, the therapist will massage the oil into your body. Your massage will be smooth and flowing, designed to instil a sense of relaxation and calm. Every session is tailored towards you, your health and your mood at the time, so every session is unique. Aromatherapy usually lasts for about an hour, although your initial consultation might take longer. Why not treat yourself to some essential oils to take home, too: use them for baths, in oil burners or for inhalation.