Aromatherapy is a holistic treatment, the aim of which is to produce a physical, spiritual, emotional and mental sense of well-being through inhalation and massage of essential oils. Essential oils are derived from plants and are chosen for their particular therapeutic qualities that are stimulating, refreshing and sedative. Massage is used with the oils to enhance their effectiveness.
Aromatherapy is also referred to as the fragrant art of using socially selected aromatic oils for therapeutic purposes. It is one of the fastest growing complementary therapies in the world and is recognised as one of the most natural and holistic treatments available today.
Essential oils are referred to as the basic materials of the aromatherapist.
They are highly aromatic substances manufactured by plants in special cells. At this stage they are referred to as an essence until they have been extracted by either one of the methods of distillation. They are only then referred to as essential oils. Not all of the oils are referred to as essential oils; it depends on how the oil is extracted.
In the early days man obtained the benefit of these oils by chewing various parts of the plant or tree. Later they made these into teas until they introduced the process of distillation.
Essential oils are obtained from various parts of the plant e.g., bark, flowers, stalks, roots, leaves and resins of trees and plants. Different essential oils are obtained by using different parts of the plant and these will have different therapeutic qualities. Take the orange tree - petitgrain from the leaves and twigs, orange essential oil from the fruit and neroli from the blossom.
ILLNESS IN MODERN LIVING
Due to the pace of modern living, each day sees a further increase in the number of people suffering from the effects of stress. Noise, air pollution, financial problems, uncertainty about the future, contribute to the general stress situation from which there is sometimes no escape.
Where we as humans are concerned, stress produces a state of muscular tension - our hearts work harder, valuable energy is burned up unnecessarily, we become fatigued and sometimes depressed. Consequently our resistance to infection and disease is drastically reduced.
Since the causes of stress are here to stay, we can only deal with the effects of stress through the administration of treatments, specially designed to relax tension, restore vitality, and reduce the workload of the heart, nerves, etc. Such treatments nearly always include massage.
Of all the holistic therapies, perhaps aromatherapy is the one that instantly connects us to our earliest primeval links with all natural energy forces - the Earth, the Sun and Moon, the elements of wind and rain, the ebb and flow of tides, the animals of the land, the sea and the plants that grow upon the earth.
Each rock and stone, each grain of sand, each animal and plant, has its own natural vibration and its own energy field. When we use aromatherapy, we tap into these vibrational energy forces via the essential oils.
SENSE OF SMELL AND EMOTIONAL RESPONSE
Smell is a specialised chemical sense. It is interesting to note that the olfactory cells are the only place in the human body where the central nervous system is in direct contact with the external environment. When we detect the smell of something, there is a direct contact between the molecules of scent and our own receptors. The message regarding the molecule of scent is passed along the olfactory nerve to the nerve centre in the brain. The neurons of the olfactory nerve, control the inner responses, i.e. emotions and memories, as well as the body's hormones.
There is no generally accepted classification of the basic types of smells recognized by man. The sense of smell can be very sensitive, sensing minute concentrations of some substances in the air.
When oils are inhaled, micro-molecules of essential oils travel through the nasal passages to the limbic system of the brain which is the seat of memory and emotion.
The breathing in of essential oils is thought to trigger memories and emotions within the limbic system, which in turn stimulates a response within the entire system.
With the memory comes instant recall of the associated emotion - pleasure, happiness, laughter, affection or perhaps sadness, pain, grief.
BENEFITS OF AROMATHERAPY MASSAGE
Massage is one of the key elements of an Aromatherapy treatment. When oils are used in Aromatic massage, the benefits are that they penetrate the skin, allowing a psychological effect from the presence of the aroma.
It is enjoyable for the therapist to apply massage with oils to the client, and is vital for relaxation of the client. It is one of the best ways to relieve stress and tension in your clients, which in today's society are two of the main causes of illness and distress.
Aromatherapy Massage is generally a combination of soft tissue massage (Swedish massage) Acupuncture massage and Neuro-Muscular massage. These three forms combine into what we call Aromatherapy massage and are most commonly used today.
Massage involves systematically stroking, kneading and applying pressure to the soft tissues of the entire body of the client in order to induce a state of total relaxation. The receiver is generally undressed and oil is used to lubricate the parts of the skin and body being worked on.
ESSENTIAL OILS - THE LIFE FORCE OF PLANTS
As we use essential oils we are using the energy, essence or 'hormones' of plants - their life force in fact. The living plants are interdependent for their survival on the earth, the sun, the elements of weather and the interaction of animals, birds and insects - perfect balance of the vibrational natural world.
Minute oil glands produce the essences of plants in the stems, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruit, wood, bark and resins of plants and trees. This essence gives the plant its individual scent or smell, in their natural state, releasing this scent slowly into the atmosphere.
These oil glands can be encouraged to burst by crushing or heating and the resulting harvest of essences can be collected. A process of distillation can then extract the pure essential oils. When used in aromatherapy, the essential oils transfer their vibrational energies and medicinal benefits to the person being treated.
THE MIND CONNECTION
Why is smell so strongly linked to memory and emotion?
It is not fully understood, but this is no surprise as the complexities of brain activity are still far from being unravelled and understood. The brain holds far more secrets than we have discovered.
What is known is that the sense of smell is registered in a part of the brain which was already developed in our earliest ancestors. The limbic area of the brain was well developed before man had the power of speech or was able to make tools. The limbic area is concerned with all those activities vital to survival in a sometimes hostile world: sleep, hunger, thirst, memory, sexual response and, or course, smell are all affected by the limbic system.
As modern man developed the 'higher' senses and the brain became larger to accommodate development of speech, intellect and creativity, the ancient knowledge became blunted or buried deep in the unconscious and the limbic area of the brain lost some of its importance.
But that ancient knowledge is still there and needs only to be re-awakened. Essential oils have the power to re-awaken and stimulate the limbic system and the aromas can be used to excellent effect by the aromatherapist. They also have the power to balance the two hemisphere of the brain. It is known that the left hemisphere of the brain is concerned with logic and intellect, whilst the right is concerned with intuition.
IDEAL SKIN CONDITION FOR
THE ABSORPTION OF ESSENTIAL OILS
For the essential oils to be received effectively by the skin, the skin should be in a reasonable state. When we are in a poor state of health, this is often apparent in the condition of our skins. Your skin is in some ways affected by the condition of the blood which generally needs to be clean in order to carry the benefits of the essential oils. Our lymphatic system will not carry the oils effectively if our system is congested.
When our lymphatic system is congested problems such as aching muscles, cellulite, swollen glands, oedema, boils, tiredness and oily skin becomes apparent. Aromatherapy massage can be highly beneficial in aiding in the decongestion of the skin.
For the oils to be absorbed by the skin, the pores (hair follicles) of the skin should be open and receptive. If you wish heat may be applied to the body or friction massage should start most movements to warn the skin and thereby open the pores. By friction massage we mean rubbing the hand to and fro across the skin fairly quickly in order to produce warmth.
We mentioned in an earlier assignment that oils fall into the categories of relaxing, stimulating etc., forms of massage also fall into similar categories.
Gentle, superficial movements
Flow of massage should not be broken or interrupted.
Deep, strong movements.