Common steps and sub-activities

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses plant materials and aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, and other aroma compounds for improving the psychological or physical well-being of a patient and for healing.  

Uses have included pain and anxiety reduction, enhancement of energy and short-term memory, relaxation, and reduction of eczema-induced itching.  Two basic mechanisms are offered to explain the purported effects.

  • Boosting the immune system - One is the influence of aroma on the brain, especially the limbic system through the olfactory system, scents have a very relaxing effect and help invoke the parasympathetic nervous system as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system.  That in itself helps reduce anxiety and stress, and by doing this it helps to boost the immune system, which does not function well in times of anxiety and stress.
  • Directly combatting pathogens – Disease is caused by pathogens, toxins, radiation and nutritional deprivation or excess.  Aromatherapy helps when the diseases is caused by pathogens.

A large number of essential oils have anti-microbial activity, as such if one has a chest infection for example, the tiny droplets inhaled may cure the infection.  In one example study, out of 21 essential oils tested, 19 oils showed antibacterial activity against four gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris) and two gram-positive bacteria Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus.  Cinnamon, clove, geranium, lemon, lime, orange and rosemary oils exhibited significant inhibitory effect.  Cinnamon, clove and lime oils were found to be inhibiting both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. [PMID: 17134518]

Thus in essence, the healing taking place may be a direct result of the combined relaxing effect of the oils, which will help to stimulate the immune system, as well as the pathogen attacking properties of the oils themselves.

History

Distilled essential oils have been employed as medicines since the invention of distillation in the eleventh century, when Avicenna isolated essential oils using steam distillation.

The use of essential oils for therapeutic, spiritual, hygienic and ritualistic purposes goes back to a number of ancient civilizations including the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.  Oils are described by Dioscorides, along with their healing properties, in his De Materia Medica, written in the first century.  For a while this knowledge was lost, but the book Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales by René-Maurice Gattefossé, a chemist, published in 1937 helped revive interest. In 1910, Gattefossé burned a hand very badly and treated it effectively with lavender oil.  An English version was published in 1993.

A French surgeon, Jean Valnet, also pioneered the medicinal uses of essential oils, which he used as antiseptics in the treatment of wounded soldiers during World War II.

Method

The Aromatherapists uses blends of therapeutic essential oils that can be issued through topical application, massage, inhalation or water immersion to stimulate the desired response.  The modes of application of aromatherapy include:

  • Aerial diffusion: for environmental fragrancing or aerial disinfection.  Aroma lamps or diffusers: an electric or candle-fueled device which volatilizes essential oils, usually mixed with water may be used here
  • Direct inhalation: for respiratory infections, decongestant, expectoration as well as psychological effects.  Vaporizers may be used in addition to aroma lamps or diffusers : typically higher oil content plant based material is dried, crushed, and heated to extract and inhale the aromatic oil vapours directly.
  • Topical application: for general massage, baths, compresses, therapeutic skin care.  Because essential oils are highly concentrated they can irritate the skin when used in undiluted form. Therefore, they are normally considerably diluted with a carrier oil for topical application, such as jojoba oil, olive oil, or coconut oil.

It should be noted that ‘smudging’ and smudge sticks are simply another version of this approach and there is also the possibility that the inhalation of incense achieved much the same effects and was used for much the same purpose

 

Observations

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