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Aromatherapy: What is it? And why is it important?

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Article by Amina Kitching

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AROMATHERAPY... What is it? And why is it important?

AromatherapyAromatherapy is the practice of using nature's natural plant oils and extracts from flowers, bark, stems, leaves and roots as well as other parts of the plant.

This ‘scent’ is used to enhance psychological and physical wellbeing.

The benefits of aromatherapy can be obtained through inhalation or by external application.  Often used in conjunction with mainstream medicine, medical aromatherapy is popular in Europe and used to help treat the common cold and flu, nausea, insomnia, skin conditions, migraines and headaches and many other ailments. Aromatherapy is easy to practice and is readily available, but should be used with care.

For over 6000 years, aromatherapy has been used as a holistic treatment that is considered to have a profound effect on physical and psychological wellbeing by restoring balance and harmony within the mind, body and soul. There exists the belief that ‘scent’ has the power to transform our emotions and help heal our bodies with the use of nature’s natural scents.

Aromatherapy is very important because smell is one of our strongest senses that we can all utilise. The inhaled aroma from "essential" oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. “What we know is that smell is the oldest sense, having its origins in the rudimentary senses for chemicals in air and water – senses that even bacteria have. Before sight or hearing, before even touch, creatures evolved to respond to chemicals around them”, Tom Stafford, BBC Columnist, “There are at least 1,000 different smell receptor types, which regenerate throughout your lifetime, and change according to what you are used to smelling. The result of this complexity is that we are able discriminate many, many different kinds of smells.

When aromas are detected in the nasal cavity, impressions associated with previous experiences and emotions are created in combination with the parts of the brain that control memory, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, stress levels and hormone balance. It is evident that the use of aromatherapy has many positive physiological or psychological effects. Aromatherapy can have a wide range of benefits and it is easy to practice, readily available and can be effective as a therapy. Aromatherapist’s recommend that essential oils be directly inhaled from a bottle or a cloth, or massaged into the skin after being diluted in a carrier oil such as almond or olive oil. Essential oils evaporate quickly when exposed to the air, which also releases their scent so don't leave the cap off the bottle or it will empty very quickly.

There are a wide number of essential oils available each with its own healing properties:

Tea Tree is a strong disinfectant with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is well known for it's use as a natural antiseptic agent when diluted with water and used by many to treat minor cuts, dandruff, nail infections and acne. It can be used to help sinus infections when used in a vaporiser, or try a 10% dilution with water for an antiseptic cleaning spray or as a laundry sanitiser simply add 3-4 drops to a load.

Lavender Essential Oil is well known for its ability to aid deep relaxation. Often used by practitioners to create a relaxing environment to treat their clients, Lavender is one of the most popular aromatics. Ideal to use in the home or office, Lavender helps to create a calm and relaxing environment. Try adding 2-3 drops to your pillowcase at night for a deep and relaxing sleep.

Eucalyptus is a popular essential oil used not only for its ability to help clear the chest from congestion and minimising the duration of colds. But, it is a fantastic multi-purpose household cleaning agent. Use in it's pure form to remove mould and sticky glue after pulling off labels, try a 10% dilution with water for an antiseptic cleaning spray or as a laundry sanitiser simply add 3-4 drops to a load.

Why should you use essential oils with care? Whilst essential oils are widely considered safe to use, you should always exercise caution, even herbal infusions can have medical complications. Never take essential oils internally, except when prescribed by a qualified and licenced provider. Although essential oils have so many wonderful benefits for your general health, they are potent compounds that should be used with care, some citrus essential oils are known to increase sun sensitivity and there are also some essential oils that should not be used on the body, and never ingested, because of their high oral and dermal toxicity. Always check with your health care provider before using essential oils, herbal medicines can interfere with your prescriptions.

"Some oils may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions, which is why people should test their sensitivity to an oil on a small patch of skin, before they begin to use an oil more broadly", said Dr. Wolfgang Steflitsch, a chest physician at Otto Wagner Hospital in Vienna, and vice president of the Austrian Association of Aromatherapy and Aroma Care.

Many of the following plants are used in herbal medicine, but it is the essential oils that should not be used on the body or ingested: Almond (bitter) contains Prussic Acid – known as cyanide, Boldo, Calamus, Camphor, Cassia, Horseradish, Mugwort, Mustard, Pennyroyal, Rue, Sassafras, Savin, Tansy, Thuja, Wintergreen, Wormseed, Wormwood.

There are hundreds of amazing health and wellbeing benefits to using essential oil, but please exercise caution by following the product directions. Essential oils provide much needed relaxation in an often-stressful world, with one simple aroma your worries can drift away. Through this ancient Egyptian technique of using nature's plant extracts, you can experience the wonderful healing properties of pure essential oils through a range of different applications such as massage oils, electric oil burners, in the bath, in the home or office and much more.

Choosing a quality essential oil is important, find trusted brands recommended by Safe Cosmetics Australia [SCA]. All of the Australian Certified Toxic-Free ® brands published on the Toxic Free List, use only natural essential oils to add aroma and restorative benefit to the user. They do not use synthetic man-made fragrances that provide no health or wellbeing benefit.

To meet SCA's criteria, companies must produce products that exclude harmful synthetic chemicals from their formulations. SCA's Toxic Free List promotes products that are Natural & Organic, products are made from plant or mineral based ingredients that are well known to be safe and non-toxic. Companies are permitted to use animal sourced ingredients, however SCA further promotes companies that exclude animal sourced ingredients - supporting Vegan & Cruelty Free formulations.


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Advocate for a premarket regulatory scheme

Verify products that are Australian Certified Toxic-Free ®

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3 Sep 2016

Last Update: 9 Sep 2016

Article/Information supplied by Amina Kitching

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.

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