What is Aromatherapy and What are Essential oils?
If you’re not sure of the difference between essential oils and Aromatherapy, you’re not alone. Here's a simple explanation to help you understand the differences, the benefits and uses.
To put it simply, essential oils are not just the aroma of plants, they are therapeutic essences which contain characteristics of the plant. They are extracted either by using steam distillation, solvent extraction or by cold expressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves, seeds or fruit).
Aromatherapy is the practice of using these natural plant extracts to enhance both physical health and well-being. In my aromatherapy consultations I guide my clients in the safe application of these essential oils as part of their self care routine.
What are essential oils?
The process of producing essential oils is relatively simple. Oils are obtained through distillation (via steam) or mechanical methods, such as cold expressing. Different parts of the plants extracted have different therapeutic properties and to obtain a stronger oil, the extraction process is carried out several times. However not all plants produce useful or large volumes of essential oils and some oils can even be hazardous. Essential oils are widely used in aromatherapy but can also have many uses outside of aromatherapy.
Here are 6 popular essential oils and their uses:
Peppermint: used to boost energy and aid digestion
Lavender: used to aid relaxation and enable sleep
Rose: often used in skin care to reduce the appearance of wrinkles
Chamomile: used to aid sleep and reduce inflammation
Tea Tree: used for its antiseptic properties
Clary Sage: used to assist in labour
What is Aromatherapy
Sometimes referred to as essential oil therapy, Aromatherapy uses plant extracts as part of a holistic healing treatment to promote health and well-being. It is normally used through inhalation or as a topical application. When oils are applied to the skin without proper dilution , side effects may include allergic reactions, skin irritation and sun sensitivity. Thus it is extremely important to consult a trained Aromatherapist to avoid the possible risks but gain all the benefits.
Are essential oils safe to use?
Essential oils are highly concentrated, powerful liquids. Their potency must be respected and they can be toxic if used incorrectly. The way you handle and use essential oils is very important. If you are unsure please get in touch or contact a qualified local Aromatherapist for more advice.
Essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin and should never be ingested (ONLY if advised by medical professionals). They must always be diluted with carrier oil. Take a look at my blog on some of my favourite blends. Most common carrier oils are Sweet Almond oil or Grapeseed oil.
There are three main uses of Aromatherapy:
1. Aromatherapy using only the Fragrance or Sense of Smell
In this method of aromatherapy, essential oils are perceived through the sense of smell to give a therapeutic benefit. This is done by a direct or indirect inhalation or aerial diffusion of essential oils. Olfactory aromatherapy is beneficial because the brain is conditioned from memory for various kinds of odours.
2. Cosmetic Aromatherapy
Essential oils used on the body blended as a moisturiser, cleanser, skin and hair care products come under this category. The cosmetic industry is currently using the benefits of Aromatherapy to revitalise and rejuvenate the body.
3. Aromatherapy using Massage or Topical Application:
Essential oils can be absorbed through the skin by Massage or topical application. This promotes a holistic healing as some of these oils have potent antiviral, antifungal and antiseptic properties.
Where to find a qualified Aromatherapist near you?
A quick google search for Aromatherapists near you can be a good place to start. However to ensure that you find a reputable Therapist visit the IFA website or the CNHC. Online sessions are also a great way to connect to reputable Aromatherapists who might not live in your city.