Thursday, 25 June 2015

Aromatherapy ❦ ❧

Aromatherapy is used for the treatment or prevention of disease by use of essential oils. It can be offered as form of alternative medicine or as a complementary therapy. Some of it uses include pain relief and anxiety reduction, enhancing energy and short-term memory, relaxation, hair loss prevention, and reducing eczema-induced itching.

Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic plant oils and plant materials (essential oils), and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering one's mood, cognitive, psychological or overall physical wellbeing. Utilizing blends of therapeutic essential oils can be issued through topical application, massage, inhalation or water immersion to stimulate a desired response.

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 who used them in cosmetics, perfumes and medicines.

Undiluted essential oils suitable for aromatherapy are termed 'therapeutic grade'. The market for essential oils is dominated by the food, perfume, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries, giving aroma-therapists little choice but to buy the best of whatever oils are available.

Popular uses:

Tea tree oil has demonstrated anti-microbial effects.
Lemon oil (in vapor form) is said to be uplifting and to relieve stress, enhancing one's mood, and help with relaxation.
Peppermint oil is often used to deter ants, by applying a few drops on their trail.
Lavender, jasmine, chamomile and peppermint are used for anti-stress, anti-anxiety and as anti-depressants.
Sage oil has been suggested to boost short-term memory performance and as a dietary supplement.

Aromatherapy application includes:

Diffusion: for environmental fragrancing or aerial disinfection.
Inhalation: for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, expectoration as well as psychological effects.
Topical applications: for general massage, baths, compresses and therapeutic skin care.

Some of the materials used include:

Essential oils: Fragrant oils extracted from plants chiefly through steam distillation (eg, eucalyptus oil) or expression (eg, grapefruit oil). However, the term is also occasionally used to describe fragrant oils extracted from plant material by any solvent extraction. This material includes incense diffusers.
Absolutes: Fragrant oils extracted primarily from flowers or delicate plant tissues through solvent or  fluid extraction (eg, rose absolute). The term is also used to describe oils extracted from fragrant butters, concretes (a near solid wax-like substance called a concrete that is left after the solvent has been removed), and enfleurage pommades (oldest and most expensive extraction process of flowers) using ethanol.
Carrier oils: Typically oily plant base triacylglycerides that dilute essential oils for use on the skin (eg, sweet almond oil).
Herbal Distillates/Hydrosols: The water based by-products of the distillation process (eg, rose water). There are many herbs that make herbal distillates (a liquid product condensed from vapor) and have culinary uses, medicinal uses and skin care uses. Common herbal distillates are chamomile, rose, and lemon balm.
Infusions: Water based extracts of various plant material (eg, infusion of chamomile).
Antimicrobial: Various volatile organic compounds from plants that kill microbes. Many terpene-based fragrant oils and sulfuric compounds from plants in the genus "Allium" are phytoncides (exterminated by the plant).
Vaporizer (Volatized)/Raw Herbs: Typically higher oil content plant based materials dried, crushed, and heated to extract and inhale the aromatic oil vapors in a direct inhalation modality.

Safety Concerns:

Essential oils are normally diluted with a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil, olive oil, or coconut oil, for topical application because essential oils are highly concentrated, causing skin irritation.

Many essential oils have chemical components that are sensitizers (meaning that they may, after a number of uses, cause reactions on the skin).

When exposed to sunlight, reactions may occur with citrus peel oils such as lemon or lime.

Some of the chemical allergies could even be caused by pesticides, if the original plants are cultivated.

Some oils can be toxic to domestic animals, particularly with cats.

Two common oils, lavender and tea tree, have been implicated in causing gynaecomastia (an abnormal breast tissue growth in prepubescent boys). The report is, however, based on observations of only three boys, two of which were significantly above average weight for their age, thus already prone to gynaecomastia).

As with any bioactive substance, an essential oil that may be safe for the general public could still pose hazards for pregnant and lactating women.

Some very common oils like eucalyptus are extremely toxic when taken internally (licensed aromatherapy professionals do not recommend self-prescription due the highly toxic nature of some essential oils).

Doses as low as one teaspoon have been reported to cause clinically significant symptoms and severe poisoning can occur after ingestion of 4 to 5 ml.

A few reported cases of toxic reactions like liver damage and seizures have occurred after ingestion of sage, hyssop, thuja, and cedar.

Accidental ingestion may happen when oils are not kept out of reach of children.

Oils that are ingested and applied to the skin can potentially have negative interactions with conventional medicine, (eg: topical use of oils like sweet birch and wintergreen may cause hemorrhaging in users taking the anticoagulant warfarin).


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