Traditional Natural Medicine Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is one of the better-known alternative medicine systems. With few side effects, proper use of aromatherapy’s essential oils can produce a variety of home remedies, or be combined with massage therapy to help ease muscle aches and promote relaxation.

What is Aromatherapy?

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) defines aromatherapy as “the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit.”

Rather than an alternative to traditional medicine, aromatherapy is more of a complementary system. Aromatherapy has been used to reduce stress in cancer patients and manage pain along with massage therapy.

The History of Aromatherapy

The use of aromatic oils and fragrances has a long medical history. Six thousand years ago, the Egyptians were using scented oils with baths and massages for health reasons. The Greek physician Hippocrates, considered the father of Westernized medicine, also recommended combining massage with scented oils.

In 1930, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse coined the term “aromatherapie” to describe an alternative medicine system using the sense of smell for health purposes.

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Essential oils are the foundation of all aromatherapy treatments, whether administered by an aromatherapy practitioner or as a home remedy. Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts made from aromatic plants. Sources of essential oils include:

  • flowers
  • fruit peels
  • grasses
  • herbs
  • leaves
  • pine needles
  • twigs
  • wood.

True essential oils are carefully distilled, either by pressing ingredients or using steam and water distillation. For aromatherapy to work, the essential oils must be made from natural ingredients-essential oils made from synthetic compounds don’t work.

Essential Oils Used in Aromatherapy

There are over 150 essential oils, each with their own unique properties. These oils have been used to treat a wide range of ailments, including (but not limited to):

Muscle pain
Panic attacks
Colds and flu
Hay fever

Out of the 150 essential oils, the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy lists ten that are used more often than any other:

  • Clary sage: Used in some home remedies as a natural painkiller, clary sage also treats insomnia.
  • Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus oils are used in home remedies to reduce muscle tension, alleviate depression, treat respiratory problems, and promote relaxation.
  • Germanium: This essential oil is used for skin disorders, relaxation, and depression. Germanium is also used to maintain balance in female hormones.
  • Lavender:
  • Lemon: Lemon is another relaxing oil used to treat wounds. Lemon also protects against infection and is often used as a natural housecleaner.
  • Peppermint: A versatile oil, peppermint is used for a number of home remedies, including muscle pain, headaches, flatulence, and indigestion.
  • Roman chamomile: Chamomile is known to promote relaxation and sleep. The essential oil also alleviates anxiety and depression.
  • Rosemary: Rosemary stimulates mental activity and strengthens the nervous system. The essential oil is also used in aromatherapy remedies for muscle pain and digestive problems.
  • Tea Tree: Tea tree oil is an antifungal agent that also strengthens the immune system.
  • Ylang Ylang: Ylang Ylang is used to relax the muscles. It may also help with depression.

The Application of Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated and must be diluted before use in home remedies. For instance, essential oils used in massage therapy are mixed with a neutral carrier oil before the massage begins. Most massage oil contains only a few drops of the essential oil; most of the massage oil consists of the less irritating carrier oil. This dilution of essential oils holds true for all aromatherapy home remedies.

In addition to massage oils, aromatherapy home remedies may also be prepared for:

  • Baths: Add five to ten drops of essential oils to a warm bath.
  • Compresses: Add five drops essential oils to warm or cold water. Wet a towel in the water, wring it out, and apply to the affected body area.
  • Creams/gels: Add fifteen drops of essential oils to every ounce of cream or gel.
  • Inhalation: Add two to five drops of essential oils to two cups steaming (not boiling) water. Keep your eyes closed to avoid irritation and inhale the fumes for five to ten minutes.

Safety and Aromatherapy Home Remedies

Essential oils, given their highly concentrated form, should be treated like medicine. If you have questions and concerns about essential oils and home remedies, consult with an alternative medicine practitioner trained in aromatherapy.

Safety guidelines for essential oils include:

  • Never use undiluted essential oils directly on the skin.
  • Watch for allergic reactions to essential oils.
  • Never ingest essential oils.
  • Essential oils can be toxic. They should be stored away from children.

Expectant mothers and people with conditions such as asthma or epilepsy should avoid certain essential oils. If you are pregnant or have a serious medical condition, a qualified aromatherapist will be able to tell you which essential oils are safe and which to avoid.