Aromatherapy - introduction.

The term "aromatherapy" comes from the French word "aromatherapie" - which we may translate as "therapy of scent". It is a natural medicine method involving the application of essential oils for health purposes.

Natural essential oils are extracted from all parts of plants, including flowers, fruits, leaves, seeds, bark and even resin.

Orange tree is an example of a plant with comprehensive use in aromatherapy. Essential oils are obtained from the peel of the fruit, flowers (neroli) and leaves (petitgrain).

Citrus oils are the result of mechanical distillation by using of a press. For example, to produce 15 ml of lemon pure essential oil we need about 45 lemon (!).

However, the most popular method of obtaining essential oils is steam distillation, which under pressure is filtered through plant ingredients (e.g. flowers). In this way, the essential oil is extracted. It is a very complex process that requires specialized equipment. Too low temperature and pressure will not release the precious oil, while too high parameters may disturb the sensitive chemical composition of the extract and change its properties. For this reason, obtaining pure oil with home methods is impossible.

Equally important is careful selection of the right species and parts of the plants harvested at the perfect moment when essential oil components are present at their highest concentration. A lot of raw material is needed to obtain a fully pure ethereal plant extract. All that affects the price of an essential oil. For instance, 1 g of jasmine oil requires about 750 g of fresh flowers. In case of rose oil (one of the most expensive in the world essential oils), you need to collect and distil 5-8 kg of rose petals per 1 g of rose oil.

Oils’ application methods:

1 / rubbing directly onto the skin, e.g. in the form of a massage,

2 / inhalation,

3 / compresses, baths with the addition of oils,

In case of some oils with appropriate certificates - you may use them internally, e.g. added to water one drop of pure essential oil is absolutely enough for one glass.

How aromatherapy works.

“Volatile molecules of aromatic compounds and components of essential oils reach the brain via the olfactory receptors in the nasal mucosa, effectively alleviating or eliminating, among others, muscle pain, stress, neurosis, and improving well-being. Odors pass into the blood as healing chemicals and are transferred to all organs of the body. They have aseptic, bactericidal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. They improve the mood and enhance the condition of the body." [1].

"Conventional (or, as Robert Tisserand calls it - "holistic") aromatherapy becomes an alternative to those who are not satisfied with a form of medicine such as "treating symptoms, you destroy disease." Clinical trials have proven its effectiveness in many cases, especially those that conventional treatments cannot cope with. Holistic aromatherapy is all-encompassing therapy in which essential oils penetrate the body through massage or inhalation to produce the desired physiological, mental and emotional effects. The art of aromatherapy lies in professional massage, extensive knowledge of the properties of essential oils and their use in the treatment of specific diseases. You can't master conventional aromatherapy after reading just a few books and buying tons of oils." [2].

I have been studying aromatherapy for several years, as well as related science, i.e. herbal medicine. It is not enough to read about oils. Practice is the most important here, work with many cases, with various ailments, both human and animal in my case. It is important not only to choose the right oil/oils but also to choose the right proportion to make it work but not to exaggerate.

Aromatherapy also has its "OHS" (“occupational health and safety”). Please remember, that not all oils are suitable for children. Some may cause allergic reactions or be irritating.

To minimize the risk of an allergic reaction, when applying the oils topically, dilute the essential oil in a vegetable base oil (water does not dilute the essential oils). Fractionated coconut oil is best for this. It is in a liquid, fragrance-free form and is sensitive for the skin. We can also use other oils, e.g. sweet almond oil, which is very delicate and suitable for small children, hemp oil with hypoallergenic effect, soothes ailments, such as eczema and atopic dermatitis; or sesame oil, which is suitable for dry and sensitive skin.

If you are concerned about your skin irritation or an allergic reaction, it is a good idea to apply the oil on a small area of ​​the body first, e.g. the foot. We should also avoid sensitive surfaces, such as the area around the eyes or inside the ears. If the oil accidentally gets into your eyes, under no condition use water to wash them. Water is the carrier of the essential oil, so it will intensify its effects. In such circumstances, wipe the eye with oil/olive oil.

Please, also be careful while using essential oils for bathing. They may sensitize and moreover, contact with hot water can irritate the skin.

Of course, when we speak about "aromatherapy", we don't just mean pleasant fragrances. Jasmine oil bought for PLN 15 (more or less 4 EUR), applied to a perfume burner, fills our apartment with a nice scent of jasmine but it will not have therapeutic properties. First of all, natural jasmine oil is one of the more expensive oils and its price for a capacity of 15 ml may reach even more than 100 EUR. For 4 EUR, we can only buy its synthetic equivalent. Secondly, therapeutic oils lose their properties at temperatures above 30oC, so using even a natural oil in the perfume burner will cause losing its special properties.

Therapeutic oils can be inhaled directly, e.g. first rub the oil into your hands and then sniff it (taking care of the eyes – essential oil evaporates intensively) or use devices that mist the oils in the room with ultrasound waves (so-called "diffusers").

The oils of some companies have special certificates which prove that they not only have therapeutic properties but are also not contaminated with various unwanted chemical additives. An example of such a certificate is CPTG - Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade. The certificate may only be given to oils natural in 100% that characterise with:

- regularly controlled quality in laboratory conditions by oil companies, as well as by external auditors,

- lack of pesticides and heavy metals,

- lack of artificial colours and extenders,

- lack of additives of oils from other plants,

- lack of additives of synthetic oils,

- controlled, organic crops in the home area for the plant,

- harvesting the plants at the optimum moment to obtain the highest quality of essential oil.

If you want to deal with aromatherapy seriously, it is worth using high quality products with appropriate certificated. This will allow you to take advantage of the therapeutic properties of a given plant while minimizing the risk of allergies, irritation, or other negative side effects.



[1] Agnieszka Hłobił, Izabela Piecuch "Aromatherapy as support in psychopedagogy" (original title: „Aromaterapia jako wspomaganie w psychopedagogice”) , Koszalin University of Technology, 2010.

[2] Scott Cunningham „Magic Aromatherapy” (original title: "Magiczna Aromaterapia"), Studio Astropsychologii, Białystok, 2010.

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Aromatherapy in practice