Aromatherapy is derived from two words: aroma, meaning fragrance or smell and therapy, meaning treatment.
The use of essential oils in medicine dates back thousands of years. It is widely thought that aromatherapy began in Egypt.
Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist began researching the healing powers of essential oils after noting how quickly a burn he sustained in his laboratory healed after immersing it in lavender oil.
In 1937 Gattefosse published a book about the anti-microbial effects of essential oils and began to produce oils for use in fragrances and cosmetics.
Jean Valnet, a French medical doctor discovered Gattefosse’s research and began experimenting with essential oils. Around the same time, Margaret Maury, a French biochemist developed a method of applying essential oils to the skin with massage. This provided the foundation for aromatherapy as we know it today.
Essential oils are concentrated essences extracted from the flowers, fruit, seeds, leaves and the bark of certain plants. About 400 essential oils are extracted from plants. Only 40 are commonly used in aromatherapy, with each essential oil having its own individual properties. For example, lavender is a relaxing oil which helps with sleeping problems and can relieve muscle tension and anxiety.
Essential oils can be very expensive to formulate due to the labour intensive process and the quantity of plant required to produce the oil. It takes approximately 1,000kg of rose petals to make 1kg of oil, 4 million jasmine flowers to produce 1kg of jasmine absolute and 400kg of thyme to produce 1kg of essential oil.
Essential oils can be used in massage, bathing, vaporisation and inhalation.
How does aromatherapy work?
Oils are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and depending on the type of oil, have an effect on specific organs or functions of the body.
Many essential oils have an anti-inflammatory effect which can help with arthritis and muscular pain whilst other oils boost the immune system, helping to ward off infections.
Essential oils stimulate the olfactory system: the sense of smell. Olfactory nerve cells are found high up inside the nose which, when stimulated, send a message to the brain to interpret what the smell is. The smell, whether food, flowers, perfumes, plants for example, can set off a reaction both emotionally and physically. It might change your heart or breathing rate to make you feel calm or excited.
Any healing effects from aromatherapy are likely to result from the combination of the therapeutic effects of the essential oils and how they work on an emotional level.
An aromatherapist will create a fragrant massage blend using a carrier oil to dilute the pure essential oils and select the most appropriate oils for their client prior to treatment.
The Benefits of aromatherapy
- promotes relaxation
- stimulates the circulatory system
- stimulates the lymphatic system
Aromatherapy is a natural way to induce relaxation and help cope with:
Whilst the therapeutic properties of the essential oils in combination with the benefits of massage treatment can assist with:
- muscular aches and pains
- back and joint problems
- skin problems
- menopausal symptoms
- the immune system
- helps with breathing problems
To derive maximum benefit from an aromatherapy treatment, it is best not to bathe or shower for a few hours after treatment to allow the oils to be fully absorbed by the body.
Preparation for your massage
Aromatherapy massage is more effective if you receive treatment without clothes and Emma will be happy to explain why Aromatherapy Massage works on this basis. The retention of clothes is always a matter of personal choice.
Avoid large or heavy meals prior to your treatment and the use of alcohol and any non-essential drugs.
After your treatment
To make the most of your treatment, try to allow yourself time to rest and drink plenty of water.