Aromatherapy: Benefits and Dangers
Aromatherapy is a type of treatment which is done using natural essential oils that enter body via airways and skin. It is an alternative kind of therapy. Healing substances are absorbed by skin while smells coming from aromatic water added to bathtub or used massage cream are picked up by receptors which are in nose. This makes headache and fatigue go away, eases up common cold and improves overall mood. Incompetent use of precious aromatic oil drops can cause harm to health as well as worsen existing diseases and add up the new ones.
Essential and base oils are main tools used in aromatherapy.
The term «essential oils» unites aromatherapy compounds which are obtained from corresponding plants. Roots, leaves, seeds and fruits of plants contain essences with distinct smell and healing properties. Three types of the end product are obtained during essence processing.
- Essential oil is produced during distillation of essence which implies refining of fluid with its further cooling and condensation of steams.
- The absolute spirit is made using special dissolvent.
- Essence is left as it is during cold pressing.
The term «essential oil» is not correct on its nature from chemical point of view. Essential oils and ethers differ on their nature. These substances are not classified as fats, therefore aromatic «oils» are called in such a way as they feel fatty when applied to skin. Simple and complex ethers are combined with other spirits, ketones, aldehydes and other compounds to form these oils.
Natural and artificial essential oils do not have any special names in Russia. They can imply natural products with healing chemistry as well as flavoring agents which should not be used for healing purposes. You should choose essential oils with care do not harm your health.
Base oils are classified as fats and obtained by cold and hot pressing method from seeds, nuts and fruits. They are used in aromatherapy as a base for preparation of mixes with highly concentrated essential oils which are dangerous for health in their pure form. Olive, almond, sesame seed, coconut and other oils dissolve essential oils letting them enter lymph and blood.
History of Aromatherapy
Aromatic vegetable extracts were used for healing and other purposes in Ancient Egypt, Babylon, China, Persia and India as well as in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Egyptians used essential oils to disinfect facilities and in beauty therapy and during certain ceremonies in monasteries. They also embalmed deceased people using them.
Greeks have learned the knowledge of using essential oils from Egyptians to relax, refresh and excite human body. Precious oils have been absorbed from herbs and oils using olive oil.
Arabians made essential oils from rose petals distilling them. The first one to do it was Avicenna.
Medicine was not at its best during Medieval age, people did not care about their health and beauty. Essential oils have been brought to Europe in 12th century by crucifiers.
French chemist Gattefosse introduced term «aromatherapy» in 1928. This scientist noticed that essential oils have antiseptic, antiviral properties as well as they heal wounds. The use of essential oils to treat patients in military hospitals gave positive results.
- Warm and cold inhalations. 3 to 5 drops of essential oil should be added to a 0,5l bowl with hot water. Then one should cover his head with towel and breathe the steam coming from that mixture in during 5 to 7 minutes. Such a method is used to heal respiratory diseases. To make cold inhalations in presence of asthma, essential oils are applied to napkin, essential oil burner or special medallion.
- Essential oils can be added to bathtub to normalize sleep and heal skin. Warm water combined with lavender has a relaxing effect while cold one complemented with citrus oils will be refreshing.
- Facilities can be aromatized using joss sticks or special oil burners. Essential oils are used to disinfect facilities during epidemies, create romantic atmosphere and relax after hard day. Essential oil burner is a clay bowl under which the candle is installed. This bowl is then filled with water and oil mixture which is vaporized and fills the room with nice smell.
- Massage. Essential oil is mixed with base oil and warmed up. Useful substances penetrate skin, relax muscles and strengthen therapeutic effect of a massage.
The Ways to Choose Essential Oils
True essential oils are very expensive. To reduce the costs, they are complemented with artificial compounds which are deprived in healing properties or are harmful for health. Natural essential oils can be used for health-promoting purposes only.
- Buy essential oils only in certain shops which sell the products from reputed manufacturers. Do not buy essential oils in souvenir shops, saunas and pharmacies as they can be fake.
- «Tasty» essential oils made from watermelon, apples and coconut are not existing in nature so they are fake. Not all the plants can be used to produce essential oils.
- The cost of essential oils depends on extraction method used as well as volume of the end product per kilogram of raw material. Mandarin oil is cheap to make while rose oil is very expensive to make, therefore it can be easily substituted with something else.
- Skilled specialist will advise you what kind of oil to choose.
- Natural essential oil is subject to certification as it can be used for health-promoting purposes. Thus, certificate of excellence should be provided in selling points and internet stores to warrant its safety and naturalness.
- Traditional packaging used to bottle and store essential oils is a flask made from dark glass with a screw cap and a volume of 5 to 10 ml. The product should not be sold in the flasks of a greater volume. If you see the one, then there is a great chance that it is fake product.
- Label with pure essential oil (100% Essential Oil or 100% pure) should indicate botanic name of the ether-bearing plant in Russian and Latin languages as well as point out manufacturer, processing method and best before date. Promotions and recommendations for use are cheap ways to attract attention to product and should not be used to sell essential oils of a high quality.
- Real essential oil should not have a deposition; they should have a versatile flavor without synthetic hints.
- Home tests.
- Put a drop of essential oil to the paper towel. Wait for the substance to dissolve and see if the spot turns fat after 20 to 30 minutes. Fat traces signify incomplete purification of the product from tars, presence of vegetable oil and synthetic substances.
- Fake essential oils can decompose or thin up the creams; gels and milk become muddy.
- Put essential oil to napkin and follow the way smell changes during day. Citrus essential oils usually disappear in a couple of hours while conifer oils keep their smell until evening. If a smell of nut pine went away in 2 to 3 hours, then this oil is fake.
Rules of Use
- Essential oils are applied to skin or mucous membranes in a diluted form to avoid burns.
- It is important that they smell in a pleasant way.
- Fragrant substance, which is unfamiliar to body, should be tested in terms of individual tolerance. Put one drop of the oil to a handkerchief and apply it to skin of elbow in a diluted form and smell it throughout the day. Check whether you have an aversion to this smell or get a headache, pruritus and rash, nausea. In this case, you should not use this kind of oil. Choose a product with similar properties and another odor instead.
- Aromatherapy should start with a minimum volume of fragrant substances. The dose should be then gradually increased and then reduced by the end of the treatment to the original minimum amount.
- Citrus oils increase sensitivity to the sun. Essences of a bergamot, lemon and mandarin should be used at a bedtime.
- Consider the way some essential oils interact with some medicines. They may strengthen or weakening effect antibiotics or homeopathic medicines may have on human body.
- Mind the dosage, which may vary for children, adults, seniors.
- Essential oils increase blood circulation; they can cause bleedings in pregnant women.
- Individual intolerance can cause allergy, nausea, respiratory distress and headache during contact with healing fluid.
- You should consult doctor if you have any serious chronic sicknesses. You should not use pine and fir tree oils in presence of angina. Do not use thyme, pine and juniper oils in presence of kidney diseases as well as sage and rosemary oils in presence of epilepsy. Not knowing or ignoring contraindications can cause real harm to health and endanger life.
- You should not use high potent essential oils made from aniseed, nut pine, ylang-ylang and some other plants without consulting doctor first. Increased amount of ketones and phenols in the oils can negatively affect liver, excitatory system and fetal development during pregnancy.
- Children should first see a doctor and be treated with a special care when it comes to essential oils.
Top 10 of Essential Oils
The list provided below contains the essential oils with a broad spectrum of effects which have the minimal side effects, are affordable and well-studied. Carefully check the properties of the incenses and pay special attention to contraindications before using the oils.
- Tea tree.
- Fir tree.
- Eucalyptus spherical.
Individual intolerance of essential oils as well as awareness of health benefits of the ether-bearing plants and their contraindications is very important. Use the oils in right amounts and in a correct way and you will successfully treat diseases. Precious drops may harm health if they are used in an improper way.