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Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Fragrances that Cure – PART 1

HEALTH_Aroma Theraopy and essentail oils

by Meenakshi Bhattacharjee

Hippocrates, the father of modern western medicine, is believed to have recommended that the way to total health was to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day. The Babylonians added essential oil to the mortar with which they built their temples. The Egyptians used essential oil as part of their personnel hygiene and their priests used these same aromatic substances for embalming and for treating manias, depression, and nervousness. The Arabian Avicenna who lived in 10th century Constantinople wrote over 100 books. The first was on the benefits rose water, which had been brought back from the east during the crusades. Rose water went on to become popular in medieval Arab cooking. In past centuries the healing arts were passed down through generations of families. Much of this knowledge was lost once modern medicine took over the healthcare of individuals. In the 1970s, with a renewed interest in alternative health remedies, people began to look to the past for answers to their healthcare needs and aromatherapy was one of those answers.

What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. Aromatherapy may promote relaxation and help relieve stress. It has also been used to help treat a wide range of physical and mental conditions, including burns, infections, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure.

What are Essential oils (EO’s)?
EO’s that are used in aromatherapy are the volatile lipid (oil) soluble portion of the fluids of a plant containing odiferous compounds produced by steam distillation of vegetable plant matter. Plant matter can be any part of a botanical species including stems, branches, fruits, flowers, seeds, roots, bark, needles, leaves, etc.
During the distillation process, the vapors are condensed, collected, and separated from the condensation water. The residual water, containing traces of oil constituents, is called a “floral water” or “hydrosol,” and has therapeutic applications of its own. EO’s are mixtures of hundreds of compounds. For example, it has been found that orange oil (Citrus sinensis) contains 34 alcohols, 30 esters, 20 aldehydes, 14 ketones, 10 carboxylic acids, and 36 varieties of terpenes, including mono-, sesqui- , di- and tetraterpenes. And this is not a complete analysis. In fact, no EO’s has ever been completely analyzed to reveal its every constituent.
While many people believed in the efficacy of essential oils because of their own or someone else’s experience, others wanted a scientific basis to explain how essential oils work. Using modern scientific methods to test their efficacy, it is now known that some essential oils can benefit mood while others can be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. It has further been determined that when used medicinally, essential oils enter and leave the body with great efficiency leaving no toxins behind. Unlike chemical drugs, essential oils do not stay in the body; they are excreted through urine, feces, perspiration and exhalation.

The type of essential oil that should be used:
Only the highest quality essential oils have the capacity to promote healing. The plants that are used as the raw material for essential oils must be healthy and clean. The processing methods must preserve the natural qualities of the essential oil. The essential oil that results must be 100% natural and 100% pure. Nothing should be added and nothing should be removed from the essential oil after it is processed.

HEALTH_Aroma Theraopy

How do essential oils affect the body?
The inhaled aroma from these “essential” oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream and can promote whole-body healing. When essential oils are applied to people, they do the same thing, carrying oxygen into cells and carrying waste products out. In fact, essential oils are one of nature’s best body cleansers. They can cleanse our cellular receptor sites of pharmaceutical drugs, petrochemicals, and other disruptors of intercellular communication. They can also chelate heavy metals and other toxins, helping to remove and flush them through the liver, colon, sweat, lungs, and kidneys. They can also increase our ability to absorb vitamins and other nutrients. A form of alternative medicine, aromatherapy is gaining momentum. It is used for a variety of applications, including pain relief, mood enhancement and increased cognitive function. There are a wide number of essential oils available, each with its own healing properties.

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