Aromatherapy: A Guide to Using Essential Oils for Relaxation
Aromatherapy uses essential oils for their healing and restorative properties.
Essential oils are pure, concentrated oils that have been extracted from plants. Each oil contains unique properties that produce different physiological and emotional effects. The smell of certain essential oils can evoke powerful reactions within the body and mind.
The use of scented products dates back thousands of years, with several ancient texts describing their use in rituals, religious ceremonies, and bath preparations. In the early part of the twentieth century, a French chemist named Rene-Maurice Gattefosse was working in the perfume laboratory of the family, when he badly burned his hand. Desperate to stop the searing pain, he instinctively stuck his burning hand into a jar of lavender oil, which happened to be the closest available liquid. The pain eased quickly and the wound healed much faster, and with far less scarring, than would usually be expected. The chemist then decided to examine the healing properties of other essential oils. Gattefosse first coined the term aromatherapy in 1928.
Essential oils can be used in several different ways. However, essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause adverse reactions if used in their undiluted form. Oils should, therefore, be diluted in another liquid (most commonly a carrier oil or water) before use. When buying essential oils, make sure that they are high quality essential oils, not fragrance oils. Keep your oils in dark glass bottles and store in a cool dark place to prevent evaporation and deterioration.
Aromatherapy Massage Oils
Aromatherapy massage oils can be used for self-massage, or for massaging somebody else. Lavender, marjoram, eucalyptus, frankincense, sandalwood, rose, and chamomile essential oils are all excellent for relaxation. To make a blend of massage oil, you will first need a carrier oil, such as sweet almond or avocado oil. Put 2 teaspoons of your carrier oil into a small bowl and add 5-8 drops of your chosen essential oil. Mix the oils together with a small cocktail stick. Use your massage blend as soon as possible to prevent deterioration. Test the blend on a small patch of skin to check for any skin reactions, before using on a larger area. Pregnant women and those with health conditions, such as eczema or asthma, should consult their doctor before using aromatherapy massage oils.
Aromatherapy baths are a great way to relax your whole body and mind. Run a warm bath and add 5-8 drops to the water immediately before getting into the bath. For an uplifting bath to stimulate the senses and boost your energy levels, try oils like bergamot, grapefruit, or geranium. To relax and relieve stress, use oils like lavender, chamomile, or frankincense. For sore or tense muscles, marjoram and eucalyptus can help to soothe discomfort and ease the pain. Alternatively, you can prepare an aromatherapy foot bath to relieve tired and aching feet. Add 3-4 drops of lavender, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil to a bowl of warm water and soak your feet for 10-15 minutes.
Aromatherapy Oil Burners
Essential oils can be used in aromatherapy oil burners. Aromatherapy oil burners work by using a small candle, or tea light, to gently heat a small dish of water. Essential oils added to the water then evaporate, leaving a long-lasting aroma. Almost any essential oil can be evaporated in an oil burner. Ylang ylang, lavender, frankincense, rose, and jasmine oils are especially helpful when you need to relax. Add 3-4 drops of your chosen oil to a few teaspoons of cold water in the dish of an oil burner, before heating gently. If you do not have an oil burner, you can achieve a similar effect by adding 2-3 drops of oil to a bowl of hot water and leaving to evaporate.
Aromatherapy Steam Inhalations
An aromatherapy steam inhalation can help to remove sinus congestion, loosen mucus, and relieve some types of headache. Aromatherapy steam inhalations are particularly helpful when you have a cold, sinus, or chest infection. Add 3 drops of eucalyptus oil and 2 drops of peppermint oil to a large bowl and pour on 4-5 cups of boiling water. Inhale the vapour from the oils as deeply as you can, taking long deep breaths.