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What is Aromatherapy?

When one thinks of aromatherapy—what comes to mind? The scents of Christmas morning, like cinnamon, orange, clove and peppermint; or perhaps the aromas of things baking in Grandma’s kitchen, like apple pie, homemade bread and cookies. Many people think of scented candles, scented lotions and scented massage oils when they think of aromatherapy. These products usually contain artificial lab-generated fragrances which have no therapeutic effect on the body. Some of these chemicals can even be harmful to the body.

Aromatherapy is much more than just nice smells. The chemicals in these smells actually affect the brain and other body cells. With aromatherapy we need to focus on natural chemicals found in therapeutic grade essential oils, derived from natural products, sometimes called “God’s pharmacy” or the intelligence of the earth. These chemicals can help the body heal itself.

Let’s talk about some of the ways something as common as basil can be helpful. When the basil plant is properly processed into an essential oil, the oil has many uses. Historically basil has been used by the Greek, the Hindu, Europeans and others for centuries. Its uses have included things such as treatment of migraines, chest infections and even attracting possible suitors. There are many reference books that discuss the modern day uses of basil. Personally I have found it useful to relieve stomach cramps, indigestion, and menstrual cramps. Applying 2-3 drops of essential oil of basil topically to the abdomen over the painful area brought relief. I have also used basil to relieve the symptoms of toenail fungus. I have also topically applied basil essential oil to the incision scar from gallbladder surgery and achieved pain relief. According to the Essential Oils Desk Reference (EDR) basil essential oil can be used for migraines, throat/lung infections, insect bites, and even just inhaling or diffusing it can help fight mental fatigue. Access this reference guide for further details. Caution: this is an essential oil whose use should be avoided if epileptic.

Another common plant is peppermint. The essential oil distilled from the peppermint plant has many uses. Historically peppermint was in the “recipe” used by grave robbers to protect themselves during the time of the bubonic plague. It has been highly regarded as a digestive stimulant. Jean Valnet, MD, used peppermint in the treatment liver and respiratory diseases. Personally I have found peppermint oil to be useful in relieving headaches when applied to the back of the neck. Caution: avoid use near the eyes. I have also found it helpful for indigestion when applied to the stomach area topically. When applied to the sides of the neck, I have found it beneficial for hot flashes. It also helps relieve muscle pain when applied to a sore muscle. One time when I banged my thumb with a hammer, one drop of peppermint took the pain away almost instantly.

This gives you just a few ideas for the “first aid uses” of therapeutic grade essential oils. But this is not even the tip of the iceberg. Keep watching this site for more information or contact ISHA to take aromatherapy classes.

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