What is a aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes.Essential oils are the plant’s “life blood”, as they protect the plant from infection, attract pollinators, repel harmful predators, and assist the plant in healing and repair. The term aromatherapy is a bit of a misnomer as the essential oils are not used solely by inhaling them. Essential oils are used aromatically (inhaled), topically (applied to the skin),and some use the oils internally (orally, pessaries, douches, suppositories).
The use of essential oils has been around for centuries. Pictographs have been found in Egyptian tombs along with vats of expensive oils such as Frankincense. Throughout history and across cultures, the use of essential oils for health purposes has been recorded.
Essential oils have many therapeutic properties based on the plant’s chemical components. Commonly essential oils are bactericidal, antiviral, immune supportive, and analgesic. Dr Jean Valnet , a French surgeon, effectively used aromatherapy in World War II to treat wounds when he ran out of antibiotics!
Certain essential oils can brighten the mood (such as citrus oils) or can create a calming effect (like lavender and other floral essential oils). The response to an essential oil is very individual based on internal chemical landscape of the body, level of toxicity on the body, scent preferences, and past experiences associated with the scent.
The essential oils act within 30 seconds of the initial scent recognition by activating the limbic system in the brain that is tied directly to the sense of smell. This limbic system is associated with emotional memories, and can influence the body’s response, both physically and emotionally.
The quality and purity of the essential oil can also impact the response to the oil application. Research the essential oil company you purchase your essential oils from. Are the plants grown in indigenous areas (where the plant naturally grows). An example would be if the lavender is grown in France or in California. It may be the same plant species, but the terrain and weather are different in these locations and therefore the chemistry of the plant will be different. This affects the therapeutic value of the essential oil. Are quality tests run on the oil batches to see if are there any chemical compounds added or subtracted from the natural essential oil?
Essential oils can be adulterated by adding synthetic chemical compounds created in a lab to more closely match the chemical profile markers found in the naturally-occuring plant. If in doubt, seek the advice from a clinical aromatherapist. Safety is key.
Essential oils for pain relief
Using aromatherapy for healing pain, essential oils are frequently applied topically. In general, essential oils used topically to the area of discomfort and are diluted in a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil. Any nut or seed oil is acceptable. The carrier oils have different consistencies and some are more easily absorbed than others. Grapeseed oil is very light and is absorbed quickly, which enhances the absorption of the essential oil. Essential oils can also be added to massage creams and lotions.
Selecting an essential oil
When selecting essential oils for assist in comfort, the therapeutic properties of the essential oils are considered. Do you need an essential oil that is a muscle relaxer as well as an analgesic, or an anti-inflammatory? Are the tendons or bones or nerves also involved?
Lemongrass essential oil is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, can be stimulating and is particularly effective with issues with tendons.
Black pepper is also analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and is great for nerve pain. Lavender is analgesic, anti-inflammatory and is very calming and soothing.
Helichrysum is one of my favorites as well, and can be used in almost any situation. It is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, helps diminish bruising, lessens nerve pain, and assists with bone and tissue regeneration!
Other essential oils that are helpful for muscle pain are Marjoram, Rosemary, Palma Rosa, Cypress, Juniper, Melaleuca, White Fir, Wintergreen, and Peppermint. These increase circulation and are analgesic. Wintergreen and Peppermint, along with Lemongrass, need to be diluted as they may be irritating to the skin due to the chemistry of the active essential oil components.
How to apply
If the area that is to be addressed is a localized or small area (such as a joint or low back), 5 drops total of the essential oil can be added to one teaspoon or 5 milliliters of carrier oil. For a massage that addresses the entire body, a smaller concentration is desired as more surface area is exposed to the essential oil. In 30 milliliters or 2 tablespoons of carrier oil, 12-15 drops total of the essential oil can be added.
A single essential oil or a combination of essential oils can be utilized for enhanced effect. Usually no more than 4 different essential oils are combined. Be sure not to exceed the recommended number of drops for essential oils when creating your personalized pain relief blend. The total number of drops would need to be divided by the number of essential oils selected.
Create a pain relief blend that pleases your senses as well as effective in meeting your pain goal. When first creating a recipe, make a small amount to make sure you like it and it works for you! Write down the names of the essential oils in the quantity and order you added them, so you can re-create it!
Early trials suggest aromatherapy may help patients cope with chronic pain, stress, nausea, and depression.American Cancer Society
Essential oils give you the power to take your health care back into your own hands. Natural solutions are wonderful options for enhanced health and well-being. Essential oils can target your goal, as well as provide side benefits instead of side effects. They are Scent-sational!
Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA) offers a Certificate of Excellence in Aromatherapy that can be completed on-line or on campus. This course can be taken to fulfill part of a primary specialty requirement within degree or diploma programs, enhance your specialized tools as a holistic health practitioner, or to further your own personal growth and development.
Contact us for future start dates.
About the Author Carol Gutierrez
Carol is a certified holistic nurse, massage therapist, reflexologist, energy practitioner, whole life coach and clinical aromatherapist. Her passions focus on reflexology, wellness coaching and the use of essential oils for balance and health creation. She integrates her passions into a signature, blended session, based on client goal and her intuition. You can find Carol at Carol4Reflex based at the Inner Joy Center in Chandler, Arizona.