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Articles by a naturopathic doctor.
Aromatherapy is the use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for both physical and psychological wellbeing...
The principals of Aromatherapy share a common goal of helping clients to achieve a balance between body and mind.
How does it work?
There are two proposed mechanisms. The first follows the theory that the aroma of the oils have a direct influence on the brain. Through the olfactory system, our nose, the aromas travel to the limbic system of the brain.
The limbic system is involved in various functions in the body such as emotional responses, memory storage and hormone regulation. It also plays a role in sensory perception and motor function, as well as olfaction, the sense of smell.
Another theory is simply that, just as plants and herbs have medicinal properties, essential oils made from the same plants and herbs have pharmacological effects, as well. This theory relies on the ability of the scented oils to be absorbed through the skin and exert their medicinal effect on deeper bodily processes that way. These two mechanisms support the argument that the oils can be, but do not necessarily have to be applied on the skin to achieve their healing goals.
Versatile as a mode of treatment, aromatherapy offers improvement for mental and emotional issues such as anxiety, depression and insomnia while also treating symptoms like difficulty concentrating and muscle and joint pain. Acute conditions such as exhaustion, nausea and headaches can also be improved through the use of aromatherapy. Even chronic conditions like respiratory difficulties, stress and low libido can be treated. Aromatherapy has even been known to improve immune functioning.
Aromatherapy has many applications and is used to treat a variety of ailments with reported success. Unfortunately, there are limited scientific studies on the efficacy of aromatherapy due to the individualized nature of treatment.
What happens at a typical visit?
Most, although not all, aromatherapy sessions will include a massage with the oils that are specifically created for you throughout the session. The first session is likely to take between one and a half to two hours. The therapist will take a detailed description of your past and current medical history, as well as general information about your personality and temperament. It is common that the aromatherapist will take particular interest in how you feel on the day of your appointment, where you are feeling the primary concern in terms of location in the body and what you want to achieve during the session. Many aromatherapists will incorporate their knowledge of chakras and their energy, into choosing which essential oils to use.
A blend of essential oils will be mixed with base or carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, wheat germ or grape seed. The aromatherapist should take the time to sit down and discuss the oils and why each was chosen and the therapeutic effect they are meant to have. This blend will be specific for you and your condition on that day. If your goal is more long term, the blend may be used repeatedly throughout multiple appointments, or it may change form visit to visit depending on acute changes or as healing takes place over time.
Generally, you will be asked to lie face up or face down on a massage table for the remainder of your treatment. Aromatherapy massage differs from the more conventional Swedish or sports style in that there is very little deep muscle work, because the blend of oils should do the work for the therapist. Instead, it's likely to be slow, soft and rhythmic. The body absorbs the essential oils and they start to work, relaxing the muscles, stimulating the mind, improving appetite and so on depending on what you are looking to achieve. The actual massage might take a half hour up to an hour and a half.
Before you leave, the aromatherapist is likely to offer some advice for the next twenty four hours - helping the client to get the very best from the treatment. Longer term advice tends to begin after a few sessions, as the therapist and client begin to establish trust and rapport. Most therapists will offer advice on longer term preventative steps the clients could take to improve their quality of life. Often you are sent home with the oil blend that has been made for you, with instructions on how to incorporate the healing scents into your daily routine.
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