Effective aromas

Back from your summer holidays feeling relaxed and refreshed? Treat yourself to a little aromatherapy and keep the feelgood factor going long after the suntan has faded

Back from your summer holidays feeling relaxed and refreshed? Treat yourself to a little aromatherapy and keep the feelgood factor going long after the suntan has faded

Life can be pretty stressful at times, and it can be very difficult to step back and switch off. But with a little help from the essential oils used in aromatherapy you could ease the stresses and fatigues of your day.Aromatherapy has been use in various forms since at least 3,000BC, when simple distillations of fragrances such as myrrh were extracted through heating water.Nowadays the processes are much more refined, with oils being extracted from the fruits, blooms, shrubs and roots of plants, trees and flowers through expression or distillation.There are more than 400 single aromatic substances from botanical sources used in aromatherapy, each with its own therapeutic properties.And as well as being used in holistic massages, baths and inhalations, many maternity wards, hospitals and clinics are widely adopting aromatherapy practises to accompany traditional medicine.

Does it really work?Different trials have identified various effects for different oils, and clinical trials have proven that certain oils can help to relieve anxiety.The oils work by triggering receptors in the nose, in turn triggering slight responses from the brain to affect moods. Components of the oils may also be absorbed into the skin and bloodstream, influencing emotions and the nervous system.

What can aromatherapy help with?It is often used for stress, headaches, insomnia and tension and is increasingly being offered alongside traditional medicine to complement cancer care and other treatments in hospitals.

What happens in an aromatherapy session?During a typical session you will be asked detailed questions about your health, any skin conditions and medications you are taking.If you are having medical treatment or are taking medicine you should consult your doctor before having aromatherapy to check if there are any oils you can’t use. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with high blood pressure should also be particularly cautious.After talking through your current health, the practitioner will then discuss any problems you have and why you have decided to have aromatherapy. They will then blend various oils to create the right combination for your treatment.These oils are then massaged into the head, shoulders, back, face or full body. Treatments can take between 20 to 90 minutes.

Are there any side effects?A mild side effect is drowsiness caused by the relaxation, and sometimes there can be irritation if one of the oils doesn’t agree with your skin.If you have particularly sensitive skin, ask for a patch test first.

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How do I find an aromatherapist?There is a new self-regulatory body called the Aromatherapy Council, which can give details of aromatherapists near you. Or you could always ask for recommendations at your local GP practice.

Can I use aromatherapy at home?Yes, if you are careful and use the oils properly.Make your own inhalation by putting three to four drops of essential on to a tissue and breathing in, or put about five drops in a bowl of boiling water and inhale. You should stand about 12ins from the bowl to do this.For an aromatherapy massage put about 15 to 20 drops of essential oil in one to two ounces of almond, avocado, grapeseed or olive oil and use. Keep the oil away from your eyes and genitals.You can even have an aromatherapy bath by putting five to seven drops of essential oil into one ounce of carrier oil. Mix this well and add it to your tub.Take care not to buy perfume oils as they are not the same, and only buy oils in dark glass bottles as this helps to preserve them.

Which oils should you use?

For anger: jasmine, orange, neroli, patchouli, rose, ylang ylangFor stress: benzoin, bergamot, geranium, lavender, patchouliFor panic: lavender, rose, neroliFor fatigue: basil, bergamot, black pepper, lemon, peppermint and rosemaryFor confidence: bay laurel, grapefruit, jasmineFor irritability: clary sage, rose, frankincenseFor concentration: basil, black pepper, cypress, lemon

Essential information

You should never use essential oils undiluted on the skin. Do a patch test to check your sensitivity. Never use essential oils at home on children. Do not take essential oils internally. Essential oils should be used cautiously on people with broken skin, varicose veins and infectious skin conditions. Essential oils should not be used on people who are recovering from surgery, or who have epilepsy or deep vein thrombosis.

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