What is aromatherapy?
It is a refined art of healing in which essential oils are used. These are extracted from various parts of plants and trees and are intended to promote the health of the body and the balance of the mind.
Aromatology can be a component of holistic medicine, but it can also be used as a preventive measure. It conveys joy with the help of the senses.
Not only the sense of smell (fragrant oils) is addressed, but also the sense of touch (massage), the sense of face (pleasant environment) and sometimes also the sense of hearing (gentle music). Aromatology is also often used in combination with other forms of therapy, such as colour therapy or music therapy.
Aromatherapy, whether used independently or in combination, helps to create favourable conditions for body, mind and soul so that healing can take place naturally.
Basic principles of naturopathy
“The body heals itself when it gets an opportunity to do so.” This is the most important principle of naturopathy. Whether in care or health care, it is necessary to live and work in harmony with nature at all times. This can be achieved through a sensible diet, appropriate exercise, sun, fresh air and, above all, relaxation and peace.
Body and mind are closely connected. What influences one also affects the other. So a positive attitude is very important. In other words: “The power of positive thinking”.
Aromatology is subject to the same basic principles: The essential oils used unfold their effect only in harmony with the natural forces of the body.
History of aromatology
The fragrant medicinal plants have been human companions for tens of thousands of years. He was attracted with his sense of smell by pleasant, fragrant plants, he avoided unpleasant smelling plants. From experience, people must have known poisonous and healing plants from an early age. However, it is impossible to say when the plants were first used in the medical sense. Their healing power must have been gradually discovered over thousands of years.
For a long time essences were used exclusively for religious rituals, which is still valid today. In the Catholic Church, for example, incense is still used for special ceremonies.
In contrast to other countries, China’s scholars have long found it interesting to deal with smells. Therefore, they developed a unique art of harmonizing different sensory impressions at a very early stage and dealt with many forms of alternative therapy more intensively than was the case in all European countries.
In the Middle Ages, the Church’s attitude towards the old natural religions became stronger. Many herbalist women, who produced aromatic ointments and herbal extracts and used herbal vapours to cure the sick, were persecuted. This persecution of witches destroyed most of the native natural religions in Europe and thus the rich knowledge of these “witches” about the healing power of herbs.
In the 16th and 17th centuries herbal medicine experienced a new upswing. It was so popular that charlatans and quacks misused it to take advantage of it. As a result, herbal medicine lost much of its reputation with doctors and was soon eclipsed by chemistry.
The Lyon chemist René Maurice Gattefossée first used the term aromatherapy for a book title in 1936. We owe a large part of today’s knowledge to him.
Those who would like to know more about the history of aromatology can read this in the fifty-page book entitled “Healing Power of Fragrances and Essences” by Martin Henglein.
Essential oils or “essences”
Essential oils are the raw material of aromatology. They are poetically referred to as the “soul of plants”. According to scientific comparisons they represent their blood supply and hormones.
The term essence refers to the compressed, spiritual power of the oils. They contain the essential, the essential of the plant.
The healing power of aromatic plants is concentrated in the fragrant, highly volatile oils. They differ from the usual fatty vegetable oils from almonds, soya or wheat germ by their rather water-like consistency.
The essences can be found in the roots (valerian), the leaves (peppermint), the flowers (jasmine), the resin (myrrh), the bark (sandalwood) and the rind of the fruits (lemon). They are present in the plant parts in the form of tiny droplets. Their concentration is highest in warm weather, and their chemical composition changes depending on the time of day or season. Therefore, in order to obtain good quality essential oils, plants must be picked at certain times of the year, weather conditions and sometimes even at certain times of the day. The scent and combination vary depending on the soil, growing method and climatic conditions.
The amount of oil contained in the plant varies between 0.01 and 10%. The petals of the rose, for example, contain very little oil. To obtain half a kilogram of this oil it takes about 1 ton of petals. This also explains why rose oil is one of the most expensive essential oils.
The oils are best obtained by distillation. Not only timely harvesting and gentle production are important, but also the correct storage of the essences. Heat, light, air and humidity are usually harmful and destroy the oils.
No miracle cure
Essential oils are not miracle cures. When using them, one should be aware of their limitations and try to make the best possible use of them. Essential oils have the advantage over pharmaceutical products that they work with the body and not against it. They have less tendency to suppress symptoms without correcting the cause. Nor do they always carry new toxins into the body, which the body has to deal with just as it does with the disease itself.
Treatment with natural remedies, such as aromatology, usually takes longer than the chemical medication used today. For this reason, aromatology is mainly used today to support psychosomatic illnesses, for body care and to alleviate so-called minor complaints.
General modes of action
The mode of action depends on the anatomical and physiological comparison between humans and plants. Thus, the function of the
Head – Flower (fruit and seeds)
Upper body – shoot (leaf)
Lower body – wood (root)
The oils are soothing, stimulating, antispasmodic, germicidal and much more. Their effects are as varied as the selection of essential oils themselves. In order to fully exploit the healing power of the oils, it is not enough to select just one of the many medicinal plants. The right choice must be made according to the similarity between the character of the plant and the personality of the person seeking help.
Essences can be divided into two groups: physiologically and psychologically effective.
The first group acts directly on the organism. This mode of action can in turn be divided into two groups: The one about the nervous system and the one that directly affects an organ or tissue. It is not always easy to distinguish the type of effect we are dealing with in individual cases. Diluted with vegetable oils, the essences are harmless to the tissue and yet powerful attackers on microtic germs. They promote healing by stimulating and strengthening the body’s own mechanisms. Chamomile and thyme, for example, can stimulate the production of white blood cells. These are known to be indispensable in the fight against disease. After penetrating the skin, the oils are distributed via blood, or they are absorbed by the lymph and the fluid unbound in the cells and transported to other parts of the body. The path they take from absorption to excretion can be very different. The oils are excreted through the lungs, urine, skin and often in several ways together.
Essential oils can also be administered internally. However, such methods of Asian origin should be used with caution, as the frequently used solvents may leave residues. In general the effect is best if the essences are absorbed via skin or nose. Through breathing, as it inevitably happens with every kind of application, they not only have a beneficial effect on the airways, but also on the psyche.
Baths and massages with essential oils
There are many reasons to add essences to bath water. For example, for fun, to help you fall asleep better, to relieve skin irritation, to relieve muscle or other pain. The essences should always be dissolved in an emulsifier (e.g. milk or honey). Aromatic baths affect us in different ways. First, through the scent of the essences used. If this is pleasant for the nose, then it also has a beneficial effect on the mind. In addition, there is the physiological effect on the nervous system and the body, which occurs when only small amounts of the oil are absorbed by the skin.
Massage is an ancient form of therapy. It is a further development of the instinctive needs to touch a painful part of the body. The use of an essential oil increases the value of the massage. The essences penetrate the skin and the fragrance has a certain psychic effect.
The back can be seen as access to the whole person, body, mind and soul. The main nerves of the body are located very close to the surface of the skin and are easy to reach. These nerves branch on both sides of the spine and supply all internal organs.
The selection of the essences depends as far as possible on the physical and mental state of the person to be treated.
Targeted application of essential oils
There are different application possibilities: As a bath, as a massage, as an embrocation, as an inhalation or as a compress.
In the following chapter I describe some possible applications divided into psyche, organs and organ systems.
Psyche & aromatherapy
The effective influence of the essences in the psyche takes place through perception, through the sense of smell. This means that the essential oils are inhaled and thus influence our mental state. By lightening our psyche, essences also have a calming effect on the nervous system. Many illnesses have their origin in the psychic field. Anxiety states, nervous tension, melancholy, stress and agitation, as well as emotional restlessness are more and more common in today’s world. If the psyche as well as the body shows symptoms we call this a psychosomatic illness. Cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, asthma and the vast majority of other diseases are among such diseases.
The following essences can be used as “mild sedatives”. (For anxiety, hysteria, nervousness).
On the contrary, the following essences are used as so-called stimulants. (For melancholy, weakness, depression, exhaustion, concentration weakness).
Essential oils and the skin
Essential oils easily combine with ointments and vegetable oils of all kinds.
The following essences lead to a high degree of relaxation and regulate the activity of the capillaries, thus restoring the vitality of the skin. They also have rejuvenating active ingredients and are excellent skin care products:
The lavender and orange blossom essential oils have a particularly pronounced ability to influence and promote the formation of new cells, especially the healing of burns of the upper layers of the skin.
Juniper Berry essential oil can be used in particular to prevent bedsores. If there is inflammation (including acne), the stimulating substances should be diluted with milder substances. The following essences are suitable:
In case of excessive body odour (e.g. foot sweat) the following essences can inhibit the growth of bacteria: Bergamot, Lavender, Cypress
Essential oils and the digestive system
Essences have a relatively mild effect, which affects the digestive system, the intestinal activity. It is not clear whether the change takes place directly via the nervous system and the blood or indirectly via the psyche.
The following essences can help with constipation and flatulence:
Fennel, marjoram, camphor, rosemary, cinnamon
In case of diarrhoea to reduce the tension of the smooth musculature:
Clove oil counteracts the acidification of the stomach (possibly also black pepper and cinnamon).
Digestive disorders are treated orally and as enemas. Compresses on the stomach region and stomach as well as embrocations along the lumbar spine can also achieve the desired effect.
Essential Oils and Breathing
The use of essential oils against respiratory diseases success through inhalation, massage, embrocations, compresses or oral.
Attention: When applied orally or inhaled, local inflammation of the mucous membranes may occur if applied in too concentrated a manner.
The following oils can be used as antiseptics:
Essential oils and the urinary tract
The essences are applied orally, as a sitting bath, as a vaginal rinse, via massage of the sacral lumbar region and compresses.
The following oils can be used for urinary tract infections (burning when dissolving water, frequent urination in small quantities, etc.):
Essential oils and the lymphatic system
Various oils have the property of strengthening the body’s natural defence against infections. Their use as prophylaxis is of great benefit. The following essences have an antibacterial effect:
Diluting essential oils
Normally you mix a 1 – 2 % solution, i.e.: on 100 ml base oil you take approx. 20 drops essences to produce a massage oil.
With very potent, often also very expensive essences like jasmine, rose, neroli etc. 2 – 4 drops on 100 ml base oil are sufficient.
Massage for 20 minutes.
For compresses mix a 3 – 5 % solution (always dissolve with emulsifier).
½ lt. water with 4 – 5 drops essence.
The dosage for a full bath is 6 – 10 drops of the desired essence (use emulsifier). Bathe for 15 – 30 minutes.
If taken orally, 1 drops on a glass of water is sufficient.
For inhalation 1 lt. water with 4 – 8 drops essence, inhale vapours.
For children under 10 years the dosage is halved, for small children ¼ of the quantity is used.
Vinegar: is recommended when it comes to cleansing or detoxifying the body and strengthening the immune system. I.e. for infections and fungal diseases. Apple and fruit vinegar are particularly suitable.
100 ml for a full bath or 3 tablespoons for a seat or foot bath.
Milk/cream: 250 ml for a full bath. It is very kind to the skin.
Honey: 2 – 3 tablespoons for a full bath, 1 tablespoon for a foot or sitting bath (especially for nervousness, insomnia).
An aroma bath should last about 20 minutes. Afterwards only dab the body. It would be advantageous if you could rest for 30 minutes afterwards. No more than three full baths per week.
Aromatherapy Massage: Techniques and rules
The basic rules of massage technique also apply to an aroma massage. The massage should only take place in an undisturbed, relaxed atmosphere. Calm music can promote relaxation.
The body should be warm so that the essential oils can be absorbed optimally. The masseur should also have warm hands.
Each movement should be performed slowly and rhythmically. Mostly strokes and circles.
Use plenty of oil. In the end, however, all the oil should be completely absorbed. The oil is best absorbed on feet, hands, forearms in the area of the solar plexus, lower back, shoulder girdle and breastbone.
The selection of essential oils is based on therapeutic aspects, preferences for fragrances (fragrance test) or intuitive selection.
Base oil of your choice; almond oil, wheat germ oil, olive oil, apricot oil, Johannis oil, jojoba oil, etc.
A massage should last at least 20 minutes – this is how long the body needs to absorb the oil.
Essential Oils use and Precautions
Do not use the same fragrance for more than 4 weeks.
Dosage must be observed (overdosage or prolonged use may cause skin irritation or mucous membrane irritation).
If possible, oral use should only be administered after consultation with an aromatologist.
Keep essences out of the reach of children. Pure essences can be fatal.
In patients with epilepsy, be careful with rosemary, hyssop, sage and fennel.
During pregnancy, use only small doses of gentle oils such as rose, sandalwood, lavender, chamomile and rosewood.
Do not use chamomile, mint and camphor together with homeopathic remedies.
Asthmatics should be careful with inhalations (may cause seizures).
Do not massage in case of fever. Use more baths and compresses.