Using The Pure Essence of Plants
The key factor that sets aromatherapy apart from other holistic therapies is the use of aromatic essential oils, oils that have been used for thousands of years. They are the essence of a plant processed into a concentrated oil form, using various methods such as steam distillation, compression, solvent extraction, and maceration. Essential oils usually have a number of therapeutic properties stemming from the naturally occurring compounds within them.
Depending on the plant and the way in which the oil is extracted essential oils fall into three categories:
- Base Note oils: These are composed of the largest molecules and therefore disperse more slowly (up to 7 days). They are usually deeply relaxing and grounding. Examples are Sandalwood and Rose.
- Middle Note oils: These have a mix of small and large molecules, and therefore disperse after 2 to 3 days. They are usually balancing and harmonising. Examples are Lavender and Geranium.
- Top Note oils: These have tiny molecules and can have an instant effect lasting up to 24 hours. They are usually uplifting, opening, releasing. Examples are citrus oils such as Lemon and herb oils such as Clary Sage.
When blending oils for products or massage treatments an Aromatherapist will often try and pick an oil from each category, to give you both an immediate and lasting effect.
Absorption of essential oils is more thorough than you might think. They are absorbed through the skin during massage or topical application, and from there pass directly into the bloodstream. Also, there are many sensory nerve endings in the nose that respond to essential oil air-borne particles, which transmit messages to the brain and can trigger memories, balance hormone production, or evoke an emotional response. And finally they can be inhaled into the lungs and from there be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. It is therefore not surprising that an aromatherapy massage enables the therapeutic properties of the essential oils used to be fully realised by the body, especially if the client is encouraged not to shower for 12 hours afterwards. Other ways of enjoying essential oils are in the bath; topical application in creams, lotions, gels; inhalation through vaporisers, oil burners, candles, reed diffusers; and even a few drops in the iron or vacuum cleaner.
- NAHA National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
- The Aromatherapy Council
- FHT Federation of Holistic Therapists
If you want to know more, Rosemary Caddy's excellent book Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Colour is highly recommended.