Aromatherapy: An Alternative Medicine?

By Iris Hunter

Today, an immense amount of individuals find themselves turning to aromatherapy for alternative treatment. Aromatherapy has been used for centuries for various types of treatments, including anxiety, insomnia, snoring, menopause and alopecia. If you are looking to find an alternative medicine for certain health-related issues, aromatherapy may be your solution.

What is Aromatherapy?

According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, or NAHA, aromatherapy can be defined as “the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit.” In addition, “aromatherapy seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.”

Nvate Aromatherapy, Chandler Aroma by Christina Chandler, alternative medicine essential oils

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It wasn’t until the 1980s that aromatherapy became popular in the United States; however, essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes for nearly 6,000 years. The ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used them in cosmetics, perfumes, and drugs. In addition, essential oils were commonly used for spiritual, therapeutic, hygienic, and ritualistic purposes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

What are Essential Oils?

What exactly are essential oils? Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants. Each contains its own mix of active ingredients, and this mix determines what the oil is used for. Some oils are used to promote physical healing and others are used for their emotional value, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

How Much do Essential Oils Cost?

How much should one expect to pay for essential oils? According to Christina Chandler, owner of Chandler Aroma, the cost of essential oils will vary by company, type of oil and size. “Price doesn’t necessarily reflect quantity nor quality,” she said. For example, one of the most commonly used essential oils is lavender. Some of its uses include: reducing anxiety, healing wounds and general skin care, according to NAHA. This essential oil can be purchased on Amazon for less than $10.

Chandler is an experienced aromatherapist and a huge advocate of natural self-care. She decided to take an aromatherapy class after she noticed a flyer in Cheryl’s Herbs, a store she was visiting in search of an herb. Taking the class allowed her to learn about individual oils, the physiology of plants and the benefits of aromatherapy.

“I want to share my knowledge of the benefits of using essential oil,” she said of the profound changes she has experienced as a result of practicing aromatherapy.

Have you ever thought about practicing aromatherapy, but have not made that decision yet? First, you need to know a few aromatherapy basics. “I find more and more people turning to aromatherapy because they want an option that truly helps to bring the body, mind and spirit back into balance, as opposed to simply masking symptoms,” Chandler said.

Using Aromatherapy as an Alternative Medicine

The reasons that individuals choose to practice aromatherapy will vary. Chandler mentioned that she decided to take the aromatherapy class she saw advertised because she suffered from acne, which caused her to be self-conscious. After taking the class and learning about essential oils, she began to make her own basic and pure skin care products.

According to the NAHA, essential oils can also be used in various ways including making lotions, in baths and as an aromatic spritzer. Chandler stated that it can be used for sinus problems, cold sores, acne, insomnia, and stress, among other things. In addition, she also stated that essential oils can be used as massage oils. According to the NAHA, massage and/or body oils are a combination of one or more vegetable and/or herbal oils with essential oils. These types of oils are used in massage, lotions, creams, facial and body oils, salves and gels.

Nvate Aromatherapy, Chandler Aroma by Christina Chandler, alternative medicine essential oils

Credit: Pixomar

In general, aromatherapy oil-based blends are used for several things, including chronic or acute pain relief, insomnia, enhancing immunity, anxiety, reducing inflammation and relieving muscle spasms. Some of the most commonly used base oils in aromatherapy include coconut, rose hip seed and Tamanu oil.

Coconut oil is beneficial to those with dry skin since it will help to soften skin. Rose hip seed oil helps to “soothe inflamed skin conditions, is excellent cell regenerative oil, nourishing and preventative for premature aging skin. Tamanu oil promotes healthy scar tissue formation, wound healing, relieves aches and pains, anti-inflammatory and antiviral,” according to the NAHA.

The Benefits of Practicing Aromatherapy

The way that an aromatherapist consults with their clients will vary. Chandler stated that each of her treatments are individualized and specific to each client. In order to find out which essential oils each of her client needs, she takes the time to consult with them.

“Upon meeting with a client, I begin with asking a few questions to get a feel of where he or she is emotionally, to come to an understanding of the possible root cause that led them to consult with an aromatherapist, Chandler said of the process. “From there I begin to choose essential oils for an aroma evaluation, that way I can see exactly how the client responds to the oils chosen.”

“The next step, either starting over or proceeding, depends upon the response,” she said. “With further questioning I then determine the best way for the client to use the essential oils for the most benefit.”

When preparing a treatment, several oils can be blended together. Chandler stated that she typically does not blend more than five oils. She went on to say that the oils will work in conjunction with one another in order to create balance. “Custom blending essential oils is useful because it utilizes a combination of beneficial properties for a specific need,” she said.

Whenever using aromatherapy, people should use it typically for about two to eight weeks, stop, then reevaluate, Chandler stated. She went on to say that people should reevaluate because they may not need to address the same issues after several weeks and that they may not need to continue using all of the same oils for their problem.

The Risks of Using Aromatherapy

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, never take essential oils by mouth unless under the supervision of a trained professional. It is rare, but aromatherapy can induce side effects, such as rash, asthma, headache, liver and nerve damage, as well as harm to a fetus. In addition, essential oils are highly volatile and flammable so they should never be used near an open flame. There are many aromatherapy diffusers for essential oils that can be used to safely enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy.

According to the NAHA, there are several factors that influence the safety of essential oils, including the chemical composition of the oil, quality of essential oil being utilized, dosage/dilution to be applied, method of application, age of the client and the integrity of the skin. In order to minimize or eliminate any problems associated with the practicing of aromatherapy, it is wise to take the time to conduct extensive research to identify any risks.

Visit the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy to learn more.

Keepitintheheart has a Wonderful Video Up that Provides a Useful Aromatherapy Guide

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