Guest Post by Linda Weihbrecht BSN, RN, LMT, CCAP
Aromatherapy is both an art and a science. It embraces the holistic philosophy of addressing the mind, body, and spirit. Aromatherapy can be an important component in your wellness tool box to promote well-being. Scents remind us of past memories and emotions, they allow us to connect with nature, and pleasant scents encourage us to breathe deeply and RELAX. Aromatherapy is a tool to improve the quality of life on a physical, emotional, and energetic level.
Aromatherapy is the art and science of using pure essential oils and hydrosols to calm, balance, and rejuvenate mind, body, and spirit. They have a long history of safety and have been used in all major cultures for thousands of years. Egypt and India used essential oils more than six thousand years ago. Egyptians were masters at using essential oils for healing, cosmetics, skin care, massage, perfume, and embalming. In India, Ayurvedic practitioners use essential oils in Ayurvedic medicine to this day.
Modern aromatherapy has its roots in science and the term ‘Aroma-therapie’ is credited to a French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse. He is said to have miraculously recovered from a burn sustained in his cosmetics lab in the early 1900’s. In 1937 Gattefosse produced a Materia Medica for the therapeutic uses of aromatic extracts titled Aromathérapie. Jean Valnet, M.D. was a French army physician and surgeon. It was reported that during World War II Dr. Valnet used essential oils to treat infections with great success when antibiotics were depleted. After the war, Jean Valnet and his students continued his work to prove the therapeutic properties of essential oils in scientific terms. Another pioneer in aromatherapy was Austrian born, Maurgerite Maury (1895-1968). She was a nurse, biochemist married to a physician. Maurgerite and Dr. Maury worked together to explore alternate ways to promote healing. Maurgerite Maury expanded the use of essential oils in healing massage and cosmetology. These aromatherapy pioneers layed the ground work for the modern clinical aromatherapy we see today.
The tools of a clinical aromatherapist are pure essential oils and hydrosols. Pure essential oils are highly concentrated natural substances extracted from a variety of aromatic plants through distillation or expression. Steam distillation is a common method of extraction using flowers, leaves, twigs, bark, berries, roots, and seeds of a variety of aromatic plants and trees. Some commonly used essential oils are lemon, tea tree, peppermint, lavender, geranium, rose, neroli, and ylang-ylang. Essential oils contain vitamins, hormones, and anti-microbial properties. The chemical profile of the essential oil gives it it’s therapeutic properties. Essential oils have been used historically to stimulate, relax, and balance. They also have a history of use as anti-virals, anti-bacterials, anti-fungals, decongestants, analgesics, anti-inflammatory agents, and digestives.
Essential oils in the United States are most often used in topical application and inhalation. Essential oils can be 75-100 times more concentrated than the dried herbs. This means drops are used in aromatherapy not ounces. Essential oils are usually diluted for topical application to the skin. Topical use may include baths, showers, dermal applications to address wounds, sprains, strains, muscle aches, pains, and tension, and skin care products. Inhalation of essential oils is used for emotional support, mood support, improve sleep, support respiratory conditions, air purifying, and environmental fragrancing. Inhalation of essential oils includes the use of diffusers, personal inhalers, steam inhalations, vaporizers, and room sprays.
Essential oils are a complement to traditional, conventional medicine. Always seek medical advice for health concerns and be honest with your healthcare provider about the complementary therapies you are using. Good healthcare practice is a partnership between the patient and the healthcare provider. Consult a qualified aromatherapist for essential oil selection, best application methods, and information about safety issues.
Aromatherapy is being used in hospitals, cancer care, senior care, and hospice to improve sleep, reduce agitation, relaxation, pain management and environmental fragrancing. Training programs have been developed in the United States to educate nurses, massage therapists, and other healthcare providers about the use of clinical aromatherapy. Demand for clinical aromatherapy services is increasing due to consumers’ demand.
If you would like more information about aromatherapy, two reputable organizations in the United States are : The Alliance of International Aromatherapists www.alliance-aromatherapists.org and The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy www.naha.org. Both organizations have credible aromatherapy information on their websites and offer educational webinars and teleconferences for members. Membership is not limited to aromatherapy practitioners, anyone can join these organizations as a friend of aromatherapy.
The way to add aromatherapy to your wellness toolbox is to talk with your healthcare provider, read, ask questions, explore, experience, and enjoy your aromatic journey!
Linda L Weihbrecht, BSN, RN, LMT, Certified Clinical Aromatherapist
Linda Weihbrecht is a certified Clinical Aromatherapist and aromatherapy educator R.J. Buckle Associates, LLC since 1999. She presently works for The Advocacy Alliance, as a community nurse helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is the founder and facilitator of a hospital based support group, “Coping with Anxiety and Panic” (CAP) since 1994.
For more information visit www.rjbuckle.com or email Linda @ [email protected]