Soothing anxiety. Helping the skin to heal from burns and cuts. Cleaning your house. Clearing up your sinuses. When it comes to personal care and the health of your home, aromatherapy and essential oils can prove, well, essential.
But don’t let the fact that the oils come from dainty flowers fool you--this stuff works because it works--and just like any powerful tool, you need to know how to use it to safely reap the benefits.
The interest in aromatherapy has played a huge role Tracy McGovern’s life. “Over 20 years ago I became absolutely fascinated with essential oils and aromatherapy. I read tons of books by clinical aromatherapists from all over the world,” says the Reiki and reflexology practitioner and teacher. “It was the references to reflexology and these books that led me to be a reflexologist.”
Tracy calls essential oils “nature’s ‘farmamacy’,” explaining that “they are as potent as anything you can get in a drugstore. And so with their use comes the need for knowledge and understanding. No one should be afraid of essential oils, but everyone should learn the precautions and safety that goes with them.”
When it comes to essential oils, who is using them makes all the difference. “You never use essential oils the same way for adults as you do for children as you would for the elderly, and same goes for animals,” says Tracy. “And each different animal has different precautions and contraindications. You would not do the same for a dog as you would for a cat as you would for a horse.”
Tracy stresses the importance of using pure essential oils, but adds, “no matter how pure an oil is, it still has the chemical components of the planet came from. Plants are wonderful, but that does not remove the need to understand the effect of a chemical composition to each different kind of person, or different kind of animal.”
So how do you learn how to use essential oils safely? “It’s easy these days to research this information,” says Tracy. “Learn and compare information from unaffiliated, unbiased sources. And remember--always, always, always: less is more.”
OK, so we know essential oils and aromatherapy can do really cool things, and we can benefit from them if we learn about them and use them safely. But what exactly is aromatherapy, and how do we use it?
Massage therapist and myofascial release practitioner Lisa Franklin explains that “aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic pure essential oils to benefit both physical and psychological well-being.”
She points out that aromatherapy has been around for ages. “Aromatherapy has a long history dating back thousands of years when herbs and spices were burnt for ritualistic purposes as well as for the health benefits, or a tea was made to obtain the benefits. Perfumery was the next major application of aromatherapy. It was used to hide body odor as well as to benefit the body and mind.”
Nowadays, says Lisa, aromatherapy is all about essential oils, which arrived on the scene “around the 10th century with the advent of the still. The distillation process allowed for the pure essence of the plant to be concentrated into a small, dynamic preparation.”
Once the essence of the plant is distilled, there are two basic ways to use it: the essence can be inhaled, or applied to your skin.
Lisa points out that inhalation is the simplest way to experience aromatherapy. “You can simply open the bottle of your favorite essential oil and breathe deeply to enjoy the benefits. Or if you want a longer exposure to the essential oil, diffusion is another method,” she says. “Diffusion is the dispersion of essential oils via an atomizer or vaporizer. Both are safe methods to use when using essential oils.”
Applying essential oils to your skin is the other method. “With appropriate precautions,” Lisa says, “essential oils are mixed with a carrier oil or lotion and applied to the skin. Body lotions and massage are the most common ways people experience aromatherapy.”
So just how effective is all of this? Turns out it’s so effective that, in some countries (France and Germany among them), there are “specialized physicians and pharmacists that prescribe and dispense essential oils for a variety of conditions. Their research and studies indicate that essential oils can be a definite benefit to treating illness.”
This week we invite you to join us in saying yes to healthy, effective, smart, and safe use of aromatherapy and essential oils! Stay tuned for tips, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.