Written by Marika Fleri
Marika, mum of two, is a clinical Aromatherapist with special interest in Aromapsychology, Cancer and Palliative care. She is a VTCT tutor teaching Aromatherapy Diploma and Higher Diploma and also acts as the Co-Ordinator of the National Cancer Platform which encompasses all NGO’s working with cancer patients, she mans an office within Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Center which offers a ‘one stop shop concept’ of all the services offered by our NGO’s.
I reached out to Marika to give us a bit of an introduction to Aromatherapy, it’s benefits and how essential oils should be used….
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF AROMATHERAPY
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. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.
Essential oils are produced by the plant as a by-product of photosynthesis. They are the essence of the plant, the very core of it and we use this liquid gold to bring our client to a state of homeostasis. Every essential oil used has a unique chemical composition which in turn has specific therapeutic properties. It is the Aromatherapist’s job to identify which essential oils would best suit her client/patient and which method of application would be most effective after a thorough consultation.
There are two main pathways by which essential oils can enter into the body. They can be absorbed via the skin or by inhalation.
Inhalation: Essential oils are volatile substances. When essential oils are inhaled, the molecules rise to the top of the nose and come into contact with the olfactory mucous membrane.
The olfactory mucous membrane has thousands of receptors that identify the smell and thus, the sensory stimulation is sent through the olfactory bulb, which acts as an amplifier, through the olfactory nerve into the limbic system of the brain. This is a primitive area of the brain. It deals with emotional and psychological responses. The limbic system is triggered by nerve impulses. The scent is compared to a known scent, compared and labelled, thus we can have memories associated with the scent information and react emotionally and physically through our autonomic nervous system. These responses are determined by the specific qualities of the essential oil being used, and can range from relaxing to stimulating
Skin Absorption: The skin is relatively permeable to fat soluble substances and relatively impermeable to water soluble substances. Essential oils are lipophilic i.e. they are attracted to and soluble in fatty substances.
Essential oil molecules are so minute that when they are applied to the skin; they are able to pass through the outer layer of the epidermis. Sebum present on the surface of the skin aids absorption. From here the oil molecules pass through the dermis, into the capillaries and into the bloodstream. Absorption also occurs through the hair follicles and sweat ducts.
How should they be used?
Being natural does not make essential oils safe for everyone and in every circumstance. They should be treated with respect to gain maximum benefit and avoid doing any harm. They should never substitute conventional medicine prescribed by our doctor. We should also be weary from where we get our information as the internet can be an invaluable resource for research but one can also come across articles written by Multi-Level Marketing Companies promoting unsafe use of essential oils.
Essential oils should never be applied undiluted to the skin
Children and the elderly, pregnancy, frail individuals – one should always ask The Aromatherapist’s advice on dosage and essential oils that are safe to use.
What could they be used for?
The potential for use for this modality of healing is versatile and possibilities are endless. It may be as simple as having a relaxing aromatherapy bath at the end of the day, to including aromatic products in our daily beauty and hygiene routine, to assist ourselves whilst being sick, to green cleaning our house and it may be as complex as assisting a cancer patient throughout his or her journey, to aid in pain management etc.
How long do essential oils last?
Their shelf life is usually approximately 2 years when they are stored properly. (in dark glass coloured bottles, away from heat and direct sunlight). After that, most of them still retain their beautiful scent but lose most of their therapeutic benefit.
What would my Aromatherapy First Aid Kit Consist Of?
- Lavender – The Most Versatile Oil in existence: Heals cuts, bruises and burns. Prevents insomnia, relieves stress, promotes relaxation and sleep.
- Ti Tree – The All Rounder: Ti Tree is Anti Viral, Anti Bacterial and Anti Fungal. Ti Tree oil is great for respiratory ailments and brings relief from cold and other respiratory ailments. It also helps to strengthen our immune system. It is also perfect for spots, pimples and repels nits.
- Peppermint – The Digester: Peppermint has a pleasant menthol scent. It relieves digestive problems, freshens breath, aids in treatment of sinusitis and headaches. Perfect for people suffering from travel sickness. It is also revitalizing.
- Eucalyptus – The Breather: Eucalyptus is a must during the winter months. It helps to clear up the airways and prevent congestion. It is also used in blends for muscular aches and pains.
- Lemon – The Purifier: Lemon essential oil or fresh lemons mixed with honey and ginger is another cold remedy. It aids in treatment of cold, flu, fever and infections. We can also add this to our cleaning products or better still make our own as lemon is anti microbial and antiseptic. It is also good for treatment of throat infections.
- Chamomile Roman – The Nanny: Chamomile essential oil is perfect for the treatment of insomnia, cramps, colic in children (always follow dilutions given to you by the Aromatherapist). Also perfect for use during stressful times. It also helps during scanty and painful periods.
Methods of use of essential Oils
- Baths : 6 to 10 drops diluted in 1tbsp milk or honey dispersed in a bath of water. Mix well to disperse oil before entering bath
- Foot and hand baths: 8 drops diluted in 1tbsp milk or honey added to a bowl of warm water. Mix well before using
- Inhalations: 10 drops to 100ml water
- Aromatherapy diffuser: 5 drops in burner
- It is best if two to three essential oils are mixed together to derive maximum benefits. When mixed well essential oils create a synergistic blend which enhances properties of individual oils.
- Babies, children and the elderly: Please ask for advice.
- Other uses: Room spray, wardrobe and linen scent, kitchen and floor disinfectant and many more.
Aromatherapy is a holistic action on our whole being, blending the physical and psychological aspects of each and every individual. It reinforces our body’s ability to heal itself.
I have seen beautiful results throughout the years, yet aromatherapy is not ‘Magic’. It is Art and Science – producing almost magical and highly transitional effects on the client. The oils speak to us on a primeval level. They tap into our innate desire to be one with Nature.