What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils for their therapeutic properties.

Essential oils are are very concentrated plant extracts from a wide variety of plants – herbs, trees, flowers, fruits and bushes. They are very volatile and have a limited shelf life once opened – they deteriorate over time once in contact with the air. They are not safe to take internally except under the direction of qualified, experienced personnel such as herbalists. In the UK, aromatherapists are not permitted to direct individuals to take oils internally.

The essential oils have complex chemical constitutions and from research, it is now known that some specific chemicals are responsible for some particular effects. It is also recognised that the oils can affect the mind and emotions on a more subtle level, e.g. through the psychological effects of smell. 
For example:-
• some essential oils have sedative, some can have an anti-depressant effect or relieve hypertensionand some are analgesic
• some can be irritant to the skin and other body systems such as the brain

Often essential oils are applied to the skin via a massage. Very small amounts of essential oil (literally only a few drops) are diluted in a ‘base’ or carrier vegetable oil such as sunflower, sweet almond or grapeseed massage oil and then massaged into the skin. The essential oil is absorbed via the skin where it exerts its effect on the body.

What happens during a treatment?

Prior to a massage your therapist first takes details of your medical history to determine if there are any contraindications to massage or any of the oils. With your input, the therapist will then choose a suitable oil blend. (Essential oils are not always used). 

You will then be given a towel for modesty and asked to undress acccording to which part of the body is to be massaged e.g. remove your shirt/vest for a back massage or your shoes and socks/hosiery for a foot massage. During the treatment, only the area being massaged at the time is exposed, the rest of you remains covered with a towel(s).

An aromatherapist will usually employ a variety of massage techniques which can include Swedish massage, lymphatic drainage massage, deep tissue massage and acupressure. The type of massage and oil blends are tailored according to individual need. Masssage itself is deeply relaxing, but oil blends and techniques can be used to energise you. Once the massage is finished, your aromatherapist will advise you about aftercare e.g. drinking extra water.

Essential oils can also be used in many other ways. For example they can be:-
• vaporised for direct inhalation or simply to scent the air and be indirectly 
• used in the bath (best diluted in an unscented bubble bath, bath oil or milk first)
• used in compresses or to make products such as handwash, lip balms and insect repellants. 

Essential oils should always be used under the direction of a qualified aromatherapist, particularly if the user is or could be pregnant or has any serious medical condition such as epilepsy or raised blood pressure.