Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils combined with massage, inhalations and aromatic baths to help treat specific conditions.
The origin of the word ‘Aromatherapy’ comes from the French word Aromatherapie and was first coined as such in a scientific paper in 1926 by Renée Gattefosse, the ‘father of modern Aromatherapy’.
Renée was a chemist in his father’s perfumery company. He was interested in the medicinal aspects of essential oils and discovered that many of them were better antiseptics than the chemicals that his father used in his products. Gattefosse burnt his hand badly in a laboratory accident and applied some neat Lavender oil onto it. The burn healed exceptionally fast – in only a few hours – and did not become infected and left no scarring. This led him to develop the use of essential oils in dermatology and undertake a huge amount of research on their medicinal properties.
Even though the term is quite modern, the use of essential oils or essences from plants goes back to ancient times and is one of the oldest forms of treating people recorded.
People have always been using plants and herbs to heal themselves and archaeologists have found traces of plants and herbs in graves and burial sites as well as in settlements and ancient rubbish tips. Primitive cultures knew by learning from their parents what berries to eat, what roots to gather, what plants would heal them and so forth. This tradition would be passed from generation to generation and enabled them to survive.
Today, Aromatherapy is still more widely known as a form of beauty treatment rather than the therapeutic discipline it is. Because of this, the spread of interest has been on a superficial level, such as cosmetic uses rather than the true medical nature of the discipline. Beauty salons are now advertising massages and facials using oils, but these have been pre-blended by the manufacturing company and the therapist does not need to worry about what oils to use or contra-indications mainly because the products they are using contain only minimal essential oil content and therefore will not harm the client.
Luckily, interest in true Aromatherapy is growing as people are now interested in the more serious applications of essential oils and how they can help treat specific conditions.
What to expect from treatment?
Before you go for a treatment it is important to understand that a key part of the treatment is the ‘bonding’ with the practitioner or therapist.
Be patient and look around for a therapist that makes you feel safe and with whom you can trust.
It is easy to criticise a whole therapy because we have been to one person who did not give us the treatment we wanted. You wouldn’t distrust every doctor because one you encountered did not treat you in the way you wanted. You would ask for a second opinion and look for another one that made you feel better and with whom gave you some degree of trust.
It is the same with complementary therapists, use your instincts and find one that suits your energy and your mind.
When you first see an Aromatherapist, they will take a detailed medical history. Don’t be alarmed, we are governed by data protection as well as other medical workers.
We need to take one so that the oils or the treatment we use will not contra-indicate any medication that you may be on or any condition that you may be suffering from.
Once the medical history has been completed, the therapist should explain the treatment that he/she will give you and the oils that will be used.
You will then be asked to undress down to your lower underwear and lay on the bed where the massage will begin.
You should be covered at all times on the couch and should not feel vulnerable or bare. Therapists are instructed in towel use so even the most shy person will feel safe and covered up at all times.
Once the massage has finished you will be left alone to get up off the couch and once dressed any findings will be discussed with you.
You will be advised on any oils that you may need to use at home and the different ways of using them, either in an inhalation, massage blend or in the bath.
You will leave however, feeling relaxed and content!
After receiving treatment, there are a few factors that you will need to consider.
Firstly you must always drink a lot of water for 24hrs after treatment. This ensures that any toxins released during the treatment can be safely excreted from the body in the urine instead of causing symptoms such as headaches because they are still circulating throughout your system.
If you have had an aromatherapy treatment, then it is advisable not to wash or shower till the next day. This allows the essential oils to be thoroughly absorbed by the body and to be allowed to circulate over a long period. Each person has a different absorption rate and so to be sure, it is best to leave washing till the next day.
During treatment the body has had to change, either physically because of the massage or mentally through the change in the biochemicals of the brain and so some side effects may occur.
Below I have listed the most common ones but if you experience any other symptoms that you are not sure about, then please do not hesitate to contact the therapist no matter how trivial you think they are.
- Headache: most common symptom, usually occurs because not enough water has been drunk after treatment. Most headaches clear up within two/three days. If symptoms persist, please contact the therapist.
- Flu like symptoms: These consist of feeling cold and chilly, aching in muscles and in joints. Caused by toxins being released from muscular tissues of the body. This differs from normal flu symptoms in that with flu the person feels sick, ill and wants to go to bed where they cannot get up.
These symptoms make you feel chilly but do not debilitate you and you do not feel ill.
- Aches and pains: These occur after treatment when congestion (lactic and malic acids) have been cleared from the muscles fibres through biochemical changes.
- Stiffness may occur a day after treatment as the muscles get used to what has been done to them but this usually clears and you will notice an improvement from day two onwards.
Sometimes the aching can get worse before it gets better and improves. This does not mean that the treatment has not worked.
- Tiredness: This occurs because your brain needs you to rest while it deals with the treatment you have just had. This tiredness can be quite strong so it is best to follow your bodies needs and rest or sleep. This tiredness usually passes after a day.
- Lightheadedness: This occurs normally just after treatment and normally only lasts for 15 minutes. It clears quickly but if lightheadedness persists, then please consult the practitioner.
- Remember that in order for your symptoms to clear up, great changes have to occur in your physical body and brain. This sometimes generates side effects as your body copes with these changes. These are a normal part of the treatment and nearly all symptoms clear up within two to three days.
If any problems do occur then please contact the therapist that you went to and they will be able to advise you