Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile liquid plant materials, known as essential oils (EOs), and other aromatic compounds from plants for the purpose of affecting a person's mood or health. Scientific evidence is weak and preliminary but mildly encouraging for a limited number of claims. Essential oils differ in chemical composition from other herbal products because the distillation process only recovers the lighter phytomolecules.
Aromatherapy is a generic term that refers to any of the various traditions that make use of essential oils sometimes in combination with other alternative medical practices and spiritual beliefs. Popular use of these products include massaging products, medicine, or any topical application that incorporates the use of essential oils to their products. It has a particularly Western currency and persuasion.
- Basil is used in perfumery for its clear, sweet and mildly spicy aroma. In aromatherapy, it is used for sharpening concentration, for its uplifting effect on depression, and to relieve headaches and migraines. Basil oil has many chemotypes and some are known to be emmenagogues and should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Bergamot is one of the most popular oils in perfumery. It is an excellent insect repellent and may be helpful for both the urinary tract and for the digestive tract. It is useful for skin conditions linked to stress, such as cold sores and chicken pox, especially when combined with eucalyptus oil. Bergamot is a flavoring agent in Earl Grey tea. But cold-pressed Bergamot oil contains bergaptene, a strong photosensitizer when applied to the skin, so only distilled or 'bergaptene-free' types can be topically used.
- Black pepper has a sharp and spicy aroma. Common uses include stimulating the circulation and for muscular aches and pains. Skin application is useful for bruises, since it stimulates the circulation.
- Citronella oil, obtained from a relative of lemongrass, is used as an insect repellent and in perfumery.
- Clove oil is a topical analgesic, especially useful in dentistry. It is also used an antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, and antiemetic.
- Eucalyptus oil is often used in combination with peppermint to provide relief for the airways in case of cold or flu.
- Geranium oil is used as an astringent, antiseptic and diuretic.
- Jasmine is used as an aphrodisiac
- Lavender oil is used as an antiseptic, to soothe minor cuts and burns, to calm and relax, and to soothe headaches and migraines.
- Lemon oil is uplifting and anti-stress/anti-depressant. In a Japanese study, lemon essential oil in vapour form has been found to reduce stress in mice.
- Lemon oil - Researchers at Ohio State University reveals that Lemon oil aroma may enhance one's mood, and help with relaxation.
- Rose is used as an aphrodisiac
- Sandalwood oil is used as an aphrodisiac
- Tea tree oil and many other essential oils have topical (external) antimicrobial (i.e. antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, or antiparasitic) activity and are used as antiseptics, disinfectants, and in mouthrinses.
- Thyme oil
- Yarrow oil is used to reduce joint inflammation and relieve cold and influenza symptoms.
- Ylang-ylang oil is used as an aphrodisiac
The consensus among most medical professionals is that while some aromas have demonstrated effects on mood and relaxation and may have related benefits for patients, there is currently insufficient scientific proof of many of the claims made for aromatherapy. Scientific research on the cause and effect of aromatherapy is limited, although in vitro testing has revealed some antibacterial and antiviral effects and a few double blind studies have been published. Essential oils have a demonstrated efficacy in dental mouthwash products.
Like many alternative therapies, few controlled, double-blind studies have been carried outâ€”a common explanation is that there is little incentive to do so if the results of the studies are not patentable. Researchers at Sloan-Kettering have found that aromatherapy significantly reduces claustrophobia attacks for patients undergoing MRI scans; however, studies of similar rigor are far from numerous. Some benefits that have been linked to aromatherapy, such as relaxation and clarity of mind, may arise from the placebo effect rather than from the inherent properties of the scents themselves.
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This page was last modified on 3 November 2008, at 17:31
For further information on Aromatherapy visit the Aromatherapy Council
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