A breath of fresh air upon the wind
Aromatic plants have been used for thousands of years, and over the centuries the medicinal properties and applications of increasing numbers of new essential oils have been analysed and recorded by pharmacists. Alchemy gave way to technical chemistry, and with it went the interest in the inter-relatedness of matter and spirit, and the interdependence of medicine and psychology.
Refreshingly, today we are experiencing a revival and renewed awareness of essential oils and their therapeutic benefits on our well-being. The pioneering French doctor and scientist Dr. Jean Valnet used essential oils as part of a programme by which he was able to treat successfully specific medical and psychiatric disorders. The results were published in 1964 as ‘Aromatherapie’, and after monitoring this work with interest, we, too, are now involved in a measure of research and investigation.
The mind is perhaps the most discussed and least understood area of activity regarding essential oils. It is already known and documented that the olfactory nerve tracts run right into the limbic system (the part of the brain concerned with memory and emotions), which means that scents can evoke an immediate and powerful response in the cell metabolism in the brain through their chemical properties and aroma.
Studies carried out in Japan showed that the aroma of lemon increases concentration levels to a remarkable degree. On the psychological level, the oil has a clarifying quality, good for mental fatigue, listlessness or emotional confusion.
Essential oils have three different modes of action with regard to how they inter-relate with the human body:
*Pharmacological mode - the chemical changes which take place when an essential oil enters the bloodstream and reacts with the hormones and enzymes;
*Physiological mode – concerned with the way in which an essential oil affects the systems of the body (whether they are sedated or stimulated);
*Psychological mode – the effects which take place when an essence is inhaled and an individual response is made to its odour.
Gabriel Mojay, a practitioner who in 1990 founded the Register of Qualified Aromatherapists, writes:
‘Energetically cool essential oils known for their calmative, relaxant action, as well as for their ability to regulate heart function, include Neroli, Jasmine and Lavender, oils that are principally sweet and floral in their aromatic make-up.’
Massage is a relaxing and nourishing experience in itself, not least because of the unspoken communication based on touch, but also because it ensures that the oils are effectively absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. This is the method favoured by professional aromatherapists.
Specific essential oils are chosen after a thorough consultation with the client which takes into account the medical and personal background, factors such as lifestyle, allergies, posture, skin, and general health; this enables an individual synergistic blend to be made up. The oils are blended with a base oil, such as Sweet Almond (rich in vitamins and therapeutic fatty acids). Other base oils include Avocado (rich in lecithin), Calendula (anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties) and Evening Primrose, to name but a few.
Aroma aid for fear
Essential oils can be used by sniffing a few drops (up to four) on a hanky or pillow, in a bath or via a vaporiser:
Frankincense (Boswellia Carteri) – if fears have their roots in the past;
Neroli (Citrus Aurantium) – if nerves are on edge and upsetting the stomach;
Chamomile, Roman (Anthemis Nobilis) or Lavender (Lavandula Augustifolia) – for balance and sleep. ‘
Food nourishes the body, but flowers nourish the soul!’ Proverb)
It is advisable to first seek professional guidance on the use of essential oils to ensure a positive reaction.
Written by Faith Challinor-Wheatley Holistic Aromatherapist
FICHT MFHT HPAI SHA.
Article Copyright © Published in FOREWORD The Mental Health Forum Newsletter Issue 23 August 1999.