June 25

Aromatherapy! So what is it?

Reading time 2 minutes

The definition is by Wikipedia is based on the usage of aromatic materials, including essential oils, and other aroma compounds. It states: “Aromatherapists are people who specialize in the practice of aromatherapy, utilize blends of supposedly therapeutic essential oils that can be used as topical application, massage, inhalation or water immersion.” Notice how it is emphasized by “Essential Oils”

But you see there is one problem here. My opinion is that Aromatherapy is not just the usage of essential oils. There is a much bigger picture here.

If you go back in time, there was no such thing as essential oils. We really did not have the technology to make essential oils as we can today. What was used was the plants and trees all around us. Parts of the plants were used in teas. Parts were actually done with an oil infusion, using Olive Oil which came from the Olive Tree which grew around their regions. Some like in resins, especially the Frankincense species were burned, oil infused and used in water. And yes so many of the plants and resins were used by ingesting them.

When I studied to become an Aromatherapist, we touched on each plant, but we never really got down and dirty and learned about each one. We learned the chemical make-up of the essential oils that were distilled by using the plants but that is basically it.

But this is a problem because we need to understand each aspect of each plant to really understand these essential oils. We need to learn how the plant "ticks” to be able to use the essential oil medicinally. Also sometimes the whole plant is better to use than the essential oil, especially for a longer period of time. We are told you cannot use the essential oil for long periods because you may become sensitized to a particular oil. You can use the plant or tree material longer because it is the raw material and is not so concentrated like the essential oil is.

I think an Aromatherpist needs to be well rounded and learn both about herbalism and essential oils. There are times I find in my Hospice practice that essential oils just do not cut it and I find by using a particular frankincense species in a lotion or salve or serum actually works better, it is way gentler. And it is not just the resins, I oil infuse lemon balm which I grow , which helps with muscle pain and stiff joints a lot better than using the Melissa essential oil and less expensive. I also do an oil infusion with the wild mint I grow and it is wonderful for respiratory problems and also muscle aches and sometimes find this much better than using an essential oil blend, depending on the client I am using it for. I make a tincture out of Myrrh to use with mouth problems. I would never think to put a few drops of the essential oil in my mouth because of the concentration of resin in it. But I will use the essential oil in a blend for topical usage for other medicinal uses. See they can go hand in hand.

So this concept that Aromatherapy is just the essential oil to me is bogus. Maybe we need to change the wording to say Aromaherbaltherapy instead or call us "Aromaherbalists" like my colleague Mindy Green who is both a pioneer in Aromatherapy and Herbalism says, or combine the two when trying to explain what this profession is really about. She has presented on the topic of Aromaherbalism.

​What do you think?

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