Aromatherapy is an ancient, natural and holistic therapy that uses essential oils to treat the entire body (mind, body and spirit) as these oils assist the various body systems to function at optimal levels. The essential oils either have a sedating or an uplifting effect on the mind whilst their effect on the body can be stimulating, detoxifying or induce a feeling of tranquility and deep relaxation.

Most essential oils are extracted from plant material by a process known as distillation. It is important that correct part of the plant is used in order for desired effect on the body to be achieved. In some cases the only the seed, flower, leaves, bark or root may be used and in other cases entire aerial plant is used (leaves, flowers and stem). As only small volumes of essential oils are distilled from large quantities of plant material, they are generally fairly expensive to produce. It sometimes happens that the distilled product is mixed with synthetic chemicals or less expensive, but similar smelling, essential oils in order to market a more affordable, but non-therapeutic product. Whilst there may be a place for such oils, from an aromatic perspective, they have no place in therapeutic aromatherapy where only 100% pure essential oils are used.

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The term “Aromatherapy” may be considered to be somewhat misleading, as it implies that treatment or healing is done through smell alone. Although the fragrance of an essential oil might be what originally attracts one to it, essential oils have therapeutic properties, for example a particular oil may have antiviral, antibacterial, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects. Whilst a certain percentage of the volatile properties are absorbed through inhalation (via the olfactory nerve) the greater proportion of essential oil molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. Therapeutic aromatherapists, through their knowledge of the properties of the essential oils, are able to select the correct essential oils to blend with carrier oils in order to meet the needs of individuals and effectively treat their conditions.

The aim of an aromatherapy massage is to aid the essential oil penetration, relax the body and to improve the function of the circulatory and lymphatic systems. The essential oils are carried through the circulatory system to all the cells and organs of the body. Each organ takes only the components it needs from the essential oils, and the balance is discarded through the elimination systems. Through this improved blood supply, nerve impulses are unblocked, stress and tension are relieved and toxic wastes are eliminated. This assists the natural balance (equilibrium) to be restored, thus allowing the body to use its natural healing potential.

The public needs to be aware that therapeutic aromatherapists are obliged to be registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa. http://www.ahpcsa.co.za/