Background on Aromatherapy & Essential Oils
Aromatherapy seems like it should be a fairly simple concept to explain – therapy by way of using aromas. In actuality there are many complexities to the concept of aromatherapy. In North America we are not exposed to these complexities because, for most people here, Aromatherapy simply means that a person smells something nice and it makes them feel better. In other locations and cultures, France and Germany for example, Aromatherapy is literally a branch of medicine and medical treatment. One might wonder why with our advanced medical model and options for treatment, Aromatherapy is not more prevalent here.
There are various explanations for why this is the case. The first and foremost is that naturally occurring substances cannot be patented and therefore there is little economic interest on the part of medical corporations or pharmaceutical companies to promote this as an option. That may sound like a pretty harsh indictment, but it is true. If you look into where most of our medicines come from, they were initially observed as substances occurring naturally in plants. Companies, following our culture’s belief that if a little is good more is better, extracted what was seen as the primary active ingredient and then isolated and / or chemically synthesized it. These chemical look-alikes or extraction processes are protectable, patentable, and profitable. Many naturalists believe, and have substantial evidence, that isolation and extraction from the native form is what leads to many of the side effects that occur in our modern medicines.
The issue of not viewing naturally occurring substances as profitable also leads to the lack of research to support the efficacy of the natural substances. There is no point pouring money into research that shows that something for free may be as good (or even better) as something that can make a lot of money. France and Germany, where medical coverage is provided at no direct cost to the consumer, is the primary source of valid research that substantiates aromatherapy and use of essential oils as effective.
, as consumers here, we have access to many items that are advertised as having “aroma-therapeutic” benefit ranging from personal care products to scented toilet paper. As an example, not everything that smells like lavender actually contains the therapeutic essence and constituents of the lavender plant. These fragrance grade aromatics may smell good, but in order to gain the true therapeutic effect of aromatherapy, the essential oils that are used must be grown, collected, handled, extracted, stored, and used in a specific manner. Another minor point to consider is that many very effective essential oils (aromas) do not smell good, but they do have a wonderful effect on the body.
Essential oils, the source of aromatherapy, have the possibility of being used in several ways: ingested, absorbed, or inhaled. Inhalation of the vapors, for many essential oils, is one of the most direct methods of getting the active ingredients into the body. The olfactory receptors in the nose provide a very direct path to the brain centers that interpret and respond to the aromatic constituents. Certain oils applied to the skin are also absorbed readily and make their way into the blood stream. Although we may take it for granted, the skin is very active in absorption, excretion, and rejection of substances. Afterall, the skin is the body’s largest organ.
Many of the Center offerings can easily incorporate aromatherapy as part of a session to enhance or augment the experience. Aromatherapy may also be scheduled, stand-alone, as a 30 minute session where the application and inhalation of essential oils is the primary focus of the session. When either of these options is chosen, there is a small surcharge added for the essential oil products that are used. As mentioned previously, aromatherapy and essential oil usage is not part of the medical model in our culture. As it currently stands in the United States, diagnosis or treatment of medical disorders by way of essential oils is not within the scope of practice for Massage Therapists or Aromatherapists.
Our use of aromatherapy / essential oils will be based on your request for a desired outcome. For example, a client may request that in the course of the session they are seeking to enhance relaxation, improve alertness, seek some type of emotional release, increase mental clarity, or ease specific body aches or pains.
At the Center we only use therapeutic / medicinal grade essential oils. The majority of these oils have a clearly defined origin and they come with material safety data information and gas chromatographs. Having these accompanying manifests allows us to be certain that the oils we are using are as pure as can be and will have the utmost effectiveness in their usage. This also assures that there is minimal potential for any type of allergic or local reaction response due to contaminants. If a client is interested in aromatherapy / essential oil usage but has a history of allergic or asthmatic reaction to certain scents or substances, we are more than happy to consult with them and perform a cutaneous (skin based) sensitivity test prior to scheduling the session. Adverse reactions to pure essential oils are fairly rare.
Depending on the session goals, certain essential oils may be applied neat (undiluted) or they may be diluted with pure vegetable based oil. If, after the session, the client wishes to wipe off the applied oils, this is easily accomplished by using any type of high quality vegetable based oil (not petroleum based). Oils dilute other oils; soap and water will only spread an oil based product.
Essential oils and aromatherapy can have a profound effect on the mind, body, emotions and spirit. The usage of essential oils has been documented since the early history of mankind. We encourage you to explore the experience of essential oils and aromatherapy during your time spent in session with us.
To learn more about our Practitioners, please visit our Bios page.