Friday, August 22, 2008

Aromatherapy: Getting started

When was the last time you pampered yourself? Or have you forgotten what it means to be pampered? You are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, that you don't even have five minutes for yourself. There's no time to sit and relax, watch a movie, listen to some music or read that book which has been catching dust lying on your shelf since ages. Do you also suffer from aches and pains, get tired easily and tend to lose your temper at the slightest pretext. Well, believe it or not but you are stressed out. There's no point denying it or ignoring the fact. If left untreated, stress can affect your health and can lead to serious ailments. Conquering stress means learning how to cope and have a balanced outlook to life. There's nothing better than aromatherapy to help you do this. Besides, it's safe, natural and easy-to-do.

What is aromatherapy?

This ancient science, dating back to a few thousand years, relies on the power of your senses - your sense of smell and touch. Think what happens when you inhale the heady scent of perfume or breathe in the fragrance of the first raindrops or smell the wonderful aroma of a freshly baked cake. Don't you feel happy and relaxed? Your spirits and mood are buoyant and relaxed. That's exactly what aromatherapy does. By drawing on the calming, relaxing and restorative powers of particular essential oils that are distilled from plants, flowers, herbs, spices, woods and fibres, aromatherapy helps to de-stress you. Moreover, it is a natural and powerful alternative to tranquilizers, anti-depressants and other drugs. The therapeutic properties of the oils work to relax the nervous system and give it the stimulation that it needs to recharge itself, leaving you refreshed in the process.

In fact, many societies have recognized the limitations of modern medicine and have acknowledged aromatherapy as a natural and holistic system that tries to heal and balance the individual as a whole. There is an interesting story about how aromatherapy was discovered. In 1928, French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse accidentally put his badly burnt hand in a container of Lavender oil. Surprisingly he found that the pain and redness disappeared and the burn healed within a few hours. Thus it was pure serendipity that led to the discovery of aromatherapy.

What are essential oils?

The science of aromas makes use of essential oils such as Lavender, Rosemary, Peppermint and Basil. These are concentrated essences, much lighter than water and highly flammable, extracted from plant sources - petals, leaves, seeds, bark, stalks, flower heads, and gums and resins from trees. In addition, they can penetrate the skin easily and send messages straight to the brain, thus enhancing your physical and psychological well being at the same time.

Benefits of Aromatherapy

  • Developed as an alternative natural therapy to many physical and emotional ailments, aromatherapy is highly beneficial. It helps to:
  • Relax and sleep, especially oils like Basil, Peppermint and Rosemary.
  • Get over depression, grief and boredom.
  • Fight ailments such as blood pressure, sinusitis, spondylitis, and arthritis.
  • Heal insect bites and cuts.
  • Relieve muscular and rheumatic pains.
  • Enhance memory.
  • In various beauty treatments such as acne, ageing skin, dandruff, dry skin, scar treatments.
  • Fight obesity

Getting started

Before you get started, you should know where to get the oils. Though aromatherapy oils are currently not available as mass products, most leading cosmetic stores and shopping malls in your city (for example, The Bombay Store in Mumbai, Ebony and Shopper's Stop in both Delhi and Mumbai), would have a wide range of these oils. There are many ways by which you can use these oils. Soak and splash in them, sensually smooth them all over or simply inhale their wonderful aromas.

1. Massage: Dilute the oil in a base oil of your choice and then massage it on to the body. Usually 1 or 2 drops of essential oil are mixed in 1 teaspoon of base oil. Some common base oils are Coconut, Sweet Almond and Jojoba. For dry skin add Avocado or Wheatgerm oil to the base oil

2. Bath: This is a very simple effective and relaxing way of using essential oils. Fill a tub with water, and then add 6-10 drops of essential oil to it. Immerse yourself in the tub for 20 minutes and inhale the perfume.

3. Steam Inhalation: Put 10 drops of oil in a bowl of hot water, cover your head and the bowl with a towel and inhale the steam deeply through your nose. Try Orange Blossom, Jasmine, or Rose for mood upliftment.

4.Compressors: Compressors are usually put on injuries, cuts, sprains, and muscle pains or for headache. Add 5 to 10 drops of oil in 100 ml of warm water. Soak some cotton in the water, squeeze off the excess water, and apply this cotton on the affected part. To soothe aching muscles try Eucalyptus, Ginger or Peppermint oil.

5.Vapourisers: This is a very common and effective way of spreading fragrance in your environment be it at home or office. Fill the reservoir with water, add a few drops of essential oil to it, and heat it from below. This will cause water to evaporate and the warm oil to release its perfume. Spread Sandalwood vapours in your house just before a party to create a soothing and happy environment.

6.Pot Pourri: You can make your own pot pourri by drying fresh flowers in the shade and then adding a few drops of oil in it. Dry some Lavender flowers, rose petals and grated lemon peel. Add a few drops of Lavender oil and rose oil to it. Put it in a sachet and keep in your cupboard so that your clothes always smell nice. To refresh old pot pourri, add a few drops of the appropriate oil or some spicy essential oil.

Essential tips

  • Take care that the oil that is used is pure and of good quality. Essential oils are highly concentrated so you need to use them in less measure. Did you know that it takes more than 5,000 roses to make 1 teaspoon of rose oil?
  • Store in dark glass bottles with stopper caps. Essential oils should not be accessible to children.
  • Read the label carefully as some oils get better as they age and others don't last too long.
  • Always use a dropper so that the exact number of drops can be measured. Use a different dropper for each oil.
  • Never apply directly to the skin. Essential oils should always be diluted in some base oil.
  • To wrap up, aromatherapy is a sensual science as it works on both your sense of smell and the power of your touch. It's just what the doctor ordered and will help you get rid of your stress, cure your headaches and leave you feeling completely refreshed and recharged. It will add that much-needed zing and sparkle to your life, excite your senses and leave you calm and in control.

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