Aromatherapy» Find a therapist dealing with Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a form of complementary therapy known for its use of volatile plant oils. These oils are more commonly referred to as essential oils and are a powerful tool that have a wide variety of benefits. Not only do they affect you emotionally but they also help to maintain spiritual balance and offer relief for many physical issues.
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The oils have been historically linked to alleviating symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety and because they are 100% antibacterial they also possess other properties such as antiviral, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and many more.
The oils can be applied using a number of different methods but the most commonly used is massage. You can also add oils to a bath or inhale the oils directly. The method that best suits you will be something that your aromatherapist will discuss with you before commencing treatment.
There is a considerable amount of research showing that smell is the most acute of all our senses and has a powerful influence on our bodies and minds. The scents omitted from essential oils are believed to activate olfactory nerve cells in the nasal cavity, which then passes impulses to the limbic system. This is the area of the brain associated with emotions and memory.
The main aim of the aromatherapist will be to alleviate your symptoms rather than cure them. Aside from anecdotal evidence, clinical trials have shown lavender oil has a significant effect in reducing heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and pain in intensive-care patients.
History of aromatherapy
Although there is much speculation and debate regarding the origins of aromatherapy, the first recorded use of aromatics can be traced back to as early as 3,500 years before the birth of Christ. During this time it was used by the ancient Egyptians, who first burned incense made from aromatic woods, herbs and spices, believing the smoke would carry their wishes up to the heavens. Throughout this period aromatics were strongly linked to religion, mysticism and magic, but it wouldn't be long before their development would create the foundations that aromatherapy was built upon.
Later, the Egyptians invented a distillation machine which allowed the crude extraction of cedarwood oil, which we know was used among other oils such as clove, nutmeg and cinnamon to embalm the dead. Infused oils and herbs were also used by the Egyptians for spiritual, fragrant and cosmetic use and it is through this that the Egyptians coined the term perfume, meaning 'through smoke' in Latin.
The Greeks were also among one of the first nations to use aromatic plants for both their aromatic and medicinal benefits. A Greek perfumer named Megallus created a perfume which included myrrh in a fatty oil base and it served several purposes acting not only as a perfume but also as an anti-inflammatory and a treatment for wounds.
By the 15th century more and more plants were distilled to create essential oils and there was a continually growing number of texts on plants, herbs and their properties and benefits. The 16th century saw the opening of the “apothecary” from where you could purchase your essential oils and this was also the beginning of the perfume industry which prospered throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
The early part of the 20th century saw French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé express interest in the use of essential oils for medicinal uses. Previously he had always shown more interest in the aromatic properties of essential oils, which only changed when he suffered an accident. Gattefossé burnt his hand whilst working and acting on reflex he plunged it into a vat of lavender essential oil. The burn healed quickly and left no scar.
Gattefossé is credited with coining the term aromatherapy in 1928 within an article where he supports the use of using essential oils in their whole without breaking them down into their primary constituents.
The late 20th century onwards saw a renewal of more natural products and essential oils for therapeutic, cosmetic and aromatic benefits and we are now seeing an increased availability of not only information on the topic but also an increase in the number of aromatherapists.
What do we know?
There are currently a number of professional bodies in the UK that regulate aromatherapists. Therapy Directory requires all practitioners to provide proof of a relevant qualification and insurance cover, or proof of membership with one of the recognised professional bodies. This means that anyone searching for help on our directory can feel assured that all practitioners listed are qualified and adhere to a number of guidelines requiring a high level of standard practice.
Aromatherapy has recently started to receive recognition for its medical merits and is now even listed on The NHS Directory Of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners.
Studies have been conducted around brain wave frequency and it was found that smelling lavender increased the alpha waves associated with relaxation. The scent of Jasmine was also found to increase the beta waves associated with a more alert state.
We each have the capability to distinguish 10,000 different smells, which are thought to enter the body through the fine hairs lining our nose to the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls our moods, emotions, memory and learning. Essential oils stimulate our sense of smell and though the way in which they work is not fully understood, we do know that they affect our mind and emotions in a significant way.
What to expect
What does the teacher do?
When you begin your first session your aromatherapist will take the time to ask you detailed questions about your medical history, general health and lifestyle. This will enable them to create a treatment plan which is personally tailored to you and they will also use this information to decide which oils are most appropriate.
Often the aromatherapist will ask you to consult your GP before your treatment commences. Aromatherapy is intended to complement and enhance regular treatment so both your GP and your aromatherapist need to be well informed about what the other is doing in order for you to receive the best treatment possible.
During the massage it is typical for shoulders, neck, face, hands, arms, legs, feet and abdomen to be treated. If you are concerned about your modesty your aromatherapist will completely understand and will make sure these parts of the body are not exposed during treatment.
After selecting and blending the appropriate oils the aromatherapist will usually apply them using massage, concentrating on the muscle areas of the body to improve circulation. A typical session will usually last no longer than 90 minutes.
How many sessions will I need?
This really depends on you and what your desired outcome is. Some may find that just a single session can produce benefits though as with the majority of therapies, a few sessions over a period of time are recommended for best results.
How can it help me?
Aromatherapy is renowned for its treatment of stress related conditions. It is also sometimes available in maternity services and is widely used in palliative and cancer care in hospital and hospices.
Misconceptions about aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is only for those who opt out of receiving treatment from a GP and who won't take medicine.
This is not the case. As previously mentioned, aromatherapy is actually intended to complement and enhance your regular treatment, not replace it. You should always let your GP know what other therapies you are receiving as this way both parties can organise a treatment plan that is tailored to you.
Essential oils are not safe for pregnant women, children or the elderly.
It is true that there are oils which are not suitable for use in certain situations. Your aromatherapist will have in depth knowledge of what oils are unsuitable for use in certain cases and this is why it is essential that they be made aware of any health problems a patient may have. In particular cardiac, respiratory, neurological or dermatological conditions as some essential oils have to be avoided for people with these conditions.
There is also a possibility that some oils may interact with prescribed medication, so this is another reason patients should check with their GP as well as informing their therapist of any medication they are taking.
In terms of using oils when pregnant, it is advisable not to use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy and there are some oils which shouldn't be used at all. This is something an aromatherapist will be able to discuss with you in more detail.
What qualifications and experience should therapists have?
Aromatherapists are currently not regulated in the UK, meaning that there are no laws with regards to what kind of training an individual must have undertaken in order to call themselves an aromatherapist.
However, there are many professional associations that aromatherapists can choose to register with, all of which require the aromatherapist to comply with their code of ethics and complaints procedure as well as meeting certain requirements set out by the organisation.
Below is a selection of the most common professional associations. You will find a brief overview of each here but for more information, please follow the purple links:
The Aromatherapists and Allied Practitioners Association (AAPA) was formed by therapists in 1994 as a non-profit organisation. Run by therapists for therapists, the AAPA describes itself as a 'family' and provides training, qualifications and support for aromatherapists, reflexologists, masseurs and other therapists to uphold a high standard of practice within the profession.
The AAPA accept members who have valid evidence of qualifications approved by the National Occupational Standards for aromatherapy.
The International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA) is a registered charity founded in 1985. It is a self-governing body supported by its members and friends with official Codes of Practice and Ethics, ensuring that aromatherapists maintain high standards at all times.
The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA) is one of the largest and most reputable professional aromatherapy practitioner organisations in the world.
The IFPA was registered as a UK charity in 2002 as an amalgamation of the International Society of Professional Aromatherapists and the Register of Qualified Aromatherapists.
Members are encouraged to act as ambassadors for the benefits of holistic health-care and have pledged to uphold the highest possible standards when treating patients with aromatherapy.
All content displayed on Therapy Directory is for provided for general information purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for advice given by your GP or any other healthcare professional. Whilst some people have benefited from complementary and alternative therapies, no claims can be made to treat, cure or heal, and we strongly advise individuals with any health problem to seek independent medical advice from their GP before considering complementary or alternative medicine or treatment.Submit feedback on this page