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Monday, June 28, 2010

Aromatherapy. You Need Some!

Everyone needs a pick-me-up every now and then. Even more so if you are exposed to a high pressure job, a student going through a tough semester, or a mom with a lot to do.  Using aromatherapy on a regular basis reduces stress, rejuvenates your spirit and enhances your well-being.

::::History of Aromatherapy::::

The roots of Aromatherapy can be traced back more than 3,500 years before the birth of Christ, to a time when the use of aromatics was first recorded in human history. In reality, the history of aromatherapy is inexorably linked to the development of aromatic medicine, which in the early days was itself combined with religion, mysticism and magic.

This was a time when the ancient Egyptians first burned incense made from aromatic woods, herbs and spices in honor of their gods. They believed that as the smoke rose up to the heavens, it would carry their prayers and wishes directly to the deities. Eventually, the development of aromatics as medicines would create the foundations that aromatherapy was built upon.

The richness of the Egyptian botanical pharmacopoeia had already been assimilated by many other cultures during previous millennia; the Assyrians, Babylonians and Hebrews had all borrowed from their vast knowledge of aromatic medicine.

As the Egyptian Empire crumbled into decline around 300 BC, Europe became the heart of empirical medicine, where new methods were steadily evolving into a more scientifically based system of healing.

The earliest known Greek physician was Asclepius who practiced around 1200 BC combining the use of herbs and surgery with previously unrivaled skill. His reputation was so great that after his death he was deified as the god of healing in Greek mythology, and thousands of lavish healing temples known as Asclepieion were erected in his honor throughout the Grecian world.

Perhaps the most brilliant and influential of all Greek physicians was Claudius Galen, who lived from 129-199 AD and studied medicine from the age of seventeen. He began his medical career aged 28 under Roman employ treating the wounds of gladiators with medicinal herbs.

Due to his phenomenal success he quickly rose to become the personal physician to the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and since Rome was a thriving academic center during the lifetime of Galen it was the ideal place for him to conduct further research.

As the Romans began pulling out of Britain, much of their medical knowledge was discarded and all progress in the Western tradition of medicine came to a halt for hundreds of years. During this period, Europe sank into the lowest depths of barbarism recorded in history, and it would be the turn of another culture to carry the torch of aromatic medicine forward.

 ::::Benefits of Aromatherapy::::

Essential oils that are inhaled into the lungs offer both psychological and physical benefits. Not only does the aroma of the natural essential oil stimulate the brain to trigger a reaction, but when inhaled into the lungs, the natural constituents (naturally occurring chemicals) can supply therapeutic benefit. Diffusing eucalyptus essential oil to help ease congestion is a prominent example.

Essential oils that are applied to the skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The constituents of essential oils can aid in health, beauty and hygiene conditions. Since essential oils are so powerful and concentrated, they should never be applied to the skin in their undiluted form. To apply essential oils to the skin, essential oils are typically diluted into a carrier such as a cold pressed vegetable oil. Common carrier oils include sweet almond, jojoba, apricot kernel and grapeseed oil.

In addition to therapeutic benefit at the emotional and physical level, essential oils are helpful in other applications. Essential oils can be used in household and laundry cleaners. Some oils act as a natural insect repellent and pesticide.

::::What Are Essential Oils::::

An essential oil is a liquid that is generally distilled (most frequently by steam or water) from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils, contrary to the use of the word "oil" are not really oily-feeling at all. Most essential oils are clear, but some oils such as patchouli, orange and lemongrass are amber or yellow in color.

Essential oils contain the true essence of the plant it was derived from. Essential oils are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way.

 Essential oils are not the same as perfume or fragrance oils. Where essential oils are derived from the true plants, perfume oils are artificially created fragrances or contain artificial substances and do not offer the therapeutic benefits that essential oils offer.

Essential oils can often be purchased as blends of several essential oils. The advantage if it is a blend of pure essential oils is that you can save from having to buy every oil individually. The disadvantage is that you have no control over the blend by not mixing it yourself nor can you reliably mix the blend with other oils.

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