Aromatherapy: More Than Good Scents

These days more and more products are appearing on shop shelves offering the benefits of aromatherapy. But what is true aromatherapy about?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes. The essential oils are extracted from the leaves, flowers, bark, seeds, peel, or resin of plants. They enter the bloodstream either by absorption through the skin or by inhalation through the nasal passages. Each essential oil has its own specific therapeutic properties, and when used well help the body to return to a balanced state. Lavender, for example, is an antidepressant, but has many other uses in aromatherapy.

Essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin. They can be used in a number of ways, such as in a bath or vapouriser, but the most common method used by an aromatherapist is massage, diluting the essential oils in a carrier oil. A typical treatment session will involve the aromatherapist asking questions about your general health and lifestyle, and discussing what you can expect from the treatment, before you receive a massage. Further treatments are your choice, with many people finding that regular treatments help them to cope with stress and stay "on top" of life.

One of the main areas where aromatherapy is effective is in aiding relaxation and the reduction of stress. But it is also valuable in the treatment of depression, menstrual problems, muscle and circulation problems, headaches and migraines, as well as uses in skin care and pregnancy, to name just a few.

Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy, in that an aromatherapist looks at your whole lifestyle in selecting and blending the essential oils for you. In New Zealand the governing body for aromatherapy is the New Zealand Register Of Holistic Aromatherapists. All practising members must meet the register's standards, and only professional members may use the initials NZROHA.

The Guardian, August 27 1998