Sunday 17 May 2009

Aromatherapy: What Should You Believe?

Aromatherapy is both an art and a science, widely used by many,
but never since the advent of modern medicines in the 20th
century has it, or other holistic therapies, been accepted by
many in the medical profession. The reason given being the lack
of proof that it works. The lack of funds available to carry out
clinical trials on the scale required will of course ensure
proof will not be forthcoming. But does such scepticism really

More and more aromatherapists are qualifying each year and they
are treating a growing number of their clients for ailments
ranging from skin complaints such as cellulite to eczema, sports
injuries, stress etc etc. There are a growing number of colleges
offering aromatherapy courses and these range from an
introduction as part of a beauty course to a full 3 year degree
covering detailed studies of 100 hundred or so essential oils,
their chemical and biological make up and reactions with the
human body.

A survey in The Times revealed that 75% of people would like to
see aromatherapy available on the NHS. The big question for the
policy makers is how to integrate aromatherapy and conventional

However the growth is happening at grass roots level in some
hospitals where more and more nurses and midwives are becoming
aromatherapists, using their own initiative. Also, many
hospitals and other areas of care are encouraging aromatherapy
treatments and a significant number are using essential oils in
controlled research projects. Undoubtedly confidence is growing.

What examples are there of Aromatherapy in the NHS?

For example, over 70% of cancer centres offer aromatherapy in
palliative care for cancer patients using appropriate massage
techniques. Hammersmith, Royal Marsden and Charing Cross are
amongst them.

The Neil Cliffe Cancer Centre has a comprehensive aromatherapy
support service in place using essential oils and offers
aromatherapy education for home use to its patients.

The adult leukaemia unit at the Christie Hoispital, Manchester
has two aromatherapists offering support to patients,
predominantly to improve the quality of life in a highly
stressful environment. There are increasing examples of an
aromatherapist being employed by hospice trusts. At Oakhaven
Hospice in Lymington, essential oils are used to promote
improved quality of life and to provide help with such
conditions as nausea, anxiety, depression, aching and stiff
joints, as well as pain.

For a number of years now aromatherapy massage has been a key
treatment strategy at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in
Sheffield, in areas such as the management of chronic pain in
sufferers of multiple sclerosis. Sufferers obtain symptomatic
relief of pain and other benefits include improved sleep,
relaxation, improved joint mobility and a sense of wellbeing.

Aromatherapy has been practised in the midwifery and obstetrics
sector for a number of years, The John Radcliffe Hospital in
Oxford has operated an aromatherapy service since 1990 and a
survey of 8,000 patients over 8 years concluded that over 50% of
women who used aromatherapy treatments during labour found it
effective in the reduction of fear and anxiety.

Aromatherapy plays a role in many other environments. Working
with the deaf and deaf-blind; with autism; attention deficit
hyperactive disorder; and with addictions and allergies, and
also with care of the elderly and mental health sufferers.

How long have we known about the powers of Essential Oils?

The evidence is all around us, aromatherapy is working and
there are thousands of individual case studies to prove it, with
thousands of years of history behind it. The ancient Egyptians
were using essential oils for both medicinal and cosmetic
purposes hundreds of years before the birth of Christ., The
ancient Greeks were fond of aromatic baths and they discovered
the spiritual power of flowers and their ability to help sleep,
relax, refresh and revitalise, The Romans and Chinese have used
plant extracts to treat all sorts of ailments. More recently, in
the 19th century, French soldiers injured in battle, were
treated in their hospitals with essential oils. It is also well
documented that during the time of diseases such as yellow fever
the workers in the perfume area of Grasse, in southern France
who harvested flowers such as Lavender remained immune to the

But it was not until the 1930"s that the term "Aromatherapy"
was first used by the Frenchman Gattefosse. He accidentally
discovered the healing power of Lavender. Having burnt his hand
he plunged it into a nearby container, thinking it was water. It
wasn't, it was Lavender and the burn healed quickly and without
scarring. Since then many have promoted the use of Aromatherapy,
but it is in the home, with use by trained therapists or anyone
learning more about the essential oils and trying to experiment,
that will see increased usage.

Perhaps some of the proprietary supermarket brands have gone
over the top and do not do justice to the term aromatherapy in
naming the shampoos and bubble baths as "aromatherapy" products,
but there is nothing in law to stop them. Furthermore, I am not
a great advocate of pure essential oils being freely available
to anyone in a supermarket as they are potentially dangerous
products if abused or even used incorrectly.

How can I find out more about aromatherapy?

Lastly, for those of you wishing to learn more about
aromatherapy and perhaps even get a qualification at varying
levels there are colleges throughout the country running courses
under the umbrella of bodies such as ITEC, VTCT, NVQ, BTEC etc
as well as a number of correspondence courses.

About The Author: Duncan Bain is a Director of Natural Touch Aromatherapy
and has been involved with
essential oils for many years. He has visited many of the
countries where
essential oil are produced and is committed to buying direct
from source, ensuring monies benefit local economies.

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