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The Defining Qualities of Herbal and Aromatic Medicine
All across the world and in every culture throughout history, plants have been seen as possessing an invisible inner essence. They are pure, natural remedies that come in many different guises. They may be aromatic droplets of oils from flowers, plants, leaves, trees and roots; liquids infused with flower essences; homeopathic dilution’s of medicinal plants, or the smoke of smoldering herbs. Go back a few hundred years or visit a tribal society, and it is the awareness of plants that might heal you, or even save your life. The specialized knowledge of the medicine man or wise woman is the parent of modern medical science. In Aromatherapy, as a holistic medicine, we seek to explore the physiological, psychological and spiritual realm of an individuals’response to the plant’s essential oils; as well as to observe, stimulate and enhance the individual’s innate healing process. The use of essential oils is both preventative in nature and includes an active treatment during acute or the chronic stages of illness or altered states of health. Our certification and diploma courses are an integrated, systematic approach of healing that provides the student with an acute awareness of how plants, in varying forms, can heal and transform an individual. The Canadian Institute of Alternative Medicine strives to support and promote academic excellence through the advocacy, protection and support of the high standards of practice for Aromatherapy and other modalities.
How does Aromatherapy Work ?
Aromatherapy can be used in every aspect of our lives: skin and hair care, cleaning, disinfecting, environmental fragrant, holistic health and pet care, inhalations, baths, showers, and massage. Aromatherapy seeks to strengthen the body’s own innate self-healing process. The plant essences have the ability to balance, stimulate, relax, invigorate and rejuvenate our bodies.
When essential oils are used for inhalation or massage methods, they will produce psycho-therapeutic benefit as well as affecting the physical state of the body. Essential oils are absorbed rapidly through the skin and carried to all parts of the body, before they are eliminated from the body, the oils will have influenced your system for several hours or even days.
During inhalation the essential oil molecules are conveyed via the olfactory tract to the limbic (emotions and memories), the hypothalamus, olfactory cortex and pituitary (release hormones and regulates the body). This causes an influence on the functions of the organs, tissues of the body and emotional responses to occur.
When essential oils are used in massage treatments, the plant essences combined with the power of touch produces quite amazing results for the recipient.
When used in a bath, the oils are absorbed through the skin and carried by body fluids to the main body systems; such as the nervous and muscular systems for a healing effect.
The History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is derived from two words. Aroma- meaning fragrance or smell and Therapy- meaning treatment. Aromatherapy was used by the most ancient civilizations and is reputed to be at least 6000 years old. It is widely thought that Aromatherapy began in Egypt. Medical papyri considered to date back to around 1555 BC contains remedies for all types of illnesses and the methods of application are similar to the ones used in Aromatherapy and Herbal medicine today.
The Egyptians used a method known as infusion (this process is described later on) to extract the oils from aromatic plants and incense was probably one of the earliest ways of using aromatics. Frankincense was burned at sun rise as an offering to the sun god, Ra and myrrh was offered to the moon. The Egyptians were
experts at embalming using aromatics to help preserve flesh. The Egyptians used to be massaged with fragrant oils after bathing. The Greeks continued the use of aromatic oils and used them medicinally and cosmetically. A Greek physician, Pedacius Dioscorides, wrote a book about herbal medicine and for at least 1200 years as the Western world’s standard medical reference. Many of the remedies he mentions are still in use today in Aromatherapy.
The Romans took much of their medical knowledge from the Greeks and went on to use and improve the ability of aromatics with Rome becoming the bathing capital of the world. After bathing they would be oiled and massaged. The Romans started to import new aromatic products from East India and Arabia through the opening up of trade routes.
During the crusades the knowledge of aromatic oils and perfumes spread to the Far East and Arabia and it was a physician called Avicenna who lived from A.D 980 to A.D. 1037 that is understood to have first used the process known as distillation to distil essence of rose, although it probably took many years to perfect the process. (This process will be described later). The Arabs also discovered how to distil alcohol around the same time making it possible to produce perfumes without a heavy oily base.
There is a strong possibility that the ancient Chinese civilizations were using some form of aromatics at the same time as the Egyptians. Shen Nung’s Herbal book is the oldest surviving medical book in China which is dated about 2700 B.C. and contains information on over 300 plants. The Chinese used aromatic herbs and burned aromatic woods and incense to show respect to God.
Traditional Indian medicine known as ayurveda has been practiced for more than 3000 years and it incorporates aromatic massage as one of its main aspects. The invasions of South America by the conquistadors brought about the discovery of more medicinal plants and aromatic oils as the Aztecs were well known for their plant remedies and the Spanish were amazed at the wealth of medicinal plants found in Montezuma’s botanical gardens.
The North American Indians also used aromatic oils and produced their own herbal remedies.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that scientists in Europe and Great Britain began researching the effects of essential oils on bacteria in humans.
A French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, began his research into the healing powers of essential oils after burning his hand in his laboratory and immersing in it in lavender oil and being impressed by how quickly the burn healed. In 1937 he published a book about the anti -microbial effects of the oils and coined the word Aromatherapy. He went on to set up a business producing oils for use in fragrances and cosmetics. Around the same time another Frenchman, Albert Couvreur, published a book on the medicinal uses of essential oils.
A French medical doctor , Jean Valnet, discovered Gattefosse’s research and began experimenting with essential oils. Around the same time, Marguerite Maury, a French biochemist developed a unique method of applying these oils to the skin with massage. Micheline Arcier, now living in London, studied and worked with Maury and Valnet and their combined techniques created a form of Aromatherapy now used all over the world.
Essential oils and aromatic medicine are not to be used as a substitute for medical care. We make no therapeutic claims and accept no liability for your use of anything you may read on our web site. We simply suggest the most common traditional uses based on our own experience and wisdom gained from trying to live with harmony with nature, animals and the seasons.
The content that we provide here is meant for general educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for a consultation with your family doctor or other health care provider. The information is not presented as medical advice. If you think you have, or know you have a medical problem or symptom, please consult a qualified health care practitioner.
Important Note The information provided in the Oil Profiles area is for educational purposes only. This data is not considered complete and is not guaranteed to be accurate.
General Safety Information: Do not take any oils internally without consultation from a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Do not apply undiluted essential oils, absolutes, CO2s or other concentrated essences onto the skin. If you are pregnant, epileptic, have liver damage, have cancer, or have any other medical problem, use oils only under the proper guidance of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Use extreme caution when using oils with children and give children only the gentlest oils at extremely low doses. It is safest to consult a qualified aromatherapy practitioner before using oils with children. A skin patch test should be conducted prior to using an oil that you’ve never used before.
What are Essential Oils
Essential oils are natural organic substances that are produced in specialized glands within various aromatic plants. These oils can come from leaves, steams, seeds, bark, resins, fruit, herbs, grasses, woods, roots and needles. This essence is the fragrant principle of the plant that contains the chemical components responsible for the characteristic odour. Not all plants produce essential oils.
Essential oils are distilled using different methods depending on the plant material being used. They are extracted from plant material by distillation or by cold pressing and other methods. Most essential oils are liquid, but a few are solid or semisolid in form. The majority are clear and colourless; however, they could range from pale yellow (orange) to very deeply coloured (German chamomile).
Each essential oils is a complicated and complex mixture of often more than 100 different chemical compounds or chemotypes that have been created by the parent plant. Most of these chemotypes have their own characteristic odour and may have their own biological activity when absorbed into the body. There are many different factors that could cause variations of chemotypes even within the same type of plant: environment, geographical location, weather condition, elevation, soil type, age of the plant, time of harvest and even the time of day that the plant was harvested. Essential oils can vary greatly in quality and therefore price depending on the various factors like rarity of plant, country of origin, standards used for distillation and oil yield. Essential oils are sold in small, dark coloured, glass bottles. This protects the oil from sunlight, evaporation and oxidation.
The chemical compositions of essential oils can provide valuable psychological and physically therapeutic and emotional benefits. These benefits are achieved through the various methods of applications that you will find under “Application Methods”..
True essential oils are pure, concentrated plant essences that have been utilized since the dawn of mankind. They are highly concentrated liquids that can be harmful if not used with caution and respect. Aromatherapy does not take the place of proper medical treatment by your physician.
These safety guidelines are by no means a complete reference and so when in doubt, please consult your physician or a qualified and registered, professional aromatherapist.
Keep bottles out of reach of children and pets.
Generally, do not apply essential oils directly on the skin.
Keep essential oils away from the eyes.
Never use essential oils by mouth
Keep away from fire.
Some conditions like pregnancy, asthma, high blood pressure or other health conditions need special consideration.
Some essential oils like orange, lemon etc. increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and may cause severe burning of the skin when exposed to sunlight.
Uses for Aromatherapy
Essential oils can be used in: medicine, psychotherapy, cosmetics, food industry, environmental fragrancing, perfumery, esthetics, hair care, pet care, natural cleaning, disinfecting, cooking, bug and insect repellent, gardening, massage and other holistic modalities.
Essential oils are the life-giving essences found in plants that delivers the nutrients to produce strong and healthy plants, which is very similar to the functioning of our blood and lymph systems. Essential oils may enhance oxygen uptake, absorption and glucose utilization. The ancient Egyptians knew that essential oils possessed valuable substances that could produce many benefits for the body, mind and spirit. As you begin to use them, you too will discover why these oils were so precious and coveted by people in ancient cultures. Pure oils are very concentrated and a few drops can produce amazing effects; so, please begin slowly to determine your body’s response and remember Less Is More.
Essential oils can be utilized in a myriad of ways: topically, ingesting or internal and the most common inhalations.
Topical Applications: When using natural products, only your body knows how it is going to respond; therefore, watch for any signs of skin irritation or side effects. Essential oils are soluble with the lipids found in the skin and can penetrate the skin surface and be absorbed into the lymph and circulatory systems. They may be worn as perfumes, ointments, cologne, and can be applied neat (undiluted) or diluted using a carrier oil or other base. As a rule, due to the concentrated and potency of pure essential oils, dilution in a carrier is highly recommended for beginners or for those people with sensitive, fair skin, or applications of the face, neck and other sensitive areas and also if you are trying a new oil or blend of oils. Please be careful with children or infants as the dilution’s necessary are very minute. When in doubt – consult.
Baths – 7 – 8 drops of essential oil in 30 ml of carrier oil or honey. Add this to running water and mix well before getting in. Be sure to check the safety info for the essential oils that you choose.
Foot baths – up to 6 drops in a bowl or foot bath of warm water. Soak for approx. 10 minutes. This is great for varicose veins, swollen ankle or tired aching legs.
Compresses – Hot or cold 5-8 drops of essential oil in a basin filled with either hot or cold water. Agitate the water and place a cotton flannel cloth on top of the water to collect the floating oil. Gently squeeze excess water out and apply directly and immediately to affected area. Wrap another towel over the compress and leave until it reaches body temperature. This can be repeated over and over for relief of pain, headache or to reduce inflammation.
Massage – add 15 – 22 drops of essential oil to a 30 ml of carrier oil for a full body massage. Always massage in an upward motion and towards the heart for best effect.
Inhalation Applications: This is one of the simplest and effective methods of dispersing essential oils into the air. Inhalations are a method of introducing essential oils to the lungs via the nose and throat. This can have great benefit for respiratory problems, sinus congestion, flu, coughs, colds, catarrh and sore throats. Use this method once or twice a day.
Facial Steams – 2 – 3 drops of oil into a bowl of boiled water. Drape a towel over your head and lean over the bowl to inhale the steam deeply while keeping eyes shut. Inhale slowly at first, then breathe deeper and deeper. Breathing through your mouth for throat problems and inhaling through your nose for sinus congestion.
Atomizers – add 12 – 20 drops of essential oils to distilled water in a spray bottle. Shake well before using and mist on face or into the air.
Diffusers – simply add a few drops of essential oils to any type of diffuser for a regular size room. 3 – 7 drops to a bowl of water and place over a radiator. 5 – 7 drops to a light ring.
Vaporizers – 10 – 12 drops in the top of the vaporizer for a normal size room.
Nebulizers – This electrical unit is designed to disperse the essential oils in a micro-fine mist. This means that the molecules of oil will hang in the air for much longer due to the minuscule weight of the particles. Research has shown that diffusing in this way may help to reduce bacteria, fungus, mold and unpleasant odours. It not only freshens the air, but it also helps you to relax, relieves tension and creates an atmosphere of harmony and peaceful tranquility.
Direct Inhalation – put 3 drops of essential oil into the palm of your hand and rub hands together briefly and then quickly inhale deeply for greater inhalation. Relieves sinus congestion and is quite invigorating.
Synthetic chemicals are those which have been made or produced in a laboratory or by an industrial process. These could be artificial copies of natural substances like lavender or they may be previously unknown like ‘Pina Colada” These synthetic, chemical substances seem to cause more allergic reaction like skin irritation or headaches that natural, pure essential oils.
However, fragrance oils as these synthetics are known by, are much less expensive and therefore preferred in the manufacturing of soaps, cosmetics, perfumes etc. These fragrance oils are not used in true aromatherapy and would never be used in therapeutic massage due to the fact that they have none of the therapeutic actions of essential oils and often cause unpleasant side effects.
Fragrance oils and essential oils are not the same nor interchangeable name.
Cooking: Many of the oils are excellent as food flavouring and as a dietary supplement. Because they are so concentrated, usually 1-2 drops of oil will be sufficient. Oils should be added after cooking to conserve all their benefits. Oils that are certified as safe and edible in the 1996 edition of the Foods Chemical Codex (FCC) (National Academy of Sciences) should be used.
Cleaning: A few drops of oil may be added to the dishwater or washing machine to help promote greater hygiene. Some favorite oils are Melrose, Lemon, Peppermint, Purification, etc.
Essential Oils Should Be Kept Away From Light And Heat
If stored properly, they will maintain their maximum potency for many years
Essential Oil Blending Tips
An essential oil blend can be created for therapeutic effect, the beauty of a fragrance – or both. A synergistic effect is possible when the essential oils work together harmoniously. You do not need to be an expert in the use of essential oils to create blends. We’ve outlined below some basic information that may be useful to you as you journey into the creativity of blending …
There is no limit on how many essential oils you can use in your blend. Many blends for therapeutic effect contain only 3 to 4 essential oils – yet Shalimar contains 13 and Aramis contains 14!
Essential oils blend harmoniously with essential oils in the same family.
You may want to use essential oils with a strong fragrance sparingly – such as peppermint or basil. Lavender may be useful for toning down strong scented oils. You can add just a drop or two of any essential oil to create an appealing fragrance in your blend. Blended essential oils will merge over time and the fragrance may change.
To blend with a carrier oil or not to blend with a carrier oil .. some thoughts
Determine how you want to use your blend.
Anytime you want to apply the blend directly to your skin – you will want to add a carrier oil.
It is also helpful to add essential oils to a carrier oil for use in a bath. Essential oils are not water soluble and some essential oils can irritate the skin in an undiluted form.
The amount of carrier oil you add to the essential oils will be determined by how you will use the blend. There are a variety of oils suitable for use as carrier oils.
Now that you’ve got some basic information – you are ready to create a blend
Add the desired number of drops of each essential oil to the bottle
Start with equal amounts and increase them 1 at a time if you are unsure about quantity
Shake the bottle to mix the oils and test the fragrance and effect
Carrier oil is added last – when you are ready to use your blend
Have fun .. and remember – there is no bad blend!
What are Carrier Oils
Vegetable oils or fixed oils, act as carriers for essential oils for body, face and hair care. They have a greasy texture, making them easy to apply for massage. As with essential oils, keep your bottles of vegetable oil in a cool, dark place with the lids tightly secured. Although vegetable oils are not volatile, they can oxidize and turn rancid if they are not kept in the correct conditions.
Vegetable oils have good skin penetration, leaving the skin nourished and feeling soft and supple. It is important that only pure, cold-pressed oils are used.
Heaven Scent stocks the following organically grown and cold pressed carriers oils : Sweet Almond, Grapeseed, Clear Jojoba, Golden Jojoba, Coconut -fractionated, Calendula, Evening Primrose, Rosehip, Safflower, Avocado, St. John Wort, Hemp, Golden Hemp, Wheatgerm, Sesame Seed, Apricot, Castor, Flax Seed, Hazel Nut, Borage, Red Turkey, Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Aloe Vera
Carrier oils are sold in various sizes.
Call 433-3434 or email us to enquire.
Carrier oils also referred to as base oils or vegetable oils are used to dilute essential oils before applying to the skin. Below is a list of many of the commonly used carrier oils.
Sweet Almond oil is considered to be a good all-purpose carrier oil
Caution: Nut allergies
Good for dry, delicate or sensitive skin.
Good for moisturizing, dry or mature skin.
Is said to be excellent in treating many skin conditions. Borage oil is expensive and . it goes rancid rather quickly.
Is also said to be excellent in treating many skin conditions. It is expensive and it goes rancid quickly.
Light and hypoallergic. Not expensive and has a shelf life of approx. 2 years.
It is said to be a good choice for those with oilier skin.
Jojoba “oil” is actually a wax. It is a somewhat pricier oil and is excellent for any skin type.It has a very long shelf-life.
It is said to be excellent in treating many skin conditions. It is a somewhat more pricier oil. It goes rancid rather quickly.
It is said to be excellent in treating many skin conditions. It is expensive. It goes rancid rather quickly. Great for scar tissue and burns.
Sesame oil may overpower a blend if not diluted with another carrier oil.
Has a natural sun protection.