Aromatherapy: Fragrant healing

Choose from the wide range of essential oils to find relief from some common ailments

Aromatherapy

Our lives are full of aromas. They mean so much to us. When the aroma of our favourite food wafts in the air, our mouth waters.

This is what aromas can do to us. Aromatherapy harnesses this effect of aromas on our body to heal it.

It uses the aromas of essential oils that are extracted from the various parts of a plant—flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, bark or roots, for the same.

Aromatherapy is particularly effective for problems that require soothing the nerves and clearing the blocked passages that cause discomfort and pain.

It helps in relieving insomnia, headache, body pain, tiredness, depression, stress, tension and the likes. Here we list some common ailments and aromas oils that can help ease them.

Migraines, headaches

In a migraine/headache, the blood vessels of the brain dilate or contract a lot causing throbbing pain in the ear and around the temples.

Oils that help: Chamomile, lavender and marjoram.

What to do: Add a few drops of any of the above essential oils to a hot towel and place it on the head [make a compress].

You can also soak yourself for 10 – 15 minutes in warm water to which 10 drops of the oil have been added. Avoid massaging the oil into your head during a migraine as it increases the discomfort instead of easing it.

Sinusitis

In a sinus attack, the passages around the nose get swollen. You feel stuffy, have congestion and experience inflammation of the area around the eyes.

Oils that help: Eucalyptus and peppermint. Eucalyptus oil has antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial and analgesic properties. Peppermint too has these properties and is also good for inflammation.

What to do: Add the essential oil to boiling water and inhale the steam; it helps clear congested sinuses and also eases associated headaches.

However, don't use too many drops or inhale the steam for more than 15 minutes as in both cases the oil loses its effectiveness. People with congestive heart failure, epilepsy, pregnant women and children should not opt for steam inhalation.

Acidity [heartburn]

aromatherapy setOver-production of acid by gastric glands in the stomach leads to acidity. Acidity causes burning sensation in the chest, sour acid reflux, dyspepsia and peptic ulcers.

Oils that help: Black pepper, peppermint, sandalwood.

What to do: Inhale the aroma of these oils or use them with the help of a compress.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis presents itself with red areas or scales on the elbows, knees, arms, scalp, ears, legs and back. There is a strong mental component to the cause of psoriasis.

Oils that help: Bergamot, cedarwood, geranium.

What to do: Mix a few drops of any of these oils with a carrier oil and massage the affected area of the skin. Alternately, you may also add the essential oil and carrier oil mix to your bath and soak in it for 15 minutes.

Arthritis

Arthritis is an acute disorder of the joints. It is characterised by inflammation and pain in the joints.

Oils that help: Roman chamomile, juniper, camphor, caraway, lemon, sage and thyme. Each of these oils has effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

What to do: Add a few drops to a carrier oil like pomegranate seed oil, hemp seed oil, emu oil and jojoba oil [all these have anti-inflammatory properties as well] and gently massage into arthritic joints using a small amount of the mixture.

However, if your doctor has specifically prohibited massage for you, soak the joint in water mixed with the oil instead.

Painful periods

Menstrual period can cause dull stomach or backache or even severe cramps. Irritability and mood swings can worsen the condition.

Oils that help: Cajuput, sage, aniseed, Roman chamomile, cypress, juniper, marjoram, melissa, peppermint and rosemary. These oils have antispasmodic properties; they also calm the nerves and relax the muscles, making you feel drowsy.

What to do: Mix any of these oils with carrier oil used as gel or lotion and gently massage the abdomen. It helps release pain and tension from the lower belly. The same oils can be added to a warm, relaxing bath after mixing with a carrier oil.

Premenstrual syndrome [PMS]

Premenstrual syndrome [PMS] begins during ovulation [say 5 – 11 days before menstruation] and stops with the beginning of menstruation. It affects a woman's physical and emotional wellbeing.

Oils that help: Clarysage, Roman chamomile, geranium, lavender, melissa, rose and neroli.

What to do: Gently massage the abdominal area with any of these oils mixed with a carrier oil. You can even have a warm relaxing bath adding the essential oil to the water mixed with a carrier oil.

Asthma

Asthma is a disorder of the bronchial passage and the lungs, making breathing difficult.

Oils that help: Basil, cajuput, lemon, sage, thyme, eucalyptus, aniseed, cypress, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, melissa, peppermint, pine, rosemary, clove, origanum, geranium, German chamomile and frankincense.

German chamomile prevents the release of histamine as it contains chamazulene. Frankincense, marjoram and rose facilitate deep breathing, helping expand the lungs. Relaxants such as chamomile, rose, geranium, lavender and marjoram help in reducing bronchial spasms.

What to do: Aromatherapy is best recommended in-between asthma attacks. Use peppermint and ginger oils as chest rub as they have de-congestive properties. Apply these to the chest for six months using upward strokes.

During an asthma attack, inhale lavender steam. Lavender helps relax the lung spasms as the steam opens the air passages.

This arrests the attack right in the track, reducing its severity. Lavender also relaxes the mind, helping dissipate the panic you feel when you can't catch your breath.

If steaming makes breathing more difficult, use an aromatherapy diffuser or humidifier to inhale the vapours. You may also rub your feet with the oil. Avoid essential oils, if fragrances are a trigger.

Remember: Avoid eucalyptus oil during attacks.

Colitis

Colitis or ulcerative colitis results in bloody diarrhoea, pain, gas, bloating and hard stools.

Oils that help: Cajuput, lemon grass, tea tree, lavender, rosemary, patchouli and peppermint.

What to do: Use these oils as a compress, gel or lotion on stomach by mixing with carrier oil. Peppermint and patchouli are specifically more effective in colitis.

Piles

Piles is a painful condition where blood vessels, mainly veins around the rectum or anus, get abnormally enlarged and dilated.

Oils that help: Cypress, juniper, frankincense and myrrh.

What to do: Use these oils as a gel or add them to bath after mixing with carrier oil. Blend four drops of cypress to 5ml [a teaspoon] of grapeseed base oil and add this to bath water.

Liver problems

Abnormalities of the liver can seriously hamper your health. When the liver is affected with cirrhosis, it becomes leathery and loses its capacity to function and even regenerate.

Oils that help: Lemon, peppermint, rosemary and juniper.

What to do: Mix a few drops of any of these oils with a carrier oil and use as a gel or a lotion.

Kidney stones

Stones in the kidney is an extremely painful condition caused due to build up of minerals in the kidney.

Oils that help: Lemon, fennel, geranium, ammi visnaga and hyssop.

These oils have relaxing, analgesic and diuretic properties. Ammi visnaga oil is specifically recommended for kidney stones, as it is lithotriptic—it can dissolve bladder and kidney stones. It also has broncho-dilatory properties.

What to do: These should be used as gel or lotion by combining a few drops of essential oil with a carrier oil. The ammi visnaga oil can be inhaled or even taken internally.

Depression / anxiety / nervousness

Disturbances of the mind are caused by hormonal or situational factors.

Oils that help: Basil, bergamot, clarysage, thyme, Roman chamomile, camphor, geranium, lavender, frankincense, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, neroli and sandalwood.

What to do: Add any of these to your bath after mixing with a carrier oil or use as gel/lotion. You can even inhale the vapours.

Remember

  • Always dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil and never apply directly to the skin or consume orally.
  • Read the instructions on the bottle before using or selecting these oils as some oils can be exciting while others sedative. Wrong selection/use may lead to complications.
  • Some oils can cause problems when exposed to sunlight and also irritate the skin if the dosage is incorrect.
  • Some oils need to be stored in dark coloured bottles as they lose their properties when exposed to direct light.
  • Always store oils in an aluminum or glass bottle with dropper but never in plastic as the plastic reacts with the oil.
  • Essential oils are highly inflammable; do not use them near fire or to burn candles.
  • These oils are concentrated and hence costly. Use them judiciously and always start with a small dosage.

Carrier oils

Carrier oils are safe to use directly on the skin. They too have their own therapeutic properties. For instance, sweet almond oil provides relief from dryness, soreness, itching and inflammation.

It helps soothe wrinkled and dry hands. It is the best oil to use for babies. Oils of grapeseed, coconut, peanut, sesame, sunflower, olive, walnut, wheat germ, hazelnut, jojoba, carrot, corn and castor are commonly used carrier oils.

The rule of thumb to follow when mixing an essential oil with a carrier oil is that for those from 12 – 60 years is 1 – 3 drops of essential oil in 1tsp or 5ml carrier oil for a facial massage; 5 – 10 drops of essential oil in 3tsp or 15ml carrier oil for a general massage; up to 20 drops [20 is the maximum limit] of essential oil in 2tsp or 10 ml carrier oil to apply locally; and maximum 10 drops of essential oil in a bowl or a bath.

Halve the dose for children between six and 12 years of age. And those above 60 years of age should add 1 – 6 drops of essential oil in 2tsp or 10ml carrier oil. This ratio also applies to children between four and six years of age.

For kids between one to four years of age, mix 1 – 3 drops of an essential oil in 2tsp or 10ml carrier oil and for babies under one year, mix one drop essential oil in 2 tsp or 10 ml almond oil.

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Jyotika Chhibber
Jyotika Chhibber is a qualified aromatherapist who has helped several individuals find relief with the help of this treatment. She is trained in several alternative practices like reiki and is also a certified hypnotherapist. She is the Founder-Director of The Light of Life Institute, affiliated with California Hypnosis Institute - USA.

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