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Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent

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Starting next month, our Looking Good Naturally pages will contain a monthly aromatherapy feature, examining a different essential oil each month

Starting next month, our Looking Good Naturally pages will contain a monthly aromatherapy feature, examining a different essential oil each month. In this issue, we'll included a brief introduction to aromatherapy to get you started.

Aromatherapy uses plant-derived essential oils to gently stimulate the natural healing action of both body and mind. This enjoyable treatment can "include an aromatic massage or bath, or diffusing a scent throughout a room.

Essential oils are small molecules which are able to penetrate the skin and pass through capillaries into the blood and through cell walls. These oils contain hormones, vitamins, antibiotics and antiseptics. Depending on their chemical composition, essential oils can have one or more of the following properties: antiseptic (property of all essential oils) antiinflammatory, stimulant, sedative, expectorant, diuretic, toning, bactericidal, spasmolytic,mucolytic, immunostimulant, antiviral and antifungal.

Among the plants rich in essential oils are anise, balm melissa, basil, camomile, fennel, elecampane, feverfew, juniper, lavender, marigold, marjoram, peppermint, pine, rosemary, sage, thyme, valerian and yarrow.

The gentle healing power of aromatherapy is used to treat many common problems. Aromatherapy in a bath can alleviate stress, headaches, fatigue, colds, flus and aches and pains. Steaming and inhalation clear sinuses and cleanse and moisturize the skin. Compresses help in cases of bruises, abscesses, skin irritations, aches and pains.

The name aromatherapy is somewhat misleading as it suggests that essential oils must be inhaled in order to benefit from their healing powers. In fact, there are several techniques available.

A vaporizer can be used to launch minute particles of essential oils into the air. Drops of essential oil can be added to a small bowl of water, which is then heated over a tea light to spread the aroma and its effects throughout the room. For steaming, use essential oil in a bowl of very hot water. Put your head over the bowl and cover with a towel. You can also spray a weak dilution of essential oils on your skin, add them to your bath or a carrier oil like almond or hemp. Some oils can be used internally-check the label carefully.

Because of the gentle nature of aromatherapy, it can be used safely in home treatment. Thoroughly educate yourself before trying it. If you have allergies, it is a good idea to perform a skin patch test to determine any possible negative reaction.

Excerpted from the Encyclopedia of Natural Healing.

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