Thursday, October 4, 2007

body+mind+spirit:
Alternative Health Focus-Aromatherapy for Healing and Soothing


The following article is written by contributing writer, and holistic healing expert, Lisa Fyfe. Look for Lisa's upcoming articles in The Lohasian, on alternative healing and holistic parenting.


Today a growing number of parents are interested in natural and effective ways to help their children find relief from uncomfortable physical symptoms. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils in order to improve the wellbeing of children and adults. Like herbs, essential oils have been used for centuries, and if used with simple precautions, they’re a safe way to promote the health of body, mind, and spirit. There are a wide range of issues that may respond well to the use of essential oils, from anxiety to earaches, and anecdotal claims about aromatherapy’s effectiveness are now being supported by science.

An essential oil is a liquid that’s commonly steam distilled from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils can be massaged into the skin along with a carrier oil such as olive oil or jojoba oil, inhaled from the bottle or a cotton ball, or diffused in order to scent a room.


MORE THAN A ROOM FRAGRANCE

Although an ancient form of medicine, the use of essential oils is gaining popularity today with parents who are looking for natural ways to help their children stay healthy or to give them additional support while taking prescription medications. According to essential oil pioneer Robert Tisserand, “…essential oils work in a different way from antibiotics, as they don’t have the usual side effects and they tend to stimulate the immune system instead of depressing it.”

Congestion, coughs, stomach distress, insomnia, and toothaches are just a few symptoms that aromatherapy can help alleviate. Cuts and bruises can be soothed with essential oils, as can backaches and muscle pains. Others have found that the scents of essential oils can be profoundly calming for children and adults.

The best way to use an essential oil is often determined by the part of the body that requires treatment: if a cough is the problem, a chest rub or inhaling the oil may provide the quickest relief. An earache may be best helped with a poultice placed over the ear canal. And an overactive child may become more relaxed after a massage.


STANDARDS OF PURITY

Essential oils are not all equally pure. In fact, most essential oils on the market are really “perfume quality” oils, including those found in health food stores. These oils are diluted with synthetic fillers or scents, extended using carrier oils like sweet almond or jojoba or cut with lesser-grade oils. An independent European organization, Association Francaise de Normalization, measures essential oil purity and chemical makeup through gas chromatography, a process used to reveal any synthetic fillers or other components in an essential oil that aren’t authentic to the plant. If you find an essential oil with AFNOR certification, it’s the highest quality available. Essential oils with the label “therapeutic-grade” have been through rigorous testing as well, and are probably safe for placing on the body. Look for this label when using them for this purpose. Oils of this quality can be purchased through aestheticians, aromatherapy shops and from distributors.

When looking for quality essential oils, it’s helpful to buy them from someone who has contact with their supplier and is familiar with the distillation method and knows whether or not the oil has been tested using gas chromatography or other methods.


HOW TO LEARN MORE

A good starting point for learning about essential oils is to read The Art of Aromatherapy by Robert Tisserand (Healing Arts Press, $14.95), and The Essential Oil Desk Reference by Essential Science Publishing. They offer practical advice on the application of essential oils, history of its use and specific remedies that are useful for relieving symptoms in children and adults. I use Young Living essential oils because they are AFNOR-certified, and they bring me good results.

Next time, I’ll discuss specific remedies for earaches and tummy bugs that I’ve used on my children that have saved us from using antibiotics.

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