Aromatherapy: An Ancient Healing Art

Wrap yourself in the sweet notes of lavender, warm, woody marjoram or the tropical scent of ylang-ylang. While you enjoy the fragrance of incense or oil aromatherapy you also help calm frazzled nerves, heal infections, balance blood pressure and even improve mental clarity.

Aromatic oils have been used throughout the ages for healing, calming, and energizing. The ancient Egyptians practiced the curative art of aromatherapy over five thousand years ago and records show that essential oils were used as early as the year 1800 BC in the Babylonian and Indus civilizations (present day Iraq and Pakistan). Later, the ancient Greeks discovered the therapeutic qualities of aromatherapy, the Romans used it for fragrance, and during the plagues of Europe essential oils were valuable antiseptics.

This ancient healing therapy uses potent concentrations of essential oils from plants to balance and heal the body in a variety of ways. Today aromatherapy is used for physical, mental and emotional relief. Certain essential oils are used for healing and relaxing, boosting immunity, fighting infection, decreasing stress and anxiety or for their anti-fungal and antiviral properties. All essential oils have disease-fighting antiseptic qualities.

Among the many plants rich in essential oils are anise, balm melissa, basil, chamomile, cinnamon, cardamom, cypress, fennel, eucalyptus, elecampane, feverfew, juniper, lavender, marigold, marjoram, mandarin, peppermint, pine, rosemary, rose, sage, thyme, valerian and yarrow.

Though aromatherapy has not yet gained a firm footing in conventional North American medicine, physicians in France regularly prescribe essential oils, and pharmacies sell aromatherapy remedies alongside prescription medications. In England and Germany essential oils are used primarily for their calming effects, as sleep inducers and as respiratory treatments.

This may change in some areas of medicine, as research in the UK shows that diffusing lavender oil into the air can successfully replace sleep aid medications in some cases of insomnia. Other recent studies have shown that aromatherapy can be used to improve mood and increase the awareness of patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory disorders.

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