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FOLLOW YOUR NOSE TO BETTER HEALTH

HERBAL REMEDIES
Whether it's stress or sore feet relief may be just a sniff away.
By Destine-Charisse Royal
Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils to reduce stress and promote healing and wellness. According
to practitioners and devotees of the craft, these essential oils-extracted from the roots, stems, branches, bark,
leaves, fruit, and flowers of various plantscarry medicinal properties that are activated when massaged into
the skin, inhaled, used in baths, or diffused throughout a room.
"Aromatherapy may take a little bit longer to work [than do Western medicines]," says Carolyn Sajdecki,
lecturer of aromatherapy at the College of DuPage in Illinois. Its power works quietly, she explains, but the
changes it can bring about are far more lasting-addressing the root cause of a problem, rather than just
masking the symptoms.
Sajdecki makes a clear distinction between cosmetic fragrances and essential oils. A lemon-scented fragrance,
though it may smell like pure lemon essence, does not have the essential oil's antiseptic and astringent
therapeutic properties. "Aromatherapy is more than just messing around with pretty smells," she says.
Aromatherapy can ease pain, kill bacteria, and cleanse the body of toxins, say its advocates. Each of the 130
or so varieties of essential oils used by aromatherapists is believed to have specific healing properties that can
help relieve life's everyday pressures, stresses, and ailments, from sore throats and winter colds to more
serious problems like bronchitis, sinusitis, and rheumatism.
How It Works
Aromatherapy relies on the sophisticated human olfactory system, of which the nose is but one component,
explains author Susanne Fischer-Rizzi in her Complete Aromatherapy Handbook . The olfactory bulb, located
at the top of the inner nasal cavity approximately at eye level, is covered with a mucous membrane about the
size of a nickel. Despite its size, the membrane's structure and function is "nothing short of miraculous," notes
Fischer-Rizzi, who explains: "The olfactory membrane is the only place in the human body where the central
nervous system is exposed and in direct contact with the environment ... The hairs attached to the nerve
cells-up to 80 million of them-are capable of carrying an incomprehensible amount of information, a
capability that outperforms every known analytical human function."
With smell the keenest of all senses, humans are able to discem more than 10,000 odors. Our sense of taste is
paltry by comparison. The tongue is capable of recognizing only that which is sweet, sour, bitter, or salty. All
other perceived flavors are actually odors.
Smell is also closely tied to memory. There is nothing that can evoke a past time, place, or emotion better than
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an aroma.
Thus, aromatherapists use neuroassociative conditioning when treating their clients. In this technique, a
fragrant blend of essential oils is used to massage the client, relieving tension and stress. The blend must be
agreed upon by both aromatherapist and client, since the therapy won't work if the client doesn't like the smell
of the essential oils. When the client leaves the session and later uses her personal blend in a bath soak, spritz
bottle, or on the skin as a perfume, her body will remember the feeling of relaxation experienced when she
fast smelled the blend during the massage session.
In addition to massage, people can experience aromatherapeutic oils in numerous waysincluding rubbing
diluted essential oils on the temples, breathing oil-laced fumes through a steam inhaler, or adding a few drops
of an essential oil to a room humidifier.
Moreover, many pure essences have specific pharmacological properties that go beyond odor For instance,
while inhaling the aroma of frankincense can deepen breathing, the oil or incense extracted from the tree's
gum resin also has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antifungal agents.
A Growing Trend
According to the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), the last half-decade has seen
tremendous growth in aromatherapy product sales, as consumers have become increasingly savvy about the
healing powers of essential oils. Currently worth an estimated $300 million a year, the U.S. aromatherapy
market is expected to quadruple in the next five years, predicts NAHA President Cheryl Hoard.
As the country's largest nonprofit educational organization dedicated to aromatherapy, NAHA took it upon
itself a couple of years back to conduct a nationwide survey on the state of its favorite healing art. What the
organization found is that aromatherapy is big business for lots of small companies. Despite the
"aromatherapy" sections that have cropped up in numerous chain retail stores (usually featuring fragrant
lotions, soaps, shampoos, and the like), the real aromatherapy marketwholesalers and retailers of true
essential oils and related products and servicesremains in the hands of mom and pop, or more likely, just
mom. "The growth of aromatherapy has not been in big business but in the many burgeoning small companies,
predominantly owned by women, that sell essential oils and essential-oil products," notes Hoard. "There are
over 2,000 businesses that gross over $100,000 a year, with more opening every day."
Why the boom? NAHA pins the popularity of aromatherapy on, among other things, a growing
disillusionment with today's high-cost health care industry, combined with consumers' desires to return to a
more natural lifestyle.
Mindy Green, director of educational services at the Colorado-based Herb Research Foundation, concurs.
"People today are much more willing and interested in Liking an active role in their health," she says. "They
are concerned with prevention, rather than just waiting to get sick."
Like Sajdecki, Green sees a real place for aromatherapy in today's pharmacopoeia, although both women
admit that it and other alternative remedies should not supplant modem medicine entirely. "Nobody's saying
that if you have a car accident and someone puts a bottle of chamomile under your nose, everything will be
okay," says Sajdecki. But, says Green, "It's important for consumers to have a choice ... to know their
options."
When asked why people should try aromatherapy, Sajdecki's answer is simple: "It's really pleasant. And it
works."
BOOKS:
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Aromatherapy Massage: The Complete Illustrated Guide to massaging with Essential Oils, by Clare
Maxwell-Hudson (Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1994)
Complete Aromatherapy Handbook, by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi (Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1989)
The Fragrant Mind, by V. A. Worwood (New World Library, 1996)
STORES AND SUPPLIERS:
Amrita Aromatherapy 1-800-4l0-9651
Aveda 1-800-328-0849
Essential Oil Company 1-800-729-5912
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
American Alliance of Aromatherapy
P.O. Box 309
Depoe Bay, OR 97341
1-800-809-9850
Herb Research Foundation
1007 Pearl Street, Suite 200
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 449-2265
National Association of Holistic
Aromatherapy
P.O. Box 17622
Boulder, CO 80308-7622
1-888-ASK-NAHA
TIPS AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS FOR BEGINNERS:
Read up on aromatherapy. There are plenty of books, articles, stores, companies, and organizations dedicated
to aromatherapy.
Most essential oils smell best when used in small amounts; use only the few drops that each recipe requires.
Keep essential oils away from children, pets, and open fire (yes, they're flammable).
Don't apply oils to the skin neat (undiluted). Always patch-test new essential oils.
Place a diluted drop on inner wrist, apply a Band-Aid, and check after 12 hours. If there is any irritation, do
not use that essential oil. Avoid the eye area; if oils do get in the eye, rinse with cool water.
Store essential oils in labeled dark glass bottles, in a cool dark place with nonrubber lids, tightly secured to
prevent evaporation. Ideally, use essential oils within a year, and within three months if mixed with carrier
oils.
Soothing Smells for All That Ails
It takes 30 roses to produce just one drop of pure rose essence. Because of their high concentrations, essential
oils are extremely potent and can dry or irritate the skin if used alone, and so should always be diluted before
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being applied.
For massage, essential oils are diluted in a carrier oil to produce what is known as a "personal blend." Choose
a carrier oil that suits your skin type and special needs. All-purpose carrier oils include apricot kernel oil and
sweet almond oil (good for sensitive skin), soy oil and grapeseed oil (good for oily skin), and sunflower oil.
Add the following special carrier oils to the all-purpose ones to make longer-lasting, more absorbent blends
that are suitable for treating dry dehydrated skin: carrot oil (add only 10% to all-purpose carrier oil, since this
stuff is not only pricey, but the orange color can temporarily stain the skin); sesame oil (use only the oil from
uncooked seed); or avocado oil (rich in vitamins A and B, this excellent skin softener is good for dry chapped
skin).
Jojoba, which is not an oil but a wax, can also be added to the blend to lengthen its shelf life.
Mynou deMey, director of the New York-based American Institute for Aromatherapy and Herbal Studies and
the New York director of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, suggests the following blends
and treatments for MOTHER readers.
Massage Oil Blends
To ease stress, mix:
2 drops bergamot (bergaptene-free)
2 drops clary sage
3 drops lavender
1/2 ounce carrier oil
Massage: full body
For coughs and colds, mix:
2 drops eucalyptus
2 drops frankincense
2 drops roman chamomile ounce carrier oil
Massage: chest and back
For PMS and menstrual cramps, mix:
2 drops clary sage
2 drops geranium
2 drops sage
1/2 ounce carrier oil
Massage: abdomen
For muscle fatigue, mix:
3 drops rosemary
2 drops sweet marjoram
1/2 ounce carrier oil
Massage: affected area
For constipation, mix:
4 drops cardamom
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1/2 ounce carrier oil
Massage: abdomen clockwise
Bath
Invigorating bath:
3 drops ginger
3 drops rosemary
2 drops juniper berry
I cup whole milk
Draw a warm bath and climb in. Add the milk, followed by the oils, stir, and enjoy. Note: this bath is
recommended for the morning, not the evening. According to deMey, these essential oils are stimulating to
the nervous system.
Foot Soak
For tired feet:
8 cups lukewarm water in foot bath
4 drops peppermint
1cup whole milk
Compress
For headaches:
1 drop sweet marjoram
1 drop peppermint
2 drops lavender cold compress (wet washcloth or towel)
Keep eyes closed and put compress over forehead and eyes.
Steam Tubulation
For coughs and colds:
4 cups boiling water
2 drops ravensara oil
1drop frankincense
Add oils to boiling water in a bowl. Drape a towel over your head, close your eyes, and lower your face
toward the bowl. The towel shouldn't touch the water but should touch the edges of the bowl, trapping the
steam so that you get the full benefit of the fumes rising from the boiling water. Breathe the essential oil-laced
fumes for about ten minutes. Repeat the procedure later in the day.
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