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Aromatherapy is an art and a science. A clinical aromatherapist understands the chemical composition of essential oils Aromatherapy is defined as the therapeutic use of aromatic substances. The most important class of these are known as essential oils, which are made up of complex chemical components. Essential oils are used by the food, perfumery and pharmaceutical industries. Aromatherapists use only whole essential oils derived from a single botanical source named after the plant from which they were extracted e.g. Lavender (Lavendula officinalis)

Essential oils have distinct modes of action, pharmacological which is concerned with the chemical changes which take place when an essential oil enters the blood stream and reacts with the hormones, enzymes etc. The physiological mode is concerned with the way an essential oil affects systems of the body e.g. sedated stimulated, the psychological effect takes place when an essential oil is inhaled and the individual responds to its aroma

One of the benefits of aromatherapy is the ease of which it can be administered; essential oils can be dispensed in many different ways such as massage, inhalation, bath’s, compress, ointments creams, and lotions.

Blending is the creative aspect of aromatherapy. it is important to consider the factors which influence the movement of essential oils through the body, giving the aromatherapist insight into the ideal conditions in which to apply or dispense the essential oils. We, at Lavender Touch, are concerned with the olfactory and dermal route.

In the case of cancer, Aromatherapy is not a cure however; it can help to alleviate the many symptoms experienced by those patients who undergo chemotherapy. Symptoms may include insomnia, nausea, anxiety, muscular aches and pains, dry itchy skin, loss of appetite, low mood,

So how would the aromatherapist determine which oils they will use for a particular patient? As before there are many factors that the aromatherapist has to consider.

The therapist will carry out a thorough assessment of the patient seeking aromatherapy this includes a small health questionnaire, where they are to be treated, and how the essential oils will be dispensed. A treatment plan is devised between patient and therapist. At each session the therapist and patient will discuss the previous treatment to determine if the essential oils are having an effect on the symptoms described. If the oils helped to alleviate itchy skin and the patient felt their stress levels lower, the therapist would continue the use of that blend, It may be that after two treatments the patients circumstances may change and other oils may be chosen to alleviate any other symptoms that may present throughout their six treatments.

So for example, a 45 year old female patient presents with nausea, insomnia, anxiety, poor appetite and dry itchy skin. They are undergoing chemotherapy once a fortnight and receiving aromatherapy treatments between chemotherapy treatments. They are being treated at home by the aromatherapist.

The aromatherapist considers what the patient has disclosed to them and using their experience and skills formulates a blend or blends that will address the above symptoms. There are 15 oils which the therapist can choose from. The essential oils can have subtle effects on the body’s systems such as sedative, stimulating, uplifting. The therapist may want to have a day and night blend, the day blend to enhance mood, relieve nausea, increase appetite and address dry itchy skin, the night blend to alleviate insomnia, anxiety and to relieve dry itchy skin. So here goes

There is evidence to suggest that essential oils have therapeutic properties for example peppermint oil Mentha piperata. Historically, sickness was treated with various extracts of mint species. It was also used to treat flatulent colic, digestive pain, cramps and spasms of the stomach, dyspepsia, nausea and vomiting, morning sickness and dysmenorrhoea. Both peppermint leaf and peppermint oil are official in the British National Formulary and the British Pharmacopoeia (2013).

Peppermint 1 drop

Bergamot 1 drop

Orange2 drops

Carrier oils carrot seed (Daucus carota) 5ml, grape seed (Vitus vinifera) 10ml

The rationale for choosing the above oils as discussed before peppermint for nausea and the dry itchy skin, peppermint has antipuritic properties which can help to alleviate itching. It is a stimulating oil and has a highly penetrating grassy, minty camporaceous aroma, it can also help to alleviate mental fatigue, nervous stress.

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) named after the Italian City of Bergamo in Lombardy. The oil has been used in Italian folk medicine for many years.. According to recent research in Italy, bergamot oil is now known to have a wide spectrum of applications it is useful for mouth, skin, respiratory and urinary systems. It has fresh sweet fruity and slightly spicy overtones. This oil was chosen to have a refreshing and uplifting effect and a soothing effect on the skin.

Orange oil (Citrus aurantium) has a sweet light fresh citrus aroma, the essential oil is expressed from the skin, just think of peeling an orange and it’s bound to get your mouth watering! This oil is chosen for those effects and can help to stimulate the appetite.

So we have our day blend to address the symptoms that were presented to the aromatherapist at the beginning of the consultation. By taking the peppermint out of the equation it can be replaced with a more sedative oil such as Ylang Ylang (Cananga odourata) making a small change to the blend can change the synergy of the oils helping to enhance sleep .

The carrier oils the carrot seed and grape seed are the medium in which the essential oils are placed, the oils are easily absorbed via the skin and transported throughout the body. The carrier oils themselves have therapeutic properties and can be employed within the blend to enhance the treatment, carrot seed can soothe itchy skin, it is also reputed to delay the aging process! The grapeseed carrier oil leaves the skin smooth without being greasy.

Anyone can try aromatherapy for themselves, oils can be expensive but a little goes a long way, buying a good book on the subject can help those who wish to enhance their knowledge of the subject