Rolling blue lavender fields, the scent of flowers and herbs, a feeling of warmth and comfort.
No, I’m not in the South of France at all but lying comfortably on a massage couch having an Aromatherapy treatment. The subtle aroma of the lavender massage evokes memories of relaxation and past holidays. Aromatherapy for me is a wonderful therapy, offering blends of aromas transporting you to times and places of feel good emotions accompanied with a professional massage to help restore mind, body and soul. We often take it for granted that we are surrounded by an abundance of healing plants and flowers, full of living energy which could ease our ailments. Modern day living, with worries about work, family and money, is a massive strain. We can often feel overloaded with stress and our immune systems suffer.
Next, we end up sitting in a doctor’s waiting room for a “traditional” quick fix (that’s if we can get an appointment which is stressful in itself!). However, if our body is already depleted, we might need a long-term health plan. Reviewing lifestyle and trying an alternative therapy such as aromatherapy may be a step towards better health and well-being. Aromatherapy works on healing the whole body; helping us physically, mentally and spiritually, working on our energy centres, known as chakras. Many therapists believe that when chakras become blocked, it manifests as a physical illness. Aromatherapy is not a replacement for traditional medicine but a natural remedy which may often be used alongside it according to a person’s medical history.
It can bring our system back in balance and stimulate our body to heal itself and maintain a sense of well-being, by helping to improve symptoms of illness without the side effects of popping a pill. Aromatherapy is not the latest Hollywood fad; it has been around since ancient times. Essential oils are distilled from flowers and plants, then blended with a base oil and massaged on the body. There are numerous benefits to an aromatherapy massage and it can be used to: relieve aches and pain; improve tone and appearance; stimulate; relax; and more importantly, to eliminate toxins. Aromatherapy massage works in several ways. The aroma from the oils has a special mood- enhancing effect.
Alternatively, by using a diffuser around our home, we can experience them in a more subtle way. These act like a natural air freshener or deodoriser but can also help to change the atmosphere in a room according to the oil. If you are tired, a little lemon or grapefruit oil in a room where you are working may help you feel refreshed and alert. When having a meal with someone special, use a little jasmine or rose oil; the subtle odour in the background will act like an aphrodisiac. With this in mind, Cleopatra was said to have had the sails of her barge soaked in rose oil so that Mark Anthony would sense her arrival – romance in the air! Essential oils should be of good quality and carefully selected to suit the needs of the individual.
The touch of the therapist is an extremely important factor as a therapist is not only massaging the client with a range of movements and pressure, but there is a wonderful connection of energy between them. If you’d like to try out some oils, here are just a few examples to get you started:
Lavender: Relaxing; calming; healing. This is a helpful remedy to insomnia and anxiety. A drop or two on a pillow at night may aid restful sleep. It can alternatively be added to a massage oil to promote calm and balance. Additionally, it is also useful in a diffuser to clear negative energies in a room.
Roman Chamomile: Relaxing; helpful with combating depression; calms anger; relieves headaches. If you are in an anxious state, try a simple chamomile tea bought from a health shop to soothe your nerves.
Peppermint: Uplifting; refreshing; cooling. This can be extremely useful for tension headaches, sinusitis, IBS and digestive problems. A massage blend with just 2 drops of peppermint oil may be helpful to help ease cramps. A recipe to counter fatigue: An uplifting blend that can refresh, energise and revive you!
2 drops of grapefruit essential oil (The zestiness of grapefruit is particularly invigorating but lemon or orange could work as well).
2 drops of geranium essential oil (Lightly floral yet fresh aromas).
2 drops of basil essential oil (Basil -also known as tulsi- is the sacred plant of Hindus and used in Ayurvedic medicine).
Mix to 20ml of a suitable base oil such as almond or grapeseed oil. Never use essential oils undiluted. After aromatherapy massage, as with any complementary treatment, you should stick to a healthy diet, drink plenty of water to flush toxins and take it easy for 24 hours. Advice about the healing process should be provided by your therapist. They will explain that there may be some side effects such as an upset tummy, frequent urination, difficulty sleeping and so on as your body could be detoxing. These should disappear within 24-48 hours.
Like oils, every ancient civilisation had its remedies that could be used for healing and these have been passed on through generations to the present day. Herbal remedies were particularly common during the middle ages and we can refer to these by reading the famous botanist, Culpepper’s usage of plants.
During the summer grow a little herb garden, planting mint, rosemary, basil, chamomile, sage, and lemon balm. They are not only a fragrant and attractive addition to your garden or balcony but also have medicinal properties. You can add them to your cooking for flavour and health benefits. Use herbs to flavour a meal rather than relying on salt for example: it’s much better for your blood pressure! Plants such as garlic and onion – though a bit smelly- are of great benefit to your immune system. Such plants were thought to be natural antibiotics during ancient times because of their antibacterial properties.
Simple home remedies can be made easily: an infusion of mint leaves steeped in boiling water helps aid indigestion and heartburn, whilst chewing some fresh parsley will rid you of bad breath! Herbs and plants can also be dried and used around the house with uplifting or relaxing effects. Pot pourri freshens a room; bunches of lavender can be dried and used as an alternative to a floral display. During the great plague, houses used herbs and oils to disinfect their homes and people would carry herbal sachets hoping to prevent the spread of the disease whilst scented handkerchiefs would disguise the bad odours. When considering Herbalism or Aromatherapy as therapy treatments, always consult a fully qualified and insured therapist who will answer queries, enquiring about your medical history and lifestyle.
In particular, you should always consult your GP or midwife if you are pregnant, taking any medication or undergoing treatment. Safety and hygiene are of paramount importance in any treatment.