Aromatherapy Biodynamic Massage
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ARTICLES AND NOTES ABOUT AROMATHERAPY
An article for NASS (National Ankylosing Spondolitis Society by Ora Sapir
Aromatherapy, Massage and Ankylosing Spondolytis
I was asked by NASS if I would write something about
aromatherapy. Reading their Complementary Therapies web page,
stimulated some thoughts and I decide to write this article
which includes areas that I disagree with (on NASS web page) and
others that I wish to expand on.
Aromatherapy is a natural healing modality that uses the aromas
of oils extracted from the plant world: flowers, leaves, stalks,
twigs, bark, wood, resin, roots, grass, and seeds. The oil comes
from many countries in the world, from China in the east to US
in the west, from Russia in the north to South Africa and
Australia in the south. These have been in use for 1000s of
years for religious rituals, prayers, meditation, embalming,
healing, exorcising, perfume, and more.
The oils and plants have been in use in the Ayurvedic medical
system in India, in Chinese Traditional Medicine, Egyptian
embalming of mummies, Romans and Greeks on their shrines and for
healing, baths and massage.
As NASS say, most complementary therapies focus on the whole
person, rather than specific symptoms. Aromatherapy is no
exception. The aromatherapist takes into consideration medical
history, life style (including food and exercise), feelings and
According to NASS, there is little scientific evidence to prove
the benefits of complementary therapies. I would like to offer a
different view. Although the vast majority of knowledge about
the properties of oils comes from generations of traditional
use, there is nowadays a growing field of evidence-based
research which shows clearly some of the physical properties of
essential oils (such as antiseptic, bactericidal, fungicidal,
analgesic, and more). Here are two examples:
1. At the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Trust in Reading,
researchers studied the effects of aromatherapy in helping
alleviate anxiety and stress, in the intensive care unit. They
found that the use of lavender essential oil significantly
improved mood and reduced anxiety.
2. Tea tree oil, according to researchers at the Department of
Research, Lombard, USA, was found to activate white blood cells,
the body's first line of defence (thus, it is immune stimulant).
Consequently, some oils are being used in hospitals; tea tree
oil, for example, is used as an antiseptic and bactericidal and
to fight viruses; rosemary is used to disinfect French
hospitals; lavender, clary sage and other oils are being used at
the Oxford John Radcliffe hospital maternity ward as an aid
during labour and delivery.
When it comes to determining psychological properties of
essential oils, there is difficulty. Each person has a different
perception of the smell, and expectations of the oils. Here,
essential oils are used as an art more than science.
How do essential oils affect us?
Essential oils affect us by penetrating through the skin and by
SKIN - a molecule of the essential oil is sufficiently small
and therefore can penetrate the skin through the pores and into
the blood vessels. From there it reaches target organs in our
INHALATION - when we inhale the aroma, messages are sent from
the nose to the brain and can evoke moods and memories. Messages
are also sent to the endocrine system (hormones), where they can
stimulate hormones, if needed. The molecules continue their
journey to the lungs, where they help with respiratory problems
and from there into the blood vessels, from which they reach the
How can the oils help those suffering from AS?
Various oils have different properties and can help different
aspects of our health. Some relieve inflammation or pain, others
loosen tight muscles, relax, uplift from depression, sedate.
Let’s look at some oils that can help those with AS.
Pain relief: lavender, rosemary (contra indicated for high
blood pressure), marjoram, clary sage.
Loosen tight muscles: lavender, rosemary, marjoram, clary sage.
Relieve inflammation: German chamomile, helichrysum.
Uplift: sweet orange, bergamot.
Ease depression: sweet orange, lavender, bergamot, geranium.
Energize: rosemary and eucalyptus.
Sedate: lavender, clary sage, marjoram, Roman chamomile.
As stated on NASS web page, aromatherapy does not cure AS, it
helps to control the symptoms and improve the quality of life.
How can you use these oils?
They can be used in the bath (2 to 8 drops mixed into the
water), oil burner (4 -10 drops depending on the room size), and
massage (1 to 2 drops per 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, such as
olive oil, sunflower etc).
Massage is often offered together with aromatherapy. This helps
to get the oils absorbed into the blood stream, thus helping at
systemic level. Whilst receiving aromatherapy massage, the
recipient can inhale the vapour of the oils. This affects our
brain (can make us feel relaxed, happy, contented etc).
When massage is used in combination with aromatherapy, the
therapist chooses the most appropriate oils for the person and
blends them together for the massage.
A common form of massage, which is not listed on the NASS web
page, is Holistic Massage. This tends to be gentle and soothing.
It treats the whole person, mind, body and spirit. It can be
relaxing soothing, comforting, improve sleep and ease pain.
The therapist can incorporate therapeutic massage strokes to
ease muscular tension and gently sooth inflamed joints.
A sensitive therapist will be careful with touch. He/she is
unlikely to massage the spine of those with AS (or at the most
will just caress it gently so long as the patient likes the
The use of massage in combination with aromatherapy offers the
benefits of two basic senses: touch and smell.
As NASS suggests, should you decide to receive aromatherapy
and/or massage, do take care to tell the therapist that you
suffer from AS. Ensure the therapist is registered with a known
professional association, or with a national registration body
such as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).
The CNHC is a Government-sponsored, voluntary registration body
for complementary healthcare practitioners, and its key function
is to provide access to a list of practitioners that have been
assessed as meeting national standards of competence and
* * * *
NOTES WRITTEN FOR MY AROMATHERAPY STUDENTS
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a form of healing using the aroma of essential oils.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated substances found in plants: in leaves, flower petals, roots, grass, trees, and more. The oils are there to protect the plants from insects and other invaders. Hence their properties such as healing (if an animals has eaten half the plant), antiseptic, insect repellent etc.
Man found that some of the oils of some of the plants have therapeutic properties that can heal body and mind. Therefore oils are being extracted using a variety of methods. The extracted oils are put into dark bottles and are used by therapists and lay people alike.
Oils can heal the body by relaxing tight muscles, easing pain, relieving colds, easing breathing, stimulating circulation, stimulating digestion, detoxifying, etc.
Oils can also affect us psychologically by relaxing, stimulating, pleasing etc.
They are so powerful that a few drops can go a long way, whilst on the other hand, too much can cause toxicity. This is aromatherapy in a nutshell.
How do Essential Oils Work?
You might wonder how the oils can affect you.
Essential oils work through smelling, inhalation and penetration through the skin.
Smelling. When we smell the aroma of an oil we may like or dislike it. It may bring emotions or memories. How does this happen? The aroma travels into our nose and triggers an electrical signal that is sent to the brain. Here the oils can affect the brain, the nervous system and the hormones. Firstly, the oils reach the part of the brain where our instincts, emotions and memories are located. So some, like lavender for example, may arouse memories of your grandmother's garden, or of a childhood friend, whilst ylang ylang may affect your sexual desire. The oils can affect the nervous system too by soothing or stimulating it. So lavender can help with balancing emotions, rosemary with stimulating whilst bergamot and sandalwood with depression and vetiver with relaxation. Hormones may be affected too. Menopausal women may find that geranium can help with balancing their hormones, for example.
Inhalation. Through inhalation the oils travel to the lungs. Some oils have an affinity with the lungs and can help with colds and difficult breathing. Eucalyptus can help with bronchitis, sandalwood with catarrh, pine and frankincense with breathing.
The skin can be penetrated through the tiny little pores. Some oils may can affect it. Camomile and lavender can help relieve acne and eczema, rosemary can regulate sebum (the oil produced in our skin) so is helpful for both greasy and dry skin, whilst neroli can help with wrinkles.
From here the oils travel into our circulation system, through the tiny little blood vessels, and reach where they are needed or the organ which they have an affinity with. So rose and jasmine have an affinity with the womb and can help with uterine disorders and childbirth.
Therapy using essential oils (aromatherapy) can help many conditions like stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, lack of energy, menstrual and menopausal problems, skin disorders, aches and pains, poor circulation and more.
Essential Oils Quality
For a successful aromatherapy treatment, I ensure high quality essential oils. There are various factors that contribute to the quality of essential oils:
The soil affects the mineral and nutrition that are available to the plant.
The amount of sunshine impacts on the processing of nutrients from the air.
The amount of rain affects the ability of the plant to survive and feed.
Geographical location results in variations in growth pattern and availability of nutrients. For example, lavender is best at high altitude.
Organic or non-organic plantations impact on the chemical composition in the plant and therefore the extracted oil.
The quality of the extraction affects the quality. Some oils needs faster processing, others need slower. The temperature of the steam can either destroy some chemical, or enhance others.
Contra indications to Aromatherapy
Essential oils should not be taken by mouth and be kept away from eyes and children.
Essential oils can catch fire easily; keep them away from a naked flame.
Essential oils are very concentrated and powerful. Use them in the dilution of 1 to 2 drops per 1 teaspoon of vegetabel oil.
Do not use the same oil on a daily basis for a prolonged period.
No essential oils should be used in the first 3 months of pregnancy.
If you are under medical supervision, ask your GP for approval for aromatherapy.
Essential oils should not be used on epileptic people.
If you are taking homeopathic remedies, consult your homeopath for his/her approval for aromatherapy.
Some people may have allergic reactions to some oils.
Ensure oils are fresh (not past their use by date).
Aromatherapy during the day
Put one or two drops of your chosen essential oil on a tissue, or a hankie and smell it from time to time during the day. When not smelling, keep it in your pocket. This should help to achieve the effect you desire, calming (lavnder), stimulating (rosemary) etc.
Aromatherapy use of spray
Aromatic spray can be used for scented linen and clothes, for body refreshing, aura cleansing. How to make a spray? Use 15 drops of essential oils to 125 ml of water. Mix well in a spraying bottle. Spray a fine mist over cotton and linen fabrics (synthetic fibers may stain from the oils). Put the linen in the airing cupboard to dry. Alternatively you can spray over your aura for cleansing, or around the room for refreshing smell.
Benefits of Aromatherapy and massage
They both wrok all the body systems. Aromatheray and massage can reduce anxiety, stress and tension, and promote comfort and sleep. They can stimulate the circulation, help detoxification, calm the nerves, relax tight muscles, stimulate digestion, improve the condition of the skin, and ease aches and pains.
It was found that aromatherapy massage leads to a significant reduction in health complaints.
Psychologically, aromatherapy and massage can be nurturing, through the quality of touch, the feeling of being cared for and the aroma of the essential oils.
They improve body awareness, self awareness, wellbeing and help prevent illness.
Quality of aromatherapy massage
Aromatherapy massage can be meditative and intuitive, flowing, rhythmical and sensitive to enable to respond to the needs of the client. The therapist needs to be relaxed, grounded and self-aware.
A Brief history of Aromatherapy
The healing powers of plants have been recognized for thousands of years, though it was not till the last century that it was named “aromatherapy”. They were used by ancient civilizations for food, healing, mood changing, religious rituals, exorcism, magic and perfume. The Indians have been using plants for their healing powers in the Ayurvedic medical system.
The Chinese traditional medicine is based on herbal medicine in conjunction with acupuncture & massage.
The Egyptians were well known for using essences for preserving mummies.
The Greeks and Romans had a lot of connections with Egypt and learnt about aromatic plants from them. The Greeks used plants as garlands on their heads. This was a form of psycho-aromatherapy. The Romans followed the famous Roman baths with aromatherapy massage.
The Arabs were famous for their perfumes and exotic oils. Avicena (11th century AD) invented steam distillation as a form of extraction of essential oil from plants.
The crusaders brought the exotic essences and the knowledge of distillation from Arabia.
Later on the Europeans began to research the powers of local plants and used them against the plague.
In the 19th century, the scientific revolution brought a breakthrough in medicine. Chemists succeeded in identifying the constituents of oils. They isolated them to create chemical drugs. Thus, the balance and harmony of the whole plant was lost giving rise to unwanted side effects.
In the 20th century, Gattefosse, a French scientist, discovered the healing power of essential oils through an accident he had when he burnt his hand and dipped it immediately in lavender oil. His hand healed completely.
Dr Jean Valnet, a French army physician in WWII was inspired by Gattefosse’s research. He used essential oils to heal soldiers’ wounds as well as psychiatric patients who suffered side effects of the drugs they were given for depression.
Marguerite Maury was inspired by Dr Jean Valnet. She introduced the idea of combining essential oils for massage. She also devised the idea of “individual prescription” (IP) in which she blended oils specific to the individual’s physical and emotional needs at that particular time.
Nowadays Aromatherapy is practiced as a holistic therapy in many parts of the world.
How aromatherapy helps slow down the aging process
Skin aging cannot be completely prevented, as our biology, air pollution and sunrays have their own impact on the skin. However, aromatherapy can help. Some essential oils have anti-oxidation properties, thus inhibiting the reduction in the elasticity of the skin, formation of wrinkles and stretch marks, regenerating cells and preserving.
Beware, the use of heat and refinement in the process of oil extraction destroy anti-oxidant properties. Therefore, it is recommended that carrier oils are best bought cold expressed and you purchase oils of good quality, pure and unadulterated.
Cell regeneration heals the cells in our skin from damage. Essential oils that have this property are lavender and geranium. Oil of frankincense acts as a “preservative”. Honey is reported to have wound healing properties. It is also known to have a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity.
Aromatherapy and hormones
Some of the tasks of hormones are to regulate metabolism, growth, development, and reproduction; govern the stress response; and more.
The following oils can affect the homonal production as follows:
Fennel (sweet) is oestrogen-like, it stimulates and regulates menstruation, stimulates milk flow in nursing mothers, balances hormones during the menopause. This oil should not be used during pregnancy, and not intensively. It can be used in low concentration as part of the massage oil. Geranium is similar to fennel except that it does not stimulate milk flow.
Orange is slightly oestrogenic and can help to control the menopausal symptoms. It is safe to use long term without side effects.
Ginger is useful during the menopause, by helping to slow it down.
Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and as such, it eases hot flashes, and irritation (wild emotions).
Niaouli is oestrogen-like influencing reproductive organs, regulating menstruation and balancing hormones during the menopause.
Geranium is estrogen-like, it stimulates estrogen in menopausal women thus balancing the hormones, and regulating menstruation. It must be avoided during pregnancy.
Clary sage helps to regulate menstruation (1st 1/2 of the cycle), stimulates menstruation (to be used during the 1st half of the menstrual cycle or it may induce heavy bleeding), eases PMT. This oil also helps with contractions of the uterus during birth. It must not be used during pregnancy.
All oils will help to balance the whole person.
Aromatherapy and Cognition
It was found that cognitive function could be influenced by inhalation of aromatic essential oils. For example, Chamomile Roman affects cognition and moods (soothes negative emotions). This is further influenced by expectancy (knowing in advance about the properties of the oil). Lemon and rosemary help memory. Lavender tends to slow down response time.
Aromatherapy and Depression
In a study they found that a mixture of citrus oils (lemon, orange, mandarin, grapefruit etc) helps to reduce the therapeutic doses of antidepressants in depressive patients.
Aromatherapy and the digestive tract
Aromatherapy can help with various problems relating to digeston. Essential oils can help stimulate the digestion for those with sluggish system. They can stimulate apetite for those recovering from an illness, or a temporary loss of apetite. They can help alleviate wind in the digestive system and more....
Aromatherapy and the Properties of Essential Oils
Currently, the information we have is to a great extent based on the handing down of knowledge since antiquity and from generation to generation. Thus it remains largely unscientific.
However, there is a growing evidence based research on aromatherapy oils, which aims to standarise the knowledge.This is possible for physiological effects.
When it comes to emotional effect, the influence of the aroma on each individual is unique based on their memories, likes, dislikes and epxectations.
Aromatherapy and Vegetable oils
Fats and oils are part of us; our bodies and diet. There are many kinds of fats and oils, and we have to choose the right one for the situation.
In aromatherapy massage, oils are used for lubrication, skin care and improving its condition. Different oils have different uses and properties. The most common oils used for massage are sweet almond oil and sunflower oil.
Vegetable oils are also called Fixed Plant Oils. They do not evaporate (essential oils do). Essential oils dissolve in vegetable oils. Vegetable oils belong to a different family of compounds (lipids=fats), from essential oils.
The quality of vegetable oils (as with essential oils) depends on the quality of the raw material, time of harvesting, storage conditions, extraction method and means of transportation.
The best oils are those, which are cold pressed. In this process, heat is minimized in order not to upset the natural characteristics of the oil.
Aromatherapy and Jojoba oil
Jojoba is an evergreen slow growing desert plant, found in California, Arizona and Mexico. The plant is either male or female. The latter starts to bear seeds only in the fifth year. It takes 12 years to reach maturity. The plant has blue-green leaves, and they limit water loss (in the desert sun!).
Jojoba is not oil, but a golden coloured liquid wax. It is too thick to be used on its own, so is blended with other vegetable oils such as sweet almond oil. It does not oxidize (deteriorate from contact with oxygen) easily and does not become rancid. It therefore has long shelf life. In a fridge it will solidify, but liquefies at room temperature. When cold pressed and unrefined it have antioxidant properties (fights free radicals which are scavengers of healthy cells).
It moisturizes, beneficial for all skin types, unclogs pores (good for acne), and good for inflamed skin, arthritis, rheumatism, dry scalp, psoriasis, eczema, sunburn, nappy rash. It conditions the hair, therefore is used for head massage and for making perfumes.
Aromatherapy and Jojoba oil for Facial use
For facial cream/moisturizer, add 1-2 ml of jojoba oil to 50ml of plain base natural cream. Add 1-10 drops of your chosen essential oils.
Alternatively, you can make facial oil (for moisturizing): add 2 drops of your chosen essential oils to 10 ml of jojoba oil in a 10ml dark glass bottle. Massage it on your face morning and/or night. Shake before use.
Aromatherapy Varicose Veins
The best essential oils for varicose veins are lemon, geranium and cypress.
Use one drop of each oil in a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Mix and apply gently in the direction towards the heart and away from gravity. Caress several times to enable the oil to soak into the skin.
Repeat three times daily.
Be careful not to put any pressure on the veins.
Aromatherapy and Colds
Several essential oils are good for the relief of colds. The choice depends on the nature of the cold and its location in your body.
With the very first signs of a cold, use oil of ravensara (you can get it from Essentially Oils). This helps to nip it in the bud. It's best to use an oil burner or an aroma stone (a ceramic dish that heats up the oils with electric power). Put a number of drops in the burner and allow yourself to inhale the oil. If you have an aroma stone, you can use it over night, thus absorbing the vapour of the oil the whole night. You can not do that with an oil burner, as the candle can be a fire hazard. Using it over night can often end the cold.
Another oil to add to the oil bruner or aroma stone is myrtle (from Australia). It is gentle and therefore good for children as well.
Aromatherapy for flu or if your lungs are affected, use eucalyptus oil in steam inhalation. Pour hot water into a bowl, put 2 drops of the oil and cover your head with a towel. This enables you to breath in the vapur of the oil. Use that 2 - 3 times a day, for 5 to 10 minutes each time.
Aromatherapy for sore throat: put 2 - 3 drops of (fresh) tea tree oil into a small cup with warm water. Mix it and bargle. Ensure not to swallow. Tea tree kills viruses, and a variety of germs.
Using aromtherapy for a sore throat, put 1 drop tea tree oil, 1 drop rosemary and 1 drop sweet thyme (linalol) in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Mix well and rub on your throat 3 times a day. These will fight the germs.
Using aromatherapy for a chesty cold, put 1 drop of eucalyptus oil, 1 drop of tea tree oil and 1 drop of cajuput oil, into 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Mix well and rub on your chest.
Using aromatherapy for blocked sinuses, put 1 drop of eucalyptus oil into 1 teaspoon of vegetable oi and massage over your forehead, sides of your nose, and cheeks. Eucalyptus oil should help to unblock the sinuses and is good for the inflammation.
Using aromatherapy for a blocked nose, put 1 drop of eucalyptus oil on either side of your pillow at night and your nasal passages should open.
Aromatherapy for flu: blend eucalyptus globulus, tea tree oil, lemon and orange oils (1 drop of each) in 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil. Massage around nostrils, face, chest, arms, hands, legs and feet. End the aromatherapy treatment by going to bed and having a good rest....
Aromatherapy for sinusitis
A powerful oil to use for simunisits is kunzea. It comes from a tall shrub native to Australia. Its properties are anti inflammatory, anti infectious and anti microbial. It is very powerful for sinusitis. It can enable you to breath once again.
Other uses are for rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatism, sore muscles, cold, insect bites and stings, skin disorders.
Aromatherapy for stress and anxiety
Aromatherapy can help relieve stress and anxiety through inhalation of the aroma of essential oils, by penetration through the skin and through touch.
Lavender essential oil, when inhaled, sends signals to the brain which then enables your body and mind to relax. It helps with relaxing muscles, which tend to be tight when experiencing stressful situations.
Vetiver oil is helpful when your mind is over active. It enables the mind to calm down. In addition the oil is grounding. In India it is considered the oil of tranquility.
Rosemary oil nourishes the nerves, thus helping during stressful periods. However, it should be noted that this oil is not sedative, but stimulating. So although it helps to relieve stress, it is not relaxing. Therefore, using it at night may not be the best idea. Instead, use it after your morning shower.
Aromatherapy for arthritis
Aromatherapy can not cure arthritis (as conventional medicine can not). However, aromatherapy can help control the symptoms of arthritis such as pain, inflammation, tight muscles, depression, sleeplessness and more.
To ease inflammation, oils of German chamomomile and helichrysum are known to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Dilute one to two drops of the chosen oils into one teaspoon of vegetabel oil, such as olive oil, or sunflower oil etc. Mix well and apply genlty onto the inflammed area. Massage gently until the oils are fully absorbed.
For aches, pains and tight muscles you can use oils of lavender, rosemary (contra indicated for those with high blood pressure), marjoram, clary sage. They are all analgesic and muscle relaxant. Use the oils as above by massaging into the affected area.
Other oils that are specifically good for arthritis are lemon (helps to clear toxicity from the joints), juniperberry (de-toxifying, relieving pain, easing tight muscles), eucalyptus (cleansing the blood, pain relief and release of tight muscles). Again, you can use them for massage as above.
If you have difficulty sleeping, good oils to use are lavender, Roman chamomile, marjoram, vetiver. You can use them in the oil burner (put a few drops into the bowl of water and allow the oils to disperse into the air), in the bath (4 to 8 drops of the chosen essential oils mixed into the water), in massage (you can massage your face, hands, feet before bed) as above. You can also put one drop of lavender on either side of your pillow, so that you can breathe it in during the night.
If you suffer from depression, good oils to use are lavender, sweet orange, bergamot, clary sage, geranium. You can use them in the oil burner as above, in the bath as above, or in massage as above.
For general relaxation you can use lavender, marjoram, clary sage, geranium. Use them in the oil burner, the bath and massage.