This week is Aromatherapy Awareness Week (AAW). I discovered this after some focused online searching because I knew it was coming up at roughly this time. It’s interesting that there isn’t really any actual information out there about it, though. Not even the IFA (International Federation of Aromatherapists) has published any details of what it might be for or how people can get involved. No sign of any special events happening locally or nationally, which is a shame. So I’ve had free rein to decide for myself what I want it to mean.
Let’s start with a definition and a confession.
By definition, aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from plants to alleviate physical and psychological disorders, usually through massage or inhalation. (Thanks Microsoft Word Dictionary!)
Now the confession. Despite my keen interest in aromatherapy and the fact that I’m enrolled on a course to study it from September, I have never visited an aromatherapist. I don’t mean an aromatherapy massage in a spa. I’ve had those and right lovely they are too. No, I mean a visit to a licensed professional, trained in aromatherapy and accredited by the IFA, the nationally recognised body. While it’s a direct result of a lack of time and funds, it’s still a pretty poor show. So in the spirit of AAW, I’m making a commitment to visit an aromatherapist sometime in the next few months. BEFORE my course starts on Sept 3rd. But the fact that I’ve never been to a licensed professional doesn’t prevent aromatherapy from making a difference in my daily life.
In my opinion, aromatherapy can be of benefit in two distinct ways. There’s the aforementioned professional route, encompassing therapeutic treatments at spas and the specialised, holistic care you’ll receive from a trained aromatherapist. Then there’s the dabblings of the enthusiastic amateur as practised by me at home, no less significant or effective for my lack of formal training.
Here the emphasis is very much on wellbeing. I use essential oils to help with my physical, mental and emotional balance. I use them to aid relaxation, stimulate my energy levels, lift my spirits, smoothe and protect my skin and even to help tackle cellulite. Inhalaing a favourite aroma can help transform a blah morning.
Don’t get me wrong. If I’m really sick, I’m going to a doctor. End of. But paying attention to my wellbeing and how I feel makes me less likely to pick up the sort of niggling, seasonal illnesses that sap your energy.
Armed with a couple of good books (the Essential Oils Handbook by Jennie Harding in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Essentially Oils Ltd in Oxon is a pocket bible) and a small wooden case containing a small selection of core oils, I’ve already picked up a lot. Here are a few of the things I’ve collected along the way and some of my regular habits and tricks.
- Mix a few drops of lavender essential oil in a water mister and use as a pillow spray to help aid restful sleep.
- A blend of grapefruit, angelica root and juniper berry can help to improve the appearance of cellulite. Mix 2-3 drops of each in a carrier oil, such as the lighter grapeseed, and massage vigorously into affected areas. Keeping your carrier oil light will mean you can then apply your normal body lotion over the top.
- Anti-ageing oils such as rosehip or frankincense make great, intensive facial treatments.
Rosehip is rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids. A few drops applied as a night treatment, under a moisturiser can help to smoothe fine lines, restore glow and deeply nourish the skin. Trilogy do a very highly-rated rosehip oil (currently on offer for £13.23 for 20ml on Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trilogy-TRO-Rosehip-Oil/dp/B000N94XPQ) that, while I haven’t yet tried, is on my list for the future.
Frankincense is another skin saver with excellent rejuvenating and healing properties. It must be diluted in a carrier oil, such as the richly hydrating borage seed oil, which used alone can help to replenish dry, dehydrated or ageing skin. Add 3-4 drops of frankincense oil to 20ml of borage seed oil and you’ve got a turbo-charged treatment. If you don’t want to mix your own, Neal’s Yard offer the excellent Frankincense Nourishing Cream (£20 for 50g – http://www.nealsyardremedies.com/Frankincense-Nourishing-Cream), which I have tried and can personally recommend for the plumping, smoothing, pillowy effect it had on my face.
- Try blending oils in a burner to enhance your mood. Just add a few drops of each oil to a little water and vaporise for 15-20 mins.
To energise and uplift: 2 drops Cinnamon, 4 drops Sweet Orange (this one’s a bit Christmassy!) OR 3 drops Lime and 3 drops Bergamot.
To soothe and relax: 2 drops of Sandalwood and 4 drops of Lavender
One of my favourites for creating a sanctuary after a rubbish day at work is 2 drops of Jasmine, 2 drops Sandalwood and 2 drops Sweet Orange.
- To ease sore post-gym/gardening/long-day-hauling-around-the-shops muscles, try wallowing in a bath with a few drops of ginger, lemongrass or cypress oils.
- Pre-blended roller applicators offer a quick fix on the go. I’ve used and loved The National Trust’s Sweet Orange and Lavender roll-on (reviewed here: http://naturalbeautycabinet.com/2011/04/25/a-smell-for-the-holidays/) and Tisserand’s Travel Ease roller ball (£5.25 for 10ml – http://www.tisserand.com/shop/index.phptravel-ease-roller-ball-10ml-p-5373.html) which I actually didn’t use for travelling at all but found particularly great when hungover…!
- Finally, if you really don’t want to spend anything at all, you could just wander out and smell the flowers. And if you haven’t got any of your own to hand, find a park, public garden, friend’s garden or the nearest available green space. Just a few lungfuls of clean, fresh, green air can do wonders!
How about picking just one thing to try this AAW? And do let me know how you get on. I’d love to hear your feedback.