What is Aromatherapy – Blog by Gail Lowe

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of pure natural oils on the body which have an effect both physically, mentally and emotionally.  These essences are extracted from different parts of plants and in using them we tap into an ancient art and follow in “Cleopatra’s footsteps”.

The History

Essential oils have historically been used to treat the whole body, mind and spirit “holistically” since first records began. The history and uses of oils is well recorded in many countries across the world and the development of Aromatherapy that we know today is fascinating.  Just a few examples I have set out below:

Egyptians in 3000bc used:

  • Plant balsams, resins, aromatic vinegars, and perfumed oils
  • Cedar and Myrrh was used for embalming
  • Jars of Frankincense and Styrax (Benzoin) were found in tombs by archaeologists
  • The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of oils preserved bodies
  • Prescriptions and remedies were found inscribed in stone
  • The Nile valley was known as “The Cradle of Medicine”

The Great Plague

In the 14th Century apothecaries & perfumers were considered immune to the plague and people protected themselves from illness by using herbs in posies, bouquets and on the floor.  Even Henry V111 created a charter to protect herbalist and give them the right to practise.

Professor Rene Maurice Gattefosse

In the 1920’s a French biochemist burned his hand really badly. He plunged his hand into a vat of Lavender the nearest thing at hand and was astounded that afterwards he appeared to have no effects from the burn. He went on to devote himself to the study and research of the effects of Lavender oil on wounds and burn victims in the First World War. He published and termed the phrase “Aromatherapie” in a book in 1928.

Essential Oils

The essential oils used in Aromatherapy are extracted from different parts of different plants, this is considered to be their life essence and it is the biochemical’s that the oils possess that give them their properties;

  • Rose and Jasmine oil come from the flowers;
  • Lemon and Grapefruit from the zest of the fruit
  • Lemongrass and Vetiver from the grass
  • Eucalyptus and Rosemary from the leaves


The Biochemical’s in plants is already used in the pharmaceutical industry and in orthodox medicines for example: Foxglove plant known as digitalis produces Digoxin which is used for heart conditions.

It is the biochemical effects of oils and their properties that we benefit from when we have an Aromatherapy treatment.  Many oils have chemicals which are:

  • Antiseptic – prevents infection
  • Antidepressant – helps lift depression and its symptoms
  • Antispasmodic – reducing muscle spasms
  • Cephalic – clears and focuses the mind
  • Prophylactic – prevention of disease or infection
  • Sedating – calms the nervous system
  • Vasoconstrictive – narrowing blood vessels

To name just a few;

Carrier oils

The pure essential oils are very strong and rarely used neat on the skin they require diluting in a carrier or base oil. A good base oil is one that has very little aroma in itself so as not to adulterate the aroma of the oils and is a cold pressed vegetable oil that is easily absorbed into the skin. I.e. Grapeseed; Apricot kernel; Avocado; Sweet Almond are good examples of a carrier oil.  Several drops of essential oil are added to the carrier oil and then massaged onto the skin.


The benefit of Aromatherapy is two fold, the oils are absorbed through the skin into the blood stream where they have a systemic effect on the body and the aroma is inhaled through the nose to the olfactory and limbic system where the molecules are interpreted by the brain and can alter the mood and the way you feel.

An Aromatherapy massage treatment can have many effects depending on the oils and carriers selected for the individual client combined with the massage movements used to warm and push the oils through the skin

  • Reduce anxiety, stress and tension
  • Ease depression and induce a feeling of well being
  • Boost energy levels and stimulate body systems
  • Speed up the healing process
  • Reduce headaches, and Improve digestion
  • Boost cognitive performance
  • Induce sleep and relaxation levels
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Reduce pain and inflammation
  • Increase circulation and lymph drainage

Aromatherapy Safety

Please consult a qualified therapist before using essential oils if you suffer from any of the following conditions:

  • Epilepsy
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Sensitive skin
  • Some oils interfere with the action of statin’s for cholesterol and other medication and should be avoided
  • Some oils interfere with homeopathic remedies
  • Some oils are photosensitive to sunlight and should be avoided when sunbathing

Neat application

The essentials are undiluted and very concentrated and it is vital to treat them with respect and caution when using them, all essential oils should be diluted prior to use. There are only two oils safe to use neat in very small amounts i.e one drop and they are Tea Tree (Malaleuca Alternifolia) and Lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia) all other oils should be diluted well before use.

Vital to like the Aroma

You should never use an essential oil that you do not like the smell of. The body is attracted to what it needs and some unpleasant side effects can be experienced if you do not like the smell of the oil i.e. headaches; nausea; There is usually an alternative oil that can be found to treat the same condition that you do like.

Methods of Use

Although an aromatherapy massage is undoubtedly the most effective way of using the essential oils because of its two fold effect discussed earlier, there are many other effective ways of using the oils:

  • Massage
  • Bath
  • Inhalation
  • Topical application
  • Tissue
  • Vaporiser or diffuser
  • Compress
  • Foot soak
  • Sitz bath

Aromatherapy Training

You need no previous experience to train to become an Aromatherapist. Finding a reputable school these days can be a mine field. However, you can safely complete any of the government recognised courses with any of the following exam boards ITEC; VTCT and City and Guilds.


Level 3 – Award in Massage-Pre-blended Aromatherapy oils – Beauty

This course gives you the necessary practical and theoretical skills in order to provide massage using Pre-Blended Aromatherapy Oils to the general public and to gain employment in the Beauty industry.

Level 3 Certificate in Aromatherapy-Complementary Therapy Course

This course gives you a level 3 qualification in Aromatherapy only and was designed for students who already have the AP&P; business and complementary therapies core units.  On completion of the course you will be able to work self employed, seek employment, gain insurance and join a professional body. However, some employers particularly the NHS do require you to have the Aromatherapy Diploma in order to work with them.

Level 3 – Diploma in Aromatherapy – A Complementary Therapy Course

The level 3 diploma course is a very thorough training to become an Aromatherapist and includes all the core units as well as the Essential blending.  On completion of the course you will be able to work self employed, seek employment, gain insurance and join a professional body. Some employers and the NHS do require you to have this Aromatherapy Diploma in order to work with them.

The first three units are the core subjects adn may be studied in advance or at the same time as the Aromatherapy.

  • Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology
  • Business Assignment
  • Complementary Therapies Assignment
  • Essential Oil Assignment
  • Practice and theory of Aromatherapy
    • 42 essential oils
    • 19 carrier oils
    • 36 case studies
    • 15 Individual Treatments
    • 9 other methods of use

What to expect from a treatment

On arrival with your therapist you will fill out a Consultation form with all your medical history and life style information.  The therapist will do a consultation with you so that you can both agree which conditions to treat. Discuss and select the carrier oils for your requirements and select and blend essential oils for your individual needs, checking that you like the aroma of the blend.  You will have one blend for the face and one for the body.

You will receive a “top to toe” full body aromatherapy massage treatment which is very effleurage based and a light treatment. The focus being on warming and aiding absorption of the oils, improving circulation and lymph drainage of toxins and waste products.

Getting the most from your treatment

The longer you leave the oils on your skin after the treatment the better, so if you can avoid showering or bathing for the rest of the day the oils will carry on absorbing through the skin. If you drink plenty of water, that will help to flush out the toxins and waste products through the kidneys as quickly as possible. Your therapist may recommend oils for home use to extend your treatment further.

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Author: Gail Lowe; Principal of Devon Academy and Accredited Massage Training.

Gail’s blog brings you the latest therapy incites and information and business resources.

Read more at https://www.accreditedmassagetraining.co.uk/bloggs/

March 8, 2018

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