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Aromatherapy Short Primer

Aromatherapy Short Primer

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Aromatherapy has been used since ancient times in cosmetics, perfumes and drugs but how much of that is actually helping?


Aromatherapy has been used since Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Greek and Roman times and has been touted to improve mental health and general wellbeing.


Usually applied via aerial diffusion where certain essential oils are dispersed through the air, inhalation which could help with congestion due to colds, it also has topical applications in massages, baths and compresses.


Here’re some essential oils often used in aromatherapy :

  • Lavender essential oil: Helps with relaxing and beneficial with improving sleep.
  • Tea Tree essential oil: Could help with acne but in small doses.
  • Peppermint essential oil: Cooling and helps relieve sore muscles. As an inhalant, it could help soothe mild dizziness.
  • Citronella essential oil: Helps soothe insect bites and repel certain insects. Most commonly used essential oil in aromatherapy.
  • Orange essential oil: Mood lifting and can be used in the kitchen for cleaning.
  • Bergamot essential oil: Used to help lower stress.


Apply With Caution


Essential oils are usually diluted in carrier oils such as jojoba oil, olive oil or coconut oil which also helps moisturise dry skin while reaping the benefits of the essential oil.


Before applying essential oils directly to your skin, check to ensure that you aren’t sensitive to it by applying it on the insides of your elbows. If skin irritation occurs, immediately wash your skin with soap and water. Essential oils are highly concentrated which is why they can irritate the skin if used undiluted.


Do take note that essential oils made from citrus peel such as lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, lime and more can cause phototoxic reactions. This is when your skin experiences something like a very bad sunburn in the form of blisters brought on by the topical application of the oil on the skin.


Some essential oils could have chemical components called sensitisers that could cause either an internal or external reaction such as rashes after a few uses of the oil. Additionally, do take special care especially if you have pets because some essential oils can be toxic to animals especially cats.


Not for ingestion


Unless your go-to medical professional such as a doctor of pharmacist says that it’s alright, do not ingest essential oils. There has been a trend of ingesting essential oils in order to better reap their benefits but this way of using essential oils hasn’t been widely researched and could be harmful to your health.


Reported cases of ingestion of essential oils such as sage, hyssop, thuja and cedar has resulted in toxic reactions such as liver damage and seizures. Camphor which is widely used has been found to be dangerous to be used on children and unadvisable for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Camphor poisoning can present with symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, coma and seizures.


All in all, there’s no harm in indulging in a massage or spa but do make it a point to research any essential oil you’re thinking of trying. If in doubt, check with a doctor or your friendly pharmacist who will be able to guide you on your journey to wellness.

Norshilah Kamaruddin

A regular contributor to YesMyWellness.com, Norshilah who graduated from from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (MSc of Clinical Psychology), is a seasoned counselor working with individuals, group and family therapy for children, adolescents, and adults on an inpatient and outpatient basis. A devoted parent of 3 bubbly kids, Norshilah loves to collect, try out and share life hacks (only those that really works!) and occasionally works on her little garden, growing traditional herbs like Misai Kucing, Pegaga, Cekur, Daun Kesum, Lengkuas, Lemongrass and many others.

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