Monday, November 20, 2006

Moms and Aromatherapy- How to Unwind After a Long Exhausting Day of Mothering

Before we can get into the ways that aromatherapy can be used and how it can be soothing to the senses it is important to first explain exactly what aromatherapy is for those that have never heard of it.

The Aromatherapy Explanation

Aromatherapy is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and is gaining more and more popularity in our society today, first in Europe and now in the western world. Americans and Canadians are becoming fonder and fonder of aromatherapy as a safe and effective way to relieve stress in the body and mind. Put in a very simple and basic way, aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils and specific scents, such as lavender, jasmine, lemon and vanilla to improve the mood of an individual as well as to improve overall health, not to mention to reduce high levels of stress. It is defined specifically as -The use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for physical and mental well being.

Our sense of smell is very well developed, not to mention strong. Scents have a way of working on the brain to stimulate memory, as well as to relax and energize us and make a person feel just plain happy to be alive and a part of the world around him or herself. As an example, lavender is an herb with a very calming scent often used to help people fall into a deep slumber. In days gone by lavender was sewn into pillows to help encourage restfulness and it was also sprinkled on handkerchiefs to sniff whenever a person felt nervous or tense. A number of products for babies, such as lotions, powders, and oils contain the ingredient lavender. For example the well known company Johnsons and Johnsons incorporates lavender into their products. Chamomile is another ingredient that is often added as it helps to encourage good sleeps among infants.

Whether it really is soothing to the nervous system or works because of the power of suggestion, nobody really knows for sure. But aromatherapy does do the trick and is fast becoming more and more recognized as a viable method of calming down and reducing a heavy stress load.

The Top Ten Essential Oils for Aromatherapy

Let us take a look at the ten most commonly used and most recommended essential oils for the practice of aromatherapy. These ten include chamomile, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, rose, rosemary, sandalwood, marjoram, jasmine and neroli. Chamomile (as previously mentioned) is excellent for its calming properties and is often used to treat acne, eczema, and other sensitive skin conditions, as well as premenstrual pain and indigestion. Eucalyptus is an antiseptic and is helpful for viral infections, coughs, colds and bronchitis as well as achy muscles and rheumatic conditions. Geranium is mildly astringent and is therefore useful for many purposes including fungal infections, cuts, sores and bruises. It also acts as an insect repellant, soothes skin problems (it is very good for helping eczema sufferers) and has mild diuretic and anti-depressant properties. Lavender is also very calming and is excellent for those who have problems falling asleep and also mild forms of depression.

The next most popular essential oil is rose which is used as an antiseptic and is excellent for sinus congestion, sore throat, puffiness, and insomnia and also acts as a mild sedative. Rose has other uses as well. It can be used for premenstrual tension and pain, a low sex drive and symptoms related to menopause. Rosemary is a mild form of a stimulant and comes in handy for respiratory problems, asthma, rheumatic aches and pains, as well as temporary memory loss and physical and mental fatigue. Sandalwood is an antiseptic that is helpful in treating dry, chapped or cracked skin and acne. It is also an aphrodisiac and provides calming relaxation during meditation.

We come next to the most popular essential oil, which is marjoram. Marjoram is mildly analgesic and has a variety of useful properties including its ability to relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, sore throats, insomnia and acne. Marjoram is also a mild sedative, is very warming and aids in improving blood circulation. Jasmine is an anti-depressant, which helps relieve problems related to many forms of depression, including postpartum depression. It is also an aphrodisiac and can be useful during labor to strengthen contractions. Finally, the last is neroli. Neroli is mildly sedative and is useful when it comes to backaches, premenstrual stress and pain, anxiety, bad nerves and mild forms of depression. It is also useful for insomnia, is mildly warming and helps to improve the circulation of blood in the body.

For those who find themselves confused by the variety of terms used to describe the essential oils above, here are some basic definitions:

Analgesic means it relieves pain.
An anti-depressant helps to lift both the mood and spirits of any given individual.
An antiseptic is used for cleansing (in particular when there is a break in the skin) and helps prevent the growth of bacteria.
An astringent contracts both blood vessels as well as tissues in the body and is often used for skin conditions.
A sedative calms and relaxes a person and slows down the desire for activity.
A stimulant acts on the brain to make the body feel uplifted and in top form.

How Can Aromatherapy Decrease the Amount of Stress in Life?

Pour a few drops of an essential oil of your choice in a bath and then take a long soak. Some of the best ones to try include bergamot, cedarwood and lavender. Both the enchanting scent and the luxurious soak will do your body and mind a great deal of good. Just relax your mind and feel those worries melting as far away as possible!

When you are feeling super stressed and nothing else provides relief, sniff a calming scent such as lavender, rose or sandalwood in the same way that you would breathe in a whiff of a new perfume. Here is an excellent one to try, handed down to me by my great aunt; use aromatherapy as a deodorizer for a room. Here is how to do it properly:

Pour a small amount of vanilla into a pan of water and then simmer it on the stove. Whatever you do, do not allow the pan to boil dry. The smell it gives off will delight you and make your home smell amazing!

Aromatherapy and massage were made for one another. Go ahead and make your own massage oil. It is simple to do, just add a few drops of your favorite oil to an unscented oil such as almond and then reap the benefits.

Be Cautious with Oils

A word of caution when it comes to the practice of aromatherapy- it is not a good idea to use essential oils full strength on your skin, as they can be irritating. Instead dilute them first with a carrier oil. One of the best to try is almond. For those unsure as to what a carrier oil is, let me explain in as simple a language as possible.

The Meaning of Carrier oils

Carrier oils, also referred to as base oils or vegetable oils, are used to dilute essential oils before they are applied to skin. They carry the essential oil onto the skin. Different carrier oils offer different properties and the choice of carrier oil can depend on the therapeutic benefit being sought. Carrier oils are generally cold-pressed vegetable oils taken from the fatty portions of the plant. Carrier oils do not evaporate or impart their aromas as strongly as essential oils do. There are many different kinds of carrier oils. Examples of carrier oils include sweet almond, avocado, grape seed, apricot kernel, macadamia nut, evening primrose, olive, peanut, sesame, pecan, rose hip, jojoba, kukui, hazelnut, cocoa butter, borage, shea butter, sunflower, walnut and wheat germ.

So what are you waiting for mother? Next time you have a stressful day with your baby mix up an aromatherapy pot of magic and relax your stresses away!

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