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Flower Power: Aromatherapy’s answers to your body’s problems

Aromatherapy is often perceived as nothing more than a pleasantly scented spa treatment, but in fact this millennia-old practice offers incredibly powerful results for your mind, body and soul. Katie Byrne Plowman, Aspria’s head of spa, talks to Kate Cracknell

Aromatherapy, otherwise known as essential oils therapy, is the practice of using a plant’s aroma-producing oils – extracted from flowers, leaves, stalks, bark, rind or roots – to treat disease.

For thousands of years, aromatherapy essential oils have been an important part of self-care and medicinal practices – and with good reason, because essential oils have a powerful effect once they enter the bloodstream. Their chemical make-up takes them where they need to go; many essential oils make their way to the brain, where they can have a profound effect on all the body’s systems.

Provided you use a 100 per cent pure oil, aromatherapy can be a huge force for good – something that has been proven by extensive research studies. Benefits include managing pain; improving sleep quality; reducing stress and anxiety; overcoming symptoms of depression; soothing sore joints and aching muscles; relieving PMS and menopausal symptoms; improving mood; fighting respiratory infections; helping with digestive upset; reducing bruising and cellulite; and easing fatigue. The list goes on and on.

Extensive, proven benefits

Each essential oil has its own benefits to bring to the table. For example…

Mood: For stress relief, try lemon, lavender, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver and ylang-ylang essential oils.

Depression: Most specialists suggest peppermint, chamomile, lavender and jasmine to help reduce depression.

Memory: Sage oil is the most commonly recommended oil to improve memory.

Dry skin: The best essential oils for dry skin include rose, lavender, geranium and sandalwood – calming, moisturising and gentle on the skin.

Healing: Lavender, calendula, rosehip, everlasting (helichrysum) and buckthorn essential oils are among those used to speed up the healing process of the body – but as with most oils, a selection of these do more than just healing wounds. They can also reduce the severity and discomfort of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

Premenstrual syndrome: Inhaling lavender oil has been shown to relieve PMS symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, nervousness, pain and bloating.

Migraines: Peppermint, eucalyptus, sandalwood and rosemary are the essential oils generally recommended for migraines and headaches. Top tip: You can mix these oils into an avocado, coconut or almond oil and spread that oil onto your skin, scalp, neck and temples to relieve symptoms.

Sleep quality: Lavender, chamomile, jasmine, benzoin, neroli, rose, sandalwood, sweet marjoram and ylang-ylang have a healthy sedative effect on the body.

Digestion: Citrus essential oils, including lemon and orange, are normally the best to ease constipation, indigestion and bloating and speed up metabolism so food is digested quicker. However, some studies have cited ginger, dill, fennel, chamomile, clary sage and lavender as being effective as well.

A powerful combination

With all of these different oils contributing to medical issues in their own way, it will come as no surprise to learn that an important element of aromatherapy is synergy – the mixing of numerous essential oils to create a more powerful combined effect than the oils would have on their own.

By blending essential oils, the range of possibilities becomes almost endless. However, it’s important to always refer to trained aromatherapists: some essential oils can trigger allergies; others can actually be toxic if mixed incorrectly.

There are also some important contra-indications and medical restrictions when it comes to aromatherapy, including cancer, thyroid problems, diabetes, heart conditions, open skin conditions, pregnancy and breast feeding. Some treatments may still be possible, but please always seek professional guidance; aromatherapy might seem like a pleasurable, gentle treatment, but its effects really are powerful and must be taken seriously.

If you’d like to find out more, the Aspria spa team would be happy to talk to you about the best aromatherapy treatments to meet your own personal needs.

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