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The simple pleasures of aromatherapy.

Stress is an inevitable part of our modern existence. Though it is unrealistic to think it can be completely eradicated, there are ways to tame the beast. Aromatherapy is a simple and pleasurable way to make the most of the moments we take for ourselves. A small selection of pure essential oils is all that's necessary to begin; lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and geranium offer many possibilities. Be sure to obtain the real oils in their concentrated, unadulterated form, and not the synthetic versions or those already diluted in jojoba or another carrier oil. The words "pure essential oil" should be on the packaging and the price will vary from oil to oil. An essential oil is distilled directly from the leaves, flowers, stems and/or roots of the plant. When waved under the nose, the scent should be exactly that of the plant from which it came, with all its complexity and fullness.

Essential oils can be generally divided into two groups: those that are calming and those that are stimulating. While there are many nuances, knowing this most basic division can help the beginner in the selection of different oils for different purposes. For example, peppermint and rosemary added to a mild shampoo are invigorating in the morning, and a blend of lavender and geranium diffused into the bedroom aids in relaxation and restful sleep in the evening, Some other oils to consider for their stimulating effects are grapefruit, lemongrass, eucalyptus, spruce and ginger, all of which are easily found. Other calming oils to try are chamomile, tangerine, bergamot, sandalwood, and neroli. Using your sense of smell to guide your choices is the best way to add to your collection, as most aromatherapists believe that the body knows what it needs. If a scent is especially pleasing, it's definitely one to try.

Keep in mind that essential oils are very concentrated and potent, so they should not be applied directly to the skin (lavender being the notable exception) nor should they be taken internally. Children also benefit from aromatherapy, but keep the bottles of oils out of their reach.

Once your oils are assembled, it's time to experiment with the different methods of dilution and delivery. An aromatherapy mist is easy to create and versatile in its use. Distilled water, a mister-top bottle, and an essential oil (or blend of essential oils) are the only supplies needed. Use ten to twenty drops of pure essential oil per ounce of water and shake well before spraying. Let your intended use guide your choice of scent. Lavender mist can he used on the face to relax and to set or freshen makeup, or as a linen spray at bedtime. Close your eyes and be sure to take a deep breath-instant calm! An invigorating mist can help you survive a long night of work or study; use peppermint and rosemary in a ratio of 1:4 instead of the lavender. Besides being refreshing and stimulating, this blend is said to help its user retain information. A cooling body mist can be made from the same oils in a 1:1 ratio. An aromatherapy mist makes an effective room spray as well. A blend of eucalyptus, grapefruit, spruce, and peppermint freshens and cleanses the air, and is especially good during cold season because of its positive effects on the respiratory system.

Massage is one of the most beneficial ways to use aromatherapy. A professional massage is wonderful, but partners, friends, parents and children can also exchange this healthy form of touch. There are many unscented lotions and creams available to which you can add your own essential oils; ten to twenty drops per ounce of carrier is the general guideline. Keep your concentration lower for full-body application, or if it is to be used on children or the elderly. Some combinations to try for a full-body "spa" massage are lavender and lemongrass, sandalwood and grapefruit, or geranium and clary sage. One of the best things about this simple pleasure is that it doesn't matter who gives or receives, you both get the benefits of aromatherapy.

Formulas for foot massage or achy muscles can be more potent because they are applied locally, but do not go beyond the twenty drop per ounce limit as some of the best oils for these purposes could irritate the skin. For an invigorating and freshening foot massage use various combinations of peppermint, tea tree, lemongrass and rosemary. Peppermint is especially wonderful for tired legs and feet because it feels cool and soothing. Also try aromatherapy massage to treat muscle tension in the neck, shoulders or low back. Include peppermint, spruce, eucalyptus, clove and cinnamon in your muscle formula. Massage it in using firm (but not painful) pressure and within a few minutes the "icy-hot" sensation will ease the aches and pains.

Aromatherapy, in whatever form you choose, is pleasurable and effective. It adds another dimension to the time you take to relax. It can help make the days when there isn't much time to relax go a little bit easier. Have fun, be creative, and don't forget to breathe!

Foot Massage

Brandi Wilkinson, LMT

1. Apply aromatherapy lotion evenly over feet. Use firm pressure to avoid tickling.

2. Beginning with the big toe, slowly pull each toe to give gentle traction. Glide your thumbs down the top of the foot between the metacarpal bones using moderate pressure. Use circular motions around the bones of the ankle. It's also nice to take the ankle through its range of motion.

3. Using your thumbs make slow rhythmic strokes up the foot from just above the heel to the ball of the foot, up each toe. Move from the inner to the outer side of the foot. You can also use small circular movements on the heels and up the instep.

4. As a nice soothing ending, encase the foot using both hands and beginning at the heel and ending at the tips of the toes do 3 or 4 long strokes with firm pressure.

Jen Charlton has practiced massage therapy and esthetics and is a co-owner of Sensibilities Natural Body Care and Day Spa, with two locations in Asheville, NC. She is a certified aromatherapist. For questions, she may be contacted at Sensibilities: 828-253-3222.
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Title Annotation:breathe in
Author:Charlton, Jennifer
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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