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How Aromatherapy Works
Effects of stress on the body
Aromatherapy and mental health
Evidence of effectiveness
Side effects and complications of aromatherapy
The use of traditional medicine has not always been the only means to deliver healing and treatment. Many other methods and forms of medication have been used in various parts of the world for a long time. With the complexity of ailments and increase of the number of patients, doctors are now exploring the alternative forms of medication. One of these methods is aromatherapy. This form of alternative medicine is being embraced to deliver treatment to those that are heavily laden with stress and depression. This paper takes a deep look at the various forms of research that have been published on the effectiveness of the treatment. Through the examination of the various literatures published by experts in the field, the paper shows why aromatherapy is becoming a widely accepted form of alternative medicine. The paper also explores the causes of stress and why stress is such a serious problem that needs the radical intervention of medical experts.
Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic plant oils in various healing processes including mood boosting and stress relieving. Aromatic plants are also referred to as fragrant or essential oils. The processing of the oils is done in such as way that the oils are highly concentrated to make sure that just a few drops are enough. The use of these essential oils differs depending on the type of plant the oil is extracted from. One of the key questions one can ask is why have experts gone to such an extent to find treatment for stress? The answer is a simple one. In these modern times, stress has become a major problem. With the toughening economy and faster lifestyle, many people are finding it hard to cope. The failure to meet the daily expectations of a modern life and the pressure associated with striving to thrive in the busy world increasingly makes people prone to stress.
The normal person is not the only one that is subject to stress. People who work in the military and other related professions are prone to high-stress levels. The high levels of stress are pushing people to see therapists to help them cope with stress, and as such stress has become a medical problem. It is because of such reasons that experts have gone to such lengths to do intense research to find treatment for relieving stress. If stress is left unattended to, it can be very harmful to an individual. High levels of stress can affect the level of immunity in the body as well as predispose one to cardiovascular diseases (Rimmer, 2008).
One of the ways that oil from the aromatic plants can be used is by placing it in diffusers that allow it to slowly be released into the air. Whereas this may seem as a new way of dealing with stress, aromatherapy dates back to the ancient ages when Egyptians used it to improve their wellbeing through massage and healing (Buckle, 2003). Nowadays, one of the primary uses of aromatherapy is to manage stress levels.
Other than the use of diffusers, aromatherapy can be applied through inhalation and topical applications. In other cases such as in the healing of congestion and infections, the oils can be administered orally, rectally or even virginally. Although there can be aromatic oils that can be synthetically produced, experts choose to use the natural ones because the synthetic ones do not offer the same benefits. In fact, the synthetic oils have chemicals that may have irritation as a side effect (Alexander, 2001).
Aromatherapy also works with massage. As one of the primary stress relieving methodologies that have been used for centuries, massage works well with aromatherapy because it highly relies on the use of oils to rub body tissues to relaxation. Massage therapists can now use essential oils that are more inclined to soothing and distressing more than the normal oils. In case the massage therapist does not have some essential oils, one can go with their own essential oil to the parlor.
First of all, aromatherapy is a very organic process that substitutes the use of manufactured pharmaceutical products for natural ingredients. By inhaling the oils from a reasonable distance, the elements in the oils reach the brain that reacts by slowing down, thus creating a relaxing effect. The oil can be applied to the body whereby it penetrates the skin through the hair follicles as well as the sweat glands. Then they are absorbed into the body fluids where they kill bacteria and stimulate the body immune system. Aromatherapy oil can be inhaled and the molecules absorbed into the body via nasal passage, the olfactory membrane, to the sinuses, then to trachea and finally reach the lungs.
Buckle (2015), defines stress as any change that makes the body adjust and react in a certain manner to the change. The body can react to these changes in various ways ranging from mental, physical to emotional responses. Stress can be of two forms: negative, also known as distress and positive which is also referred to as eustress. Positive stress can be from an example such getting a new job or being promoted. Negative stress is experienced when one is subjected to constant challenges without getting a relief in between. Such kind of straining makes one overworked and the body builds tension that needs to be released.
When distress mounts to high levels, one can start experiencing such symptoms as headaches, indigestion, insomnia or pain in the chest. People that have such conditions such as coronary diseases have a bigger problem as distress can aggravate their condition. Another danger of stress is when it is dealt with using inappropriate means such as smoking or drinking. Those that choose to use this method subject themselves to other harmful effects to their bodies such as cancer and alcohol-related accidents. Instead of such substances helping the body relax, the body ends up being in more stress. In fact, according to statistics, about 43% of adults experience ailments that are stress related. According to reports, stress is such a huge problem that costs the United States more than 300 billion dollars annually (Buckle, 2015).
Whereas it is nearly impossible to avoid moments that can subject one to stress, it is possible for one to choose to deal with the negative emotions that surround a situation. When stress goes to unmanaged levels, it can tamper with one’s blood sugar levels thus making one hungry. This ultimately makes one be sensitive to insulin.
Cannard (2004) says that some other effects of stress are hard to detect. One may be lacking sleep or experiencing headaches that they may easily attribute to illnesses. Stress has been found to be a cause of such problems to many people. On another level, one may have reduced productivity due to their inability to focus and concentrate. One may also experience a reduced sex drive and muscle tension. When it comes to women, high levels of stress can have tamper with their menstrual cycle to have early or delayed periods.
The other effect of stress falls on the behavior of a person. One may be easily irritable, restless or have very low levels of motivation for work. It is quite easy for one to notice someone that is stressed because of the way they talk or relate to people or their work. Commonly, angry outbursts or withdrawal are common symptoms. The main challenge is in identifying oneself when under stress. Sometimes stress can lead to depression that drains one of their productivity. A depressed individual may seem to be sad most of the time (Rimmer, 2008).
The other effect of stress is on the immune system. In the short term, stress causes the immune system to be stronger. This makes the body heal wounds and kill infections. However, over a prolonged duration, the chemical cortisol negatively affects the immunity. It affects the body’s ability to produce histamine and the body’s general ability to respond to foreign infections. When one is under high stress, it is easy for them to contract such common illnesses such as influenza and common flue. This effect can also tamper with how long one takes to recover from illnesses already contracted.
One of the challenges that aromatherapy has faced as an alternative method of curing stress is that there is not sufficient scientific research that has been done to verify its effectiveness. As such, the use of these methodologies has not been yet fully embraced by many physicians and insurance companies (Morris, 2007).
One study was conducted by Sandra, Tara, Michelle, Carrie, & Eva (n.d). to test the effectiveness of the aromatic oils in the recovery of cardiac surgery patients. The study grouped the patients into randomly according to the type of oils they were using and whether or not they received massage therapy. The research did not find differences in the time taken for the patients to recover, but instead found that there were some key physiological differences among the various groups. Those patients that received the alternative treatment displayed more improvement physiologically as opposed to those that did not. The research also showed that the patients that were in the ICU that received aromatherapy using lavender had lower levels of anxiety and were in a better mood than those that did not undergo the therapy.
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