Aromatherapy works on the body and mind with the use of ‘Essential oils’. Essential oils when used in the purest form are the most effective. They can be classified into three categories: those that invigorate the body and rev up the spirit, those that tone, balance and regulate our bodily functions and life-supporting systems, and those which have a calm, sedative and tranquilizing effect.
We know that some fragrances can evoke strong emotional or psychological responses. They affect the cells of our nose, which send messages to the brain, which is then stimulated to release hormones and neuro-chemicals that bring healing changes in the body, and our psychological and emotional reactions. In Aromatherapy: Scent and Psyche, authors Peter and Kate Damian point out: “Olfactory research is still in its infancy—we are now gaining rudimentary knowledge of how and why essential oil fragrance affect human psychology and physiology.” In India, awareness about how aromatherapy works is poor. Even people who have used it and got well are unsure about it. Take Ritu Singh, 42. A recurring yeast infection, unsuccessfully treated by leading gynecologists, finally yielded completely to tea tree oil.
“But,” she says, “I hardly know anything about this therapy and would probably end up visiting my homeopath first for any future problem.” Anand Sen, 68, after two months of discomfort and regular visits to doctors, reluctantly let his family persuade him to get aromatherapy for a frozen shoulder. “Aromatherapy is all right for women who are more sensitive to smells. What can it do for me?” he asked, a prejudice echoed in many quarters. Two weeks later, he sheepishly admitted substantial pain relief and ease in mobility, but still talks of going to his physiotherapist. Says Usha Kapoor, manager at Pivot Point India, an institute for hair and beauty in Delhi which also runs aromatherapy courses: ” I know all about the refreshing, rejuvenating qualities of these essential oils, and how even a few drops in bath water has a therapeutic or mood-enhancing effect. But somehow I don’t end up using them.”
Putting things in perspective, says Blossom Kochhar, author of Health and Beauty through Aromatherapy, whose aromatherapy cosmetic range is available in select outlets in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai: “Three years ago, if I mentioned aromatherapy, people would go ‘Huh?’, I wouldn’t have dared launch my Aroma Magic cosmetic range then. But things are looking up now.” The world over, aromatherapy is becoming big business in beauty and health spas, fragrance and cosmetic industries. Some use pure essential oils, others sneak in the cheaper, synthetic copies. “Only pure essential oils,” emphasizes Kochhar, “can produce genuine results. There is nothing like nature for anti-aging help and rejuvenation. Essential oils advance cellular renewal by better circulation, hydration and removal of toxins from the body.” A serious campaigner, Kochhar often conducts workshops and lecture seminars on aromatherapy in India and abroad. She says that her route to aromatherapy was probably a natural progression from her early years in the Nilgiris where some herbs or crushed seed from trees held the answer to every childhood ailment.
She is working extensively with environment fragrancing and using her shop in Qutab Colonnade in New Delhi, India, to make people aware—in a fun way—of the creative, experimental and explosively rich potential of aromatherapy. At her shop, you find huge jars of colored aromatic waxes to create your own aromatic candles, essential oils to fashion your own perfume or cosmetics, ceramic aromatic diffusers which spread aromas of your choice in the room, serving as air-freshners and mood enhancers, corked miniature earthen pots in which you can put essential oils to perfume your cupboard, keep away the silverfish, or fill with basil oil and hang inside your car to keep you alert when you drive.
Says Kochhar: “We educate people back to natural, healing aromas. Given a choice, people often choose a synthetic aroma.” This is hardly surprising with the modern penchant for the dramatic in fragrances. With nearly 10,000 synthetic substances available to fashion fragrances, many people don’t have a nose for the real thing. Less expensive, superficially synthetic fragrances certainly do not have the healing power of natural essences with their ability to ensure profound and real changes. Pure rose oil, for instance has as many as 2,000 complex components, each working holistically, safely and in wide-ranging ways, whether for cosmetic or therapeutic use, while a synthetic copy, which may be superficially stimulating, may have about 50 components. Nature can never be duplicated.
Take pure lavender oil: among the most versatile oils available, by virtue of its complexity, it heals burns, counters stress and depression, eases heart palpitation, soothes nerves, is anti-inflammatory, works to get rid of insects and headaches disinfects babies’ nappies, combats the hot flushes of menopause, cures insomnia, lowers blood pressure, overrides impatience, irritability and hysteria, relieves aches and pains, and even smells good! Anyone for synthetic lavender? Even as she widens her product range and works out new promotional schemes, Kochhar comments: “This is not a therapy for the masses. You need to be educated and informed about its uses to incorporate it into your lifestyle.”
Agrees Mumbai-based aromatherapy consultant Deepa Bhatia, who markets her products under the brand name Breathe: “Aromatherapy, which people here still believe has come from Europe, is attracting the well-traveled, educated people—some probably for the wrong reasons like snob appeal. I guess when Indians start associating it with incense sticks and other Indian applications is when they will feel a little closer home to aromatherapy.” Rattan says:”The main problem most aromatherapists is the sourcing of essential oils, more so because their requirement for individual essential oils is to small for the extractor to entertain, and what you get in the market cannot be trusted for quality or price. FM’s meets this need by supplying small packs of quality essential oils at reasonable prices.”
His FM’s Handbook of Aromatherapy serves as a guide for his aromatherapy workshops, which, says Rattan, “stress on the therapeutic aspects and give information about essential and carrier oils, formulation methods, applications and massage techniques. Participants include medical practitioners (allopaths, homeopaths, and gynecologist), housewives and beauticians. In the offing is also an advanced aromatherapy course based on the core curriculum of based on the core curriculum of International Aromatherapy Organizations Council.”
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