Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a personю's mood, cognitive function or health. The effectiveness of aromatherapy is yet to be scientifically proven, however some evidence exists that essential oils may have therapeutic potential.
Since some essential oils such as tea tree have demonstrated anti-microbial effects, it has been suggested that they may be useful for the treatment of infectious diseases. The evidence base for the efficacy of aromatherapy used to treat medical conditions remains poor with a particular paucity of methodologically rigorous studies.
Modes of application
The modes of application of aromatherapy include:
* Aerial diffusion: for environmental fragrancing or aerial disinfection
* Direct inhalation: for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, expectoration as well as psychological effects
* Topical applications: for general massage, baths, compresses, therapeutic skin care
Materials of Use
Some of the materials employed include:
** Essential oils: Fragrant oils extracted from plants chiefly through steam distillation (e.g. eucalyptus oil) or expression (grapefruit oil). However, the term is also occasionally used to describe fragrant oils extracted from plant material by any solvent extraction.
** Absolutes: Fragrant oils extracted primarily from flowers or delicate plant tissues through solvent or supercritical fluid extraction (e.g. rose absolute). The term is also used to describe oils extracted from fragrant butters, concretes, and enfleurage pommades using ethanol.
** Phytoncides: Various volatile organic compounds from plants that kill microbes. Many terpene-based fragrant oils and sulfuric compounds from plants in the genus "Allium" are phytoncides, though the latter are likely less commonly used in aromatherapy due to their disagreeable odors.
** Herbal distillates or hydrosols: The aqueous by-products of the distillation process (e.g. rosewater). There are many herbs that make herbal distillates and they have culinary uses, medicinal uses and skin care uses. Common herbal distillates are rose, lemon balm and chamomile.
** Infusions: Aqueous extracts of various plant material (e.g. infusion of chamomile)
** Carrier oils: Typically oily plant base triacylglycerides that dilute essential oils for use on the skin (e.g. sweet almond oil)
** Vaporizer (Volatized) Raw Herbs: Typically higher oil content plant based materials dried, crushed, and heated to extract and inhale the aromatic oil vapors in a direct inhalation modality
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