Aromatherapy is a versatile complimentary practice because it can be practiced in a number of ways and easily combined with other types of complimentary therapies. Although a beneficial therapy in its own right, aromatherapy can also be combined with therapies such as reflexology, massage and Ayurvedic medicine for greater benefits. Here’s a closer look at those therapies, with regard to their combined use with aromatherapy.
True aromatherapy is the therapeutic practice of using the aromas (essential oils) of plants to help with common health problems such as back pain, headaches, stomach pain, asthma, eczema and many more problems. Essential oils are usually diluted in a carrier oil or lotion and applied topically to the skin or inhaled through a device such as an aromatherapy diffuser.
Aromatherapy and Reflexology
Reflexology is the manipulation of various points on the feet to bring the body back into balance. Reflexology can also be practiced on the hands and ears, although practicing on the feet is the most common way to carry out reflexology. Reflexology is an ancient art (evidence of some form of reflexology is found in the tomb of Ankhmahor in Saqqara, Egypt, dating back to 2330 BC) but the modern day practice of reflexology is accredited to influential names such as Dr. William Fitzgerald and Eunice Ingham.
Reflexology divides the body into various zones and each zone (and associated body part) is represented in the reflecting zones and points on the feet. Health problems such as back pain, migraines and asthma are often treated with reflexology.
To compliment a reflexology session, a qualified practitioner can add in a specific essential oil blend that relates to the particular problem of the client. An aromatherapy blend of essential oils and a base oil or white lotion is often used. The blend is used throughout the reflexology session, but can also be applied to specific points on the foot that relate to the client’s problem.
Aromatherapy and Massage
Massage is a therapy that is often associated with aromatherapy. However, the two practices should not be confused as one and the same. Both therapies can be practice independently of each other or combined for greater therapeutic effect. Many massage therapists train in aromatherapy and vice verse.
Massage is also an ancient practice and historical evidence of massage can be dated back to ancient Greek and Roman use. Massage is practiced on the whole body (including the face and head) and it is common to use some form of lubricant during the massage. An aromatherapy blend of essential oils and a vegetable oil such as sweet almond oil provides greater therapeutic benefits to the client than, for example, a basic oil that may contain either non-therapeutic fragrance oils or no other ingredients. An aromatherapy blend can be formulated to address a specific problem, such as back pain, and massaged into the skin.
Aromatherapy and Ayurvedic Medicine
Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest forms of healing in historical records. Ayurvedic medicine works towards creating balance and harmony in the body with an emphasis on prevention rather than cure, after the fact. The practice was developed in ancient India by holy men known as “Rishis.”
Combining Ayurvedic medicine with aromatherapy involves matching the principles and treatment methods of Ayurvedic medicine with associated essential oils in aromatherapy; it is a practice that involves some study before applying it. In addition, the traditional use of plants in Ayurvedic medicine was through the use of herbs or medicated oils. Essential oils do not contain the minerals or water-soluble components necessary for traditional Ayurvedic medicine practice. However, in today’s world, essential oils are accepted as a choice for Ayurvedic medicine practice because of their flexibility and potentially longer shelf life (source: Ayurveda and Aromatherapy, Dr Light Miller, Dr Bryan Miller).
Choosing to Combine Aromatherapy
How you choose to use aromatherapy, either as a stand-alone treatment or combined with another complimentary therapy, will depend on your specific health problem, your circumstances and your preferences. There is no right or wrong combination of therapies, when practiced correctly. If you need further advice on which combination is best for you, consult a qualified therapist and/or your doctor. In addition, if you have a particular health problem, or are currently taking prescribed medication, make sure you are aware of any potential contra-indicators for not using a particular therapy before doing so. You should also be aware that it is not recommended to combine certain essential oils with practices such as homeopathy.
- Ayurveda and Aromatherapy, Dr Light Miller, Dr Bryan Miller
- Reflexology: A Way to Better Health, Nicola Hall
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Julia Lawless
- Teach Yourself Massage, Denise Whichello Brown
- Author is a certified clinical aromatherapist
- Author is a certified reflexologist
Photo by Michael Whay