Yasmin Taj

Kathmandu:

Stress and anxiety are very commonly heard of problems in the contemporary world, fraught with competition and expectations. People are becoming more health conscious and are willing to spend time and money in keeping fit physically and mentally. Fitness centres and spas are gaining popularity. Aromatherapy is one such healing art, which is slowly taking an upward trend.

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the modern term given to the ancient practice of healing and improving health using fragrant and natural ingredients. Essential oils derived from herbs, plants, flowers, fruits and from the bark and roots of plants are used for therapeutic purposes. These essential oils give aroma to the plant but also contain dozens of complex chemicals that seem to do everything from beautifying skin or speeding healing to inducing sleep or aches and pains. These essential oils are considered to be the life force of plants and are a mixture of organic compounds such as ketones, esters, alcohols, and aldehydes.

History of Aromatherapy

The term aromatherapy was coined 65 years ago by a French chemist Gattefosse though its knowledge originated around 6,000 years ago. One day while working in his laboratory where he made perfumes, he burnt his hand badly and plunged it into a vat of lavender oil. When the bruise healed quickly without blistering, Gattefosse began his lifelong obsession — studying the therapeutic properties of plant oils. Since then, many other enthusiasts, such as Dr Jan Valnet have taken the research further. Marguerrette Maury, a French biochemist, developed the technique of diluting and applying essential oil by massage, which is now known as aromatherapy.

The Romans used these essential oils for the purpose of giving pleasure as well as curing pain. Emperor Nero’s favourite oil was rose as it cured headaches, indigestion and lifted spirits. Chamomile was another favourite amongst the Romans as it cured skin diseases and is also an anti-inflammatory agent, which rejuvenates the skin.

Benefits of Aromatherapy

“Aromatherapy is a very simple technique and can be used by anyone,” says Dr PK Shaji, manager, Club Oasis, Hyatt Regency. This young and energetic ayurvedic doctor specialises in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy can be used as a supplement to other medicines but can also be used as a clear medicine at times. “In fact, lavender oil has done wonders for skin disorders like psoriasis which otherwise has no proper medicinal cure,” says Dr Shaji. The biggest surprise with aroma oils is the fact that they are not oily at all. Most of them are light liquids that don’t dissolve in water but evaporate instantly when exposed to air. The best part of aromatherapy is that it has no side effects. Diseases like insomnia, hypertension, psoriasis, skin disorders, joint pains, muscular aches, sprains, arthritis are few of the ones, which can be cured to quite an extent through aromatherapy. “If you add a few drops of sandalwood oil to your bathing water, you will feel completely relaxed after a hard day’s work,” adds Dr Shaji. Even a massage with ginger oil helps arthritis.

Aromatic Oils and Treatments

In Club Oasis, they have beautifully decorated rooms especially for aromatherapy massages. Aromatherapy is very popular among foreigners in the hotel but Nepalis youngsters are very few. “But the trend is slowly growing in Nepal. Most of the good hotels here have a spa,” says Dr Shaji. Different kinds of oils are used to provide a royal healing treatment under the guidance of experts in these spas. There are 10-12 kinds of oils that they use for their massages. The essential oils are diluted in carrier oil, which could be any oil like sunflower, olive, almond or other vegetable oils. Another way in which these oils can be put to best use is by adding a few drops of them to one’s bath. Room vapourisers provide a way of warming oils so that their aroma spreads quickly to fill up a room. Vapourisers are little pots with a bowl-shaped bottom to hold a candle and a saucer shaped top to hold some water enriched with a few drops of oils.