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Nature’s Prozac

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Dr. Ernest Levister, Jr.
Dear Dr. Levister: What is aromatherapy? Is it true essential oils like lavender, peppermint and tea tree are natural stress busters?
K.P.

Dear K.P. Aromatherapy is a six thousand year old practice sporting a new popularity.

In these days of economic uncertainty people are looking for inexpensive ways to relax.

Calling aromatherapy “nature’s prozac,” Dr. Louis Sullivan, founder/leader of Morehouse School of Medicine and former Secretary of Health and Human Services recently called on Congress to support funding and research into aromatic medicine’s so-called therapeutic properties.

Aromatic medicine, the ancient beginnings of aromatherapy, was recorded both in Egypt and India. The practice of Ayurvedic medicine in India, which is one of the oldest medical practices still in existence today, also used essential oils in healing preparations.

Although the word “aromatherapy” became popular only in this century, the use of plant and herbal extracts and oils for medicinal healing has been documented by most native cultures throughout history.

Aromatherapy is the use of pure essential oils to calm, balance, and rejuvenate body, mind and spirit. Essential oil can be derived from all parts of the plants, flowers, leaves, roots, resins, or bark. The different parts are said to have their own unique therapeutic properties. Inhalation, diffusion, and massageare common methods of enjoying the benefits of essential oils.

Aromatherapy should not be considered a replacement for traditional medicine.

“Aroma” derives from the Greek word for spice – today we use the word more broadly to mean fragrance and “therapy” means treatment, so aromatherapy literally means curative treatment by the use of scent. Studies have shown odors are perceived by the part of the brain connected with emotion, and research has shown that a pleasurable scent can have a positive affect on sensory feelings and emotions.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and must be used with caution. Always dilute with carrier oils such as almond, or jojoba. Perform a patch test to avoid skin irritation or other allergic reactions. Avoid direct use of essential oils if you are pregnant.

Keep them away from children. Consult your personal physician if you have questions.

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