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There are quite a number of alternative medical therapies that have been endorsed by medical practitioners. This paper discusses in detail aromatherapy as one of the alternative medical therapies. It explores the background of aromatherapy, its methods and training of the aromatherapists, benefits and the contraindications, researches and the implications for nursing practice.

Background of Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is an art and science of utilizing naturally extracted medical properties of essential oils in treatment to improve physical and emotional well being holistically.

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The use of these essential oils dates back to more than thousand years ago. This art is attributed to the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Indians. In Egypt, for example, the scented plants were used for religious and medical purposes (Pitman, 2004). The oils were also used in preparation of antiseptics to slow down the decomposition of a dead body. The Greeks used the aromatic plants to prepare perfumes and cosmetics. Their soldiers, for example, carried an ointment containing myrrh for treatment of wounds.

The use of essential oils in treatment has been in practice for years with various modernizations and improvements in the past. In the modern era, the aromatherapists use these aromatic oils extracted from various parts of plants such as the twigs, roots, barks, petals, seeds or resins.

Methods and Training of Aromatherapists. Before administering to the clients, the aromatherapists undergo careful training as professionals. Generally, the aromatherapists should train in anatomy, physiology, and

pathology. Such trainings endow them with the knowledge of the body structure and functions and thus qualify them to handle their clients effectively.

There is a variety of methods used in aromatherapy depending on the one considered effective by the aromatherapist. Inhalation of the essential oils is an effective method for the respiratory conditions and cold. In this method, drops of essential oils are added to a bowl of hot water and the client’s head is covered with a towel over the bowl to prevent loss of the vapor.

Baths of warm water can be used as an approach. In this case, the patients take warm baths in which the essential oils have been added. During the bath, the patients inhale the odor through their mouths and the nose. Besides this, drops of the essential oil may be placed above burners warmed by candles or electricity causing the water and oils to evaporate and fill the air with an aroma (Pitman, 2004). Moreover, hot compressors or cold compressors may also be used where gentle heat is required and in case of swelling so as to reduce inflation.

Massage of the body is yet another effective method with scores of benefits to the clients. In this case, the essential oils are diluted with the carrier or base oil (Pitman, 2004). The aromatherapists may massage gently using relaxing techniques to allow absorption of the essential oils into the body. However, at times the aromatherapists may be more vigorous depending on their belief and skills. Apart from the massage, the essential oils can also be applied on the skin having been mixed with the base oil. In oral intake, care must be taken due to the inability of the essential oils to mix with the aqueous solutions and thus it presents a health hazard. Nonetheless, with qualified practitioners, the prescription can be made (Schnaubelt, 1998).

The proponents of aromatherapy consider this alternative medical therapy as a holistic treatment. It creates a sense of physical and emotional well being and balances the mind, body, and spirit (Pitman, 2004). The proponents’ theory postulates that smelling of the essential oils triggers the limbic system and hence causes one to feel relaxed or stimulated. In addition, the massage and neat application of the essential oils allow absorption into the body and thus treat the cause of the problem.

Contraindications of Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy may be harmful to some people and in some conditions. Some of these contraindications include epilepsy, severe bruising or cuts in the treatment area, pregnancy, haemorrhage, high or low blood pressure, diabetes, recent operations, skin disorders, infectious diseases, dysfunction in the nervous system and cancer (Schnaubelt, 1998). The therapy may also be inappropriate for persons with allergies, asthma, and kidney or liver problems.

Research on Aromatherapy. There have been only a few researches on the effectiveness of this therapy, and such have ended up with conflicting results and thus not conclusive. The major problem in the researches is that there was no control group or use of randomization (Fitzsimmons & Bousquet, 2005). Nevertheless, the researches have it that the therapy has a short lasting effect on relieving stress, depression or anxiety. Furthermore, it can improve the quality of life of cancer patients and mitigate the feeling of agitation in dementia patients.

Recommendation on Aromatherapy. Though the effectiveness of the therapy is debatable, there are substantial indicators and proofs of its benefits. The therapy should thus be considered for use in various hospices, health clubs, and nursing homes. However, detailed consultations should be done with the professional aromatherapists in deciding the most excellent method to be applied taking into account the contraindications.

Implications of Aromatherapy. The proponents of this holistic therapy have made people understand the benefits of the same profoundly. This implies that aromatherapy should be considered as part of the nursing practice incorporating such information in their education. This will in turn protect the title of aromatherapists (Fitzsimmons & Bousquet, 2005). Otherwise, there is a great risk of not tapping the potential in this field.

In conclusion, the aromatic plants and the essential oils have greater unexplored potentials, which when properly tapped, can lead to better physical and psychological well being. Nonetheless, more researches and sensitizations should be done to enable people make informed choices between this therapy and the conventional medicine.

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