Many people lack a correct understanding of essential oil. They simply imagine it as something that smells good or is used in beauty treatment. However, essential oil, particularly aromatherapy is much more than this. And it shares many similarities with traditional Chinese medicine. By Elizabeth Shen
In recent years, essential oil is increasingly recognized as a way to heal diseases and improve wellbeing, along with nutrition, herbs, and healthy diet and lifestyles.
I once created an essential oil by blending an oil that targets allergic body conditions with a base oil. I prescribed it to a patient who suffered ringworm on the feet. At first, she doubted whether it could work. However, it turned out that her skin condition was largely improved. She said: “I never thought essential oil can really heal. In the past, I thought it was just something used by the merchants to make money. So I didn’t have much confidence when I was told that it could cure my feet ringworm. But now I have to say it really saves me.”
Aromatherapy cannot be simply equalized to essential oil either. An aroma therapist must create essential oil according to individual’s body and mental conditions. So even facing the same symptoms, the prescriptions may vary. There are similarities among traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese herbs and aromatherapy. Of course they have distinctive characters of their own.
The essence of TCM aromatherapy
In the world of marketing, there are three major points, namely product positioning, market positioning and promotion positioning. Likewise, aroma therapists should be very familiar with three things: the characters of essential oil or fragrance (TCM aromatherapy is concerned with the oil’s property, flavor and meridian channel distribution), individual’s body conditions (including TCM syndromes when it comes to TCM aromatherapy), and the dosage and usage approaches of aromatherapy formulas.
What is TCM aromatherapy? To use oil extracted from Chinese herbs or to apply essential oil on meridian channels? These are just parts of TCM aromatherapy. Like Chinese herbs, essential oil features different properties, such as to reinforce or to reduce, being hot-natured or cool-natured, causing qi to rise or to fall, and to flow into which meridian channels. The most important thing is that aroma therapists are able to understand individual’s physical conditions and accordingly personalize essential oil formulas.
Similar to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is far from enough for the aroma therapists to prescribe an essential oil to the patients once and for all. The aroma therapists need to adjust the patient’s micro-environment in their body (physical conditions) step by step in a long run and thus completely heal them.
To sum up, the essence of TCM aromatherapy lies in furtherly distinguishing the property and flavor, the meridian channel distribution and safety of the essential oil and integrating in the dialectical theory of TCM treatment, giving the best solution according to individual’s body conditions.
Aromatherapy cannot replace medical procedures
As internet is widely used nowadays, when people don’t feel good, they will firstly search the internet for information. In my clinical practice, I discover that in addition to poor lifestyles, supplements and herbs abuse, and extreme weight-lose diet, the improper use of essential oil and fragrance can also weaken one’s body conditions.
Some people think essential oil is nothing but good smell oil used by merchants to make money. And some others firmly believe that essential oil can replace medicine and health food. The latter group then casually take essential oil orally. When the essential oil accumulates in their body for long run, it causes discomfort and problems. I met a lot of such cases in my clinical practice. People can really hurt themselves due to an improper use of essential oil.
Aromatherapy is truly a very good complementary therapy. But we must have a correct understanding of it and use it properly so that it can really help us. After decades of working in the aromatherapy world, I deeply understand that essential oil is able to improve a diversity of conditions yet also has its limitations. Aromatherapy cannot be used to replace medical procedures, but it’s a good complementary therapy.
Aromatherapy focuses not on symptoms
Some people don’t understand why their symptoms are not alleviated at all and they even suffer side effects after using the essential oil that they blend according to what is said in the aroma books. The reason is that they ignore the safety rules for using essential oil. TCM aromatherapy doesn’t advise people to take essential oil orally, but to apply it outwardly and let the essential oil being absorbed through skin, mucous membrane and nose. So it is known by many as an “external therapy”.
But it is not a simple external therapy since TCM aromatherapy is based on the dialectical theory of TCM and is applied on meridian channels, which really treats the root. So more accurately, it is “an internal therapy in external therapies”.
TCM aromatherapy also considers the direction and distance the essential oil molecules go, which is decided by dosage, concentration and treatment time. But a therapist should never increase the dosage or concentration without measure in order to achieve a better effect. We should always bear in mind the tolerance level of the meridian channels, skin, mucous membranes where essential oil works. Places with low tolerance levels should be treated with less dosage and concentration and the treatment time should be prolonged.
During the treatment, a healthy diet and lifestyle, good emotions and freedom from pressures are all key factors to largely improve the effect of the therapy.
Will Essential Oil Trigger Allergy?
Every type of essential has the possibility to cause allergy. Itchy skin or breathing difficulties after using essential oil are signs for allergy. There are immediate allergy and delayed allergy. In some cases, it can be fatal.
In addition, you need always be clear whether you are using essential oil of poor quality and whether the concentration is too high. The clinical application of aromatherapy, especially the dosage and concentration largely depend on the type and conditions of skin or mucous membrane and the conditions of qi flow in the body.
When undiluted essential oil such as cinnamon, origanum, thyme are directly applied on the skin, it will probably cause skin burn. Also, some light-sensitive essential oil such as lemon, citrus, grapefruit cannot be exposed to the sun immediately after being applied since it may cause sunburn.
When you use one type of essential oil for a certain period, go to consult an aroma therapist whether you should continue since essential oil molecules also face saturation problems and may lose their effect when this happens.
Ms. Elizabeth Shen graduated fromThe Institute of Philosophy of Tunghai University. She obtained certificates of IFA Principal Teacher and NAHA International Teacher. She is the Education Director of ALIZ aromatherapy institute and has trained several thousand of profes-sional aromatherapists for the industry. Ms. Shen is also the Founder of Essential House. She creates fragrance for concerts, stage plays and fashion activities. She is invited by prestigious institutions including Tsinghua University and Sun Yat-Sen University, and famous enterprises to give lectures and training sessions.