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Aromatherapy offers healing alternatives

Nov. 14, 1997

By Emily Wininger

Reporter for The Baylor Lariat

People who feel that modern medicine has failed to meet their needs or who shy away from modern medicine altogether are now turning to the non-traditional approach of aromatherapy which is gaining in popularity as a method of solving conventional health problems.

'People have gone the full circle with medicine. They are sick of popping pills, and they want a more natural way to take care of their bodies. Aromatherapy is the natural way to do that,' said Patti Simon, owner of Essence, located in Riversquare Center, the only store in Waco that exclusively sells aromatherapy products.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from herbs, flowers, roots, trees and tree bark to relieve a variety of health problems including depression, headaches, allergies, stress, insomnia, nausea, muscle pain and menstrual cramping, Simon said

The essential oils, which are extracted from the source through a distillation process, are used in two main ways: diffusion and topical application. Diffusion is the releasing of oils into the air through a diffuser, steam, candles or potpourri. The topical method is a direct application of the oil on the skin through lotion, shower gel, soap, shampoo or through the oil itself. A third method, ingestion in the pill form, is practiced in Europe, but is not allowed by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, Simon said.

Simon, who is currently training for certification in aromatherapy, said essential oils are highly concentrated and can be used individually and in combination form known as a blend. Some oils can also be used in more than one way, she said.

The most common essential oil used and sold is lavender, Simon said.

'Everyone should have lavender in their first aid kit because it is good for headaches, cuts and burns. It is also a stress reliever and a calming agent,' Simon said. 'All it takes is one drop on each temple, one on the nape of the neck, and then one smudge under the nose. However, it can be a stimulant if overused.'

The most common blend is ylang ylang. It is used primarily as an anti-depressant and an aphrodisiac, Simon said.

Another popular blend that Simon sells combines peppermint with ginger for clarity of the mind.

'The clarity of the mind blend is great for helping you concentrate and study,' Simon said.

Other commonly sold blends are clary sage, for balancing women's hormones; peppermint and rosemary for energy; and birch and juniper for sore muscles, she said.

While the cost for one-third of an ounce of lavender essential oil is approximately $7.50, prices vary on each individual oil, Simon said. Blends range in cost from $6-$15. Simon said many blends come in packaged forms, but she can also create special blends if needed.

According to Simon, the use of essential oils and aromatherapy dates back to 3000 BC 'Frankincense and mire were essential oils that were brought to baby Jesus, so essential oils have been around for a very long time. In fact, essential oils were widely used until the 1930's when scientists starting duplicating oils to make synthetic medicine,' she said.

Simon is not the only one who has picked up on the growing interest in aromatherapy. B. Dalton Booksellers in Waco has seen a increased interest in information on aromatherapy.

'I wouldn't say we are flooded with requests, but we have seen more of an interest than we've ever had before since the first of the summer. We have sold more books than kits,' Janice Mill, assistant manager, said.

The kits, ranging in price from $15-$30, include information on how to use and mix oils as well as a few samples. According to Mill, the most popular book on aromatherapy has been Health Essentials Aromatherapy by Christine Wildwood, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, $5.98.

Arren Murray, an Austin junior, who uses essential oils daily prefers them over conventional products.

'I became intersted in aromatherapy in California because of the natural effects that essential oils have on healing. They have a vast influence on sensory moods,' Murray said.

Murray believes that aromatherapy is more than a growing trend and will become more mainstream becasue it contributes to better physical and mental health.

'There has been a greater empahsis on health since the 1980's, so I see aromatherapy sticking around because it just a natural way to maintain ultimate health,' she said.

Although aromatherapy is a growing trend, many people are still skeptical, Simon said. 'I know many people are unsure at first, but I have so many success stories. The best way to find out is to try it,' Simon said.

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