An aromatherapist is a professional who utilizes essential oils for healing purposes. There is no required certification, registration, or educational program for aromatherapists. While some licensed medical practitioners may be well-educated in aromatherapy, other qualified aromatherapists may practice with no credentials whatsoever.
Aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine that can be used to treat a variety of health problems. Skeptics may disregard the benefits of aromatherapy, but its advocates believe that the scents of various essential oils can influence the parts of the brain that effect physical, emotional, and mental well being. Some also contend that the oils will interact with enzymes and hormones in the body when applied to the skin and absorbed into the blood.
The essential oils used by aromatherapists are made from pure plant extracts. These oils are highly concentrated. A very small amount can be extremely potent. Essential oils have been believed to have healing properties since the first century, though aromatherapy was not a well recognized practice until the early 1900s.
An aromatherapist typically provides treatment in one of two ways. The first method of practicing aromatherapy is to have the patient inhale the various essential oils. The oils may be inhaled in the form of a spray or steam, or with the use of a diffuser.
The second way an aromatherapist may utilize essential oils is with massage. The oils are massaged into the skin with a variety of massage techniques. Patients undergoing this type of therapy can benefit from the relaxing and healing properties of the massage as much as the properties of the essential oils.
Aromatherapy is most commonly used to help with mood disorders. The smell of many essential oils is believed to calm and relax. Some believe that aromatherapy can also treat hair loss, pain, and constipation.
While aromatherapy, performed correctly, has very few risks, it is important to consult an educated aromatherapist or physician before experimenting in this field. Essential oils can be dangerous if consumed, and some oils may cause uncomfortable topical reactions, such as severe itching. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid aromatherapy completely.
Those interested in becoming aromatherapists should pursue classes and independent study of aromatherapy. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) offers membership to aromatherapists interested in connecting with others in their field. This association also provides a list of approved schools, publishes an aromatherapy journal, and offers many useful resources for both members and the public.