Essential oil therapy may be more commonly known as aromatherapy, but the practice has grown beyond the nose. More and more integrative medicine practitioners are also administering these pure oils topically and orally to treat chronic pain, stress, digestive problems, skin conditions and other minor but uncomfortable ailments.
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“Essential oils really are the silent healer,” says Michelle Goebel-Angel, Chinese Medicine practitioner at the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern in Chicago.
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Essential oils are aromatic liquids extracted from plants and herbs. It’s best to begin your investigation into essential oils with a professional. Look for an integrative medicine practice associated with a major university or hospital, or seek out a licensed acupuncturist, many of whom also practice essential oil therapy. Professionals will have access to therapeutic-grade essential oils that are more concentrated than what a consumer can buy in a health-food store. Because these oils are more potent, they’re more effective, but should also be used with caution. A professional can correctly calibrate your dose, and then get you started on an at-home routine if needed.
If you’re determined to try it on your own, be aware that you may not get the same results as a professional, and be sure to rule out any major medical problems first with your doctor. You should also avoid ingesting essential oils. A good way to begin enjoying the benefits of essential oils at home is to buy a diffuser, which dispels the scent of the oil via a heat source but poses little to no health risk.