Aromatherapy is a natural therapy, gaining more popularity by the day. Don’t you know what aromatherapy is? You probably heard of it though! Most people refer to it as essential oils. Does that ring a bell? Yes? Perfect. Essential oils are really nice to use at home, but you need to know exactly what you’re doing. That’s what you will learn in this series. Never heard of essential oils? No problem, a whole new world will open up for you. Let’s find out what aromatherapy is and how you can test which oil is good for your dog.
What is aromatherapy?
If you want to start working with essential oils, the first step is to become familiar with its background story. Aromatherapy is a plant therapy, just like homeopathy, herbs and flower remedies. Every therapy works differently, and you can choose the most fitting therapy depending on your dog’s specific needs. Aromatherapy is a very powerful therapy. The essential oils are harvested from plants. Every oil belongs to a certain family of plants, which all have distinguished features. For instance, one family of oils works well on the respiratory system, while another family works better for strengthening the immune system. This means there are many possibilities for using essential oils and that makes them excellent additions to your natural medicine cabinet!
Aromatherapy in history
The first traces of essential oils were found in Africa and the Mid-East. Later, the oils came to Europe through trade. In Egypt, essential oils were considered divine, having exalted and holy properties. The essential oil of myrtle was used to mummify bodies because the Egyptians believed that the oil ensured eternal life for the dead. Naturally, this process was only reserved for pharaohs and priests. However, old murals shows oil jugs, which were used for health and beauty as well. In Greece, it was Hippocrates who wanted to increase his knowledge of and skills of working with essential oils. He laid the foundation for medicine and considered body and mind as belonging to each other. Essential oils, with their quality to heal both, were very useful. The Romans used essential oils as perfume and for their scent in the bathhouses. In the Middle Ages, essential oils were put in a bottle and hung around the neck. It was believed this would keep the devil out, who was thought to be responsible for outbreaks of the black plague. Of course, the cause of this illness was not yet known, but when used like this, the oil was inhaled and had a disinfecting effect. However, the studies of aromatherapy was condemned by the church then and only researched by alchemists. As you see, essential oils have been around for ages!
Where does aromatherapy stand now?
During the first World War, a Frenchman called René-Maurice Gattefosé researched the chemical compounds of essential oils. He discovered that lavender worked perfectly for burns. Because of the scarcity of supplies during the two world wars, some hospitals worked with essential oils. Post war, however, conventional medicine did not accept the use of essential oils anymore. Gladly, things are changing slowly again. Nowadays, more and more research is done in order to establish the effects of aromatherapy. For instance, scientific studies in Australia proved tea tree oil to have a variety of antimicrobial activities.
A warning before we start
Back in the days, aromatherapy wasn’t for everyone; it was a privilege to be able to use it. Nowadays, everyone is able to use essential oils, but you have to know that there are many “bad” oils on the market! Often they contain (chemical) additions, which does more harm to your dog than good. The effect of the oil depends on the quality, so be careful where you buy your oils. Never use essential oils for internal use without consulting a natural pet healthcare practitioner. Also, don’t use essential oils for cats. Cats miss an enzyme in the liver which prohibits the breaking down of the oil, causing the oil to pile up as a toxic substance.
What is essential oil?
As the word tells you already, essential oil contains the essence of the plant, which gives it its power. This power hides deep within the plant and thus it’s very concentrated. Sometimes, essential oils are called aromatic oils because of their scent, sometimes they’re called ethereal oils because of their volatility. They evaporate quickly due to the vibration of molecules. Anyway, all three names describe WHY we use aromatherapy: for its scent, for its qualities and for its experience.
One plant doesn’t contain much oil, but one drop of oil does much! Essential oils function in plants like hormones. They’re very important for many life functions, such as growth, propagation and defense. The oil spreads through the whole plant, just like the lymph flow. This ensures that every cell contains oil, which is important for their survival. Let me give you an example of how a plant uses its essential oil. Plants attract certain insects with their scent and appearance. Some plants have the ability to give themselves another scent as a defense mechanism by using their oil. This ensures them not being attacked by other insects. The scent of the oil can change quickly, because it is a living mechanism and is subject to certain situations. We all know this: it’s what you smell when you’re mowing the lawn!
Test it! What can we do with aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy can be used for diagnostic, therapeutic and didactic uses. A dog often is able to choose which oil is useful for him. You can do that by choosing a couple of oils you think are right for your dog. Then you let your dog smell the cap of the bottle, while you hold your finger on it. The smell is very strong and a dog’s nose is very sensitive, so be sure to take this measure. Extend your arm towards your dog, but always let your dog come to you on his own initiative. Your dog must have a free choice in order to establish his reaction towards the oil. If your dog chooses one oil over another, that’s probably the one he can use! Remember, never use an oil the dog strongly rejects.
Your dog can test three different oils in a row. After this, the test becomes unreliable because his nose is full of scents. If your dog likes all oils, as we see sometimes in breeds like Labradors, you test again by giving the dog an oil he can’t possibly like. Tea tree is such an oil, which most dogs dislike. If your dog likes this oil as well, the test is unreliable too. Dogs can differ in their reaction to oils every day. If it’s a very cold day, a heating oil like ginger or cinnamon can be his choice, but when the temperature goes up, he doesn’t need this oil anymore. When your dog shows you he doesn’t like an oil anymore, please respect his wishes. You can be certain it did what it needed to do and that it’s enough. Dogs like certain oils more than others based on who they are as well. An unsure dog often doesn’t like the oils of juniper or thyme, because these are strong oils and doesn’t fit its personality. If your dog chooses an oil you don’t think fits his complaint, you can always let him inhale it, but that’s it. If does have an effect on the mind then, and since mind and body are connected, it will have an effect on the body as well. Beautiful how this works, isn’t it?
So, have fun experimenting with testing oils on your dog(s)! However, this is as far as you can go now; don’t go any further than this before reading the next part. We will focus on how essential oils work and ways to use them then!
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Want to know more about essential oils? I have put together a list that features my favorite books that will help you gain more understanding about aromatherapy and how to use it for your dog(s). Click on the product to order!