Six ways aromatherapy can help everyday ailments

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Aromatherapy involves the therapeutic use of plant essential oils, which enter the body via our lungs through inhalation, or the skin, if applied in a massage blend or other product.

A recent survey* by the FHT revealed that aromatherapy is one of the top three complementary therapies requested by the public in the UK. This week, as aromatherapists celebrate Aromatherapy Awareness Week (10-16 June 2019), we look at six different ways this therapy can be used to help manage some common complaints that affect our overall health and wellbeing.

1. Sleep aid
Poor sleep affects as many as a third of us and in recent years, it has been linked to various health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and mental health problems. Clary sage and marjoram both have sedative qualities, which can help promote sleep, while lavender, chamomile and neroli are calming and soothing oils, which are great for relieving anxiety, if this is the underlying problem. Where depression is linked to poor sleep, an uplifting oil, like bergamot, could be beneficial.

2. A natural boost
Many of us can be left feeling physically or mentally drained after a particularly busy period or demanding life event. There are lots of essential oils that can give us a much-needed boost including pine, which reduces fatigue, and citrus oils such as orange, lemon and grapefruit, which are all uplifting and can help stimulate the mind and aid concentration. Rosemary and peppermint are said to be excellent for memory and mental performance, while basil can help bring clarity.

3. Skin support
Aromatherapy can help a wide range of skin problems. For mature skin, cicatrisant or ‘skin healing’ essential oils are ideal, as these promote cell regeneration and are good for scars and blemishes. Examples include frankincense, palmarosa, carrot seed, rose, lavender and German chamomile. For best results, these are often added to a carrier oil suited for mature skin, such as rosehip seed oil, which can help reduce wrinkles and fine lines and is particularly good for dry or damaged skin.

4. Soul soother
Left unchecked, stress and anxiety can take a huge toll on our health and wellbeing. Research shows that lavender can help calm the nervous system; lower blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature; and change brain waves to a more relaxed state. Neroli, often referred to as the ‘rescue remedy’ of essential oils, is also great for helping to ease anxiety and stress, along with bergamot, which is traditionally used in Italian folk medicine to relieve tension and anxiety.

5. Menopause ally
While the menopause is a natural stage in life’s journey, many women experience unpleasant symptoms that can affect their overall quality of life. Geranium, clary sage and rose can help balance and regulate the hormones, while other essential oils are useful for addressing more specific issues. For example, cypress and peppermint can alleviate hot flushes and sweating, while oils like grapefruit, neroli, bergamot and jasmine can help to ease feelings of depression.

6. Nausea knock-back
Nausea is an unpleasant symptom that can be triggered by a variety of things including digestive problems, certain medications (eg. anaesthetics), motion sickness, headaches and pregnancy. For digestive-related nausea, fennel seed or lemon essential oil might be useful. Recent studies have also shown that inhaling lavender, ginger, peppermint or rose essential oils can help reduce nausea in patients experiencing nausea and vomiting after surgery.

Important safety notes…

  • Aromatherapy should be used alongside standard medical care and not as an alternative.
  • If you are currently receiving care from a doctor, consultant, midwife or other health professional, let them know you intend to have aromatherapy treatments / use essential oils.
  • Essential oils are very powerful and if used incorrectly, can be detrimental to your health. Never ingest (swallow) essential oils or apply them to the skin neat (undiluted). Various cautions also apply for babies, children, the elderly, during pregnancy, prior to sun exposure, when taking certain medications, and for some medical conditions.
  • Seek advice from a professional aromatherapist before using essential oils. To find a registered, qualified and insured aromatherapist you can trust, visit www.fht.org.uk

 

Downloadable resources for Aromatherapy Awareness week

To help promote aromatherapy this week, FHT members can access downloadable resources, such as leaflets, posters, and social media images and banners, from fht.org.uk/membersarea

Massage may help with restless legs syndrome

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Massage with olive oil could provide benefits to people with restless legs syndrome, according to a brand new study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

Scientists sought to evaluate the short-term effects of massage with olive oil in reducing the severity of uremic restless legs syndrome (RLS). They conducted a double-blind placebo-controlled trial with 60 participants with RLS, who were divided into olive oil and placebo groups.

Participants in the olive oil group received a massage with olive oil twice a week, while those in the placebo group received a massage with liquid paraffin. Using the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group rating scale, the severity of RLS was evaluated at the beginning of the study and a week after the final treatment.

The decline in total RLS severity was found to be more significant in the olive oil group when compared to the placebo. Therefore, short-term application of massage with olive oil could be effective in reducing RLS severity. However, scientists call for further studies to validate these findings.

Read the study abstract here

Spread joy this June

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Action for Happiness, a charity dedicated to creating more happiness in the world, has launched its latest calendar of daily suggested actions designed to encourage us to live better lives.

Joyful June aims to help people experience more positive emotions and enjoyment in life and is available to download in 14 different languages in both PDF and JPG formats.

Suggested actions for this month include the following:

  • Reframe a worry and try to find a positive way to respond
  • Ask someone what brings them joy and listen to their answer
  • Go outside and find the joy in doing something active
  • Make a list of favourite memories you feel grateful for
  • Be kind to you. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend.

Download the Joyful June calendar here

Whole grain foods can alter serotonin in the gut

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Adults consuming whole grain rye have lower plasma serotonin levels than people eating low-fibre wheat bread, according to a recent study by the University of Eastern Finland and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). In the study, the consumption of cereal fibre from rye or wheat was also found to reduce serotonin levels in the colon of mice. In light of the results, the health benefits of whole grain cereals may be linked, at least in part, to the alteration of serotonin production in the intestines, where the majority of the body’s serotonin is produced. The results of were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The consumption of whole grain cereals has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers, but the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. There may be effects on bioactive compounds contained in whole grains, phytochemicals and fibres from which different metabolites are produced by intestinal bacteria.

The new study explored how the consumption of wholegrain rye modulates concentrations of different metabolites in the bloodstream. The study employed untargeted metabolite profiling, also known as metabolomics, which can simultaneously detect numerous metabolites, including those previously unknown.

For the first four weeks of the study, the participants ate 6 to 10 slices a day of low-fibre wheat bread, and then another four weeks the same amount of wholegrain rye bread or wheat bread supplemented with rye fibre. Otherwise, they didn’t change their diet. At the end of both periods, they gave blood samples, which were analysed by a combination of liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Their plasma metabolite profiles between the different diet periods were then compared .

The consumption of wholegrain rye led to, among other things, significantly lower serotonin concentrations when compared to consumption of low-fibre wheat bread. The researchers also tested in mice whether the addition of cereal fibre to the diet changes serotonin production in the intestine. The diet of the mice was supplemented for nine weeks with rye bran, wheat bran or cellulose flour. The mice receiving rye or wheat bran had significantly lower serotonin in their colon.

Serotonin is best known as a neurotransmitter in the brain. However, serotonin produced by the intestines remains separated from the brain, serving various peripheral functions including modulation of gut’s motility. Increased blood serotonin has also been associated with high blood glucose levels.

“Whole grain, on the other hand, is known to reduce the risk of diabetes, and on the basis of these new results, the effect could at least partly be due to a decrease in serotonin levels,” says Academy Research Fellow Kati Hanhineva from the University of Eastern Finland.

The researchers are also interested in the association of serotonin with colorectal cancer.
“Some recent studies have found cancer patients to have higher plasma serotonin levels than healthy controls,” Scientist Pekka Keski-Rahkonen from IARC adds.

The consumption of wholegrain rye bread was also associated with lower plasma concentrations of taurine, glycerophosphocholine and two endogenous glycerophospholipids. In addition, the researchers identified 15 rye phytochemicals whose levels in the bloodstream increased with the consumption of rye fibre.

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Government launches campaign on cosmetic procedures

The government has recently launched a new campaign to raise awareness about the potential risks of cosmetic procedures and to help the public make an informed decision before have a treatment.

The campaign comes amid a rise in demand for cosmetic procedures and the growth in unregulated companies offering cheaper services.

The advice and information for patients is applicable to all types of cosmetic procedure, with a focus on the most popular types: Botox®; dermal fillers; breast augmentation; liposuction; and lasers and light treatments.

Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: ‘Many people don’t think fully about the consequences – both physical and mental – of having a cosmetic procedure. These are serious treatments, and you should think carefully before you leap in.

‘I’m particularly worried about people seeking treatments which are unsuitable for them, or who are not prepared for the mental health impact of an aesthetic change.

‘But we also need people to do their homework on the company or individual carrying out the procedure – if a deal looks too good to be true, then don’t be afraid to walk away. The consequences of botched procedures can be dreadful.’

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‎As part of the campaign, the government has published advice on the nhs.uk website, setting out the questions people should ask before they undergo any cosmetic procedure, including:

  • speaking to a professional about the outcomes you can expect;
  • choosing a reputable, safe and qualified practitioner who is trained in the specific treatment and either a regulated healthcare professional (for example, a doctor or nurse) or listed on an Accredited Register, overseen by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care; and
  • avoiding being pressured into making decisions on treatments without time to fully reflect.

Serious complications of cosmetic procedures can include infection, nerve damage, blindness, blood clots, scarring, and in rare cases have resulted in death.

Yoga could help with depression during pregnancy

Yoga pregnancyYoga-based therapies can help manage antenatal depression, according to a review published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.

A team of scientists in the UK and Singapore conducted a systematic review of six clinical studies, involving 405 pregnant mothers, that examined the effects of yoga on depression during pregnancy.

All six studies showed reductions in depression scores, indicating that yoga is a ‘promising non-pharmalogical modality’ for improving the psychological health of expectant mothers.

Participants recruited for the trials reported mild depressive systems, therefore larger studies may be needed to examine the effects of yoga on severe prenatal depression.

Read the review at fht.org.uk/IT-128-yoga-pregnancy

We hope you enjoyed this article, which was first published in the Spring 2019 issue of International Therapist!

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Make May meaningful

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Action for Happiness (AFH) has launched its latest calendar, ‘Meaningful May’, encouraging people to find more meaning and purpose in life.

AFH publishes monthly calendars, available in 12 different languages, offering daily suggestions on the theme of the respective month. Meaningful May has 31 suggested  actions that can help you focus on what’s important and matters to you.

Suggestions for Meaningful May include the following:

  • Take interest in people who are older, younger or different to you
  • Pay attention today to the people you cherish most
  • Gaze up at the stars and see that we are part of something bigger
  • Support a cause that stands for something you believe in
  • Today do something to care for the planet

Download the calendar