Aromatherapy for Trauma

by KG Stiles, LMT, CAT, RBT, CBP

We’ve all experienced some form or degree of trauma in our lives. Just hearing the news of a natural or man made disaster that has resulted in physical injury, the loss of someone’s loved ones, or worldly possessions can trigger feelings of mental and emotional distress.

We may feel helpless and vulnerable to forces…

we have no control over. Life’s usual order feels disrupted and our vision of a peaceful world lays shattered around us. Survivors of trauma, those who help them, or those who simply hear their stories are all affected.

For thousands of years aromatic oils have been used to help calm stress, anxiety and panic.

Aromatherapy can be a valuable ally for healing trauma…

whether you are a trauma survivor, a relief worker whose affected by your direct involvement with survivors, or simply someone feeling traumatized by seeing and hearing the stories of disaster victims.

The use of plants and herbs is the oldest form of healing…

disease and pain, and the medicinal properties of plants have been recorded in the oldest writings in history, in myth, and folklore. According to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts, priests and physicians were using essential oils thousands of years before Christ to heal the sick. In ancient times essential oils were considered

…more valuable than gold.

In more recent times aromatherapists have offered these valuable agents of healing to disaster victims, as well as to the relief workers who are helping them deal with loss and an uncertain future.

I spoke with Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, Director of United Aromatherapy Effort (UAE), about her experiences while…

working at Ground Zero after the 911 disaster…

in New York City. Out of a sense of wanting to “do something to help” Sylla joined Doug E. Rasmusson, current Executive Director of Emergency Response Massage International (ERMI) which was created in 2005, to give massage to relief workers at Ground Zero. When at Ground Zero the insight to…

administer essential oils to the relief workers

came to Sylla. Immediately she went on line and began organizing donations for essential oil supplies and UAE was born. The result was that essential oils were used before, during and after massages, as well as given out at fire stations. “Of course you know

…results are immediate with aromatherapy,”

says Sylla, “we do hear from folks who got relief from headaches, breathed better, etc. later on.” Since 911 UAE has been involved in other relief efforts, including Hurricane Katrina and Rita.

Essential oils are highly aromatic and therefore, many of the benefits can be obtained simply by inhaling their aromatic scent. It is well known that

…aroma reaches and influences the deepest human instincts.

When essential oils are inhaled, aromatherapy not only delivers the calming benefits of fragrance, it also delivers the many health benefits unique to essential oils.

Essential oils are highly concentrated,

a drop or two can produce significant results.

I’ve experienced great success administering essential oils on a tissue for inhalation to resolve panic attacks and headache for instance. Sometimes the results are dramatic, sometimes gradual.

For panic attacks, within just a minute or two.

For a migraine, when the oils work, it is usually within about 10-15 minutes. Vetiver is frequently recommended for panic attacks and Peppermint for headaches.

What exactly is aromatherapy and how does it work?

Aromatherapy means to treat with aroma through inhalation. Essential oils are the subtle, aromatic, and volatile liquids extracted through distillation from a single botanical source (flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark, and roots of herbs, bushes, shrubs and trees), the part of the plant yielding the maximum amount of essential oil.

Essential oils act as the blood of the plant,

protecting it from bacterial and viral infections, cleansing breaks in its tissue and delivering oxygen and nutrients into the cells.

There are many cheap chemical copies of essential oils available, but these are not recommended for therapeutic use.

For best results get the highest quality oils…

that you can possibly find. Purchase one’s that have been analyzed for purity (unadulterated) and…

known to be pesticide free.

Organic and ethically wild crafted oils should be used whenever available.

Hippocrates said that there is a remedy for everything to be found in Nature, yet only now is…

science beginning to investigate the many benefits…

of essential oils and study the incredible healing substances within them. Virtually everything used today in…

modern drugs can be traced back to a botanical extract.

More and more case studies are being recorded, proving the effectiveness of aromatherapy for therapeutic use.

Since the fall of 2005 aromatherapist Geraldine Zelinsky, the Assistant Director of UAE and Manager of its Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, has been involved in…

ongoing medical research with pediatric physicians…

who work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at a Louisiana hospital. “We are in the process of setting protocols for the

responsible use of essential oils at the hospital,”

says Zelinsky who often uses aromatherapy as a stand alone treatment, as well as in conjunction with massage or allopathic treatment.

…gentle and subtle, yet highly effective therapy.

Aromatherapy is a natural healing therapy using essential oils to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Continued research studies, as well as empirical evidence show aromatherapy to be highly effective for

…helping those affected by trauma to heal.

Next issue our article will talk about the different Ways to Use Essential oils. We’ll also give you the names of oils to have on hand for your own personal emergency kit!