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Healthcare, Aromatherapy and Permaculture


Before I became an aromatherapist I worked as a nurse for many years. The nursing process of Assess, Plan, Implement, and Evaluate is in essence very similar to the design tools used in Permaculture which just break down the process into a few more steps. When done well, the nursing process addresses the physical, psychological, social and spiritual domains though concentrating on those most appropriate for the situation.

Similarly in My Cambridge Aromatherapy and Massage practice, I gather information about all these domains when I see a client and importantly, ask what their aims for a. the session and b. the longer term are. While some problems can be, “fixed” with one session of massage, this is unusual and more often than not in my practice at least the permaculture principle of, “Use small and slow solutions” applies. I know many who come down on each side of the debate about homoeopathy but irrespective of whether it works or not, there is a lot to be said for the saying from that practice that, “For each year an illness/problem has been present in the body, it takes a month to resolve it.”

This is not to decry conventional medical practice where a patient who has had high blood pressure for five years or more can have it brought down in a week or less with the correct medication. This type of medical practice saves lives and complementary/alternative medical practitioners who deny this do themselves a disservice. Rather it is to distinguish what I and other aromatherapists do from conventional medicine.

For instance, I see many clients whose main complaint is stress which can be from work, family or other situations. They come to me as a way of managing the stress in their lives or finding an island away from it. More often than not they do not wish to get away from the stress or leave the situation and as an aromatherapist, I am not in the position of a consultant or family therapist etc. who can go into the situation to help the system change.

So, how does aromatherapy and massage work in these cases? My experience is that most people find massage is relaxing and can help them to feel less stressed. Essential oils can also help people relax. Sandalwood and Frankincense for instance have been used for millennia in temples and churches as an aid to meditation. Not surprisingly these oils help people relax and also aid acceptance. Here we see one of the permaculture principles at work with using multiple elements to support a function. Two different oils and massage to help the person relax.

Another principle is that each element should have multiple functions. The massage as well as aiding relaxation, both physical and mental can ease pain in joints such as the neck and shoulders that are the most common place for people to keep their tension.

This is what happens in nature. A tree (an example of an element) takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.It also provides somewhere for birds to nest, it might provide both pollen and nectar to feed insects and the fruit might well feed other animals. However if we think of one insect in particular, the honey bee, (Those who know me will know this is a favourite of mine.) it doesn’t just get nectar from one type of tree, it also feeds on oils seed rape, lavender and many other plants, more than I could name.

This builds resilience into the system. By learning a variety of different massage techniques and using over fifty different essential oils I aim to do this with my practice.

“Observe and Interact” is another of the principles of permaculture. This also applies to the nursing process where if say a particular regime isn’t helping a patient’s skin to heal, the regime will be changed. In the same way, doing a massage, I have to pay attention to what the client’s feedback is but also to their breathing, skin colour, changing muscle tension etc. These are all things that can tell me when to do more of something or to change what I am doing.

To learn more about permaculture look at the Permaculture Association’s website.

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