Holistic functional phyto-aromatherapy. Say that five times fast! It’s a mouthful isn’t it? It sounds complicated, maybe a bit too scientific, and/or maybe a bit mysterious, but it’s the best definition of our practice here at WholeAroma, LLC. Really, it’s just a conjunction of various forms of non-allopathic therapies. Standing on their own, they are all powerful; but together, they are a huge powerhouse of therapies pulled together to build a bigger toolbox in the treatment of ailments where modern medicine (allopathy) tends to falls short; but it also has a view that allopathy is still important and has its place, sometimes concurrently.
What Is Holism?
Holism’s place in health and healthcare takes a view that there is more to treatment than just a drug (allopathy). Holism is ancient in its practice. In fact, it goes way back to the beginnings of Greek medicinal practices. Holism looks at the entire person, not just the ailment and where the ailment is located. It is targeting in nature, but not so much so that the target is viewed through a tunnel. Holism is all about diet, nutrition, and lifestyle. When one has a proper diet, proper nutrition, and a properly regulated and healthy lifestyle, the body stays in balance for the most part, excepting outside forces. If one is out of sync with any one of those factors, sickness often results; and when left unchecked for far too long, chronic sickness can be the result.But holism is not just about diet, nutrition, and lifestyle; those are only the beginning factors — the core factors which should be addressed first and foremost in any treatment plan. Holism is also about utilizing herbals, aromatics, and any other tools (even allopathy if required) to bring the body to homeostasis — to help it achieve a state of true health. Diet. nutrition, and lifestyle are the first factors considered in treatment, but herbals, aromatics, and other tools can and most often are employed alongside. Rarely does a change in diet, nutrition, and lifestyle bring one back to full health when one has been in an unhealthy state for any significant amount of time.
What Do You Mean By “Functional”?
One area of medicine that has been employed over the course of the last 20 years has been “functional” medicine. As I have previously explained, allopathic medicine is very targeted in nature with a tunnel-vision view. The idea of allopathy is reduction — drill down to the very smallest component and target that component. This thought is so laser-focused that it ignores diet, nutrition, lifestyle, and other factors. It takes a view of a thing (organ, cell, etc.), ignoring the whole being (the person). Functional medicine uses the idea of holism, employing diet, nutrition, and lifestyle as a part of the program. Like allopathy, it utilizes diagnostics such as blood work and other testing to pinpoint deficiencies — deficiencies such as hormones, vitamins, minerals, and a whole host of others. It uses allopathy and diagnostics — and sometimes even herbs and aromatics — to put together treatment plans that are holistic in nature as a means to greater success in eliminating ailments, or at least as a means of helping the client to cope better with the issues they are facing.
Understanding the “Phyto”
Although essential oils, aromatic extracts, and hydrosols (aromatic waters) do, indeed, come from plants and are therefore “phyto”, herbs (the plants themselves) are much more ancient in their deployment in healthcare. Even aromatic waters are much more ancient than the use of aromatic extracts such as essential oils. Herbalism has its basis and always has had its basis in holism. The view of herbalism in practice from the beginning was not allopathic, but rather formed its basis in not only treatment with herbals, but approaching healthcare with diet, nutrition, and lifestyle along with herbs. Traditional herbalism has never been functional in nature; the ancients never had a way to use diagnostic testing such as blood tests in the way allopathy and functional medicine is able to today; the technology just was not there. However, they did have diagnostics of a kind — that of observation of various outward appearances such as heat, cold, dry, and damp; as well as the appearance various body parts such as the tongue, and even an understanding of irregularities and nuances in pulse. Herbalism is steeped in tradition and continues remain in steeped tradition; and rightly so. There is a mountain (a Mount Everest) of anecdotal and empirical evidence of the inner-workings and function of herbs in the healing and treatment of various maladies. But recently, functionalism is being added to the herbal repertory as a means to look a little deeper. This movement is being led by functional herbalist Thomas Easley of the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine. Thomas uses the traditional tools of herbal medicine and combines them with the diagnostics of functional medicine and allopathy as a means of treatment — most particularly in the utilization of blood testing in order to understand if there are any nutritional and/or functional deficiencies in the body. This creates a powerful combination, forming a treatment toolbox that is quite versatile.
Aromatherapy and Aromatic Medicine
Aromatherapy has often been used in the treatment of mental, emotional, and physical maladies. Most often deployed in the treatment of the mind (where it is has been shown to be incredibly effective), it has also been shown to be helpful with the physical. One of the most powerful ways aromatherapy has been utilized in physical conditions is in that of anti-microbials. Aromatherapy is very potent in the eradication of various microbes — viruses, bacteria, etc. It can be quite useful in its own right in wound healing, and skin conditions. However, aromatics, unlike herbs, are only the volatiles of the plants — heavily concentrated; the rest of the plant chemistry is left behind.
Aromatherapy is a fairly ancient practice, but mostly by the use of aromatic waters (a.k.a hydrosols or hydrolats). In fact, the ancients when distilling aromatic plants, kept the waters and threw the oils out! Today aromatherapy incorporates both the oils and the aromatic waters in practice. However, it has not until very recently become more holistic in thought. Aromatherapy has a past more steeped in an allopathic model rather than a holistic one. Most often, it has been employed in a targeted fashion, giving little view to diet, nutrition, and lifestyle. In fact, aromatherapy has taken a more “medicine cabinet” approach to its use, just like allopathy; the only difference being the use of aromatics derived from plants rather than synthetic drugs — what I have heard termed “green allopathy.” The over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceutical drugs are simply replaced by essential oils and aromatic waters than can mimic those healing properties. However, more recently, aromatherapy has begun to evolve, taking holism into account — this in the form of aromatic medicine.
While aromatherapy more often than not has been focused on inhalation and topical application, aromatic medicine utilizes many tools such as nebulization, ingestion, and internal use (suppositories, pessaries, etc.) as tools for healing. The French and Australians have been using aromatics medicinally for many years, but it is not until very recently that some in the United States have begun to pick up on the practice. Aromatic medicine is much more exacting and invasive, so special training must be undertaken. The aromatic medicine practitioner needs to understand proper dosing, toxicology, pharmacology, and the drug interactions of aromatics. In addition, knowledge of basic pharmacological compounding and basic formulation are required. A standard aromatherapist does not understand aromatic medicine and is limited in scope, while an aromatic medicine practitioner is trained in basic aromatherapy as well as the medical use of aromatics. More importantly, the aromatic medicine practitioner is trained to account for holism in the healing equation.
The Perfect Combination
Holism is the most important aspect of effective treatment for various ailments. When we take diet, nutrition, and lifestyle into account, we are at least half-way (if not much more) to the goal. The other half comprises supporting tools — tools such as aromatherapy, aromatic medicine, herbalism, and functionalism. This provides likely the most powerful combination of therapies all melded together that we can possibly gather into our toolboxes. Couple this with a measure of allopathy, and the power is exponential.
If we practitioners can work with a person who is ailing by addressing their diet, their nutrition (most especially through the diagnostics of functionalism), and their lifestyle, we are really getting somewhere in helping our clients with the issues they are facing. If we can also utilize the diagnostics of functionalism, so much the better. If we can furthermore utilize herbal remedies as support to help their healing along, we are getting really getting there. If we can finally utilize the power of aromatics for the mind and aromatic medicine for the body, we are really in a very special place; for we can provide those we serve with the best possible therapies for the journey of restoration to proper health.