Aromatherapy uses essential oils to treat the body, mind, and spirit. These oils are liquids distilled through steam or water from the fragrant parts of a plant — the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, and roots. Highly concentrated, they contain the essence of the original plant. It takes more than a ton of plant material to produce some of these oils. Peppermint leaves yield only 1 percent volatile peppermint oil.

Essential oils are not new. Appearing in hieroglyphs, frankincense and myrrh are also mentioned in the Bible and have been around for 5,000 years. The Egyptians were the first to incorporate them in religion, cosmetics, and medicine, and Hippocrates used aromatherapy massage as a treatment.

How Aromatherapy Helps

Essential oils are antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. They work to create balance, and they stimulate and boost the immune system. The aroma provides valuable psychological and physical therapeutic benefits. Dog owners who use aromatherapy claim their dogs remain flea and tick free without the use of chemical insecticides, flea shampoos, or bug bombs. Most say their dogs remain calm under stressful conditions, have sweet-smelling, healthy-looking coats, and rarely become car sick.

How to Use Aromatherapy

Essential oils are diffused in the air and heal through the sinuses. You can orally administer a few oils, namely peppermint, to safely soothe nausea and travel sickness. Others, such as lavender, can be used to treat ringworm, parasites, vomiting, and pain. Eucalyptus treats respiratory symptoms, including pneumonia, and discourages insects and surface parasites. Rosemary is helpful for sprains, arthritis, burns, and cancer. Try tea tree for itching, insect bites and stings, pneumonia, and skin irritations. Other oils can be placed behind the neck or ears to prevent the oils from being ingested.

While practitioners mix multiple drops of a carrier oil such as almond oil to one drop of essential oil, you can buy a quantity that is premixed. You'll find many combinations of oils available through veterinary vendors. Check with your veterinarian to determine which oils are safe for your dog and how much to apply. Be sure to keep the essential oil away from your dog's eyes or mucous membranes.

Use essential oils with caution. Some are very potent and others are toxic to animals. Not all dogs will benefit from every substance and some dogs may have an adverse reaction to an oil. Many practitioners recommend diluting the oil with a carrier oil, which is pressed from seeds, nuts, or kernels and isn't as strong as the essential oil.

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