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Aromatherapist: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) covers a large number of different therapies, which work holistically by balancing a patient's physical, emotional and spiritual state. The most established disciplines are acupuncture, herbalism, homeopathy, chiropractic and osteopathy, although aromatherapy has become increasingly popular in recent years. You might decide to offer several therapies in addition to aromatherapy - you may have the training and expertise to offer these yourself or you may engage the services of other practitioners. A brief description of some CAM therapies is included below:


Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from plants to treat a range of conditions such as stress, depression, hypertension, rheumatism, muscular strains, asthma and so on. There are over 400 different oils and the therapist will decide on which are the most appropriate to use for the client's individual complaint. Generally three or four oils are selected and, because they are very potent, only a few drops are used, diluted in a carrier oil such as jojoba, almond or grape seed oil. Therapy involves massaging the client with the oils, which is the most common method, but they can also be inhaled or applied as a cold compress. Aromatherapy should be used with caution and at diluted concentrations on pregnant women and should not be used on breast feeding women or people with epilepsy.


Acupuncture originated in China some 3,000 years ago and involves inserting very fine stainless steel needles into particular points on the body to stimulate nerve impulses. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the concept of vital energy (or qi) which flows around the body along invisible channels (or meridians). Well being is achieved by regulating the flow of energy and correcting any imbalances by inserting the needles at specific points on the body.

Western acupuncture uses the same needling techniques but affects nerve impulses and the central nervous system. Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of ailments and conditions, including back and neck pain, osteo-arthritis, allergies, pain relief and smoking cessation.


Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment, primarily for musculo-skeletal problems. Treatment consists of manipulation to correct the underlying causes of the pain - this may include massage, stretching and other exercises.


Chiropractic treats musculo-skeletal disorders by manipulating and massaging the muscles, joints and ligaments of the body to put right any dysfunction of the spine and pelvis.

Herbal medicine

Herbal medicine uses remedies produced from plants to both treat complaints and to maintain good health.


Homeopathic treatment uses very small doses of substances that, if taken in high doses by a healthy person, would produce the symptoms that the remedies are designed to treat. It is based on treating 'like with like'.

Other complementary therapies include:

  • hypnotherapy
  • Alexander technique
  • reflexology
  • Shiatsu massage
  • yoga
  • healing
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage and the exercise technique called Qigong
  • naturopathy
  • meditation
  • nutritional medicine

and many others.