Aromatherapy is one form of natural healing which can be introduced to children at a young age; in fact, some essential oils can safely be used in pregnancy and immediately after the baby is born. However, even if aromatherapy is not introduced to children until they are a few years old, it is both a safe and easy way to start what may become a lifelong experience. In addition, many essential oils are particularly useful in helping teenagers deal with the problems of adolescence.
Historic Use of Aromatherapy With Children
Natural plant healing remedies have been around for centuries and many ancient civilisations practiced using plant remedies with children; although not strictly classed as “aromatherapy” in the way it is used today, these early forms of plant medicine were the “predecessor” to today’s aromatherapy practices. Examples of early forms of plant medicine use with children include:
* Native American Indian use of strawberry and raspberry leaves for heat and nappy rashes
* the use of “dilly pillows” in Europe, a fragrant blend of lavender and dill, designed to lull children to sleep.
The Use of Aromatherapy With Children
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of the natural aromas of plants; aromas of plants, commonly known as essential oils, are extracted in a number of ways, depending on the plant species. Essential oils are extracted from flowers, trees, seeds, leaves and grasses. Aromatherapy can be introduced to children in a number of ways, the most popular of which are through lotions and in the bath.
Mohdoh – Aromatherapy Through Play
One of the most innovative ways of introducing aromatherapy to children is through mohdoh, a combination of aromatherapy, Play-Doh and colour therapy. Mohdoh is described as “mouldable aromatherapy” and was invented 30 years ago by a frustrated mother who introduced lavender oil into her child’s modeling clay in order to calm him down.
Available in a number of different colours and combinations, mohdoh can be used to treat children for cold and flu symptoms, anxiety and travel sickness. It can also be used with adults but is perhaps a fun, and useful, first way to introduce aromatherapy to children.
Essential Oils for Children
Some essential oils are more suitable for use with children than others, depending on the problem and the individual circumstances surrounding the child; essential oils which can be used with children include:
* mandarin (Citrus reticulata) – insomnia, stomach problems, calming
* Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) – inflammation, insect bites, rashes, toothache, colic, calming
* grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) – similar uses to mandarin
* rose (Rosa damascena) – insomnia, calming, skin problems
* lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – gentle and the most versatile oil to use in a number of problems
* cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) – eczema
* lemon (Citrus limon) – confidence-building, good for “clingy” children
* sweet orange (Citrus aurantium sinesis) – digestive problems, uplifting, a good alternative to mandarin oil as it is not sensitising.
Unsuitable Essential Oils for Children
Some essential oils should be used with caution with children because of their chemical make-up. However, some essential oils should never be used with children because of their extreme toxicity. Unsuitable essential oils for children include basil (Ocimum basilicum), juniper (Juniperus communis) and hyssop (Hyssop officinalis). Essential oils with high methone content, such as peppermint and cornmint, should not be used with young children.
Cautions for Using Aromatherapy With Children
Although aromatherapy, if used correctly, is generally safe to use with children there are some cautions which are recommended:
* Never apply essential oils direct to a child’s skin; always dilute in a carrier base such as an oil or lotion.
* Reduce the quantity of essential oils used, in comparison to recommendations for normal adult use; use the same quantity for children under three years of age as for babies.
* Take professional advice from a doctor as to the suitability of aromatherapy, especially if a child is taking other forms of medication.
* Use lotions in preference to oils with young children as it is more readily absorbed by a child’s skin and is less slippery.