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Aromatherapy Massage and the Digestive System

Helping the digestive system with aromatherapy massage

The digestive system consists of the digestive tract and ancillary organs. The digestive tract begins with the mouth, followed by the oesophagus (gullet), stomach, large intestine, small intestine, rectum and anus. The ancillary organs are the salivary glands, liver, gall bladder and pancreas. The functions of the digestive system are the ingestion of foods, peristalsis (waves of involuntary muscular contraction which move the food along), digestion and absorption, where the food is broken down and assimilated into the body, and the defecation of waste products.

The saying 'You are what you eat' refers to how healthy your diet is, but equally important is the way your food is eaten and digested. No matter how healthy your food, if you eat too quickly, over-eat or have a digestive malfunction, then nutrients will not be absorbed properly into your body.

Aromatherapy can aid the digestive process, but remember not to ingest essential oils orally. There are a few exceptions, such as throat, cough and cold lozenges that contain small amounts of aniseed, hyssop, eucalyptus and peppermint. Peppermint pastilles containing peppermint essential oil are a useful aid to digestion, and may help with irritable bowel syndrome. However, aromatherapy massage and hot compresses over the abdomen are often more effective.

How to use aromatherapy to help the digestive system

Common digestive complaints include diarrhea, constipation and a build-up of gas. Essential oils with anti-spasmodic properties help to relax the smooth muscle that lines the intestine and facilitate the release of gas. The best anti-spasmodic essential oils in this instance are sweet fennel, ginger, aniseed, sweet orange and peppermint, massaged gently over the abdomen.

Diarrhea is usually caused by a too-rapid passage of food through the intestine. Fear, viral infections, bacteria, poisons, bad food and allergic reactions are all underlying causes. If fear has provoked diarrhea, then neroli used in gentle abdominal massage, baths or sniffed from a tissue is effective. Eucalyptus is good for viral infections, and roman chamomile for allergic reactions. Constipation, which is caused by a too-slow passage of food, can be treated with firm massage over the abdomen in a clockwise direction using marjoram, rosemary, black pepper or sweet fennel.

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