What is Aromatherapy:
Aromatherapy is a method of healing through using aromatic plant extracts on the body to help with emotional and physical health. It has been used by humans for thousands of years for medical and religious purposes.
Essential oils are extracted from specific plants. They are made by steaming or pressing the flowers, bark, leaves, or fruit of a plant to capture the fragrance.
The term “aromatherapy” was invented by the French perfumer and chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse in a book he published in 1937. One of the topics he covered was the healing properties of lavender when used for burns.
Research on the effectiveness of aromatherapy is limited, but it is becoming increasingly used and even recommended by physicians to complement traditional medical treatments.
How does Aromatherapy work:
The two main methods of experiencing aromatherapy are breathing in the fragrances and applying directly to the skin.
The inhalation method involves evaporating the oils in a diffuser, a steam bath, or through a spray. It is believed that breathing in the essential oils stimulates the olfactory system of the brain. This, in turn, triggers the limbic system which is linked to heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance. Essentially different smells trigger different chemical releases in the brain which allow the body to heal and soothe itself. When diffusing essential oils, it is recommended to do so for 20 minutes at a time so as not to get too strong a scent or expose yourself for too long which can lead to headaches or nausea.
Applying essential oils topically through massage oils and skin care products is thought to allow the oil particles to be absorbed through the skin. Massaging oils can help boost circulation and absorption in that particular area. Parts of the body with more sweat glands and hair follicles are believed to allow more effective absorption. There is a theory that massaging oils into the skin triggers thermal receptors which helps to destroy fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
When applying to the skin, it is important to note that essential oils should be diluted with carrier oils to avoid an allergic reaction of the skin.
Benefits of Aromatherapy:
Aromatherapy has the potential to treat quite a slew of conditions. Here are a few: asthma, insomnia, fatigue, depression, inflammation, menstrual issues, arthritis, and menopause.
Oils from certain plants can help manage pain, improve quality of sleep, soothe sore joints and muscles, treat headaches and migraines, alleviate some side effects of chemotherapy, fight bacteria, viruses, or fungi, improve digestion and circulation, boost immunity, and help to reduce stress, agitation, and anxiety.
Basically, aromatherapy does not necessarily provide cures but it can help to varying degrees in lessening discomfort and aiding the healing process.
Please remember that aromatherapy is supposed to be complementary and not a means to replace conventional doctor approved treatments.
Side effects of Aromatherapy:
For the most part, essential oils are harmless when handled with care. The most common side effects are nausea, headaches, and skin irritation or rashes if an essential oil is applied directly to the skin without first being diluted. Citrus essential oils can make the skin more vulnerable to sunburn. Some oils like tea tree and eucalyptus are toxic to the nervous system and liver and should be used with caution around small animals and infants. It is recommended that women who are pregnant avoid aromatherapy as it could pose a risk to the developing fetus. If you have a skin condition, high blood pressure, or take any prescribed medication, it is best to consult with your doctor before doing aromatherapy.
Keep in mind that any substance, even natural ones, that can cause beneficial reactions in the body can also cause damaging reactions if not used properly.
How to buy:
With the current popularity of essential oil, purchasing options are very abundant. Because of this, we must be cautious when purchasing as some companies dilute oils with fillers or synthetic fragrances. The best essential oils are 100% pure and organic. Look for labels that say “therapeutic grade” or “steam distilled”.
The more research you do, the better. There is no official grading system provided by the U.S. government. Look at the labels for the Latin name of the plants, purity, other potential ingredients, and the country the plant was grown in. Do some quick homework online to make sure the company selling the essential oils is reputable. The containers should be dark and made of glass to protect the quality of the essential oil within. Price is another good clue as to the quality of the product. Essential oils should be priced differently due to the harvesting and production needs of each plant. Rose is usually the most expensive because of the amount of rose flowers needed to produce one bottle. An oil like orange or lemon should be less expensive because the production isn’t as intensive.
10 Essential Oils and their benefits:
- Lavender — helps with relaxation, sleep, reduction of anxiety, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and lower skin temperature.
- Clary Sage- helps with lowering blood pressure and breathing rates, as well as helping with memory and attention.
- Peppermint — helps with alertness, memory, reduction of fatigue, even reduction of chocolate cravings
- Orange — helps decrease anxiety and may help with PTSD
- Rosemary — helps improve speed and accuracy of mental tasks, helps refresh and mentally stimulate, energy boos, and fatigue reduction
- Cinnamon — helps improve concentration and reduce frustration
- Lemon — enhances mood, eases anxiety and stress
- Eucalyptus — helps reduce congestion, improves mental clarity, and soothes headaches
- Bergamot — helps boost mood and reduce stress
- Lemongrass — reduces anxiety and tension, also acts as an insect repellant
Other notable oils include Tea Tree Oil, Ylang Ylang, and Sandelwood.