Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts (essential oil) to promote health and well-being. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit (both physical and emotional health).
Recently, aromatherapy has gained more recognition in the fields of science and medicine, as a technique to enhance psychological and physical well-being.
The inhaled aroma from these “essential” oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function, and can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream to promote whole-body healing.
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy defines aromatherapy as “the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances- like the essential oils- for holistic healing.”
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are made from the flower, herb, and other tree parts, like bark, roots, etc… The cells that give a plant its fragrant smell are known as its “essence”, which, on extraction, becomes an essential oil.
It takes a lot of the right plant product to make essential oils. For example, more than 200 pounds of lavender flowers are used to make just 1 pound of lavender essential oil.
True essential oils are made using a specific process that doesn’t change the chemistry of the plant, and lemon, chamomile, lavender, cedarwood, and bergamot are a few of the essential oils used regularly in aromatherapy.
Essential oils have been used for nearly 6,000 years, with the aim of improving health and mood. Furthermore, a range of essential oils has been found to have various degrees of antimicrobial activity and antiviral, nematicidal, antifungal, insecticidal, and antioxidant properties.
Aromatherapy applications include massage, topical applications, and inhalation, however, users should be aware that “natural” products are also chemicals, and they can be hazardous if used in the wrong way.
How To Use Aromatherapy
Experts think aromatherapy activates smell receptors, around your nose, which send messages through your nervous system to your brain.
The oils may activate certain areas of your brain, which plays a role in your emotions, and could also have an impact on your hypothalamus, which may respond to the oil by creating feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin.
Aromatherapy is normally used through inhalation or as a topical application, is that some experts think that when you put essential oils on your skin, they cause a response in your skin and other parts of your body, like your joints.
Apart from providing a pleasant smell, aromatherapy oils can provide respiratory disinfection, decongestant, and psychological benefits, and inhale essential oils to stimulates the olfactory system.
Molecules that enter the nose or mouth pass to the lungs, and from there, to other parts of the body, and as the molecules reach the brain, they affect limbic system, which is linked to the emotions, the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance.
In this way, essential oils can have a subtle and holistic effect on the whole body.
Topical applications that include massage oils, and bathing or skin care products are absorbed through the skin and can boost circulation and increase absorption in these skin areas.
Essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin, but must always be diluted with a carrier oil. Usually, a few drops of essential oil to an ounce of carrier oil are good, and most common carrier oils include sweet almond oil or olive oil.
Uses of Aromatherapy
Research shows that aromatherapy can have health benefits that include:
- Management of pain
- improve sleep quality
- reduce stress, agitation, and anxiety
- soothe sore joints
- treat headaches and migraines
- alleviate side effects of chemotherapy
- ease discomforts of labor
- fight pathogens like bacteria, virus, or fungus
- boost immunity
- improve digestion
- improve hospice and palliative care
Conditions that aromatherapy may treat include:
- peripheral neuropathy
- menstrual issues
- erectile dysfunction
Aromatherapy works by using products such as these:
- clay masks
- aromatic spritzers
- facial steamers
- bathing salts
- body oils, or creams,
- lotions for massage
- hot and cold compresses
Possible Side effects
Most essential oils are safe to use, but there are some precautions you should take when using them. You should also be aware of certain side effects especially if you take any prescription medications.
Side effects of using essential oils include:
- allergic reactions, like rashes
- asthma attacks
- nausea, and
- skin irritation
Use essential oils with caution if you have hay fever, asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure, eczema, and psoriasis. Always do an allergy test before trying any new essential oil.
If you want to do an allergy-test:
- Dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil at twice the concentration you plan to use
- Rub the mixture into an area the size of a quarter on the inside of the forearm
- If there is no allergic response within 48 hours, it should be safe to use.
Essential oils are available online, in health food stores, and in some regular supermarkets, and it’s important to buy from a reputable producer since the oils aren’t regulated by the FDA.
This is to ensure that you’re buying a quality product that is natural. It shouldn’t contain any additives or synthetic ingredients. For credible and authentic products, you can buy your essential oils on Amazon (Check out these essential oils available on Amazon).
Each essential oil has an array of unique healing properties, uses, and effects, and combining essential oils to create a synergistic combo or blend creates even more benefits.