What Is Aromatherapy – Uses And Benefits
Humans have used aromatherapy for thousands of years. Ancient cultures in China, India, Egypt, and elsewhere incorporated aromatic plant components in resins, balms, and oils. These natural substances were used for medical and religious purposes. They were known to have both physical and psychological benefits.
The term “aromatherapy” was coined by a French perfumer and chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé in a book he wrote on the topic that was published in 1937
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Sometimes it’s called essential oil therapy. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health. If you need improvement in health problems from anxiety to poor sleep, you may want to consider aromatherapy. It helps to improve and balance you both emotionally and physically, while helping you to take time out for yourself, to be mindful and to reconnect with yourself, even for a moment. The aromas experienced through aromatherapy and essential oils have a dynamic effect on the mind and body.
Aromatherapy is thought of as both an art and a science. Recently, aromatherapy has gained more recognition in the fields of science and medicine.
The effect is experienced through the sense of smell which is linked to the deepest parts of the brain governed by your basic instincts, thoughts and emotions.
How does aromatherapy work on our brain?
The physical structures of smell found in the nose and brain are together called the Olfactory system. The sense of smell is a dynamic sense, its effect is not constant but immediate and then it fades.
Aromatic molecules are volatile meaning that they become gases and spread quickly. We can then inhale them with the air we breathe which is the first step to detecting an aroma.
When the molecules connect with hair like cilia in our nose, the olfactory cells produce a nerve impulse which reaches the Limbic System. The Limbic system is one of the most primitive parts of the brain concerned with survival instincts and emotions. Scientists believe that the activity of the nerve signals passing through this region cause mood change by altering brain chemistry.
The nerve impulse eventually passes beyond the Limbic system to the Olfactory cortex, located towards the back of the brain. Here, the aroma will finally be recognised but by this time the brain and body will already have responded to it.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants.
These are made from flower, herb, and tree parts, like bark, roots, peels, and petals. The cells that give a plant its fragrant smell is its “essence.” When an essence is extracted from a plant, it becomes an essential oil.
Unique aromatic compounds give each essential oil its characteristic essence.
Once the aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they are combined with a carrier oil to create a product that’s ready for use.
Essential oils are most commonly used in the practice of aromatherapy. They are either inhaled, or diluted then rubbed on the skin. (They are not meant to be swallowed)
How does Aromatherapy treatment work?
Aromatherapy works through the sense of smell and skin absorption using products such as these:
- aromatic spritzers
- bathing salts
- body oils, creams, or lotions for massage or topical application
- facial steamers
- hot and cold compresses
- clay masks
You can use these alone or in any combination. There are nearly one hundred types of essential oils available.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has an array of benefits. It’s said to:
- manage pain
- improve sleep quality
- reduce stress, agitation, and anxiety
- soothe sore joints
- treat headaches and migraines
- alleviate side effects of chemotherapy
- ease discomforts of labour
- fight bacteria, virus, or fungus
- improve digestion
- boost immunity
Aromatherapy has the potential to treat many conditions, including:
- menstrual issues
- erectile dysfunction
Most popular essential oils
There are various types of essential oils and each one of them have their own benefits. Here’s a list of 10 popular essential oils and the health claims associated with them:
- Peppermint:Used to boost energy and help with digestion.
- Lavender:Used for stress relief.
- Sandalwood:Used to calm nerves and help with focus.
- Bergamot: Used to reduce stress and improve skin conditions like eczema.
- Rose:Used to improve mood and reduce anxiety.
- Chamomile:Used for improving mood and relaxation.
- Ylang-Ylang: Used to treat headaches, nausea and skin conditions.
- Tea Tree:Used to fight infections and boost immunity.
- Jasmine:Used to help with depression, childbirth and libido.
- Lemon:Used to aid digestion, mood, headaches and more.
Is Aromatherapy safe?
Aromatherapy is generally safe. Although, essential oils can cause side effects. Some can irritate your eyes, skin, or mucous membranes in your nose. They can also cause mild allergic reactions.
You must know which suits you and your skin the best. Try to consult a specialist before you move ahead with this as they can best suggest what will be perfect for your type of skin.
There’s plenty of information available online and in books if you wish to treat yourself at home. There are also courses you can take to learn more about aromatherapy. It is great to use essential oils as a complementary therapy for minor health problems but it is advisable to always consult your doctor or skin specialist to make you understand your needs before you try anything.