What Exactly Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils, plant materials, and other natural oils and substances for their aromatic properties. Aromas can heal, and that is the purpose of aromatherapy. Aromatherapy can also be used to describe the application of aromatic oils and rubs directly to the skin to alleviate pain.
This does not include perfume oils and other man-made or synthetic products. Hydrosols and CO2 extracts join essential oils as the most common aromatherapy products. There are dozens of recognized essential oils, and there are several ways you can release their powerful aroma. Candle diffusers use heat to disperse a few drops of essential oil into the atmosphere.
Electric diffusers can cover a very large area, and many times are combined with a negative ionizer to help create a more peaceful and relaxing environment. You can also simply add a few drops of essential oil to a cup or pot of warm water to release the aromatic scent into the air. An ultrasonic diffuser emits aromas around your room by using ultrasonic vibrations to agitate the water causing the separation of the water particles & thereby releasing negative ions into the air. While lamp rings absorb essential oil and use the heat from a light bulb to deliver the scent.
A nebulizer breaks oil down into its different main components first. It then disperses them separately. Some aromatherapy practitioners believe nebulizers deliver the most health benefits per drop of oil.
NOTE: It’s always preferable (and safer) to use a diffuser that does not use or require heat. This is due to the fact that excessive heat may alter / change the beneficial chemical constituents in the oil.
The History of Aromatherapy
The use of frankincense, cedar wood, juniper berry and myrrh for mummification goes back more than 5,000 years.
As early as 3,500 BC, the ancient Egyptians used those herbs to preserve royalty in a quest for immortality. Those same Egyptians also burned incense to honor their many gods. Asclepius was a Greek physician who used herbs during surgery in 1,200 BC. Hippocrates sought natural answers for sickness, studying and documenting more than 200 herbs before his death in 377 BC.
From 146 to 199 AD, Greek physician Claudius Galen expounded on the healing properties of herbs, prescribing chamomile to Roman centurions to give them courage and help them focus during battle. Persian Ibn Sina is often noted as being responsible for improving the process of distillation, which yields essential oils. He died at the young age of 57, but not before becoming the first person to successfully distil rose oil with steam.
When the Black Death rolled through Europe in 1347, wearing pouches of dried lavender and thyme was thought to be an effective remedy. RenÇ-Maurice GattefossÇ was a French chemist that first coined the word “aromatherapie”. He experimented with essential oils while working in his family’s perfume business in the first half of the 20th century.
French doctor Jean Valnet released “AromathÇrapie – Traitment des Maladies par les Essence de Plantes” in 1964, re-releasing that influential aromatherapy tome under the title “The Practice of Aromatherapy” in English in 1980. Aromatherapy used to be ridiculed as ineffective. However, today it is readily accepted by traditional medicine.
Through massage, physical application and aromas, aromatherapy consistently and effectively treats a wide range of mental, emotional, physical ailments, and issues.
What Are Essential Oils and How Do They Apply to Aromatherapy?
Essential oils can also be called volatile oils. This simply means that they are extremely aromatic in especially small quantities. The oil can come from flowers, herbs and other plant matter. They disperse easily into the atmosphere, and if you leave a bottle of essential oil uncapped, it will evaporate.
The most common method of extracting essential oil from a plant is through distillation.
This process uses steam to pull a small amount of volatile oil out of a plant. Oil can also be derived through expression, a “cold pressed” method through which no heat is used. Petroleum, methanol, ethanol, and ether can also be used to extract essential oil from a plant, and this process is known as solvent extraction.
Since a very small amount of these oils is highly potent, essential oil is usually diluted before inhaling or applying to your skin. Products known as essential oil diffusers come equipped with water tanks that require only the addition of a few essential oil drops to diffuse the surrounding air for several hours.
As mentioned above essential oils can be absorbed through your nostrils, or by directly applying them to your skin. Stress, headaches, depression, fatigue, asthma, dandruff, bronchitis, psoriasis, bad breath, gout and dozens of other conditions respond favorably when the correct essential oil is inhaled or applied. Essential oils have become accepted by traditional medical experts as acceptable ways to naturally treat a long list of conditions, both physical and mental.
How Aromatherapy Benefits Your Nervous System
Some essential oils, through either massage or aroma, quickly treat the nervous system. Since the nervous system closely links the mind and body, the oils that influence your nerves have multiple benefits. Clary sage, lavender, melissa, chamomile, juniper, marjoram and rosemary all have calming, sedative, analgesic and/or antiseptic properties. They calm the nerves that trigger activities in your muscles, and are also influential over your sense of pain and how relaxed you feel.
Your nervous system is closely related to more internal processes than any of your other systems. So you will see the essential oils listed above used frequently as “treat all” applications though massage and in aromatherapy diffusers.
Many of the essential oils used to treat your nervous system are highly potent. Too much peppermint can be overpowering, but this mint is effective when used in small doses. When massage is combined with an aromatherapy diffuser the effect can be very strong, and these essential oils should be used in very small quantities.
A healthy autonomic nervous system is important for overall health, mentally and physically. Because of this, essential oils for nervous system treatment should be kept on hand. When combined with oils that treat the digestive, cardiovascular and/or endocrine systems, the rapid positive effect on the patient can produce literally life-changing results.
Can Aromatherapy Really Relieve Stress and Anxiety?
Stress truly is a killer. When you experience stress continuously, this negative mental condition can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, psychological issues and even personality disorders.
One way to alleviate stress in your life is through the application of aromatherapy. Certain aromas have been proven to actually alter your brain chemistry. This can bring down stress levels, lowering the production of stress causing hormones.
Your brain’s response to these favorable aromas also releases hormones which relax and soothe you. The scent of grapefruit for many people has a balancing and uplifting effect. It gives you a sense of ability or effectiveness that can help you deal with a stressful situation. The aroma of fennel causes a courageous boost of self-belief and actual physical strength. These 2 qualities can empower you through many stressful encounters.
Geranium is a scent that actually works directly on your nervous system. Almost instantly after smelling geranium, anxiety, stress and even depression levels begin to drop. Aromatherapy used to be considered a pseudoscience. Now we know that it can effectively be used to treat stress naturally, as well as a long list of other mental and physical conditions and ailments.
4 Most Popular Essential Oils
Some essential oils are considered must-haves by aromatherapy practitioners. The following 4 essential oils should be kept on hand for the many benefits they deliver.
Lavender is considered the “universal oil” in aromatherapy circles. A very calming scent, lavender treats burns and stings, cuts and bruises, and is also effective for combating allergies, cancer, cold sores, dandruff, menstrual cramps and insomnia.
Roman chamomile is so named because Roman centurions and gladiators used it to clear their mind and imbue themselves with courage. The fruity scent is calming and relaxing, and most of the conditions treated by lavender are covered by chamomile. Club feet, dysentery, menopause, rashes, restless legs and stress are also effectively treated.
From cancer to wrinkles, frankincense treats dozens of mental and physical conditions. Ulcers and scarring also improve with an aromatherapy treatment of frankincense. Your vision and memory improve, inflammation lessens, and depression and confusion also disappear when you smell the oil from the frankincense tree.
Peppermint oil is great for regulating a healthy digestive system. It works well as an insect repellent and settles nausea. This minty aroma is an antioxidant, fights asthma and improves brain injuries, and is used to cool the body and clear your mind.
Aromatherapy Labeling – Buyer Beware
In the United States the term “aromatherapy” is not regulated. In other words, manufacturers may market any type of product as aromatherapeutic, or delivering aromatherapy benefits.
Remember, perfume oils are not essential oils, even if they are labeled as aromatherapy products. They usually contain synthetic chemicals that do not provide the beneficial constituents of pure essential oils.
You should also look out for labels that claim a product is made “with essential oils”. There is no guarantee that harmful man-made chemicals are not present. The same goes with any claim that states natural ingredients are used. Unless the label says “100% natural ingredients” or “100% essential oils”, you are probably getting a watered-down, chemically-based product.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils, plant oils and other natural substances whose aroma and/or physical application to support the body’s own natural healing processes. When unnatural chemicals and perfumes are inhaled or applied to your skin, a number of negative side effects may be experienced.
For instance, the natural peppermint scent can be effective in soothing an occasional head ache. However, if that natural compound is mixed with synthetic chemicals, the result could aggravate headache pain rather than help to alleviate it.
Stick to 100% essential oils and natural components for all of your aromatherapy applications. Doterra Essential Oils are extracted using completely pure and natural means and contain zero fillers or additives of any kind so you can rest assured that their purity and potency is second to none.