What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a natural health therapy that involves the therapeutic use of essential oils that are extracted from plants.
Essential oils are volatile, aromatic substances that contribute to the aroma or smell of plants. Essential oils are derived from natural single botanical sources that include flowers, herbs, spices, seeds, fruit peels, berries, roots, resins, wood, leaves and branches from around the world.
Essential oils are extracted using a variety of different methods, but the primary method of extraction is steam distillation. Steam from boiling water is exposed to the plant material thereby separating the essential oil from its water-soluble constituents by the process of condensation and distillation. The water portion is known as a hydrosol, the fat/lipid/oil soluble portions are known as essential oils. Essential oils are different from fixed carrier oils like olive oil but have an oily quality. The origins of aromatherapy date back centuries. The use of plants and herbs is the oldest method of healing disease, alleviating pain and beautifying the body.
How Do Essential Oils Work?
Why do we smell?
Sense of smell is the least understood and most subtle sense. Smell is important in order to attract food, water, mates, and to sense danger of all kinds from weather to animals. Smell lets us know about information that we cannot see or hear. Plants use their aroma for protection, attraction, to repel and to communicate. For example trees will release chemical messengers when there is a fire in the area as a warning, for seed proliferation and protection. Trees that sense fire danger will release seed pods.
Ancient ancestors burned fires with grasses, plants and trees and discovered that the released aromas altered awareness and feelings, giving them insights into the therapeutic properties of nature.
Smell has a special relationship with memories and feelings. Aromas can trigger memories and the same smell can have different effects on different people. It depends on the relationships and the feelings that you have had when you first smelled a particular aroma if you have a positive or negative reaction. The smell of good food can activate the salivary glands, and induces the mouth watering action of salivating which starts the digestion process before we eat. If we smell something we deem unpleasant then the feeling of repulsion will overcome us. For instance when we smell food that is foul it is telling us to stay away from it and don’t eat it.
Aromatherapy Inhalation via the Nose and Mouth:
The olfactory bulb registers smell and is hard wired to the brain with olfactory nerves. The olfactory bulb is located on the roof inside of the nose and contains hair like cilia receptors that capture aromas like a lock and key. When essential oils are inhaled through the nose the electro-chemical signal triggers responses in the limbic system of the brain, and influences the endocrine and nervous systems to release hormones. The limbic system is linked to memory and emotions and each essential oil can trigger different effects. Essential oils can also be inhaled through the mouth as well as the nose and can have an immediate effect on the lungs.
Essential Oils via the Skin
When essential oils are combined with carrier oil and applied to the skin they are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. They are circulated throughout the body and can have an effect on any organ that they pass through. Essential oils can dissolve easily in fatty rich tissues like those found in the central nervous system because they are fat soluble.
The therapeutic properties of essential oils can influence physical, mental and emotional states, and can target specific areas.
In general essential oil properties can be drying or moisturizing, stimulating or sedating. Some oils are balancing which means they can be both stimulating and relaxing depending on our needs. Essential oils have many beneficial uses and can influence mood, performance, emotions, and memory.
THE BENEFITS OF AROMATHERAPY
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Alleviates pain
- Treats acute and chronic conditions
- Enhances digestion
- Improves lymphatic drainage
- Improves circulation
- Increases immunity
- Balances physical and mental well-being
- Body beautification and perfume
- Air purification, cleansing
- First aid