Aromatherapy is an ancient science, with evidence of cultures like the Egyptians and Chinese incorporating special plants or oils into their medicines and rituals. These scents and oils were meant to focus the mind, heal the body, and provide psychological and even spiritual benefits.
On a more personal note, think of how you feel when scents from your childhood arise, such as the smell of holiday cookies, your grandmother’s perfume, or the scent of your favorite blanket. What about your favorite lotion or perfume? Does the simple thought of these scents bring a warm and comforting feeling? Have you ever had a headache and then been soothed by the scent or application of peppermint? These are examples of the power of aromatherapy, a term coined by French perfumer and chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé, which has recently gained more traction as both an art and a science.
How does it work?
So how do our brains take this scent or oil and then bring up memories or create new experiences and feelings? Aromatherapy works through both our sense of smell and our skin absorption using things like diffusers, bath salts, oils, creams, lotions and hot or cold presses. The idea is that you can stimulate scent receptors in the nose, which will then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system. This part of the brain controls emotions, which is why essential oils can be beneficial for those with depression or anxiety. Additionally, essential oils tend to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which can help to even treat issues arising within the physical body.
Perhaps this is why the ancient civilizations were so knowledgeable about plants. They didn’t have a drugstore to run to when someone had a cold. Instead, they needed to look to Mother Nature and find what she was offering that could help. Many people are trying to return to a more natural way of living, especially with America’s rising medical costs. Studies have shown that aromatherapy may be beneficial in helping to naturally treat common conditions such as asthma, insomnia, fatigue, depression, anxiety, menstrual issues, alopecia, cancer, arthritis, and menopause.
See for yourself
Like with many things “all-natural,” anecdotal stories make up a lot of the lore surrounding essential oils. Working with a trained aromatherapy practitioner is a great way to truly understand this science. Furthermore, the quality of the oils you use matters. It is best to speak to a practitioner and see which oil brands they prefer before diving in and purchasing any for yourself.
If you want to give aromatherapy a try at home, you can start with some common and easy to find essential oils like these:
This one is a biggie because it is gentle and all-purpose. It helps to promote relaxation, which is why you will find it in many bath products. However, when you purchase a high-quality lavender essential oil, you can expect to be wowed by its ability to help calm the nervous system, treat anxiety, fight fungal infections, help with seasonal allergies, ease menstrual cramps, and get you a good night’s sleep.
This essential oil is another powerful one that is used to treat a whole host of ailments, such as headaches, digestive issues and muscle aches and pains. Additionally, you can put this oil to use if you find it difficult to focus as it can help to improve concentration.
Feeling a bit down? A sniff of this essential oil can have mood boosting effects and even increase your energy levels. It is also antimicrobial, meaning it wards off bacteria, making it a great addition to homemade household cleaning solutions.
Hailed as nature’s first aid tree, this essential oil is a bit less pleasant on the nose. When combined with lavender or lemon, however, it smells wonderful and has a potency that is hard to match. Tea tree is effective against all three infectious organisms: viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The best part? Even though it is powerful, it is still gentle on the skin.
A few words of caution
As with anything involving medicine, whether holistic or otherwise, there will be things to watch for. Essential oils, although readily available to the everyday consumer, are a powerful medicinal tool when used appropriately. However, if you are pregnant or have any health conditions, you should consult your doctor or certified aromatherapist before beginning any treatments.
Some people may have irritation when it comes to certain oils, which is why it is important to test just a small part of the skin before applying to larger areas. Furthermore, some oils should not be applied “neat” or directly to the skin but should be, instead, mixed with a carrier oil. Also, some oils may be toxic to pets or children, just another reason to let a professional be your guide.
Aromatherapy is indeed not a hoax, but instead a powerful and ancient medicine that is still readily available to us today. Using essential oils to guide you on your health journey is a great way to ensure that you aren’t only relying on a medical approach to various conditions and ailments that arise. Proceed with caution, but also an abundance of curiosity for this continuously growing field of science.