A lot of scientific research is being done on aromatherapy and the effects it has on our body, mind and emotions. However, hard research supporting the healing power is limited.
I often see the effect that different smells have on people. It is very interesting to watch someone inhale a fragrance deeply and say “Oh, that smells so good”. And then two minutes later another person inhales the same fragrance and their response is “Oh, that stinks!” as they remove the scent quickly away from their nose.
However, it is not simply the aroma that is important, but also the chemical interaction between the essential oils and the body and the physical changes brought about. Each essential oil has its own individual combination of constituents which interact with your body’s chemistry and produces specific therapeutic effects.
Essential Oils are volatile and aromatic liquids which are extracted from certain varieties of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses and flowers. Pure essential oils, unlike the synthetic chemical fragrances used in modern perfumery, contain many different components.
Each are made up, in some cases, of hundreds of different constituents, including trace elements. For example, Rose essential oil contains over 3000 constituents, and that is why it is very difficult to imitate it or to construct a “nature identical” rose scent. Only pure essential oils have the beneficial therapeutic properties of natural plant extracts.
Virtually all essential oils have bactericidal properties, and they promote the production of white blood cells, which can help prevent and treat infectious illness. Essential oils interact with all systems of the body whether they are used in a massage, bath or as an inhalant.
Inhaling Essential Oils
Essential oils can produce dramatic results on a person’s health. Inhaling essential oils is an easy way to enjoy the benefits quickly. When we enjoy a pleasant aroma, we breath deeper and slower, relaxing our respiratory pattern in a manner similar to Meditation.
Scents can also serve as a distraction by becoming the focus of our attention or by prompting positive memories and emotions. I carry vials of essential oils with me wherever I go and will often inhale one from of the vials as I’m driving or anytime I feel I need a little lift.
As you inhale an aroma, odor molecules enter your nostrils and drift up toward your olfactory receptors. Once the receptors identify an odor, nerve cells relay this information directly to the brain’s limbic system. The olfactory nerve cells are the only sensory pathways that open directly into the brain.
The limbic system is a group of deep brain structures that are involved in the sense of smell. Here, odors can trigger memories and influence emotions and behavior. The brain registers aroma twice as fast as it does pain. This is why the inhalation of aromas can so powerfully transform the emotions. The limbic system also works with the nervous system, respiratory, circulatory and immune systems of our bodies.
When you inhale essential oils, they enter into your respiratory system as well as your brain. In your lungs, molecules of essential oils attach themselves to oxygen molecules and are carried into your bloodstream and circulated to every cell in your body. Within the cells, essential oils can activate the body’s ability to heal itself and improve health and well being.
The oils should only be used with great care because they are strong, volatile substances which can interact with medications or be dangerous for those with particular health problems. Essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin undiluted or taken internally. Use them only in small quantities and keep away from your eyes. Storage in a dark glass bottle in a cool place is best.
This is a very fundamental form of therapy that has been used for thousands of years. Our need to be touched is an essential and primitive human instinct. Recent research shows that a lack of touching is associated with immune depression and positive touch is associated with immune stimulation.
Not only does massage improve Circulation and relax your muscles, it has wonderful psychological benefits – the recipient feels comforted and cared for and gets a sense of well being. The general benefits of massage combined with the healing benefits of certain essential oils is very dynamic.
Because essential oils are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, they affect the nervous system, as well as all other systems of the body.
Here are some of the benefits that can be obtained massaging with essential oils:
- Improves Circulation and lymphatic drainage, and helps to eliminate Toxins from the body.
- Stimulates the Immune System and strengthens resistance to disease.
- Aids digestion, eases Constipation and relieves abdominal spasm.
- Lowers blood pressure and reduces Stress levels; can be helpful with Insomnia.
- Eases muscular aches and pains and promotes muscle relaxation.
- Releases endorphins, the brain’s natural opiates, which encourages a feeling of well being and confidence.
If receiving a massage isn’t possible, self massage can provide many benefits. It can be performed in the bath, car, bed, sitting at a desk, etc. The easiest areas to work are the neck, shoulders, arms, hands and feet.
Below are a few precautions regarding massage:
- Do not have a massage immediately after a meal or if you are feeling unwell or drained of energy.
- Massage should not be done over any areas of skin infection, rashes, cuts, sores, Burns or varicose veins.
Baths and Showers
Bathing with herbs and essential oils can provide all of the benefits listed in the massage category. In addition, bathing promotes your blood vessels to dilate slightly, heart rate slows, and muscles release Tension. The herbs and essential oils nourish the skin as they are absorbed.
Many seniors have difficulties getting in and out of the bathtub and are therefore limited to showers. There are many soaps and shower gels available that contain herbs and essential oils and are beneficial in the shower. Be sure the product only contains pure essential oils, not fragrance oils.
You can also shower as usual then add a few drops of essential oil to your facecloth or sponge and rub it over yourself briskly as you continue to stand under the running water. Breathe in the aromatic steam deeply. And don’t forget hand and foot baths for a quick, easy way to benefit and enjoy.
Carrier Oils are vegetable, nut or seed oils and many have therapeutic properties. Always mix your essential oils with a Carrier Oil before using on your skin. A general guideline would be 2-5 drops of essential oil per teaspoon of a Carrier Oil.
Some favorites include:
- Sweet Almond Oil – Rich in minerals, Vitamins and Proteins. An excellent lubricant and softening, revitalizing and nourishing to the skin. Excellent penetrating properties.
- Grapeseed Oil – Has a very fine texture and also contains Vitamins, minerals and Proteins. A light oil that penetrates quickly and is good for all skin types. A popular massage oil base because of its texture and low odor.
- Jojoba Oil – Has excellent moisturizing and emulsifying properties. Jojoba also contains Proteins and minerals, as well as myristic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory agent. This is one of the most versatile oils for massage and beauty. It is good for all skin types and helps unclog the pores. It is excellent for inflamed or irritated conditions, as a hair conditioner or a natural mild sunscreen.
Most essential oils must be mixed with a Carrier Oil before applying to the skin. The exceptions would be Lavender and Tea Tree. These oils can usually be applied directly to the skin for First Aid purposes. However, before applying any oil to the skin, always do a patch test.
Establishing aromatherapy as a habit in your daily life helps you take a little time for yourself. Essential oils can be used simply and effectively in a variety of ways; both for their scent and for their cosmetic and medicinal qualities. Essential oils can help prevent and relieve many common complaints such as Headaches, colds, menstrual pain, Menopause and aching muscles.
Although we may not have enough scientific information to evaluate the effectiveness of aromatherapy, if essential oils help us to relax, sleep or feel less depressed, we should feel free to indulge ourselves.
Start slowly. Lavender is a must for the beginner. Find many ways to use the oils. Apply to cuts, watch how they heal. Add to the bath, feel the relaxation and notice how your body responds. Before long, you will wonder how you ever got along without aromatherapy in your life.