AROMATHERAPY: Health Benefits of Essential oils
Introduction to Aromatherapy
Have you ever experienced how particular aromas can make you feel instantly calm, or nostalgic, or even make your head hurt?
Different types of aromas have varying effects on the brain. This concept is also widely used in fragrance-associated brands. You often see advertisements claiming a particular fragrance has an attractive effect on people. However funny or silly some of these marketing strategies are, the concept behind them is scientifically true. This is also the principle of Aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine.
Aromatherapy uses natural oils extracted from different parts of a plant like the bark, stem, leaves, etc., to enhance psychological and physical well-being. The application of aromatherapy is used for pain relief, mood enhancement, and increasing cognitive function along with having various other benefits as we will see in this article.
History of Aromatherapy
Very little is known about the history of aromatherapy, however, the credits of some aspects of its origin have been scattered in different parts of the world. The Egyptians are credited with the development of the first distillation machine which extracted oils from plants like cedarwood, cinnamon, etc., to embalm the dead. China is thought to be the first to start using these infused aromatic oils as mood enhancers. Megallus, a Greek perfumer, is said to have developed a fragrance called Megaleion, consisting of myrrh. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have practiced aromatherapy for healing purposes.
In 1937, the term aromatherapy was first introduced by a French chemist by the name of Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who discovered that lavender oil helped cure burns. The medical benefits of aromatherapy were then used by French surgeon Jean Valnet who used essential oils to help heal soldiers’ wounds during World War II.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquid oils extracted from plants that have healing properties. Unlike perfumes or other fragrance oils, essential oils are naturally obtained from plants and do not undergo any form of chemical preparation. This natural extraction process takes place in either of these two ways: steam distillation or pressing. Some of the essential oils extracted from different plants include lavender, tea tree, patchouli, jasmine, rosemary, etc.
Principle of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy, a holistic healing therapy, can be used as inhalants or for topical application. As inhalants, the aromatherapy or essentials oils provide respiratory disinfection, decongestion, and psychological benefits. Inhalation of these essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, all the way from the nose or mouth to the brain. In the brain, these oils have a stimulating effect on the limbic system which is linked to emotions, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance. When used topically, these essential oils boost circulation and increase absorption in the area of application. Areas such as sweat glands, hair follicles, or palms of the hand are arguably referred to as the most effective areas for oil absorption.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
Some benefits of using aromatherapy are in reducing feelings of:
- Nausea, vomiting, and gas formation in the gut
- Body pain and headaches, and migraines
- Anxiety, agitation, nervousness stress and depression
- Fatigue and insomnia
- Muscular aches: reduces arthritis pain, prevent muscle spasms and improve flexibility
- Circulatory problems like high blood pressure
- Menstrual problems
- Menopause problems
- Alopecia, or hair loss
- sharpen concentration, boost memory, increases alertness
- Skin problems: eczema or caused by stress
Under the guidance of a proper aromatherapist, aromatherapy can provide you holistic health benefits while helping alleviate certain conditions that your body is suffering from. This natural healing therapy is relaxing and calming in nature and not just caters to your physical health, but benefits you even at a psychological level.
Essential Oils and their Effects on Health
Essential oils vary in their uses and effects. Listed below are 10 Essential oils and their benefits:
- Basil – Used to sharpen concentration, alleviate some symptoms of depression, and relieve headaches and migraine. Should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Eucalyptus oil – Often combined with peppermint and used to relieve airways during cold or flu. Check for allergic reactions.
- Bergamot – Useful for problems pertaining to the urinary tract and digestive tract. When combined with eucalyptus oil helps relieve skin problems, including those caused by stress and chickenpox.
- Black pepper – Used to stimulate circulation, relieve muscular aches, and pain. When combined with ginger essential oils, used to reduce arthritis pain and improve flexibility.
- Chamomile – Used to treat eczema.
- Clove – A topical analgesic or painkiller, commonly used for toothache. Having antimicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic and antifungal properties, clove is used to prevent vomiting and nausea, and gas formation in the gut.
- Jasmine – Described as an aphrodisiac, research has shown that the odor of jasmine increases alertness by increasing beta waves in the brain. It might also act as a stimulant and increase penile blood flow.
- Lavender – used as an antiseptic for minor cuts and burns. Also used to enhance relaxation and sleep, and relieve headaches and migraines.
- Thyme – Helps reduce fatigue, nervousness and stress.
- Rosemary – Promote hair growth, boost memory, prevent muscle spasms, and support the circulatory and nervous systems.
Best ways to use Essential Oils
Essential oils, being highly concentrated in their pure form, are not recommended to be directly applied to the skin. The best way is to use small amounts of these concentrated oils diluted in water or with a carrier oil or massage lotion as is listed below:
- Used in Baths – This is the easiest way to obtain healing benefits of the essential oils. When used in the bath, the aroma from these oils trigger your olfactory senses and enhance circulation while bringing about physical balance.
- Used in Aromatherapy Massage – The most popular method of aromatherapy application is to blend in a few drops of the oil with carrier lotions, like almond, shea butter, etc. peppermint is known to energize the senses while lavender acts as a relaxing agent. when used as massage oils, essential oils trigger the olfactory senses, and get absorbed in the skin ultimately reaching the bloodstream to produce healing effects.
- Used in Aromatherapy Vapor Inhalation – The Vapor technique is one of the cornerstones of aromatherapy treatments. Inhalation of essential oils vapors diluted in steaming water helps alleviate sinus and other respiratory issues.
- Used in Lotions/Creams – adding a few drops of essential oils to your lotion, massage oil, or cream, helps stimulate healing properties.
- Used in Compresses – All you need is a washcloth, a bowl of warm water and a few drops of essential oils. Warm essential oil compresses on the forehead, stomach or muscles help relieve pain and are also great for menstrual cramps.
Risks Associated with Aromatherapy
Each essential oil has its own chemical makeup and use, hence, it is important to consult a good trained aromatherapist before using an essential oil for healing purposes. Sometimes a product may be contaminated or synthetic, therefore, getting consultation and purchasing oils from a trusted aromatherapist is advisable to avoid problems in the future.
People with any allergies, hay fever, asthma, skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, epilepsy and hypertension may be extremely cautious while undergoing aromatherapy sessions. Some of the mild side effects of aromatherapy include nausea, headaches, and allergic reactions.
End note from WG Team
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