Although the human sense of smell is hardly as developed as it is in many animals, we still respond favourably or unfavourably to different odours. Just smelling a fragrant flower can help to elevate our mood and clear our minds momentarily of care and worry. Aromatherapy is based on the connection between what we smell and the reactions that our mind and body produce. While aromatherapy is still considered to be a non-conventional approach to medicine, recent studies have shown that this is a valid branch of healing.

The Basis of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is based on the volatile oils that plants produce. The scent of flowers comes from volatile oils that the plant makes to attract insects, bats, or birds to assist in pollination; it is simply a happy coincidence that these volatile oils have benefits for mankind. It is not only the scent of flowers that is used in aromatherapy, oil from leaves, roots, bark, stems, and fruit is also employed to alleviate mental and physical problems.

The French perfumer, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse is the originator of aromatherapy. Using his skills not only in distilling perfume, but as a chemist, Gattefosse wrote a book in the early 20th Century that detailed his research into the subject of aromatherapy. This was the beginning of using essential oils for treatment of various disorders.

Essential oils from plants are considered to be volatile oils because they evaporate and react quickly. This property allows these oils to be readily picked up by nerves in the nose and sinuses, delivering a message rapidly to the brain. Essential oils are thought to interact with the neurotransmitters and also react with the parts of the brain involved with emotion. Research has shown that the essential oils used in aromatherapy can actually cause changes in brain waves and in behaviour patterns.

Aromatherapy Benefits

Although aromatherapy is considered to be an alternate form of healing, it has shown itself to be useful in dealing with a number of health problems. The nice thing about aromatherapy is that it is non-invasive, and at its most simple level helps to clear the air and provide a more comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere.

  • Stress is one of the banes of modern existence and can lead to serious health problems such as depression, high blood pressure, and insomnia. Using lavender, frankincense, chamomile, and rose oils can help to reduce the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the bloodstream.
  • Depression is a life-deadening condition that is often treated with powerful psychoactive medications. Fortunately, depression can also be alleviated using aromatherapy. Many of the same oils that are used to treat stress also work well to fight depression, with the addition of clary sage, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, and basil essential oils.
  • Skin conditions such as acne and pimples respond well to aromatherapy. Using a compress made from sandalwood, clary sage, geranium, and lemongrass (either alone or in combination) can help break the cycle of clogged pores and bacterial infection. Cuts and scrapes can heal more quickly when essential oils are used.
  • Summer fun often translates into sunburn. Those who find their skins red and painful can get some relief by combining aloe vera with essential oils such as rose hip, avocado, hazel nut, or sunflower. These oils can be added to a cool bath to begin the healing process and compresses can be applied to especially painful spots.
  • Headaches and migraines can make life miserable. While aromatherapy might not be able to dispel a migraine completely, it can help to lessen its severity. Compresses containing peppermint and eucalyptus seem to provide the most relief, and soaking the hands in warm water containing lavender and ginger essential oils is particularly effective when dealing with migraines.

Using Aromatherapy

There are several different ways for aromatherapy to be used. While some can be done at home at a personal level, in most cases it’s best to use a qualified therapist to administer the treatment as some therapies require a mixture of oils for the best results.

  • Inhalation is the most common use of aromatherapy. The essential oils are placed in a bowl of warm water for inhaling. A towel can be draped over the head to concentrate the aroma. Another way to benefit from inhalation is by using a diffuser or light bulb ring to provide more general aromatherapy.
  • Adding oils to the bath will provide not only tactile therapy but also provide for inhalation benefits. Essential oils for treating skin conditions can be dispensed by this method. Taking a bath before bedtime, with the proper essential oils, can help those with sleep disturbance problems to get needed rest.
  • Compresses using a carrier oil or alcohol along with the essential oil can give direct relief to problem areas, such as skin irritations. Compresses are also valuable at relieving when applied to the forehead.
  • Massage using essential oils is a definite win/win for the subject. Many massage therapists will use hot stones along with the essential oils to provide maximum relief and relaxation.

The use of aromatherapy need not wait until a problem arises in body or spirit – it can be used simply to make everyday life more pleasant and rewarding.

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