Written by Christina Storto on 2018/11/06
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. A little bit of back history? French perfumer and chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, coined the term “aromatherapie” in 1937. His book “Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy” contains early clinical findings for using essential oils for a range of physiological ailments. Gattefosses’s intention for coining the word was meant to distinguish the medicinal application of essential oils from their perfumery applications. we can interpret his coming of the word “Aromatherapie” to mean the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances (essential oils) for holistic healing. As the practice of aromatherapy has progressed, over the years, it has adopted a more holistic approach encompassing the whole body, mind, and spirit (energy).
How Aromatherapy Works
The inhaled aroma from "essential" oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. The oils may activate certain areas of your brain, like your limbic system, which plays a role in your emotions. They could also have an impact on your hypothalamus, which may respond to the oil by creating feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin. Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream and can promote whole-body healing like joint and muscle pain. Some might say, this is a form of alternative medicine, and aromatherapy is gaining a lot of momentum especially with how people are opting for more natural homeopathic remedies.
What Is Aromatherapy Used For?
You shouldn't use aromatherapy instead of your regular medical treatment. But for some conditions, research shows that aromatherapy can have health benefits including pain relief, mood enhancement and increased cognitive function. It may:
- Ease stress, anxiety, and depression
- Boost feelings of relaxation
- Improve sleep
- Help improve quality of life for people with long-term health problems like dementia
- Ease certain types of pain, including pain from kidney stones and osteoarthritis of the knee
- Fight bacteria when you put them on your skin
- Ease some of the side effects of cancer treatment, like nausea and pain
TO FALL (AND STAY) ASLEEP:
If you find yourself tossing and turning on a nightly basis, it may be time that you consider some aromatherapy—there are countless studies that detail
just how beneficial certain scents can be for getting quality shut-eye, even in highly stressful situations. For example, one study found that when ICU
patients sniffed lavender, chamomile, and neroli, their anxiety levels dipped significantly, and their sleep quality did just the opposite. Another found
that the scent of lavender increased slow-wave (deep) sleep, particularly in women. Just taking a whiff of any sleep-inducing oil before bed can help, but
to reap the benefits all night long, consider keeping an open jar of an oil dilution on your nightstand or using a pillow spray. (Follow up with Part 3 for a pillow spray recipe!)
Essential oils that help induce sleep: lavender, vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, chamomile, neroli, marjoram, cedar, bergamot, clary sage, frankincense, rose
FOR RELIEVING ANXIETY AND FINDING BALANCE:
Don't stress: Relaxation might be only a whiff away. While there are plenty of science-backed scents for finding calm (rose, sandalwood, lavender, frankincense, and orange among them). In the end, any aroma that speaks to you and brings about a sense of calm and relaxation can be beneficial. A lot of it is based on state of mind and how something makes you feel.
A favorite trick for alleviating tension quickly is to massage an oil blend with calming scents into your temples, which are your pressure points.
Essential oils for de-stressing: rose, clary sage, frankincense, lavender, bergamot, marjoram, ylang-ylang, lemon, geranium, orange, sandalwood, chamomile, vetiver
FOR A MENTAL BOOST:
After a long day, or just when you're feeling tired and missing energy, reboot by sniffing an invigorating scent blend—or better yet, spritzing yourself with an oil-infused face mist. Take your pick of scents that can help you double-down on the rest of the workday: One study shows that sniffing rosemary can increase memory by 75% while peppermint has also been associated with recall as well as sustained focus. Other research has shown that peppermint, basil, and
helichrysum help with burnout and mental fatigue.
Essential oils for improving concentration: rosemary, basil, peppermint, helichrysum, cedar, vetiver, grapefruit, pine, juniper
FOR INSTANT ENERGY:
Skip the third cup of coffee and keep uplifting essential oils on hand instead. Citruses are specifically associated with boosting mood and energy levels,
alleviating fatigue-inducing anxiety and stress to boot. One study found that administering peppermint oil even led to a boost in exercise performance.
Essential oils for energy: lemon, orange, grapefruit, eucalyptus, cinnamon, peppermint, ginger, rosemary, spearmint, black pepper, jasmine
TO SOOTHE INFLAMMATION AND SKIN WOES:
We've covered a lot about aiding mood and mentality, but what about the more physical healing benefits of essential oils? Many plants are natural
antiseptics, anti-inflammatories, antimicrobials, and antivirals, so when concentrated into essential oil form, they can function as highly effective remedies for acne, muscle soreness, sore throats, and more. Take ever-versatile peppermint oil, for example. It's cooling, and can be found in formulated muscle
care products along with eucalyptus, and wintergreen. A quick home made remedy? Add 10 drops of peppermint essential oil to one ounce of sweet almond oil and rub it into leg muscles and feet.
As for blemishes and other skin irritations, there are plenty of options as well. Tea tree oil is a skincare-loved remedy, It's super antibacterial and drying which is perfect for shrinking away blemishes while disinfecting it. Also, it's one of the only essential oils (along with lavender) that can safely be applied directly to skin. Dab a few drops on a blemish to zap bacteria and soothe any redness. Got angry, inflamed skin from a sunburn, rosacea, or other sensitivities? Mist on some rosewater or a lavender hydrosol for instant relief.
Essential oils for inflammation:
• Acne and skin irritations: tea tree oil, lavender, oregano, bergamot, rosemary, helichrysum
• Muscle inflammation: peppermint, eucalyptus, wintergreen, chamomile, nutmeg, ginger, cayenne, rosemary, black pepper
• Sore throat: eucalyptus, peppermint, ginger, lemon, tea tree, sage, rosemary