Ever notice how a scent affects you? While a special perfume may have an effect on the opposite sex, there is a lot more to know about some very special aromas. Inhaling essential oils stimulates the part of the brain connected to smell, including the nose and the brain. Molecules that enter the nose or mouth pass to the lungs, and from there, to other parts of the body, creating a subtle, yet holistic effect on the body.
Aromatherapy refers to a range of traditional, alternative or complementary therapies that use essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds, and are used to improve a person’s health or mood. You may think it’s fairly new, but the practice has been around nearly 6,000 years. It is referred to as the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances (essential oils) for holistic healing.
Essential oils are products obtained from vegetable or fruit raw material, either by distillation or with water or steam. They have been found to have various degrees of antimicrobial activity, possessing antiviral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties. They are used in massage, topical applications, and inhalation therapy — never ingested. This means they must be used properly, however, since even “natural” products contain chemicals. Using them incorrectly can be hazardous, so make sure you use the services and/or advice of a trained professional when using essential oils.
Apart from providing a pleasant smell, aromatherapy oils can provide respiratory disinfection, decongestant, and psychological benefits. As essential oil molecules reach the brain, they affect:
(1) the limbic system, which is linked to the emotions,
(2) heart rate
(3) blood pressure
(7) hormonal balance.
Massage oils, bath and skin care products that are absorbed through the skin can boost circulation and increase absorption. Areas more abundant in sweat glands (the palms of the hand, for example) may absorb the oils more effectively. But essential oils are never applied directly to the skin. They must always be diluted with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or olive oil. Make sure you tell your practitioner about any allergies you might have before trying essential oil therapies as well as drugs you take, as interactions can occur.
I have been using essential oils since the mid ’90’s when I became interested in raindrop therapy — a technique of dropping a series of oils and working them into the spine using light strokes, stimulating energy impulses and dispersing the oils throughout the entire body’s nervous system. Some of my favorites are lavender for sleep or burns, peppermint for headache or upset stomach, and eucalyptus for colds, congestion and sinus. For more information on aromatherapy treatments, give me a call at 916) 294-9980.