Yes, it may sound like nothing more than a fru-fru spa treatment. But aromatherapy is actually serious medicine. At least, it was for René-Maurice Gattefossé, the French chemist who coined the term “aromatherapy.” Gattefossé first discovered the healing value of lavender oil after an explosion in his laboratory. It caused a serious burn on his hand. After experiencing his own positive results with essential oils, he went on to study. He learned how to use it as a treatment for infections and burns. He also applied them to topical wounds in soldiers during the first World War.
Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from plants. Aromatherapy uses these natural essential oils to promote physical or emotional healing. The name of this therapy implies; it’s all about the nose–aroma. But essential oils may be ingested and massaged into the skin as well as inhaled.
Don’t start chugging that mint oil just yet! Essential oils can be toxic if used the wrong way or the wrong amounts. Furthermore, it is advised to never swallow essential oils without the guidance of a professional aromatherapist. Some essential oils are irritating to the skin. That is why it should be diluted in what’s known as “carrier” oils”. Coconut oil or grapeseed and jojoba are among them.
The Science Behind Aromatherapy
As is often the case with “alternative” healing techniques, few scientific studies have been conducted to study the value of aromatherapy. But the evidence that does exist is positive. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports a list of studies that claim:
- Several essential oils have been shown to relieve pain and promote relaxation. Others are found to reduce stress and anxiety. Lavender, orange, lemon, rose and sandalwood are among them.
- Combining aromatherapy with massage therapy may help alleviate depression.
- Neroli oil was found to reduce blood pressure.
- Citrus oils may strengthen the immune system.
- Peppermint oil can aid digestion.
- Essential oils with estrogen-like compounds may relieve premenstrual and menopausal symptoms. These compounds are sage, clary sage, anise and fennel.
- Pregnant women report less fear and anxiety and less pain during labor. This is especially true when specific essential oils were applied by qualified midwives.
- Some essential oils have proven antifungal and antibacterial properties.
- Aromatherapy has been found helpful in treating alopecia, insomnia, headaches, pain from arthritis and cancer. It can also help relieve itching, skin irritations, constipation and anxiety.
It’s easy to see how an antibacterial essential oil might help an infection. Seems like it’s harder to understand how something as simple as a plant oil could ease pain or decrease anxiety. Well, one theory is that the smell receptors in the nose communicate with the brain. With that, the emotional, mental and physical health are influenced. In other words, the scent of lavender may stimulate brain cells. Obviously, it works in a similar way that prescription sedatives do.
More About Essential Oils
Does it all smell fishy to you? Pregnant women are cautioned to consult a professional aromatherapist before using some essential oils. The same goes for people with a history of seizures or asthma, high blood pressure or estrogen-dependent tumors. Those receiving chemotherapy are also warned to be careful. Science does not doubt that essential oils can have a powerful effect if used incorrectly. Is it so difficult to believe their powers might also be harnessed for good?
If you’d like to experiment with essential oils, consult a guide for safe usage. Most people can enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy without concern. But this may only happen if they remember to never ingest an essential oil without professional assistance.
For an easy all-purpose aromatherapy blend, mix 12 drops of lavender essential oil with one-ounce organic virgin coconut oil. Use the lavender-coconut oil blend to treat minor cuts and scrapes. Inhale it or rub a small amount into the temples to ease headaches. Massage into the feet of a fussy baby (or adult) to help them relax. Then dab behind the ears. It should help relieve motion sickness or use as a daily body cream for soft, healthy skin.