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. He is 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. Eventually, he learned how to use it as a treatment for infections and burns. And then, he started applying them to topical wounds in soldiers during the first World War.
Essential Oils and Their Role in Aromatherapy
Generally speaking, 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. Moreover, it can be inhaled.
Wait, don’t start chugging that mint oil just yet! Essential oils can be toxic if used the wrong way or when taken in the wrong amounts. More importantly, it is advised not to swallow essential oils. This is especially true if 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
Few scientific studies have been conducted to know the value of aromatherapy. Lucky for us, the evidence that does exist is positive. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports a list of studies that claim:
- Several essential oils are said 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.
- When using essential oils, pregnant women report less fear and anxiety and less pain during labor. This is especially relevant 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 hard to understand how something as simple as a plant oil could ease pain 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.
The Amazing Benefits of Aromatherapy
We'll explain the most common health benefits of aromatherapy below.
- Stress Relief - Seems like the most popular benefit of aromatherapy is stress relief. The essential oils used in aromatherapy contain compounds that help soothe the mind.
- Memory Booster - One of the most widespread illnesses that affect older people is memory loss. Although Alzheimer's disease still doesn't have a proven cure, the progression can be reduced. Aromatherapy is one way.
- Improved Energy Levels - While exercise and diet have a great impact in energy levels, some people opt for aromatherapy instead. Plenty essential oils are believed to help improve circulation and generally boost energy levels.
- Reduce Headaches - Headaches are quite normal. Rather than using medicines, which can be expensive, others think aromatherapy is a much better solution.
- Improved Digestion - Though this is not yet supported by research, many claim that digestive issues can be treated with essential oils. It is said to relieve constipation and digestion. Also, it is believed to help speed up metabolism.
Regardless of the condition, it is right to consult a doctor. Also, make sure to acquire essential oils from recommended sources. Finally, do not attempt to mix these oils unless you sought the advice of a professional therapist.
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. However, this may only happen if they remember to never ingest an essential oil without professional assistance.
Choosing the Right Essential Oil
Of course, the essential oil you will be choosing depends on your purpose. Will you be using it to improve your mood? Will it be used to soothe an aching muscle? Do you need it to treat a wound or burn?
Now, because there is no definite list that could tell you the right essential oils to use, research is highly recommended. For instance, if you are looking to experience a calming and soothing effect, chamomile, lavender, and Frankincense are considered the best options for you. On the other hand, if you wish to combat depression, peppermint oil and bergamot oil are a must-try.
The best place to begin your search is online. Research about therapeutic aromatherapy and you will find a plethora of pages that could provide the answers you are looking for. Then again, your research would be useless if you don't pay attention to what you are reading. Take note on how to apply each essential oil. Most importantly, do not forget to dilute the oils before using. Each oil could have different effects on an individual.
Application Methods for Essential Oils
If you have done your homework and researched about essential oils, you should have come across the proper application methods for each one of them. The application method depends on your desired effect and the essential oil you will be using. Generally speaking, essential oils can cause serious skin irritation, if not diluted. Thus, the best application methods we can recommend is more dilution or simply inhalation.
There are four common ways to inhale essential oils. These are:
- Diffuser - In this method, an essential oil will be placed in a device, often times, with water and some heat. It's an excellent way to get rid of foul odors in a room and to create a relaxing ambiance, ideal for yoga.
- Dry Evaporation - A few drops of essential oils are usually put into a cotton ball. And then, it is left to evaporate into thin air. It's that easy.
- Spray - To set an ambiance or mood, an essential oil is often mixed with water. After which, the mixture will be shaken and sprayed into a room using a spray bottle.
- Steam - A bowl of steaming water will be needed for this. Next, several drops of essential oil will be added to it. Grab a towel and place it over your head and bowl, trapping the steam and breathing in the vapor. When doing this, it is advised to close your eyes. Even one or two drops of essential oil can already be very overwhelming.
Essential Oils + Carrier Oils
Aside from water, carrier oils are among the most popular ingredients used to dilute essential oils. Carrier oils are readily available at many stores near you. However, it is the cold-pressed and organic varieties that are highly preferred like Coco Treasure Organics Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. These kinds of oils do not possess strong smells and are often refrigerated to keep it from turning rancid.
As a general rule, an essential oil should be diluted with a carrier oil at a concentration not greater than 5%. Simply said, that should be one teaspoon of carrier oil per 3 drops of essential oil.
If the solution will be used as a massage oil, a 1% concentration is considered safe. That means, one drop of essential oil is mixed with a teaspoon of carrier oil. Just take note that when using water as a carrier, shake it well before using.
An Easy Mix
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. Next, dab behind the ears. It should help relieve motion sickness or use as a daily body cream for soft, healthy skin.
Dos and Don'ts
We know you are very excited to try aromatherapy. However, allow us to share some important dos and don'ts.
- If you are anxious and stressed, try it - To stay calm and relaxed after a stressful day at work, breathe in a diluted essential oil solution. It should send out signals to different parts of your brain, which improves your emotions and mood. While the scent doesn't really relieve the stress, it should keep you relaxed.
- Be careful not to rub them anywhere - Yes, the essential oil solution you created might not have an effect on your arms. But they might cause irritations when rubbed in other body parts like your eyes and nose. Some examples of these oils are peppermint and lemongrass.
- Perform a quality check - Only purchase from trusted names. Other manufacturers of essential oils add unnecessary ingredients to reduce the cost. And mind you, not all extras are good. Also, do not be lured by power words like pure and original. Others just put these words in their labels to trick consumers.
- Do get rid of expired oils - Essential oils that have been around for more than 3 years should be thrown out. Most likely, they have already been exposed to other chemicals and contaminants. If that is the case, they might no longer work their magic.
- DILUTE essential oils - We've mentioned this a lot of times already. So, we expect you not use it directly from the bottle. Essential oils have to be diluted. The higher the concentration, the more likely allergic reactions may occur. Thus, make sure you mix them well.
- Do not use if skin is damaged - Is your skin inflamed, burned, or damaged? In that case, do not use essential oils. Chances are, your skin will absorb more oil and may result in unwanted reactions.
- Store them properly - Since essential oils can cause serious health issues when used the wrong way, make sure only adults have access to it. If kids are present at home, put the oils in an area out of their reach.
Considering all the good things aromatherapy brings, would you consider it as a part of your routine? Well, we suggest you should. But if you are uncertain, ask your doctor first.