Aromatherapy may be one of the easiest and most effective ways to incorporate natural healing in your household. Replacing your air fresheners and perfumes, even cleaning products, with natural healing compounds may greatly benefit all those around you.
So what is it? Aromatherapy can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.
It is the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances, such as 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).
Aromatherapy is a caring, hands-on therapy which seeks to induce relaxation, to increase energy, to reduce the effects of stress and to restore lost balance to mind, body and soul thru the senses of smell, taste and touch.
Some of the health benefits of aromatherapy include its ability to reduce anxiety, ease depression, boost energy levels, speed up the healing process, eliminate headaches, boost cognitive performance, induce sleep, strengthen the immune system, reduce pain, improve digestion, and increase circulation. It is often used to improve mood, change cognitive states, and can also be utilized as a supplemental medicine.
Essential oils are taken from a plant’s flowers, leaves, stalks, bark, rind, or roots. The oils are mixed with another substance (such as oil, alcohol, or lotion) and then put on the skin, sprayed in the air, or inhaled. You can also massage the oils into the skin or pour them into bath water. Some essential oils may be added to drinks or food (use caution when ingesting internally as some oils may be toxic in concentrated form; be sure to consult trusted resources or contact a licensed Aromatherapist).
Practitioners of aromatherapy believe that fragrances in the oils stimulate nerves in the nose. Those nerves send impulses to the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion. Depending on the type of oil, the result on the body may be calming or stimulating.
The oils are thought to interact with the body’s hormones and enzymes to cause changes in blood pressure, pulse, and other body functions. Another theory suggests that the fragrance of certain oils may stimulate the body to produce pain-fighting substances.
The olfactory system includes all physical organs or cells relating to, or contributing to, the sense of smell. When we inhale through the nose, airborne molecules interact with the olfactory organs and, almost immediately, the brain. Molecules inhaled through the nose or mouth are also carried to the lungs and interact with the respiratory system. Thus, inhaled essential oils can affect the body through several systems and pathways.
During inhalation, odor molecules travel through the nose and affect the brain through a variety of receptor sites, one of which is the limbic system, which is commonly referred to as the “emotional brain.” The limbic system is directly connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. This relationship helps explain why smells often trigger emotions. Knowing this, we can hypothesize how inhalation of essential oils can have some very profound physiological and psychological effects!
Essential oils enter the body in three ways. They can be:
✔ Applied to the skin
The application method chosen depends on the desired effect and the essential oil selected. For example, some essential oils are irritating to the skin because of their chemistry. These would need more dilution or might better be used by inhalation. Once you have purchased an essential oil, the application method depends on the condition to be treated and the desired effect.
Note: If you are unsure about which application method to use, consult an experienced aromatherapist.
Inhaling Essential Oils
Diffuser – There are many diffusers available today as this method has grown in popularity. Essential oils are placed in this device, sometimes with water and sometimes with heat so they evaporate. Like a humidifier they quietly fill the air in the surrounding area with healing essential oil compounds. Some humidifiers allow you to add essential oils (be sure to read the instructions). As a last resort, you may use the old wives trick of placing a coffee can or metal pan of water, along with a few drops of your chosen essential oil, on a heater vent, radiator or woodstove and allow it to naturally steam (remove from heating surface once water has evaporated).
Dry evaporation – Several drops of essential oil are placed on a cotton ball or tissue and allowed to evaporate into the air. If you want an intense dose, sniff the cotton ball. If a milder, more constant exposure is desired, simply keep the cotton ball in your immediate vicinity (for example, leave it sitting on your desk next to your computer). Also you may use some of your favorite essential oils in place of perfume, touching just a couple drops on your shirt sleeves and neck area (dilute if placing directly on the skin, see below for more on this).
Steam – Drops of essential oil are added to a bowl of steaming water, which quickly vaporizes the oil. Place a towel over your head and over the bowl of water with essential oil drop(s) and breathe deeply. This method is very direct and potent—the use of more than 1-2 drops may be overwhelming. It is important keep the eyes closed when using this method. The use of eucalyptus essential oil in this way can feel helpful with upper respiratory and sinus infections.
Spray – Drops of essential oils are placed in a water-based solution, shaken, and sprayed into the air in order to deodorize a room or set a mood. An example might be spraying an aqueous solution of pine or citrus oils to enhance holiday feelings or a solution of peppermint oil to stimulate alertness. Often used for a linen spray or furniture freshener. This is recommended to replace synthetic air fresheners, as they contain harmful toxic ingredients while essential oils actually heal they body. Also an excellent body spray or headache reliever – try our Tranquility Spritz for fussiness and fits (click here to order).
Essential oils can also be applied directly to the skin using a variety of techniques. It is important to note that most essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin without being diluted. As a rule of thumb, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier substance (vegetable or nut oil, or water) at no greater concentration than 3-5%. Common carrier oils are often available in natural foods stores or stores that specialize in natural bath and body products. Organic and cold-pressed carrier oils are preferred, and examples include sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, or avocado oil. For wound care, an ideal essential oil would be gentle to the skin and antimicrobial. Some essential oils can be used in different ways. For example, true lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) can be used on the skin for cuts and minor burns, and it can be inhaled to promote relaxation and sleep. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used undiluted on small areas of the skin.
Compress – The essential oil is diluted in a liquid carrier (water or oil) and applied to a dressing or a cloth may be soaked in the solution and placed directly on the affected area. Optional heat or cold can be applied.
Bath – Drops of essential oils are added to bath water in a dispersant immediately before stepping in. This method results in absorption through the skin, as well as inhalation of the volatilized essential oil. A few tablespoons of full cream milk can be used as a dispersant. Or try our Aromatherapy Shower Bombs – with eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils they steam in the shower to relieve sinuses, sniffles and coughs while providing relief to sore muscles and headaches. Relax and wash away your worries while taking in the aroma of healing essential oils. click here to order
Massage – Aromatic massage oils combined with the therapy of healing massage can do wonders for sore muscles, tension, stress and depression. The choice of essential oils or specialty blends for massage depends on the desired effect. Heart of the Forest offers a variety of massage oil blends as well as the ability to custom order – we’ll make any blend or combination you seek! Click here to learn more…
Essential oils can be applied internally in several ways, such as adding a drop or two to your favorite drink or cooking with essential oils. Be sure to follow the guidelines for each plant oil as some may create strong reactions. A great friend of mine and expert aromatherapist creates infused brownies, cakes, teas, lemonades and more…visit DaisyPoet’s Oils (click here) for creative delicious ways to incorporate essential oils into your baking and cooking.
General safety recommendations:
- Research each oil by reading about it in books or looking up information on the web
- Adhere to all cautions for not overdoing it
- Follow recommendations for diluting the oil
- Identify a knowledgeable person who can answer your questions
Health Benefits Of Aromatherapy
Stress Relief: Perhaps the most widespread and popular use of aromatherapy is for stress relief. The aromatic compounds from many different essential oils are known as relaxants and can help to soothe your mind and eliminate anxiety. Some of the best essential oils for stress relief are lemon, lavender, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver, and ylang ylang essential oils. Certain studies have also shown that lemon or sweet orange oil can improve mood and reduce outbursts of anger.
Antidepressant: Second to stress relief, aromatherapy is very commonly used to eliminate feelings of depression, and due to the very complicated side effects of pharmaceutical antidepressants, this is a very important function of aromatherapy. In terms of the best essential oils to use for reducing depression try peppermint, chamomile, lavender, and jasmine.
Boost Energy Levels: Many essential oils are known to increase circulation, raise energy levels, and generally stimulate the body and mind, without the dangerous side effects of other stimulating substances. The best essential oils for giving yourself an energy boost include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, jasmine, tea tree, rosemary, and sage.
Healing and Recovery: Many essential oils can help increase the rate of healing throughout the body. This can be due to increased oxygen and blood flow to wounds as well as more internal healing processes like those following surgeries or illness. The anti-microbial properties of certain essential oils also keep the body protected during these delicate healing stages of the body. Some of the most popular essential oils for speeding up the healing process of the body include lavender, calendula, rosehip, and frankenscinse essential oils. A number of those same oils do more than heal wounds; they can also reduce the severity and discomfort from skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
Headaches: Rather than relying on pharmaceuticals aromatherapy can be a wonderful solution that can not only eliminate your current headache, but reduce the stress, anxiety, or medical origin of your headache. Some of the best essential oils that have been connected to reducing headaches and migraines are peppermint, eucalyptus, sandalwood, lavender, and pine essential oils. You can also mix these oils in a carrier oil and spread it on your skin, scalp, neck, and temples.
Sleep Aid: Not getting enough sleep can exacerbate or cause a huge range of medical conditions and can leave us feeling unproductive and devoid of energy. Luckily, aromatherapy comes through again and can provide us with a more balanced sleep schedule and can even realign our Circadian rhythms so our body naturally gets tired at an appropriate time, sleeps restfully through the night, and is energized in the morning to face the day. Some of the best essential oils for managing your sleeping habits and having a healthy, sedative effect on the body include lavender, chamomile, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, and ylang ylang essential oils.
Immune System: Aromatherapy can give you a serious boost to your immune system; the anti-microbial effects, as well as the anti-fungal and antibacterial effects can protect you from any number of illnesses and infections that could damage your system. Some of the most effective essential oils that boost your immune system include oregano, frankincense, lemon, peppermint, cinnamon, and eucalyptus essential oils.
Pain Relief: Pain relief is one of the most useful applications of aromatherapy. The top essential oils, both for professional and personal use, include lavender, chamomile, clary sage, juniper, eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint essential oils.
Digestion: Digestive issues can also be treated by aromatherapy. It can ease constipation, indigestion, bloating, and can speed up the metabolism so food is digested quicker. The best for treating digestive conditions include ginger, dill, fennel, chamomile, clary sage, lavender, and citrus oils such as lemon and orange.
Whatever your condition, and whatever essential oils you choose to use, always consult your doctor before embarking on a new treatment plan. Also, be sure to only acquire essential oils from approved sources and don’t attempt to mix and use oils unless you have consulted a professional aromatherapist. Contact me for more information.
Explore and enjoy!