Aromatherapy and Essential Oils
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a branch of alternative medicine, using essential oils that are made from different parts of medicinal plants, to enhance psychological and physical well-being. Stem, seeds, roots, flowers are only a few of the parts that contain these naturally occurring aromatic compounds.
- Leaves from eucalyptus plants
- Grass, like lemongrass
- Herbs like thyme, oregano, rosemary, peppermint
- Fennel seeds
- Flowers like rose and geranium
- Zest from fruits like orange, grapefruit lemon
- Bark or wood from trees like pine or cedar
- Resin from frankincense trees
The aroma we inhale from the Essential Oils, stimulates the brain, having an influence on the limbic system. These oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream, having a direct influence over the health of the body.
Aromatherapy is regaining its status, being used for a variety of applications: mood enhancement, pain relief and even increasing the cognitive function.
Essential oils give plants their distinctive smell. They also protect plants and have their role in plant pollination. Therefore, for over 5000 years, aromatherapy has been a trusted practice among cultures spanning the globe. Natural healers were using essential oils for many antibacterial, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
In addition to their benefits to plants, these oils have long been used for beauty treatments, health-care practices and food preparation. Some popular aromatic oils you might recognize include lavender, tea tree and peppermint oil, used in most of the products, from laundry detergent to tooth paste.
1 Essential Oils History
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first records we have about Aromatherapy, date back in Ancient Egipt, India and much later, Persia. Burning leafs, resins and other aromatic plant materials for medicinal purpose has been a religious tradition throughout history. Seems like Greece and Rome conducted extensive trade in aromatic oils with the Orient, thousands of years ago.
Modern distillation was invented by Arab alchemists in 9th century A.D. Also, our ancestors used herb infused oils, meaning they let the herbs into oil (olive oil for example) for several weeks. Most noteworthy, the knowledge of distillation was spread to Europe, during the Middle Ages.
French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, is the one who rediscovered the healing power of Essential Oils. After he suffered a laboratory explosion, he managed to treat the gas gangrene that developed on his hand, using Lavender Oil. Gattefosse devoted his work to research the Essential Oils benefits.
2 What are Essential Oils?
A volatile aromatic compound, we were talking about, earlier in the article, are small organic molecules. These molecules are rapidly changing their form from solid or liquid state to a gas state. The name volatile comes from this ability to quickly change aggregation states. Opening an essential oil bottle will make you instantly notice its smell, even from a certain distance. The smell of essential oil quickly moves through the air, due to the chemical and physical properties of the volatile compounds.
Essential oils were proved to be successfully applied for a large variety of emotional and physical wellness treatments. You can use single oils or complex essential oils blends. It all depends on the user experience and of course on the complexity of the situation we are using them for.
3 How to obtain Essential Oils
Essential oils are extracted one or two ways: either by steam distillation or by pressing.
Distillation was always both a science technology and an art. The most common method of extracting essential oils is a low-heat steam distillation. Pressurized steam is circulated through plant material. The essential oils are liberated from the plant and carried away by the steam. When the steam cools, the water and oils naturally separate and we collect the oil. Temperature and pressure are the two important factors for obtaining a high quality essential oil.
Cold-pressed is another method for obtaining these wonderful essential oils. This method, also known as “expression”, is used to obtain citrus oils, such as Orange, Lime, Lemon, Bergamot, and Grapefruit.
4 How Do We Use Essential Oils?
The application method and the dilution are two of the most important aspects when we speak about aromatherapy healing capabilities. Because they are so highly concentrated, it is not often recommended that you apply essential oils in their pure form directly on the skin.
You will experience better results if you use small amounts of the oils, diluted in a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba oils.
Aromatic Vapor Inhalation
First of all, one of the cornerstones of aromatherapy treatment is the vapor technique. Since many essential oils have beneficial effects on sinus and respiratory system, steam inhalation is a very popular application method.
The smell receptors quickly absorb the Essential oils, and transport them to the limbic system by way of the olfactory nerve. The brain`s limbic system supports functions like smell, emotions, memory and behavior. Therefore, no wonder essential oils have such a powerful effect in aromatic applications.
Most noteworthy, diffusion is one of the simplest methods for using essential oils aromatically. However, the aromatic use or the essential oils does not automatically require a diffuser.
Read what are the Pros and Cons for each type of diffuser, on DoTerra official site
Place a few drops of essential oil in the palm of your hand, cup hands around the nose and breathe deeply. After inhaling, maintain the air in the lungs for 2-3 seconds, then exhale. This practice will help for a better absorption of the oil. Repeat 4-5 times.
Other aromatic uses:
- Apply oil to a cotton ball and place in the air vents of your vehicle
- Apply 1 drop of essential oil when washing the laundry
- Household surface cleaner
- Necklace / watches accessories
- For those who don`t have a diffuser, don`t panic, the old-school method works just as fine as the diffuser one:
Add five drops of essential oil to steaming water and inhale the aroma using a towel tent. Place the towel around your head so the aroma doesn`t escape while you inhale it.
Topical Use: Baths, Aromatherapy massage, Lotions & Compresses
This is a very effective application method, also, due to the easiness they penetrate the skin. Once absorbed, they stay in the applied are for a localized benefit. Therefore, using a carrier oil or a light massage, will increase the oils absorption.
Some of the oils need a carrier oil, like Fractionated Coconut Oil, to decrease the possibility of developing skin sensitivity. Especially relevant, the recommended dilution ratio is typically one drop of essential oil to three drops of carrier oil. Always start with the lowest possible dose, 1-2 drops. You can repeat a topical dose every 4-6 hours, as you need, during daytime. Also, adjust the dose, according to the age, size and overall health status of the user.
Is probably the most popular method of aromatherapy application. Blending drops of essential oil with carrier lotions (almond, Shea butter, jojoba oil) can affect the body both physiologically and psychologically. It all depends on which essential oils you use. For example, peppermint energizes the body, while lavender oil is a relaxing agent.
- Chest and abdomen
- Forehead and temples, the sinuses
- Also, arms. legs, bottom of feet
Other topical uses:
Prepare your own aromatic sauna, adding a few essential oils drops to a warm bath
Adding aromatherapy oils to your bath is an easy way to cash in on their health benefits. Simply add a few drops to the bathwater and blend it before submerging yourself. The aroma will trigger your olfactory sense, which will in turn enhance your circulation and help to bring about physical balance
In face and body lotions and creams
Add a few drops of essential oil to your favorite carrier lotion, massage oil or cream, to stimulate healing properties.
Hot or cold-water compress with essential oils
Finally, add Essential oils to a bowl with warm or cold water,to obtain compresses: Dig a washcloth into the blend and wring out. Using the washcloth as a compress, apply it to different areas of the body. Maybe you need a shoulder or stomach pain relief. Also, warm essential oils compresses are ideal for dealing with menstrual cramps.
Areas to avoid Topic Use:
- The skin around the eyes
- Ears and inner ears
- Also, broken and damaged skin.
To conclude, some of the essential oils we know today, have a rich culinary history, supporting a variety of health conditions as supplements. First of all, think about sprinkling cinnamon on your quinoa pudding. In addition, remember the last time you added fresh basil leaves to spaghetti, or a drop of lemon to your tea. These are ways of consuming some volatile aromatic essential oil compounds.
Essential oils have a complex composition. Therefore, each constituent possesses a unique set of biochemical properties that react with cells and organs in different ways. Also, the body is designed to handle certain doses of essential oils, and this needs to be a reminder in order to avoid toxicity.
Other internal uses:
- Use oils in recipes for cooking or baking; replace fresh or dried herbs and spices (1 drop)
- Add oils to water, tea, smoothies, milk or other drinks
- Take them in veggie caps, also.
Read more about Aromatherapy practice and benefits, on Dr. Axe website:
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