The Use Of Essential Oils For Aromatherapy Has Many Health Benefits
Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine that uses fragrant plant extracts, known as essential oils, for a range of therapeutic health benefits. While only recently accepted by a wider spectrum of the western world as an effective therapy, the use of plant based oils for aroma based therapies has been practiced in some countries for over 6000 years. While aromatherapy is yet to undergo rigorous scientific scrutiny, it has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment or management of some health complaints.
It is thought that the different essential oils made from plants and flowers are able to bring about different emotional and physiological reactions within the body. These reactions are thought to enhance both psychological and physical wellbeing.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds that are extracted in their pure form from the seeds, bark, stems, roots, fruit, flowers and any other plant matter. The essential oil is often extracted from the plant matter via distillation or evaporation. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils as they contain the volatile aromatic compounds that create the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it has been taken. For use in aromatherapy the concentrated oils in their pure form are too strong and are often diffused using a nebuliser or and incense burner or volatilised or diluted in a carrier oil.
How Is Aromatherapy Performed?
The most effective methods involve the absorption of oils via the skin or by inhalation. These oils can be added to massage oils and gently massaged into the skin or a few drops can be added directly to bath water. Some oils may be vaporised with oil burners, but a simpler method is to inhale the steam after placing a few drops into a bowl of hot water. Some aromatherapists also use compresses containing essential oils as part of their therapy.
How Does Aromatherapy Work?
The nasal cavity contains olfactory cells that trap odour molecules. These cells then send electrical impulses to the brain to tell the brain what it is smelling. The part of the brain responsible for our sense of smell is linked to the parts of our brain that helps to control emotional state, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels and even hormone levels. Therefore it’s thought that different odours or scents will stimulate these parts of the brain in different ways.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Aromatherapy?
Eucalyptus oil is commonly used to help relieve congestion and other symptoms associated with the common cold. Peppermint oil is recommended for digestive health and to give a quick boost in energy levels. Rosemary can help alleviate muscular aches and pains as well as providing mental stimulation. Sandalwood and sweet orange oil are often recommended as a natural way to reduce stress, depression and anxiety levels. Tea tree oil has many strong disinfectant properties so is often used to help the body fight any viral, bacterial or fungal infections, including most respiratory problems. Lavender has been used for centuries to help alleviate symptoms such as headaches, nausea, insomnia and stress. Essential oils such as geranium have also been linked to alleviating menopausal symptoms.
Is Aromatherapy Safe?
Aromatic products are readily available from many retail outlets and the aromatherapy in it’s simplest form is relatively safe easy to practice. An oil burner and a diffuser along with a selection of your favourite scents is all you need to get started, however of you have a particular health goal it is best you consult with a qualified aromatherapist. Essential oils are extremely potent and can be quite dangerous if used for the wrong purpose. Pure plant oil should never be used undiluted and is poisonous if taken by mouth. Some oils such as camphor, penny royal and wintergreen, just like their plant form, are toxic to humans.
Aromatherapy is often used in conjunction with mainstream medicine to help alleviate symptoms of common conditions such as colds, nausea, morning sickness and depression. If you are pregnant or have an existing medical condition it is very important to consult with your aromatherapist or your doctor before commencing aromatic therapy. While aromatherapy has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of many common health problems and provide many health benefits, it is advisable to consult with your local doctor to ensure you are addressing any underlying health problems in addition to treating the symptoms.