Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of aromatic plant oils, known as essential oils, to promote physical and psychological well-being and enhance an individual’s innate healing process. A qualified aromatherapist may utilise different therapeutic applications including inhalation, diluted topical use, water immersion and massage. Because they are so highly concentrated, it is not often recommended that you apply essential oils in their pure form directly to the skin or ingest them.
Essential oils have been used medicinally for hundreds of years and are selected for an individual based on their traditional use, clinical experience and from the results of modern scientific evaluation.
Although practiced for centuries, it was the French perfumer and chemist, Rene- Maurice Gattefosse, who coined the term “aromatherapy” in 1937 with his publication of a book by that name. He discovered the healing properties of essential oils after he burned his hand in his chemistry lab and healed it remarkably quickly by using Lavender. In his book he explained at length the properties of essential oils and their methods of application, with examples of their antiseptic, bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Currently essential oils are used in hospitals to promote healing, they are used in workplace to increase productivity and in the home to create ambience and address minor ailments.
How does aromatherapy work?
Aromatherapists base treatment on individual needs, blending oils to suit the situation of that person. The different aromas and chemical constituents of the oils can produce different emotional and physiological reactions.
The inhaled aroma from essential oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. As the vapour is inhaled, the sensory nerves in our nasal cavity stimulates the olfactory system and information is conveyed directly to the brain’s limbic system.
The limbic system has been coined the ‘emotional brain’ where pleasure, memory and emotion are recorded. The limbic system is directly connected to 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 and why essential oils may trigger profound physiological and psychological changes.
Essential oil molecules are so minute in structure that when massaged onto the skin, they are able to pass through the outer layer of the epidermis. Once they enter the bloodstream essential oils target specific areas of the body with their healing benefits.
Benefits of aromatherapy
Studies have shown that aromatherapy may have the following health benefits:
- Relief from anxiety and depression
- Improved quality of life, particularly for people with chronic health conditions
- Improved sleep
Other studies suggest that aromatherapy with lavender oil may help:
- Reduce pain for people with osteoarthritis of the knee
- Improve quality of life for people with dementia
- Reduce pain for people with kidney stones
Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.