Aromatherapy and essential oils have been used for generations for comfort and healing. But what is it? How does it work? And could it actually help you?
Aromatherapy benefits you in many ways. It is the proactive use of essential oils for physical and psychological well being. Aromatherapy is a great addition to your health and can supplement many other health treatments.
The key to aromatherapy is essential oil. An essential oil is a concentrated liquid containing aroma compounds from plants.
As you inhale a smell, it travels across the nerves in your nose and then into the part of your brain that controls your mood, learning, and memory. This area of the brain also releases endorphins. This is how the essential oils reach your blood stream. They absorb easily into the blood because they have a tiny molecular structure. Alternatively you can absorb essential oils through the skin.
An important point is that not all fragrances or fragrant oils are essential oils. Many synthetic fragrances can be made of chemicals which may irritate or cause problems. Pure essential oils come from plants only.
While many people have been skeptical of aromatherapy, research from many scientific institutions like the Miami School of Medicine and the University of Alaska Fairbanks have started to prove the scientific efficacy of using essential oils.
So what are some of the benefits of aromatherapy?
Stress � In a study at New York�s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, patients who received a MRI (the medical imaging technique where you are placed in a confined space) were less claustrophobic when they smelled vanilla and they had no increase in heart rate.
Relaxation � Studies done with mice have shown that aroma of lavender or sandalwood essential oils calmed down mice that were excited. Note that lavender and sandalwood are known for their calming properties.
Sleep � As reported in the British Medical Journal Lancet, older patients slept soundly when exposed to lavender aromas at night. These were the same patients that complained of sleeping issues and were taking medications to help them sleep before the use of lavender.
Cancer - Cherie Perez is a supervising research nurse in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Perez notes that aromatherapy with essential oils can compliment cancer treatments by helping the body fight infection.
Skin � Essential oils like bergamot can treat skin issues like acne, oily skin, and infections of the skin.
Common essential oils and their aromatherapy benefits
Lavender is often used to relieve stress, help with migraine headaches, and help with sleeping problems.
Spearmint is often used to help with digestion and ease stomach issues like vomiting and nausea.
Rosemary is often used to relieve muscle pain.
Lemon balm has been shown to be effective at reducing the pain, duration, and frequency of outbreaks of oral and genital herpes through topical application.
Essential oils can be very sensitive to heat and light. Be sure to look for oils that are packaged in blue or brown containers.
Look for essential oils sold in health stores or by your massage therapist. Many oils sold in bath stores or general stores can be of uneven quality.