How Does Aromatherapy Work?

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a holistic alternative medicine that uses plant extracts, known as essential oils, to alter a persons mind, mood, cognitive function or health. Aromatherapy literally means “treatment using scents”. The essential oils are aromatic essences extracted from plants, flowers, trees, fruits, bark, grasses and seeds with distinctive therapeutic, psychological, and physiological properties which improve health and prevent illness. There are about 150 essential oils. Most of these oils have antiseptic properties; some are antiviral, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antidepressant and expectorant. Other properties of the essential oils which are taken advantage of in aromatherapy are stimulation, relaxation, digestion improvement, and their diuretic properties. To get the maximum benefit from essential oils they should be made from natural, pure, raw materials. Synthetically made oils do not work.

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

We, as human beings, have the capacity to distinguish 10,000 different smells. These smells enter through cilia, the fine hairs lining the nose, to the limbic system which is the part of the brain that controls our moods, emotions, memory and learning. It can be shown by measuring brain wave frequencies that different smells affect us in a multitude of ways. An example of this would be the smell of lavender that increases alpha waves in the back of the head associated with relaxation. Another example would be the fragrance of Jasmine that increases beta waves in the front of the head associated with a more alert state.

Where did Aromatherapy come from?

Aromatherapy has been practised since ancient times. The actual date aromatherapy was first introduced is much disputed. Most experts claim that the ancient Egyptians were the first to practice aromatherapy. The ancient Egyptians recognised the physical and spiritual properties of these oils and used them in their daily lives. Egyptians used oils in their mummification procedures and were aware of the healing properties of many of these oils. The priests became “healers” mixing and prescribing medicinal potions.

Aromatic plants and essential oils were used in biblical times. Think of the gifts brought to the new born. Plant oils are mentioned several times in the Bible.

During the fifteenth century people in Europe began using essential oils to disguise their body odours and to ward off sickness. The French chemist Dr. Ren-Maurice Gattefoss is considered the “father” of modern day aromatherapy. Gattefosse was the first to use the term “aromatherapy” in 1928. The French physician Dr.Jean Valnet was very impressed with Gattefoss’s findings and began using essential oils to treat injuries during World War II. Marguerite Maury, an Austrian bio-chemist, studied the rejuvenating powers and cosmetic uses of essential oils. These three people reintroduced aromatherapy in the twentieth century.

What can Aromatherapy be used for?

Skin treatments;
Aromatherapy can be used for acne using Rosemary and Geranium, eczema using Chamomile, dry or chapped skin using Rose, Lavender and Neroli. Oily skin, insect bites, athlete’s foot and fungal infections can be treated using Tea Tree.

Respiratory ailments:
Aromatherapy can be used for respiratory ailments such as Sinusitis using Eucalyptus, Lavender, Thyme, and Peppermint. Bronchitis, coughs, sore throats, the common cold, the flu and nasal congestion that may be due to allergies using Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Roman Chamomile and Peppermint.

Oral hygiene:
Aromatherapy can be used as a mouth wash for bad breath using Myrrh, or toothaches using Cloves.

Aches and pains:
Those suffering from head aches can use Peppermint and Rosemary, those with migraines, arthritis and joint pains can use Anise, Black pepper, Marjoram and Ginger. For backaches a massage with essential oils added to the massage oils is very effective.

Mental health:
Aromatherapy is very effective for stress and fatigue relief using Grapefruit or as an anti depression using Basil, Chamomile, Grapefruit, Rose or Ylang Ylang. For grief Rose and Marjoram are very effective. Aromatherapy can be calming using Chamomiles. The relaxing effect of Lavender, Chamomile and Neroli are especially effective for those troubled with insomnia. Frankincense is wonderful for meditation, Rosemary is used to enhancing memory and some people feel it can be an aphrodisiac. It can give relief to women troubled with PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and can aid digestion.

Old age:
Nursing homes and medical facilities are using Aromatherapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease with Bergamot and Lavender. Other aging related health concerns such as memory problems can be treated with Rosemary, agitation with Bergamot, Lavender and Ylang Ylang, and nervous legs using Bergamot and Lavender.

Where is Aromatherapy practised?

Aromatherapy is practised all over the world by Homeopathic, Ayurvedic, Chinese medicine, Herbal medicine and Naturopathy practitioners. It can be used as a treatment in itself or to compliment more “traditional” medicines.
It is always advised to consult a professionally trained therapist before using essential oils.

This is a very brief overview of what Aromatherapy is and what it can be used for. The ailments and illnesses that can be treated using Aromatherapy are too many to list here. This article aims to give a quick outline. Thank you for reading.

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