Aromatherapy, also referred to as ‘Essential Oil therapy’, can be defined as the art and science of using naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process. It is commonly used for stress relief.
It was the French perfumer and chemist, Rene- Maurice Gattefosse, who coined the term “aromatherapie” in 1937 with his publication of a book by that name. His book “Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy” contains early clinical findings for using essential oils for a range of physiological ailments. It seems vital to understand what Gattefosse’s intention for coining the word was, as he clearly meant to distinguish the medicinal application of essential oils from their perfumery applications.
Most health professionals consider aromatherapy a form of alternative therapy or complementary medicine instead of a usual form of medical treatment because few scientific studies have been carried out about its effectiveness. It is sometimes used along with other alternative medicine practices, and is most popular in Western societies. Aromatherapy for stress relief generally produces a calming effect. Aromatic oils considered best for stress relief include:
- Ylang Ylang
Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotions. This sensual information is then compared to that stored within the memory, and indeed the emotional response that went with that particular smell. This reaction then triggers a variety of chemical actions within the body, including the release of specific chemicals that relaxes, calms, or stimulates both body and mind.
Main Methods of Aromatherapy
- Aerial Sprays – for environmental fragrancing
- Inhalation – such as from scented candles
- Topical Use – for general massages, baths, and compresses
Benefits of Aromatherapy
Some of the health benefits of aromatherapy include its ability to reduce anxiety, ease depression, boost energy levels, speed up the healing process, eliminate headaches, boost cognitive performance, induce sleep, strengthen the immune system, reduce pain, improve digestion, and increase circulation.
Aromatherapy has been studied in connection with improving both short-term health problems, along with more serious disorders. Research shows that anyone with the following health conditions can likely benefit from aromatherapy:
- Chronic stress or anxiety
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Respiratory infections
- Digestive upset
- PMS or menopause symptoms
- Skin problems or disorders, including bites, rashes, bruising, cellulite or acne
- Blood sugar fluctuations
Possible Limitations of Aromatherapy
Pregnant women, people with severe asthma, and people with a history of allergies should only use essential oils under the guidance of a trained professional and with full knowledge of their physician.
People with high blood pressure should avoid stimulating essential oils, such as rosemary and spike lavender.
People with estrogen dependent tumors (such as breast or ovarian cancer) should not use oils with estrogen like compounds such as fennel, aniseed, sage, and clary-sage.
People receiving chemotherapy should talk to their doctor before trying aromatherapy.
If you’re considering aromatherapy, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor and a trained aromatherapist about the possible risks and benefits.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!