What Is Aromatherapy and How Does It Help Me?

What is Aromatherapy?

 Aromatherapy may promote relaxation and help relieve stress. It has also been used to promote sleep, support overall health and wellness and it may even help support healthy blood pressure.

Aromatherapy uses oils extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, roots, fruit and twigs for special effect. These essential oils are formulated to work in harmony with the body and may have an ability to affect a person’s well-being.

Derived from the parts of plants or trees, essential oils possess a complex nature that is difficult to reproduce outside of nature. In fact, some oils contain substances that don’t occur anywhere else naturally.

Aromatherapy History

Essential oilshave been used for thousands of years as stimulants, sedatives, and for religious and medicinal purposes. Aromatherapy is the century-old practice of using volatile plant oils, also referred to as essential oils, to support overall health and well-being.

It is part of the holistic healing spectrum that, in addition to essential oils, also utilizes other natural ingredients like vegetable oils, jojoba (a liquid wax), herbs, sea salts, clays and muds.

Aromatherapists apply some aromatherapy oils directly to the skin via aromatherapy massages, but they also use the oils to freshen the air of their living spaces via sprays or essential oil diffusers.

Practitioners of aromatherapy believe that fragrances in the oils stimulate nerves in the nose. Those nerves send impulses to the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion. Depending on the type of oil, the result on the body may be calming or stimulating.

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

Aromatherapy is an art and science, merging belief and logic. As an artform, aromatherapy works partly through ritual and mindfulness. Creating a mental connection between the scent and a positive feeling or action, we can develop scent memories that cultivate feelings of calm, comfort or rejuvenation. Taking a moment to yourself, whether it be to light a candle or put on a moisturiser, goes a long way to boost your mood and restore a sense of calm.

Often tied into meditation or intention setting, aromatherapy is all about the self and promoting a greater sense of self-care and dedication, customisable to what each individual needs in any given moment. Regardless of the science, pleasant scents, warm candles and massaging your pressure points, are fool-proof ways to feel a little better.

1. When inhaled…

Your sense of smell is the closest sense to your brain, having the greatest effect on mood and memory. Humans have five million scent receptors in our nose that link to the limbic system in our brains that governs emotions, behaviour and long-term memory. Therefore, when you inhale an essential oil, it can impact not only your immediate mood but deeper emotions and bodily functions such as your heart rate and blood pressure.

2. When massaged into the skin…

Molecules in essential oils are small enough to penetrate through the skin, into the muscle and beyond into your bloodstream. This means the oil can be circulated around your body, as well as having an immediate effect on skin and muscles to provide instant relief.

What are Some Aromatherapy Benefits?

Essential oils come from a variety of sources. They can be organic, farmed, or wild-crafted (harvested from the wild). Some are anti-bacterial, or anti-inflammatory, they ALL offer a wide range of benefits. Aside from smelling good, the primary advantages of essential oils are health-related. They can:

– Manage pain, soothe joint aches, and alleviate headaches and migraines

– Improve sleep quality and reduce stress and anxiety

– Alleviate the side-effects of chemotherapy and labour discomfort

– Boost your immune system

– Improve indigestion

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be up to 75-100 times more concentrated than the fresh plant, so a little goes a long way. They can be used as an additional treatment to alleviate symptoms of the following conditions:

– Insomnia and fatigue

– Inflammation

– Menstrual issues and menopause

– Peripheral neuropathy

– Respiratory conditions like asthma

– Alopecia

– Cancer

– Erectile dysfunction

– Arthritis

– Allergies

Another benefit of aromatherapy is that it may be useful as a preventative treatment. Using aromatherapy oils daily can improve overall wellness through relaxation, deeper sleep, and pain relief.

Who Can Benefit from Using Essential Oils?

Anyone can benefit from essential oils. Since these oils are mostly affordable and widely available, it is possible for you to start your aromatherapy journey, even if you have a limited budget or a busy schedule. Essential oils are especially beneficial for people who:

— Have difficulty sleeping

— Suffer from stress and anxiety

— Are prone to headaches and migraines

— Want to enhance their well-being and health

How Can Aromatherapy Oils be Used?

— Place the oil in an aromatherapy diffuser that releases the compound particles into the air for continuous therapy.

— Dab the oil on your skin, for example, on your wrists or behind your ears.

— Smell the oil in the bottle daily, for instance, before getting into bed.

— Add a few drops of essential oil to your bath water for skin absorption.

— Add a few drops to your lotion before rubbing it onto your skin.

— Add oil drops to baking soda, water, vegetable glycerine, and other natural ingredients to use as cleaning products in your home.

What’s The Right Scent For You?

1. For better sleep

— Lavender– Helps to reset and restore the nervous system, lowering blood pressure and heart rate to relax the mind and body.

— Chamomile– Containing an antioxidant called apigenin which binds to specific receptors in your brain that decrease anxiety and initiate sleep, Chamomile promotes deeper sleep to stop strange dreams and irritating 3 am wake stirs.

— Cedarwood– Warming and comforting with mild sedative qualities, this rich woody scent will help you drift off in no time.

2. To improve your mood

For a boost, go for a citrus oil like lemon, grapefruit or sweet orange. These oils contain Limonene, a wonder chemical found in citrus peels. Not only is it used to treat and considered to prevent cancer, but limonene helps activate the serotonergic system to create more serotonin; the happy hormone that helps to regulate functions including sleep, appetite and cognition.

Introducing some citrus oil into your daily routine through your body wash or hand soap is an easy act of day-to-day self-care, giving yourself a mood lift each morning to start the day off right.

3. Improve concentration

— Limonene also helps increase cognition and concentration, so your citrus oils double up their use.

— Peppermint– An obvious answer but the sharp, refreshing sense helps improve mental clarity for better concentration. Increasing oxygen saturation and blood pressure to result in physiological arousal, meaning more oxygen enters your bloodstream and travels to your brain. The more oxygen in your brain, the better your concentration is, and the less likely you are to become stressed, helping you focus on the task at hand without panic.

Amber– When inflamed, the brain can’t produce or process the hormones needed for mood regulation, so the anti-inflammatory qualities of amber oil offer better clarity and focus. Reducing stress reactions and increasing oxygen flow to your brain, an amber scented candle is a great desk addition.

4. To help relieve anxiety

— Rose– The scent of rose helps to regulate your heartbeat in times of high stress and works to balance your hormones to reduce panic reactions.

— Jasmine– One of the oldest homeopathic remedies, jasmine has been used as a natural remedy to ease anxiety for hundreds of years. Calming your nervous system without having sedative qualities, Jasmine is the perfect scent for any mid-day panics.

— Basil– Containing linalool which reduces stress and calms panic reactions in the body, basil can help relieve physical anxiety symptoms but promoting calm and slowing the heart rate.

But overall, the best scent for you is one that creates an instant sense of comfort, calm or joy. Play around with different ingredients and scents until you find oils that work for you. Aromatherapy is entirely about you, there is no strict rule book. Follow your intuition and focus on your needs.