What Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the inhalation and application of volatile essential oils from aromatic plants to restore or enhance health, beauty and well-being. The basic intention of Aromatherapy is to bring together the scientific achievements of man with his intuitive understanding for the treatment of illnesses with the most effective and useful natural essential oils. Conforming with the laws of nature, the principle of Aromatherapy is to strengthen the self-healing processes by preventative methods and indirect stimulation of the immune system. Their field of activity is quite wide, ranging from deep and penetrating therapeutic actions to the extreme subtlety of unique fragrance. Simply put, essential oils can be used to enhance health as well as the quality of life. Aromatherapy is an ancient yet timely and stunningly modern approach to total well-being that is in tune with nature.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are the highly concentrated volatile extract of flowers herbs, grasses, shrubs and trees. These tiny droplets are present in particular glands, hairs or specific structures of the plant and contain some (but not all) of the active principles of the plant. Similar to herbal therapy principles, essential oils are phytochemicals with particular biological properties. Non-oily in texture, these highly concentrated substances are obtained by steam distillation, peel pressure, and solvent extraction methods. Only the utmost quality of essential oils should be used in aromatherapy. The majority of essential oils produced in the world market are used in the food flavor and fragrance industry, so essential oils are often found on the market adulterated with similar essential oils, chemicals and synthetics, as well as extenders such as dipropylene glycol. Unfortunately, even the type used in food can be adjusted with chemicals from a natural source and still legally be called natural. Therefore, it is wise to purchase only from a reputable aromatherapy source.
How Do Essential Oils Work?
Essential oils work in harmony with the body to normalize and balance. They produce certain effects that we can count on, but can also adapt to the needs of different people. Used for their undisputed anti-microbial and antiseptic effects, essential oils are not only less toxic than synthetic antibiotics but also support life (eubiotic) by working with the body's own natural healing abilities (through which the only true healing occurs). Certain oils, such as Roman chamomile, have cytophylactic (cell regeneration), antiseptic, and wound healing effects as well as anti-fungal and anti-inflammative properties making them the ultimate active principles for holistic natural skin-care.
What Are The Effects?
Oils can directly or indirectly affect the body's physiological systems. For instance, a couple of drops of peppermint taken orally can aid digestion and inhalations of mucolytic oils can relieve respiratory symptoms. Used topically for their antiseptic and soothing effects, essential oils can successfully treat minor skin conditions. It has been demonstrated that the application of certain essential oils to the skin can produce vaso-dilation which in turn causes warming of underlying muscles, however this is an indirect effect of the oil acting on the superficial tissues, it is not a pharmacological effect produced as a result of the oil entering the systemic circulation via the skin. In addition, because of the effect of relaxation on the brain and the subsequent sedating or stimulating of the nervous system, essential oils can also indirectly raise and lower blood pressure and possibly aid in normalization of hormonal secretion.
Because of olfaction's direct connection to the brain, sending electrical messages directly into the limbic system, essential oils can have effects on emotions and mental states. Perception of odors can have a major impact on memory, learning, emotions, thinking and feeling. As therapeutic agents, essential oils work similarly to tranquilizers but in a subtle organic way. Most scents uplift spirits and calm the nervous system. For example, lavender is calming and sedative; basil, rosemary and peppermint are uplifting and stimulating; and jasmine and ylang-ylang are exciting or euphoric.
How Are Essential Oils Used?
Direct inhalation of the oils can have psychological effects through olfactory links with the limbic system that can then stimulate or sedate body systems or organs. In addition, physiological effects are possible because this is the fastest route into the bloodstream. Inhalation is most useful for respiratory symptoms and can be done by sniffing drops on a tissue or by inhaling near a diffuser with glass nebulizer. Local application of diluted oils (2-10% in a vegetable oil base) on various points (spinal nerves, chakras, meridians) is effective for certain conditions. As well, full-body massage is quite effective, providing relaxation as well as a physiological action through the nervous system. Although it is claimed in the literature that many physiological systemic effects are due to essential oils entering the bloodstream via skin application, little evidence backs this up as a major route of absorption. In addition, many of the therapeutic claims are "borrowed" from herbalism, or are really the effect of ingesting the herbal extract. Nevertheless, aromatherapy does work for topical application and relaxation, we are just not sure how it works for some other conditions. Common sense and education should accompany essential oil applications for particular medicinal results. Safety data is mandatory knowledge for anyone using essential oils on the skin, as many are irritating or sensitizing as well as photo-toxic.
Aromatherapy provides health and body care on a completely natural basis, and the subtle qualities of the oils lend themselves best to a gradual experience. The combination of factual information from reference books now being offered coupled with a developed intuition make one capable of generating spectacular successes in self-healing. At first, using essential oils is pleasant; this experience then grows into a heightened awareness of increased health as a consequence of external use of essential oils. Money-wise, aromatherapy can cut your health care and cosmetic bills.
Therefore, using a diffuser, scent pot, or spraying the air (5-8 drops to one ounce of water), wearing as perfume (diluted in jojoba) or used in baths (5-10 drops), inhalations (2-5 drops), and massage treatments (15 drops in ounce of vegetable oil), essential oils can enhance health and well-being in a natural way.
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