What is aromatherapy?
“Aromatherapy can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences (essential oils) 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.” (National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, 2017).
Why are they called essential oils?
Is it because we can’t do without them? Not really but I find mine essential in that I use them every day. They are called essential oils because they contain the essence of a plant.
How do they work?
Essential oils are composed of many individual components that are metabolized in the body and then circulate through bringing assistance where needed. One of the marvelous aspects of essential oils is that each oil may have many different properties. So instead of side effects, they often have “side benefits”. For example, you may use some peppermint oil for a digestive issue but find that it also helps you to feel more alert.
What can essential oils help with?
There are a multitude of issues that can be addressed with essential oils, some of the more common issues being sleep, anxiety, stress and fighting off illness. There is a saying I have heard that quips “There’s an oil for that”. Indeed, they have many, many different properties with a variety of multi-syllabic words. There is the plethora of anti’s (and not the family kind): antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral. Some of the properties have unfamiliar monikers such as cicatrisant (skin healing), carminative (help to relieve gas) and rubefacient (increase blood flow to an area). There are also the more subtle, energetic/emotional properties such as uplifting, calming and balancing. They can offer so much and as an added bonus they smell delightful. They are inherently pleasurable.
Aromatherapy is not just about the aroma however. People can still benefit from them even if they have lost their sense of smell. There are two main routes in aromatherapy that are utilized for entry into the body—inhalation and through the skin. I was very skeptical in the beginning that inhaling an oil or putting it on my skin could possibly have any effect. However, it is not much different from the way some drugs are administered such as skin patches containing pain medication and inhalers that treat asthma. The oils enter the body, are absorbed into the blood stream and then travel through the body providing support as needed. I remember trying an oil blend for digestive support when I was experiencing stomach cramps due to lactose intolerance. As I applied it to various pulse points (wrists, behind the jaw), I had no expectation that it would help at all. I was pleasantly surprised and then amazed as the bloating dissipated. I thought “how can that be possible?” but found that it works every time. I had a similar experience after buying some lavender pillow spray. I thought I had better use it since I paid for it. Lo and behold, I fell asleep quicker and felt calmer even though I am not a big fan of the scent of lavender. My experience with essential oils has been a delightful learning curve and I am now a firm believer in their power and expansive usefulness.