What Is Aromatherapy?
If you need improvement in health problems from anxiety to poor sleep, you may want to consider aromatherapy. In this kind of treatment, you use extracts from plants called essential oils, by either breathing them through your nose or putting them on your skin. Some people put the oils on their skin when they get a massage or take a bath.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in various cultures for medicinal and health purposes. Because of their antidepressant, stimulating, detoxifying, antibacterial, antiviral and calming properties, essential oils are recently gaining popularity as a natural, safe and cost-effective therapy for a number of health concerns.
There’s no wonder why, considering the high cost of healthcare bills and the side effects of conventional medications, adding essential oils to your personal medicine cabinet can make a world of difference. This is especially true because essential oils benefits are vast and their uses range from aromatherapy, household cleaning products, personal beauty care and natural medicine treatments.
People commonly think that “aromatherapy” refers to anything that smells good, like scented candles, potpourri, and perfumes. We use the term “aromatherapy” to refer to the therapeutic application of plant essential oils (usually diluted in some type of solution) by qualified aromatherapists or other individuals.
There is a growing body of research from laboratory and clinical studies that points to the remarkable healing properties of essential oils. They are widely available in markets, co-ops, and pharmacies and are increasingly used in clinics and hospitals.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants (flowers, herbs, or trees) as therapy to improve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being (see Question 1).
Aromatherapy may be used with other complementary treatments as well as with standard treatments to manage symptoms (see Question 1).
Essential oils are most often used by inhaling them or by applying a diluted form of them to the skin (see Question 2).
Aromatherapy research with cancer patients has studied the effect of essential oils on anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and other health-related conditions (see Question 4).
Safety testing on essential oils has found very few side effects. Lavender and tea tree essential oils have been found to have some hormone -like effects (see Question 5).
Aromatherapy products do not need approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (see Question 6).
The particles in essential oils come from distilling or extracting the different parts of plants, including the flowers, leaves, bark, roots, resin and peels. In fact, just one drop of an essential oil can have powerful health benefits. Typically created through the process of distillation — which separates the oil and water-based compounds of a plant by steaming — essential oils are highly concentrated oils that have a strong aroma. In fact, sometimes they are called volatile aromatic oils because of their high concentration of the aromatic compounds. (1)
By concentrating the oils of these plants, you are literally separating the most powerful healing compounds of a plant into a single oil.
So, are you ready to harness the power of the world’s most proven therapeutic compounds? Are you ready to learn which oils to use in your essential oil diffuser or in other ways? Explore the many essential oils benefits and uses, and open your mind to a whole new way of preventing and reversing health conditions that you’ve been battling for years.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are made from flower, herb, and tree parts, like bark, roots, peels, and petals. The cells that give a plant its fragrant smell are its “essence.” When an essence is extracted from a plant, it becomes an essential oil.
It takes a lot of plant product to make essential oils. More than 200 pounds of lavender flowers are used to make just 1 pound of lavender essential oil.
Not all products made with plant essence are essential oils. True essential oils aren’t blended with other chemicals or fragrances. They’re made using a specific process that doesn’t change the chemistry of the plant.
Lemon, chamomile, lavender, cedarwood, and bergamot are a few of the essential oils used regularly in aromatherapy.
How Aromatherapy Works
Experts think aromatherapy activates areas in your nose called smell receptors, which send messages through your nervous system to your brain.
The oils may activate certain areas of your brain, like your limbic system, which plays a role in your emotions. They could also have an impact on your hypothalamus, which may respond to the oil by creating feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin.
Some experts think that when you put essential oils on your skin, they cause a response in your skin and other parts of your body, like your joints.
Essential oils can help alter our physical, mental and emotional well-being by triggering and strengthening our bodies’ own natural processes. They are made up of tiny molecules that can deliver healing properties to the systems that control our physiological state.
The best way for the body to absorb the therapeutic components of essential oils is a combination of inhalation through the olfactory system of the nose and absorption through the surface of the skin:
When essential oils are inhaled through the nose, tiny nerves send an immediate signal to the brain and go straight to work on the systems that moderate our minds and bodies.
Inhalation can be the most direct delivery method of these incredibly nurturing components in essential oils, since the chemical messengers in the nasal cavity have direct access to the brain.
When essential oils are applied to the skin, their healing components are absorbed into the bloodstream by the pores and hair follicles. Once inside the bloodstream, they disperse to the specific organs and systems on which they work. Pulse points are the areas of the body where blood vessels are closest to the skin’s surface.
Applying essential oils to these areas allows for quicker absorption and help them get to work faster. We suggest applying to the wrists, temples and back of the neck.
Think about it like watering a plant: you hydrate the soil because that’s where the roots are to absorb the nutrients. You wouldn’t get the same effect if you just watered the leaves or flowers. We deliberately designed our essential oil blends to be most effective through a combination of inhalation and topical application. Each blend has recommended usage and application instructions that you can find on its individual product page.
What Is Aromatherapy Used For?
You shouldn’t use aromatherapy instead of your regular medical treatment. But for some conditions, research shows that aromatherapy can have health benefits. It may:
- Ease stress, anxiety, and depression
- Boost feelings of relaxation
- Improve sleep
- Help improve quality of life for people with long-term health problems like dementia
- Ease certain types of pain, including pain from kidney stones and osteoarthritis of the knee
- Fight bacteria when you put them on your skin
- Ease some of the side effects of cancer treatment, like nausea and pain
Is It Safe?
Aromatherapy is generally safe. Essential oils can cause side effects, though. Some can irritate your eyes, skin, or mucous membranes in your nose. They can also cause mild allergic reactions.
If you drink some essential oils they can hurt your kidneys or liver. It’s rare that people take essential oils by mouth, and you shouldn’t do it unless your doctor says it’s OK.
If you’re new to aromatherapy, work with an aromatherapist or your doctor. And keep in mind that essential oils aren’t regulated by the FDA, which means that unlike drugs, the agency doesn’t check to see if they’re safe or work the way they’re supposed to.
There are essential oils for hormones that can help to balance your estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, thyroid and testosterone levels.
Some oils, like clary sage, geranium and thyme, help to balance out estrogen and progesterone levels in your body, which can improve conditions like infertility and PCOS, as well as PMS and menopause symptoms. A 2017 published in Neuro Endocrinology Letters indicates that some essential oils, notably geranium and rose, have the ability to influence the salivary concentration of estrogen in women. This may be helpful for women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms that are caused by declining levels of estrogen secretion.
Essential oils are also able to lower cortisol levels, which can help to improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression, and increase testosterone levels, which can improve a man’s libido.
Boost Immunity & Fight Infections
Many essential oils have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-fungal properties that help to boost your immune system and fight infections. The chemical substances found in essential oils, such as terpenes, esters, phenolics, ethers and ketones, have the potential to fight foreign pathogens that can threaten your health. Some of the best essential oils for your immunity include oregano, myrrh, ginger, lemon, eucalyptus, frankincense, peppermint (or Mentha piperita) and cinnamon.
Studies have shown that essential oils effectively destroy several fungal, viral and bacterial pathogens, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori and Candida albicans infections. Because antibiotic resistance is becoming such a major threat in modern health care, using essential oils as a form of independent or combination therapy can help to fight bacterial infections in a safer and more natural way.
Oregano oil, for instance, has powerful immune-boosting properties and has displayed both antiviral and antibacterial properties in lab studies. Oregano oil contains carvacrol and thymol, two compounds that have antimicrobial effects and can inhibit the synthesis and growth of several types of bacteria.
Another well-researched essential oils benefit is their role in aiding and improving digestion. Some oils help to relieve upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhea, stomach spasms and even conditions of the gastrointestinal system, like IBS. Essential oils can also aid your digestion by helping to stimulate digestive enzymes that make it easier to break down and absorb the nutrients, fats and protein that you need.
Ginger essential oil, for example, is known to promote your digestive health by easing indigestion, constipation and ulcers. A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that ginger oil stimulated gastric emptying in people with indigestion. Ginger oil is also used to relieve gas, reduce nausea and ease abdominal pain.
Another useful essential oil for digestion is peppermint. Research shows that peppermint oil works to provide rapid relief of IBS symptoms. In a 4-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 72 patients with IBS received either peppermint oil or placebo. The peppermint group experienced a 40 percent reduction in total IBS symptoms after 4 weeks, which was superior to the 24 percent decrease of symptoms reported by the patients in the placebo group. After just 24 hours of using peppermint oil, the treatment group experienced a decrease in symptoms of 19.6 percent.
Some other essential oils that are helpful for digestion include fennel, lemongrass, marjoram, black pepper and juniper berry.
Boost Energy Levels
Did you know that essential oils can help to boost your energy levels and even improve your athletic performance? Some oils have stimulating effects and can actually increase oxygen to your brain, which will leave you feeling refreshed, focused and energized.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that peppermint oil increased brain oxygen concentration, improved exercise performance and reduced exhaustion in healthy male athletes who consumed peppermint oil with water for 10 days.
Some other great essential oils for energy include grapefruit, lemon, lemongrass, eucalyptus and rosemary.
Improve Brain Function
Essential oils have neuroprotective effects and can help to improve cognitive performance. This is one of the most impressive essential oil benefits and it has helped many people who are suffering from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. In a scientific review published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, researchers found that because essential oils possess powerful antioxidants that work to inhibit free radical scavenging, they help to naturally improve brain function and reduce inflammation.
Essential oils have also shown to improve learning, memory and ability to focus. Both stimulating and sedative essential oils can be useful, as oils like peppermint can improve sustained attention over a longer period of time, while oils like lavender can be useful for people going through tough exercises or situations. Furthermore, essential oils can be useful in relieving agitation in individuals with dementia. This is due to their calming and sedative effects.0 200