Aromatherapy: What you need to know

Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Sometimes it’s called essential oil therapy. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health.

Essential oils have been used for nearly 6,000 years, with the aim of improving a person’s health or mood.



A range of Essential Oil and a Diffuser

In 1997, the International Standards Organization (ISO) defined Trusted Source an essential oil as a “product obtained from vegetable raw material, either by distillation with water or steam, or from the epicarp of citrus fruits by a mechanical process, or by dry distillation.”


Inhalation: the oils evaporate into the air using a diffuser container, spray, or oil droplets, or breathed in, for example, in a steam bath. Apart from providing a pleasant smell, aromatherapy oils can provide respiratory disinfection, decongestant, and psychological benefits.


Inhaling essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, the part of the brain connected to smell, including the nose and the brain. Molecules that enter the nose or mouth pass to the lungs, and from there, to other parts of the body. As the molecules reach the brain, they affect limbic system, which is linked to the emotions, the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance. In this way, essential oils can have a subtle, yet holistic effect on the body.


Benefits

Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy. It does not provide a cure for diseases, rashes or illnesses, but it can support conventional treatment of various conditions.

It has been shown to reduce:

  • Nausea

  • Pain and body aches

  • Anxiety, agitation, stress, and depression

  • Fatigue and insomnia

  • Muscular aches

  • Headaches

  • Circulatory problems

  • Menstrual problems

  • Menopausal problems

  • Alopecia, or hair loss



What do essential oils do?

Different oils have different uses and effects.

  • Basil essential oil is used to sharpen concentration and alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. It may relieve headaches and migraines. It should be avoided during pregnancy.

  • Bergamot essential oil is said to be useful for the urinary tract and digestive tract. When combined with eucalyptus oil it may help relieve skin problems, including those caused by stress and chicken pox.

  • Black pepper essential oil is commonly used for stimulating the circulation, muscular aches and pains, and bruises. Combined with ginger essential oil, it is used to reduce arthritis pain and improve flexibility.

  • Chamomile essential oil can treat eczema

  • Citronella essential oil is a relative of lemongrass and acts as an insect repellent

  • Clove essential oil is a topical analgesic, or painkiller, that is commonly used for toothache. It is also used as an antispasmodic antiemetic, for preventing vomiting and nausea, and as a carminative, preventing gas in the gut. It has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antifungal properties.

  • Eucalyptus essential oil can help relieve the airways during a cold or flu. It is often combined with peppermint. Many people are allergic to eucalyptus, so care should be taken.

  • Geranium essential oil can be used for skin problems, to reduce stress, and as a mosquito repellant.

  • Jasmine essential oil has been described as an aphrodisiac. While scientific evidence is lacking, research has shown that the odor of jasmine increases beta waves, which are linked to alertness. As a stimulant, it might increase penile blood flow.

  • Lavender essential oil is used as an antiseptic for minor cuts and burns and to enhance relaxation and sleep. It is said to relieve headache and migraine symptoms.

  • Lemon essential oil is said to improve moodTrusted Source, and to help relieve the symptoms of stress and depression.

  • Rosemary essential oil may promote hair growth, boost memory, prevent muscle spasms, and support the circulatory and nervous systems.

  • Sandalwood essential oil is believed by some to have aphrodisiac qualities.

  • Tea tree essential oil is said to have antimicrobial, antiseptic, and disinfectant qualities. It is commonly used in shampoos and skin care products, to treat acne, burns, and bites. It features in mouth rinses but it should never be swallowed, as it is toxic.

  • Thyme essential oil is said to help reduce fatigue, nervousness, and stress.

  • Yarrow essential oil is used to treat symptoms of cold and flu, and to help reduce joint inflammation.

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