The 4 Things You Need to Know About Aromatherapy
The art of aromatherapy is not as simple as smelling something wonderful and getting well. Whether you’re new to essential oils or just need a refresher, here’s the lowdown on this holistic therapy.
1. It’s so much more than just ‘relaxing spa smells’
Aromatherapy is the life force or essence of plants, herbs, flowers, bark and resins that have been extracted into concentrated essential oils. These potent and aromatic essential oils naturally speak to our general health and wellbeing.
Aromatherapy can be enjoyed in many ways but its primary modus operandi works to stimulate our sense of smell to stimulate our olfactive pathways and limbic systems, unlocking emotions using essential oils. When we inhale odour molecules from essential oil blends or perfumes, these smell compounds act on olfactory receptors that send messages to the part of the brain that influences our mood, state of mind and small ailments. The history of aromatherapy dates back to the age of ancient civilisations in China, Egypt and India where resins, balms, and distilled oils and flower waters were used for both medicinal and sacred, religious purposes. The term aromatherapy was coined by French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé in 1937, who once applied lavender oil to heal a bacterial wound infection. Unlike commercial perfumes, the healing properties of each plant contributes to a person’s overall physical and psychological wellbeing.
2. The healing touch
Your body heals itself. There are many self-healing mechanisms in the body that work quietly in the background to restore vitality and optimise health—whether to heal from a wound or to strengthen the immunity system. However, due to various internal and external stressors, these healing processes slow down.
Here’s what essential oils can do: they can gently stimulate and/or activate various processes in the body to help relieve minor ailments like digestive problems, insomnia, migraines, nasal congestion, pre-menstrual tension, and psychological stress. Many essential oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, and lemon have anti-bacterial, antiseptic and anti-viral properties, so they are able to help strengthen the immune system. The antibodies, endorphins and neurochemicals are released in response to essential oils, and these can in turn alter the body’s physiology and behaviour.
3. The uses of aromatherapy
Essential oils can be used in a wide spectrum of methods. A simple, holistic approach includes:
aromatherapy wearables such as our aromatherapy roll-on perfumes
cosmetic creams and oils
vaporised oils and steam inhalation such as with the use of electric diffusers and vaporisers
As with anything, common sense should always prevail. Always consult your primary care physician and only use aromatherapy complimentary to (not in place of) conventional medicine. Clinical aromatherapy, where a systematic use of essential oils is used to treat clinically diagnosed medical conditions, can only be practiced by medical doctors or clinical therapists with a background in clinical aromatherapy.
4. Explore safely
While it may seem fun to mix and match essential oils with wild abandon, recreating remedies found online, make your mantra: Safety First. Understand that essential oils are the pure essences of plants, and therefore concentrated and very potent.
When used incorrectly—whether in the method, duration or dosage—essential oils can cause adverse reactions and temporary side effects like headaches, allergies and skin irritations like rashes, redness, hot flushes and itchiness. To prolong the integrity of each oil and protect your family, always keep your oils tightly capped in a safe, dry spot, out of reach from children or pets.
To learn how your skin reacts to a particular essential oil, blend 3 to 5 conservative drops into a tablespoon of carrier/vegetable oil such as olive, coconut or grapeseed oil and perform a patch test in the crook of your inner arm. For those who have any underlying health conditions, or are taking any medication, it’s best to consult with a medical doctor.