Does the smell of Cinnamon bring warm memories of Granny’s hot Cider? Anise or Fennel might remind you of the black licorice your dad used to share with you as a child. Rose has a very distinct aroma, impossible to forget, or synthesize. Patchouli oil might remind us of that someone in High School who seemed to bathe in it (less is more). Isn’t it funny how scents always remind us of something? Well that is only the beginning of the definition of Aromatherapy. There is a very clear explanation for the connection our minds make with scents.
Our Sense of Smell
Our sense of smell is the only sense we have with a direct link from the outside world to the brain. It is by far our strongest sense. Humans can distinguish between more than 10,000 different aromas. Scents reach the limbic system, the part of the brain connected to memory, moods and emotion, before being fully processed by the nervous system. When we smell an aroma, often it will trigger a memory or emotion before we even think about the scent. There are five stages of smell:
- Detection — the olfactory epithelium contains about 10 million sensory neurons & serves as the primary reception & detection area.
- Transmission — each aroma molecule bonds with a separate protein or set of proteins creating a unique “aroma print”. The proteins span the cell membranes & a nerve impulse is sent along olfactory neurons to the twin olfactory bulbs.
- Perception — the bulbs are intricately wired into the underside of the limbic system, the main relay station where the information is perceived & analyzed.
- Analysis — All emotional responses are located in the limbic system. Smells are sensed in the frontal lobes, which control memory & attention. Depending on the aroma sensed, the limbic system may activate the hypothalamus, which controls basic drives & emotions. The pituitary gland receives signals from the hypothalamus to produce various hormones, affecting all the glands throughout the body. This then triggers physiological & emotional reactions.
- Storage — the vital information is sent to other parts of the brain & then to subsequent storage in the brain.
For 50 ways to use Essential Oils, click HERE
For educational article on Aromatherapy & Essential Oils, click HERE
For Essential Oil Blends available, click HERE
What is Aromatherapy?
In 1928 a French perfume chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, burned his hand while working in his lab. On instinct, he submersed it into a nearby bowl of Lavender Essential oil. Amazed by the rate of healing and lack of infection, blisters and scars, he began researching these chemicals as more than just fragrances. Today, he is given credit for coining the term “Aromatherapy”. His book is a historic treasure among Aromatherapists across the world. “Aromatherapy” can be simply defined as the use of pure Essential oils and hydrosols or floral waters for their therapeutic effects on the body, mind and spirit.
Aromatherapy has been growing in popularity in recent years, so much to the point it is printed on labels which do not even contain anything natural in them at all. Unfortunately, the term has been abused and misrepresented. True Aromatherapy involves pure plant essences, not synthetic fragrance. However, because of the link between olfactory and memory, one could easily claim that a Mango scented candle from Glade has therapeutic properties for them. Here we will discuss Aromatherapy as understood in relation to pure Essential oils.
Aromatherapy, the name implies therapeutic benefits through smell. While actually, there is so much more to it than scent alone. Essential oils can also be absorbed through dermal tissue and into the bloodstream. The most common applications are massage, bath, and hot or cold compresses. Some essential oils have been used internally as well, however this is not recommended without the supervision of a qualified professional Aromatherapist.
What are Essential oils?
The term “essential” is applied to essential oils because they contain the essence or fragrant part of the plant. The word “volatile” in Latin means “to fly”. It applies to essential oils because they evaporate quickly & easily & “their constituent molecules possess enough inherent energy to allow them to lift up into the air naturally.” Also, they can pass through air or water.
The Egyptians’ use of aroma dates back to 4500 BC. It is thought that they burned aromatic resins as a sacrificial offering to the gods. They embalmed their loved ones & pets with essential oils such as clove, nutmeg, & cinnamon. To obtain an essential oil of Cedarwood, they would heat the plant material in a clay vessel that had an opening covered by a screen of woolen fibers. The fat in the wool captured the essential oil & it was then squeezed out. Essential oils come from all different parts of plants, herbs, fruits, roots, leaves, barks, etc.
Some examples of oils and in which part of the plant they are found:
Bergamot – citrus aurantium var. bergamia – fruit peel
*photosensitizing, skin sensitizing
Ginger – zingiber officinale – root
*avoid if pregnant/breastfeeding, photosensitizing, skin sensitizing, counterirritant, orally toxic, mucous membrane irritant
Juniper – juniperus communis – berry
*avoid if pregnant/breastfeeding, nephrotoxic, mucous membrane irritant, skin sensitizing
Neroli – citrus aurantium var. amara – flower
*phototoxic, skin sensitizing, mucous membrane irritant, may cause relaxation or drowsiness.
Rosemary – rosmarinus officinalis – herb leaf
*avoid in 1st trimester of pregnancy, asthma, epilepsy, hypertension
For General safety information, click HERE
How are essential oils used?
Because of their complexity, Essential Oils are best when used one drop at a time. “Less is more” is the key to successful Aromatherapy. Often Essential oils are packaged in small 1 to 10 ml. amber bottles. This doesn’t seem like much but when using the oils sparingly, they go a long way.
Essential oils can be dropped onto a tissue or cotton ball and inhaled. Hydrosols can be misted into the air from a spray bottle. A few drops in a little water can be diffused in a candle diffuser. There are Electric diffusers available that take a few drops and fragrance the air nicely.
Essential oils need to be diluted in a carrier oil before used in massage. A 2% dilution is recommended for most people. This should be adjusted for individuals with sensitivities, serious illness, and for the very young, elderly, or frail. Adding Aromatherapy to Massage Therapy makes for an enhanced therapeutic experience as the massage is already improving blood and lymph circulation, encouraging deep breathing, and relieving stress and tension. Essential oils with their anti-inflammatory, nourishing, and rejuvenating qualities, can only make for a more effective massage session. Ask about customizing your massage with a personal synergy.
Essential oils can be very nourishing and toning to the tissues. They can encourage new cell growth and heal and sooth irritated skin. Many natural skin care products on the market today already contain pure essential oils as their active constituents provide a multitude of therapeutic antioxidant benefits.
Up to 10 drops essential oil can be added to a full bath and swished before submersing yourself for a wonderfully soothing bath. Be careful not to use skin sensitizing oils in this way. Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Manuka, Rose, and Neroli are all very gentle and not likely to cause a reaction, also my personal favorites during pregnancy. If you find an Essential oil has triggered inflammation to the skin, get out and dilute the oil on your skin with an unscented lotion or oil. Soap and water will not work. Don’t forget to add plenty of Epsom Salts to soothe aching muscles.
The information contained in this article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not provided in order to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, illness or injured condition of the body and the author, publisher, printer and distributors accept no responsibility for such use. If you are allergy prone or sensitive to scents, tests the oils in small amounts. Essential oils are generally not recommended for internal use. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness or injury should consult with a physician.
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