What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy, a term coined by French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse in 1937, is the holistic practice of using essential oils extracted from plants, flowers, herbs, spices and trees to enhance the body's ability to balance and improve the physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are concentrated, volatile, aromatic compounds that are extracted and distilled from plants, flowers, herbs, spices, and trees. It is the essential oils that give the plants their unmistakable fragrances! Think: walking through a forest and smelling the Spruce or Cedar trees, or an Orange grove in Florida .... or roses!
How do we absorb essential oils?
There are three methods essential oils can enter the body:
- Inhalation - via the olfactory system
- Dermal absorption - through the surface of the skin, or,
- Oral ingestion (not recommended)
Inhalation: When essential oils are inhaled, penetration through the nose occurs. The olfactory epithelium located in the nasal cavity, is involved with scent. The tiny hairs (receptors), otherwise known as cilia, is responsible for translating odour into nerve messages. These nerve messages travel to the oldest part of the core of the brain - the limbic system - which is primarily associated with odour memories, expressions of emotion and psychological behavior. Since our sense of smell has the most direct way in which our emotions can be triggered; inhaling essential oils can have a profound effect on the treatment of emotional issues such as: depression, anxiety, stress, grief etc.
Dermal absorption: Another way essential oils can enter the body is by dermal absorption (i.e. through the skin) which is done by applying diluted essential oils topically to the skin, allowing penetration via hair follicles and sweat glands. The oil molecules pass through the dermis, into the blood capillaries, lymph and into the bloodstream where they circulate around the body; having the ability to go where they're needed. Dermal absorption is especially effective for injuries, sprains, muscle spasms, neuralgia, pain, fibromyalgia etc.
Oral ingestion: And finally we have ingestion. This is not a method that is recommended and I urge you to resist suggestions of using essential oils in this manner unless it is prescribed by a physician who is also a Certified Aromatherapist. Ingesting essential oils diluted or undiluted in water has the potential to damage your mouth, mucous membrane and internal organs.
How will Aromatherapy benefit me?
Aromatherapy - the use of essential oils - can bring relief from the following issues:
- Muscle/joint soreness and pain
- Osteoarthritis, Neuralgia
- PMS and menopause by balancing hormones
- Sleep irregularities
- Anxiety, depression, stress
- Headaches and migraines
- Psoriasis, eczema, acne
- Strengthen immune system
- Support digestive issues
- Increase energy...
*While essential oils can help alleviate symptoms, they work in conjunction with traditional medical treatment and are not meant to replace medical advice or treatment you've been prescribed.
Using essential oils safely!
Making essential oil blends for therapeutic applications; skin and body care; cleaning solutions; and the like, can be very empowering and rewarding, however; there are safety precautions that should be followed when using essential oils on your own. Issues such as, the maximum number of drops you should use (please do not rely on internet posts for accurate information), the proper methods of diluting essential oils (i.e. remember chemistry 101 - water and oil do not mix!), who should avoid the use of certain essential oils based on medical history and drug interactions, and much more. To obtain more information on the safety of essential oils, I would recommend checking out the following great online resource tisserandinstitute.org/safety. Robert Tisserand is a highly respected educator in aromatherapy, industry consultant and advocate for the safe use of essential oils. Alternatively, I would suggest booking a consultation with a certified aromatherapist.