Aromatherapy has become one of the most popular natural healing modalities because of its accessibility it is relatively easy to learn. The healing power of aromatherapy can be dated back to the ancient Greeks, aromatherapy uses the extracted precious oils called essential oils from plants including flowers, fruits, herbs and wood to heal the body, enhance beauty, stimulate or calm the mind, and celebrate spiritual rituals. While many of us are drawn to aromatherapy because of the aromatic scents of the oils, keep in mind that essential oils are complex, natural chemical compounds that are powerful medicines and must be used wisely.
When essential oils are inhaled, they stimulate the olfactory nerve traveling to that part of the brain that directs our memory, learning and emotion. That in turn can stimulate physiological responses within the body via the nervous, endocrine or immune systems, according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), a nonprofit educational organization. Additionally, because essential oils have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and other healing properties, they are used in medicinal and first-aid preparations.
Make sure that the essential oils you buy are pure and natural oils, not synthetic, which will not have the same therapeutic chemical compounds as natural oils.
How does one use aromatherapy?
About 300 commonly used essential oils form the backbone of aromatherapy and a good guidebook will be helpful in identifying the applications of each oil and various oils in combination. You can incorporate aromatherapy into your life by using essential oils in room diffusers, sprinkled on handkerchiefs, poured into the bath, diluted in vegetable oils and massaged into the skin, and even by burning aromatherapy candles.
When applying essential oils to the skin for beauty purposes or to treat specific health conditions, the oils nearly always must be diluted first in a base of vegetable oil because of their potency. In her book The Complete book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Wormwood advises dilution in a ratio of two to five drops of essential oil per one teaspoon of base oil. Good base oils are sweet almond, jojoba, corn, olive, wheat germ or apricot kernel.
“Nonirritant oils such as lavender and tea tree oil can be applied undiluted directly to the skin, but most need dilution in an oil carrier base,” says Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, director of the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy in Tampa, Florida. “This also allows the oils to be spread over a larger area, such as in massage, and prevents irritation, while adding some emollient to the skin.”
What are some common uses of aromatherapy?
Because of its many applications and lovely aroma, a bottle of essential oil of lavender is a good first investment in aromatherapy. Lavender in base oil can be applied to the temples and base of skull for headache, sprinkled directly into the bath water for relaxation, or placed in a room diffuser for as an antidepressant. Other common oils and uses that Wormwood suggests are:
- Blend 15 drops rosemary, 10 drops lemon and five drops peppermint in two tablespoons base oil and massage into abdomen in clockwise motion three times a day to relieve constipation.
- Blend three drops eucalyptus and two drops thyme in one teaspoon base oil and massage into back and chest to relieve a cough.
- For a developing cold sore, apply one drop of geranium directly onto a cotton ball and press into the affected area as soon as possible. Repeat every day.
Five popular essential oils
Since there are hundreds of essential oils out there to choose from, knowing which ones to use can be daunting. Here are just a few essential oils that help to calm the nerves, aid digestive and respiratory problems and enhance sexual desire.
- Chamomile helps to relieve depression, anxiety and irritability. It also soothes inflamed or irritated skin and aids with sleeping problems.
- Jasmine is a sensual oil that stimulates optimism and general well being.
- Orange aids with respiratory and digestive problems and can balance one’s emotional state.
- Peppermint is known for easing nervousness and for clearing the head of confused thoughts. It is also aids with clogged sinuses and can cool a fever.
- Rose helps to balance mood swings. It also has a reputation for enhancing sexual desire.