Aromatherapy and essential oils are relative to a range of traditional, integrative or alternative therapies that use essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds.
Essential oils have a history stemming back 6,000 years, with their main objective being complementary to a person’s physical, mental and transcendental health.
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) distinctly addresses aromatherapy as “the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances (essential oils) for wholesome healing.”
Essential oils have been stipulated to contain various degrees of antimicrobial activity and are antiviral, nematocidal & insecticidal. Most compounds in essential oils are said to contain antiseptic properties. Other compounds may be antifungal, antiviral, carminative, or decongestant and hold antioxidant properties. The application of therapeutically-graded organic essential oils include: massage, topical applications, ingestion through their addition to food and drink and also direct inhalation or diffusion.
Nevertheless, be aware that “natural” compounds are nonetheless chemicals, so, they may be dangerous if utilized inappropriately. It is advised to seek a professional when using essential oils to avoid any hazards if one doesn’t have any experience blending or using them.
Essential oils are particularly volatile, aromatic compounds produced by plants. Plants produce essences as a result of their natural immune system against micro-organisms or as part their reproductive process to attract pollinators or seed dispersers. For centuries essential oils have been extracted from plants and a multitude of applications have also been allocated for their beneficial use such as: food, medicine, cosmetics, therapy etc…
Essential oils are highly concentrated molecules of the compound and are highly aromatic. Concentrating the essences of these plants involves separating the active healing compounds of a plant into a therapeutically-graded essential oil.
These therapeutic elements are extracted directly from the bark, flower, fruit, leaf, seed or root of a plant or tree, and just one drop can facilitate powerful & therapeutic health benefits which can also assist recovery as a complementary therapy to conventional medicine (always seek advice from your GP before attempting to integrate any therapy as part of your recovery).
Typically, they are extracted through different processes of distillation, which separate oil and water-based compounds of a plant by steaming. They are also obtained by putting the plant material through a specific extraction processes, depending on the plant. These include hydro-distillation, cold-pressing or Co2 extraction.
Aromatherapy is integrative and can be used in a variety of ways, however it is normally used through inhalation or as a topical application.
Inhalation as a means of distribution include: evaporation of the oils into the air using a diffuser container, spraying oil droplets or breathing in, for example, in a steam bath through this typical application, 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 through the limbic system. This happens where by the miniscule molecules of essential oils enter the nose or mouth pass to the lungs and from there, naturally circulate to other parts of the body. For example if you have congestion due to a common cold a steam bath with a couple of drops of lemon and eucalyptus can alleviate the congestion and relieve the stuffy nose.
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 impact on the physical body & psychological wellness.
While inhalation of essential oils is the safest application for those new to aromatherapy and want to try it safely, their topical use is also a means to transmit the healing benefits and therapeutic effects, through their application in a blend directly on the skin, which is the largest organ of the body and is constantly absorbing nutrients and excreting toxins as a result of its natural filtering processes such as when we perspire.
Typical topical applications include massage oils, bath and skin care products in which the oils penetrate the dermis/epidermis and are absorbed through the skin, are carried into the capillaries and circulate in the blood stream. For example: if you suffer from constipation you can pour a tablespoon of sweet almond oil with 2 drops of patchouli, lemon and fennel which is a digestive synergistic blend offering digestive relief for Bloatedness and excess gas. Massaging the area with the blend can boost circulation and increase absorption. Some argue that areas that are richer in sweat glands and hair follicles, such as the head or the palms of the hand, may absorb the oils more effectively. Again, it is suggested that one seeks the assistance of a GP or your physician before attempting to apply any therapy.
As a rule of thumb, essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin. Although it is said that tea tree and lavender are safe one should always check about skin sensitivity. Indeed, they must always be diluted with a carrier oil. Usually, a few drops of essential oil to an ounce of carrier oil is the concentration. Most common carrier oils are sweet almond oil, fractionated coconut oil or olive oil and jojoba oil or peach kernel oil for the face.
How can I apply Aromatherapy safely?
Always do an allergy test before trying a new essential oil.
To do an allergy test:
- Dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil at twice the concentration you plan to use
- Rub the mixture into an area the size of a Euro on the inside of the forearm
If there is no allergic response within 24 to 48 hours, it should be safe to use.
Some people report developing allergies to essential oils after using them many times before. If a new allergic response appears, the individual should stop using it immediately and avoid its smell. To achieve a 0.5 to 1 percent dilution, use 3 to 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier. For a 5 percent dilution, add 30 drops to one ounce of carrier. A maximum concentration of 5 percent is generally considered safe for adults.
Ingesting, or swallowing, essential oils is not recommended. Taken by mouth, the oils can damage the liver or kidneys. Some essential oils can be ingested it very much depends on the brand and purity of the essences. Always check the stockiest and product reputation or consult with a qualified aromatherapist for the best results.