Scented Oil 101: How Aromatherapy Works : Although the term ‘aromatherapy’ only dates back to 1937, the use of essential oils for health purposes has a long and varied history.
Although the Egyptians were one of the first to extract oils from plants around 6,000 years ago, the practice of using scented oil as a mood enhancer most likely originated in China. While in ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’, used essential oils such as myrrh for healing purposes.
As we once again begin to consider the benefits of alternative health, we often read how aromatherapy oils can lift your mood or help you to stay healthy.
But how do essential oils work? Read on to find out!
Scented Oil 101: Aromatherapy Methods
Aromatherapy works on two different levels – through inhalation and through topical application. Here’s more about how each of these methods work:
The definition of aroma is a distinctive, pervasive and pleasant smell, whereby aromatherapy works to capitalize on our sense of smell, the most primitive of all our senses. As a result, aromatherapy oils trigger emotional and physical responses within some of the oldest and deepest parts of the brain.
When we inhale the aromatic molecules of essential oils, these molecules enter our nose to pass to the lungs and on to other parts of the body. But they also connect with specialized nerve cells that form part of the olfactory system. These olfactory cells are linked to tiny hairs in the nose which recognize and react to specific aromas.
Nerve impulses then travel from the olfactory cells to the limbic system. This is the part of the brain which controls instincts and emotions, hormone balance, breathing, blood pressure, stress, and memory.
Through this, breathing in aromatherapy oils can have a subtle yet holistic effect on the brain and body. Depending on the specific essential oil, different aromas can change your mood, provide stimulation or relaxation, and are even thought to help with anxiety and depression.
You can also reap the benefits of aromatherapy oils through topical application. This often involves massaging essential oils into the skin to increase absorption.
Essential oils have a range of beneficial properties for the skin. Most are antibacterial, while some are also anti-inflammatory, antiviral, or anti-fungal.
The molecules in aromatherapy oils are also small enough to penetrate the epidermis (the top layer of skin) to reach the dermis (a deeper layer of skin). From there, these molecules can then pass into blood vessels, enabling them to circulate around the body.
Once they enter the bloodstream, they are then able to reach parts of the body with good blood vessel networks. These include the kidneys, liver, and some groups of muscles, where the antioxidant properties of essential oils can help to prevent cell damage and promote cell renewal.
Using Aromatherapy Oils
To harness the power of essential oils, it is important that you use them correctly according to the different methods. In most cases, unless you want to use the essential oil for the skin or as part of massage therapy, inhalation is the best method.
Inhaling Aromatherapy Oils
There are several different ways to inhale aromatherapy oils. These include:
- Personal Inhaler – You can inhale essential oils from the bottle. But if there’s an essential oil you use often, it’s better to use a personal inhaler. This is because opening and closing the bottle of essential oils can shorten its shelf life. To use the inhaler, apply around 15 drops of essential oil to the wick inside. When you’re ready to use it, take the cap off, hold the inhaler near your nose and inhale.
- Aroma Diffuser – Diffusers offer a subtle way to improve your mood or as a means to cleanse the air of germs. To use this method, fill the diffuser with water and add five to 10 drops of essential oil.
- Steam Inhalation – Steam inhalation is more intense than other methods as it helps your body absorb the essential oils to a greater extent. Add one or two drops of essential oil to a steaming bowl of hot water, place your head over the bowl and drape a towel over your head to help contain the steam. Close your eyes to avoid irritation and inhale the oil-infused steam.
These different methods of inhalation work better for different oils and different uses. For example, you may prefer to use an inhaler for a quick hit of energizing essential oils like lemon or peppermint. In contrast, eucalyptus oil would be a good choice for steam inhalation when you have a cold.
Topical Application of Aromatherapy Oils
When applied topically, essential oils can have a positive effect on the skin, addressing issues such as eczema and acne.
Using aromatherapy oils can also enhance the benefits of a massage experience, as you can learn more about if you click here. While there are already many great reasons to have a massage, aromatherapy massage, in particular, helps to improve circulation, reduce pain, break down toxins, and combat inflammation.
Aromatherapy massage also means that you’ll inhale the essential oils to get an additional dimension of benefits while the massage therapist uses them to heal and restore your body. For example, lavender oil is an effective natural remedy for body pain, but it helps to promote relaxation and aid sleep.
One thing to bear in mind if you plan on using essential oils for topical application at home is that you should never apply them neatly. Instead, you should dilute several drops of the essential oil in a carrier oil. Good carrier oils to use include almond oil and coconut oil.
For general use, average healthy adults should use a 2 percent dilution, or two drops of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil. To treat a temporary health issue, such as a muscle injury, you can use between a 3 and 10 percent dilution. This is two to 20 drops of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil.
Your Guide to How Aromatherapy Works
Whether inhaled or applied to the skin, aromatherapy works by unlocking the power of scented oil to offer a range of health benefits for your brain and body.
Of course, aromatherapy is only one of many alternative health options that can help to improve your physical and emotional well-being.
If you’re looking for a way to boost your energy levels, these energizing herbs may be able to put a spring back in your step!
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