As I entered the building last night where my Yoga class is held, I was pleasantly surprised as I was greeted by the pleasing aroma of incense; which leads me to my topic for this week. Aromatherapy is the art and science of using oils extracted from aromatic plants to enhance health and beauty. Aromatherapy restores balance to mind and body and treats a wide range of symptoms. Aromatherapy was used by most ancient civilizations and it is said to be at least 6000 years old. In order to comprehend the rationale behind Aromatherapy, we have to start by understanding the sense of smell itself.
Sensory cells of the nasal cavity are stimulated by chemical particles we breathe in through the nose. What is perceived in the brain as an odor is actually the chemical particles. We can register around 10,000 different scents in contrast to our sense of taste, which can register only 4 different types of tastes. Ironically of our 5 senses, the sense of smell is the least developed.
Today we use our sense of smell subconsciously. What we notice are sudden changes in smell that send us searching for the source (like the unexpected smell of smoke or gas). Smells evoke many different emotions including anger, comfort, anxiety, sensuality and fear.
Certain fragrances can also awaken long-forgotten memories. We often link a smell to past events regardless of the situation in which it is manifesting. The smell of lavender or rose may be comforting because you associate it with the perfume of someone special to you.
As I have mentioned previously, Aromatherapy, very simply stated, is the use of essential oils, generally in the therapeutic sense. Essential oils are considered to be the hormones or life force of a plant. They are essential to the plants’ biological processes and they give the plant its scent. The oils are extracted from a variety of plant parts such as the flowers, leaves, wood, resin and twigs. The plants may be herbs, trees, spices or even weeds and they are found all over the world. Although just smelling them can alter a person’s mood or mental state, they can be used effectively in many other ways.
Massage- This is the most effective usage because it combines the properties of the oils in addition to the therapeutic power of touch. The skin absorbs the oil over a large surface area and the capillaries carry the oils through the bloodstream to reach the relevant parts quickly and effectively.
Baths- Using oils in baths is a simple, effective and pleasant way to relax and receive the therapeutic effects. Mix 6-10 drops of oil in a bath of warm water and immerse yourself in the bath for about 20 minutes. The heat of the water aids in absorption through the skin, at the same time you inhale the vapor.
Compresses- Add 5-10 drops to a bowl of warm water. Soak a wash cloth in the water and oil mixture, ring out the cloth and apply to the affected body part. Inhalations- Add 5-10 drops of oil into a bowl of steaming hot water. Place a towel over your head and the bowl and inhale the vapors for a few minutes.
Vaporization- All oils are antiseptic and evaporate easily so they make good air fresheners. Different oils create different atmospheres. For example, Sandalwood and Clary Sage have relaxing properties so it would be good for use at parties. Peppermint clears your mind when you need to work. There are many vaporizers on the market.
Perfume- You can make your own perfume by blending different oils.