Sensational Scents: Exploring Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy just might be in my top 3 ways to alter my mood instantly. Have you ever encountered a scent that just changed the way you were feeling? A scent that made you remember an event from the past, or even think about a specific person? The power of smell shouldn't be underestimated - actually, your sense of smell is more closely linked to memory than all of our other senses plus it's highly emotive meaning it can trigger feelings as well. The topic this week covers all things aromatherapy including some useful background information, research study findings, how to use appropriately and where you can start your exploration! As always, do additional research and contact a Registered Aromatherapist or referring to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) that can provide you with even more information and safety education.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being. This involves the extraction of oils created from the leaves, fruit, and roots of plants to create a therapeutic or emotional sense of well-being. Essential oils are NOT the same as perfumes or fragrance oils, they are the true essence of the plant without artificial substances or artificially created scents. Direct application, inhalation and baths are a few methods used to penetrate the body system, then once in the system the oils remodulate to work at the site of malfunction or at the affected area. The use of essential oils and aromatherapy for healing can be traced back centuries, even recorded as being used by Egyptians and Ancient Chinese civilizations. Aromatherapy seeks to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. Over the years, the practice of aromatherapy has evolved tremendously and when paired with the recent research I can see it being something that many individuals can benefit from for a multitude of conditions and disorders on many levels!
Aromatherapy is a caring, hands-on therapy which seeks to induce relaxation, to increase energy, to reduce the effects of stress and to restore lost balance to mind, body and soul.
- Robert Tisserand
Unsurprisingly, there's a good bit of research out there on aromatherapy and essential oil use for things like sleep disorders, labor pain in pregnancy, as an antibacterial agent, and the effects it has on pain, mood and mental stressors to name a few. In fact, in 1998 The International Journal of Neuroscience published an article (Aromatherapy Positively Affects Mood, EEG Patterns of Alertness and Math Computations) that discovered through EEG studies during math computations completed by participants exposed to either lavender or rosemary essential oils:
"lavender group showed increased beta power, suggesting increased drowsiness, they had less depressed mood and reported feeling more relaxed and performed the math computations faster and more accurately following aromatherapy. The rosemary group, on the other hand, showed decreased frontal alpha and beta power, suggesting increased alertness. They also had lower state anxiety scores, reported feeling more relaxed and alert and they were only faster, not more accurate, at completing the math computations after the aromatherapy session."
This provides evidence that the brain does respond and there is measurable change in not only mood but our ability to perform certain tasks. I encourage you to seek out additional peer-reviewed articles on essential oils and aromatherapy to see all the ways they are being used to benefit individuals.
One great resource I've found was THIS systematic review published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Biomedicine that is packed with information and specific essential oil details.
How To Use
There are various methods to use essential oils, below I cover a few of the main applications but explore other ways you can incorporate their use in your daily life!
Indirect Inhalation/Diffusion: this category includes the use of a diffuser in your home environment or when inhaled as a vapor like steam or with use of boiling water with the essential oils added
Baths: adding 5-7 drops essential oil to running bath water, you can also close the door while the tub is filling so the whole room can be filled with essential oil steam as you soak
Massage: combined with a carrier oil (see below for what this is) and directly applied to areas that you wish to target or will it will have the most therapeutic benefit, most essential oils are too highly concentrated to be used directly on the skin
General Safety Information:
Essential oils are generally safe for healthy adults with minimal adverse effects recorded in studies, however with use in children or other specialty populations is always important to consult a specialist or your doctor first
- Do not use essential oils undiluted on your skin
- Some oils can cause allergic reactions - always do a skin patch test to see if there is a reaction
- If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before using any essential oil - this can be used for other health conditions as well i.e. asthma, always err on the side of caution
- Essential oils are flammable so be mindful when using near open flames
Essential Oil Beginner Toolkit
I wanted to highlight a few specific essential oils that I feel like I couldn't go without and ones that would be useful for any and everyone to have on hand or in their medicine cabinet. Out of all of the essential oils that I find myself using pretty regularly, I narrowed it down to 5 + a carrier oil as a good starting place for am essential oil beginner toolkit. I included some uses for the oils below as well as information on a carrier oil which was mentioned earlier in the post when discussing massage:
-> stress, anxiety, agitation, balancing, calming, soothing, anti-depressant, insomnia
-> calming, grounding, toning, alleviate stress, relieves pain
-> uplifting, boosts immune system, energizing, mood enhancing, increases concentration
-> fatigue, energizing, physical and mental stimulant, assists with memory, muscular conditions
-> decongestant, stimulating, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, cooling agent
Carrier Oil: this can be almond oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, etc. which is used to dilute the essential oils and help "carry" them into the skin. Having a proper carrier oil on hand is vital if using the massage method discussed above to receive essential oil and aromatherapy benefits. The dilution recommended by NAHA for most healthy adults is 20 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil which equates to a 3% dilution.
"Aromatherapy regulates the physiological, spiritual and psychological upliftment for the new phase of life."
Now I know that was A LOT of information, but I couldn't just skim over this one - the curative potential of essential oils on the mind, body and spirit need to be discussed in detail and I still feel like I just scratched the surface on this blog post! I am a firsthand witness to the power and impact of aromatherapy and I continue to use this as a tool to help me find balance and healing in my life. If you enjoyed this blog post, leave a comment below! As always, my inbox is open and I can be reached on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with any questions, comments or just general contact! I hope that this content is allowing you to learn and grow while exposing you to tools to help you daily! Subscribe to the blog if you haven't so you don't miss out on anything in the future!
The Healer Dealer Shop is a place where you can purchase specialty goods created and curated by me to further your healing journey. I have gotten so many inquiries about what I use during meditation, Reiki sessions or just in my day to day and I wanted to create a space where that can be easily accessed by anyone willing to explore. Essential oil blends are something I take seriously and understand the power of when used correctly, be sure to see what's available in the shop!