Aromatherapy is the use of oils extracted from various, primarily fragrant, plants to aid in the relief of a range of physical or mental discomforts or illnesses. These oils, commonly referred to as “essential oils” are also used to enhance or encourage positive responses in the user. These oils may be used by direct application or by inhaling the aromas, hence the name “aromatherapy”. The inhaled aromas can be dispersed by candles prepared with the Bulk Essential Oils, by applying the oil to some object, such as a handkerchief or pillowcase, by spraying a mix of the oil and water into the air, or by means of a “diffuser”. A diffuser is a device generally available from providers of aromatherapy products which uses heat to disperse molecules of the chosen essential oil into the air.
Although long used in other parts of the world, such as the East and Middle East, aromatherapy is essentially new to Europe and the United States. In the last few years, in addition to an increase in the numbers of aromatherapy practitioners, a broad interest and corresponding retail market in aromatherapy, essential oils, and related items such as candles, perfumes, and diffusers has sprung up. It is now very easy for someone knowing little or nothing about aromatherapy to buy the necessary supplies and reap the benefits of aromatherapy.
EFFECTS OF ESSENTIAL OILS AND AROMATHERAPY
Overall, the effects may be divided into two basic groups. Some of the oils can have actual physical effects. For example, eucalyptus oil can be inhaled to help clear sinuses and the respiratory tract. This would obviously relieve some symptoms of an upper respiratory infection (URI). Some oils may be used topically (directly on the skin, where they would usually be absorbed by the body, or on a wound) to possibly relieve swelling or fight certain infections.
Secondly, aromatherapy, usually through the inhaling of the molecules of the particular essence, can affect moods and emotions. Since feelings and emotions are more and more appearing to be hard-wired to the health of the body, it is beginning to become apparent that improvements in such areas as moods can affect the actual health condition of the body in addition to simply making the individual feel happier, or more energetic, or more alert. Studies have shown, for example, that the status of someone’s emotional state can affect the ability of their immune system to fight off infection.
ESSENTIAL OILS IN OTHER PRODUCTS
Essential oils can be used in other products such as perfumes, lotions, cleansers and other cosmetics and personal care items. Essential oils are even used in such common items as household cleaners and toothpaste. Many people even use essential oils with other elements to create their own products. One company even offers a Health, Home and Beauty Kit so that those interested in aromatherapy can use essential oils to “…create hundreds of blends for everything from women’s concerns to cleaning your bathroom tiles.”
SCIENTIFIC STUDY TENDS TO SUPPORT AROMATHERAPY
Being an alternative form of healthcare, aromatherapy was, until recently, looked down on by the traditional medical community. However, with the increasing tide of evidence of the importance of the mind-body connection in health, and with an increasing volume of empirical and anecdotal evidence, the scientific community has begun to accept aromatherapy and the affect of the oils used on health…at least to some extent.
In the last few years, researchers at the Kurume University School of Medicine in Japan, the University of Miami School of Medicine, the University of Alaska, and the University of Pittsburgh, to name a few, have shown positive results in subjects through the use of aromatherapy. Subjects have experienced improved mental and physical functions after the use of essential oils. Subjective measurements have indicated positive experiences in participants, while objective measurements, such as electroencephalograms (EEG) have borne out these results as well.
Participants have used essential oils to improve their immune systems, improve athletic ability, increase alertness, ease depression, be more effective students, and to quit smoking.
PRECAUTIONS BEFORE USING ESSENTIAL OILS
While essential oils are natural products and may be inhaled directly with no harm, you should always be careful to merely inhale the aroma rising from the container, much as you would inhale the scent of a cologne or perfume. Do not place essential oils directly into nasal passages. Using a diffuser, candle, or item with the oil on it to release the molecules are the most common ways of experiencing the actual aroma.