Aromatherapy is the controlled use of essential oils to promote the health and vitality of the body, mind and spirit by inhalation, baths, compresses, topical application and full-body massage. Now, you might be asking yourself, “What is an essential oil?” Essential oils are the distilled (or sometimes expressed) product of the volatile components synthesized by various plant tissues of a single plant species. It consists of sometimes hundreds of individual biochemical components. (www.achs.edu)
Aromatherapy is the art of healing through the use of scent. Some fragrances can elicit an emotional response that in turn triggers a physiological response. Other scents release chemicals that can directly affect you physiologically.
The art of aromatherapy began ages ago when ancient civilizations noted that certain smells caused people to feel differently. Some aromas caused increased excitement or focus, while others induced relaxation or sleepiness. The Indians, Chinese and Egyptians used a number of aromatic plants and oils to lift spirits, heal and purify. But today, we stop at the pharmacy and pick up a bottle of something to fix what ails us and never think about aromatherapy. Our culture often overlooks the healing power of natural ingredients.
One of the most common ailments in America in the 21st century is the tension headache. When we get a headache due to stress, too little hydration or too little sleep, we pop a couple of tablets and within an hour, we're back to work. What many people don't know is that a tension headache is often due to a lack of blood flow to the brain caused by a tightening of the muscles in the neck and upper back. The pills you pop have an anti-inflammatory effect on the muscles and nerves, which reduces pain. However, the chemicals in these pills can have unhealthy side effects like liver damage and rebound headaches.
Using aromatherapy for headaches can be a gentler, less toxic way to treat inflammation. Inhaling anti-inflammatory essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, chamomile and jasmine can help stop a headache almost immediately.
If you've ever suffered from the 2:00 PM slump (you know what happens mid-way between lunch and dinner); you may lose focus, feel sleepy or lack energy. Essential oils with stimulating properties can help increase circulation and awaken bodily systems that feel like taking a mid-day siesta. Try cinnamon, lemon, or eucalyptus for a pick-me-up without caffeine or sugar.
Some aromas can also help with ailments such as coughs, colds or congestion. The chemicals in oils such as eucalyptus, sage and peppermint can help open breathing passages and loosen phlegm. Placing a few drops in a humidifier can moisten delicate airways and deliver a soothing amount of beneficial oils.
The use of aromatherapy is gaining its momentum back as many shops and healing facilities are offering aromatherapy healing sessions, or essential oils. Integrative healing institutes offer aromatherapy session for patients ranging from pregnancy to cancer. Though there is not much concrete scientific proof, many doctors say they have seen an increase in morale in patients undergoing treatment for low life-expectancy cancers. The stress and pains of treatments are reduced and since oils are readily available, patients can continue aromatherapy sessions at home.
About Allison Brooks
My name is Allie and I went to the University of Mississippi. I earned my degree in biomedical anthropology and now I am currently studying in the field to finish an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures, but relate on other societies as well. I love to guest blog on my time off to past time and spread the word. When I am not at my computer I enjoy riding my horse, Lilly and playing with my ducks, Alvin and Shirley and working on my newly developed blog, Musings of a Curious Mind.