Aromatherapy: Uses, benefits, oils, and risks
Exposure to the gentle scent of lavender flowers can wash away physical, mental and emotional stress. This power of scents extracted from aromatic plants makes Aromatherapy popular. Simply put, Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils with complementary therapies such as topical application, inhalation or massage to improve physical and emotional health. In this article, we’ll look into the science behind Aromatherapy, the types of Aromatherapy oils, their benefits, and the potential risks you should be aware of.
How does Aromatherapy work?
Aromatherapy oils work by activating aroma receptors in the nose. These receptors send messages to the brain to start other systems, such as the limbic system or the hypothalamus. In turn, this influences emotions and hormone secretion. For example, the hypothalamus may respond to certain aromas by releasing serotonin and, thus, making you feel happier.
Similarly, topical application of these oils may also have similar physiological effects.
What are Aromatherapy essential oils?
Aromatherapy is centered around the use of essential oils. The oils are most often used in a diffuser from where the scent can float across the room.
These oils are extracted from different parts of plants through steam distillation, cold presses, etc. There are close to 100 common essential oils used in Aromatherapy. Some of the most well-known types of Aromatherapy oils include lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, peppermint and rosemary. Each of these oils has unique capabilities. For example, peppermint fights fatigue, while rosemary can improve memory.
How can you benefit from Aromatherapy?
While Aromatherapy should not replace regular medical treatment, it can be used in combination with it. Aromatherapy can help you beat fatigue, ease stress, aid in digestion and help relieve symptoms associated with many minor health issues. Some of the benefits offered are:
- Relief from digestive symptoms
Aromatherapy oils like spearmint can stimulate digestion, limit inflammation and relieve trapped gas. It also helps relax muscles and makes you more comfortable after a heavy meal.
- Increase energy levels
Inhaling Aromatherapy essential oils like bergamot, cinnamon, eucalyptus or ginger can stimulate the brain and increase energy levels.
- Ease stress and anxiety
This is one of the most well-known Aromatherapy benefits. Some oils used to experience this benefit are lavender, sandalwood and clary sage.
- Fighting insomnia
Exposure to certain Aromatherapy oils like chamomile, orange and ylang-ylang calms the mind, has a natural sedative effect and helps improve sleep quality.
- Pain relief
The topical application of aromatic essential oils has a cooling effect on muscles and helps relieve pain and inflammation associated with sore muscles or joint troubles. Some Aromatherapy oils are marjoram, yarrow, cypress and clove.
Using Aromatherapy safely
Aromatherapy has many benefits and minimal risks, but essential oils must always be used carefully. Each oil has a unique chemical structure and potency, and its use will determine its effects. You must make sure to use only those essential oils extracted from natural sources and that they have been stored away from light and heat to maintain their integrity.
Essential oils should never be applied directly to your skin. They should be diluted with other carrier oils to a 1% solution. Olive oil, coconut oil and almond oil are the most familiar carrier oils used to dilute essential oils. If you have sensitive skin, apply a small amount of diluted oil to the inside of your forearm as an allergy test. Use Aromatherapy oils cautiously if you have skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Some oils, like citrus oils, may make your skin more prone to sunburn.
Aromatherapy oils must never be ingested. They can damage internal organs such as the liver and kidneys if consumed. They may also interact with other medications and cause unexpected results.
Ideally, consult a trained Aromatherapy practitioner before you start using essential oils. This is especially important if you suffer from chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or have been diagnosed with tumours. For example, stimulating oil such as rosemary can cause trouble for people with high blood pressure.
Exploring the world of Aromatherapy
The wide range of Aromatherapy benefits and low risks make it appealing. Each essential oil is unique in terms of scent and its benefits. Of course, you must make sure you choose the suitable Aromatherapy oils from the right brand.