Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees to promote physical and psychological well-being. The inhaled aroma from these concentrated plant essences is believed to stimulate brain pathways in ways that can improve health and quality of life. Research shows essential oil components are absorbed into the bloodstream when applied to the skin for massage or baths. Ongoing scientific studies continue to uncover exciting benefits of this complementary therapy dating back thousands of years.
Understanding How Aromatherapy Works
Essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic essences extracted from flowers, leaves, stems, roots, seeds, bark or resin of plants. Their scent comes from volatile aroma compounds that evaporate easily at room temperature. When inhaled into the lungs, odor molecules are picked up by receptors in the nasal cavity and transmitted along nervous system pathways to the olfactory bulb and limbic system parts of the brain, influencing emotions, hormones, heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and more.
Compounds from essential oils can also enter the bloodstream through skin absorption or internal use to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial effects, improving circulation and organ function. Popular oils like lavender are finding scientific validation for their long history of stress reduction and mood enhancement. Many oils have been shown to fight harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses that can impact health. Careful and proper use of aromatherapy can promote the healing of the body and mind through integrative medicine therapies.
Everyday Uses to Enhance Wellness
There are many relatively simple and pleasant ways to harness aromatherapy’s potential in your life. Here are some favorite essential oil uses for health and wellness:
- Diffuse relaxing oils like lavender, frankincense or bergamot in your work or home environment. Deep inhalation of calming fragrances sends signals of safety and ease to tense parts of the brain and body.
- Add a few drops of Roman chamomile or ylang-ylang oil to bath water for a soothing soak to unwind. Bathing opens pores to absorb helpful compounds.
- Mix a few teaspoons of a carrier oil like sweet almond or jojoba with a few drops of jasmine, clary sage or marjoram oil for a tension-releasing neck and shoulder massage.
- Rub diluted relaxing oils on temples and wrists before bedtime or lightly spritz pillowcases with a calming mist. Popular oils for restful sleep are lavender, cedarwood and vetiver.
- Diffuse sedative oils like sandalwood or frankincense in the bedroom at night to quiet a busy mind and promote slumber.
- Add eucalyptus, pine, thyme or tea tree oil to an evening steamy shower if congested. Inhale the penetrating vapors to help open airways.
- For respiratory relief and easy breathing, rub diluted cardamom, ravensara or niaouli oil on chest before bed.
- Diffuse antibacterial, antiviral oils like cinnamon leaf, lemon, oregano or clove bud when airborne threats are high. Their dispersing aromas create a protective shield in the environment.
- Add a drop of antioxidant, germ-fighting oils like clove, rosemary or orange to water, tea or a smoothie daily for an internal immune system boost.
- Dispense mood-enhancing essential oils of bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, rose absolute, or sandalwood when feeling low, nervous, or blue. Uplifting scents can brighten outlook and attitude.
- Apply diluted antidepressant oils like geranium, clary sage, frankincense or ylang ylang to skin when overwhelmed or hopeless. Their properties inspire inner calm and optimism.
- Inhale stimulating scents of peppermint, pine, rosemary or lemon when mental sharpness is needed for work or study. Their sniff effects combats fatigue and boosts focus.
- Rub diluted uplifting oils like basil, grapefruit or spearmint onto palms, temples or wrists before a test or big meeting. They awaken and energize for top performance.
- Add a drop of brain-activating rosemary, peppermint or cinnamon oil to hands and inhale deeply before memorization or exams. Clinically shown to aid retention and recall.
- Many citrus oils like lemon, lime, bergamot, neroli and orange contain the antioxidant D-limonene offering skin rejuvenation benefits. Add a drop to face creams.
- The anti-inflammatory compound linalool in floral oils like lavender promotes youthful skin by increasing collagen production. Use in daily skin care routine.
Essential Oil Tips
When using aromatherapy at home, follow usage guidelines carefully for safety and best effects:
- Always dilute essential oils before applying directly to skin which may be sensitized to high potency compounds. Good carrier oil options are coconut, olive, sweet almond, jojoba or argan.
- Perform a small skin patch test on oils before extensive use to check for allergic reactions or sensitivity. Discontinue use immediately if irritation develops.
- Research any contraindications before using essential oils if pregnant, using medication, or having a medical condition. Some oils can interact with treatment plans.
- Avoid contact with eyes, ears and other mucus membranes. Oils are potent external use only plant extracts.
- Do not ingest essential oils unless under the guidance of a certified aromatherapist or healthcare provider trained in internal usage protocols.
The aromatic power of nature’s essence in concentrated plant oils has many therapeutic benefits. From relaxing soothing baths to stimulating diffusions, intentionally employing aromatherapy plants in your self-care ritual can enhance both body and mind wellness in simple pleasurable ways.