Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Aromatherapy is based on the use of pure essential oils that are extracted from plants. The scents create alternate pathways in the brain and body to help us to relax, balance, rejuvenate, and otherwise enhance physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being . Certain aromas can be used to enable us to go beyond our thoughts and feelings to experience the silent source within us.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are the highly concentrated parts/essences of aromatic plants. They can be derived from all parts of the plant: flowers (rose), wood (sandalwood), bark (cinnamon), leaves (basil), roots (licorice) and fruits (orange). The methods of oil extraction are time-consuming and expensive, and require a high degree of expertise.
Some essential oils are especially costly due to the labor-intensive process and the quantity of the plant required to produce the oil. For example, approximately 2,000 kilograms of rose petals would produce 1 kg of essential oil, and 4 million jasmine flowers produce a kilogram of jasmine oil. But because they are highly effective — only a few drops are required to achieve the desired effect.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and must be used carefully.
The natural scents of Nature are potent and powerful because our olfactory nerve is directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotions, desires, appetites, memories and the endocrine glands that regulate hormone levels. Essential oils can be used alone or in combination.
Use essential oils to achieve the personal care results you are looking for:
● For a calming effect, use
○ Vanilla, orange blossom, rose, chamomile or lavender
● To reduce the ill-effects of stress, use
○ Lavender, sandalwood and nutmeg oils
● To reduce anxiety, lift the mood and increase bliss, use patchouli
The "Life Force", "essence", or "soul" of a plant present in flowers, fruits, leaves, branches, seeds, root and rind of the plant (when used properly) can resonate with and enliven one’s own inner intelligence. In fact, sandalwood has been used throughout many centuries to enhance spiritual experiences.
The Egyptians used aromatics 5,000 years ago for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. The Greeks used olive oil to absorb the odor from flower petals and herbs. Arab physicians perfected the method of distilling essential oils and brought them to Europe. French chemists, like René-Maurice Gattefossé, researched the healing properties of essential oils. He found lavender oil healed his burned hand and coined the term "aromatherapy" in 1928, then published a book entitled Aromatherapy in 1937. India and China have a tradition of ayurvedic remedies that treated Indian royalty with dried or fresh herbs, floral waters and oil massage. Ayurveda considers the use of aroma as an important tool for prevention and healing. Practitioners use it for protecting the vital force, prana , regulating digestion and metabolism, agni , and increasing resistance to disease, ojas . Traditional ayurvedic practices include fumigation by burning Neem leaves, use of holy basil or rose petals in water while bathing, and burning incense sticks during meditation.
Aromatherapy has so many applications that even if you have a busy schedule you can still enjoy its benefits. By lighting an aromatic candle as you cook or bathe, or use a car diffuser while you commute to work, you can benefit in both physical and psychological ways. Essential oils take up little room, go a long way, yet their effect is very powerful.
● Smelling: The most important pathway for aromas is through the sense of smell. When we smell essential oils, the vapor stimulates our olfactory nerve. This is the only nerve in the body that directly contacts the environment and goes all the way to the brain. All of our other senses involve several nerves and synaptic junctions before the impulses reach the brain. The olfactory nerve stimulates the limbic system, which is connected to the areas of the brain that
process emotions, desires, appetites and memories, as well as the endocrine glands which regulate hormone levels in the body. For this reason, aromas have a subtle but very powerful influence on our mind and body. They can be very effective in the treatment of stress. *Aromatherapy diffusers are quite popular these days. Place one in an area you spend the majority of your time.
● Massage: Aromatherapy massage is another widely-used technique. When you give yourself a massage or when you are lucky to receive one from someone else, you not only inhale the essential oils but your skin absorbs them as well. They penetrate the tissues
and find their way into the bloodstream, where they are transported to the organs and systems of the body. Essential oils have different rates of absorption, so it is best not to shower directly following a massage to ensure maximum effectiveness. *Wait at least 20
minutes, if you can, then simply rinse with warm-hot water and only soap or scrub your essential parts leaving a thin layer of oil on the entire body.
● Bath: Aromatic baths are also popular forms of aromatherapy. The large surface of the warm water in the tub instantly vaporizes the essential oils, sending their particles to your brain. Soaking alone relaxes your muscles and your whole physiology, so you enhance
the effect of the aromas. *Add bath salts right before you enter the tub to enjoy the full potency of their essential oils.
● Skin and Hair Care: Most personal care items are scented with aromas, often with synthetic ones. They also get absorbed in your bloodstream through your skin. For this reason, whatever product you use, make sure it contains only pure, organic essential oils and
ingredients. Artificial aromas and perfumes will not provide the same benefits and can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. *The smell of roses, jasmine or neem in soaps can enliven your ,shower. *Rose water helps tone your skin and uplift your spirit - use it to spritz yourself during hot flashes or general summertime heat.
Fun & Sexy: Set the mood for your next romantic adventure. When you and your lover have an opportunity to cuddle up in front of a fireplace, sprinkle drops of sandalwood or patchouli on the logs. Wait 15 minutes before lighting! then get ready for a hot, sensual experience.
~ Keli N Dean, LMFT
Relationship & Sex Therapist