Whether it is the scent of freshly baked cookies or freshly cut flowers, certain aromas can have an effect on us. Those effects may differ from person to person. For example, the scent of lavender may have a calming effect on one person while it gives another person nothing more than a headache. Though the benefits of aromatherapy are still being researched, there are many people who swear by its powers.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes. These oils are extracted from plants and then distilled to a highly concentrated oil. Whether simply inhaled from a distance or applied to the skin through massage or bath, these scented oils stimulate the nose’s smell receptors. Different scents can trigger different emotional responses. For example, the popular scent of vanilla may trigger calming childhood memories, while a citrus scent may act as an invigorating “pick me up” just like a glass of orange juice in the morning.
Although the benefits of aromatherapy on the mind range from relaxation to improved concentration and invigoration, it is important not to ignore its effect on the body. Since the scent of essential oils can provide a healthy emotional balance, it should be recognized that this healthy balance can help ward off physical problems.
Researchers tend to agree that stress can elicit physical side effects in people that include an array of heart problems. Therefore, if aromatherapy reduces stress, it may indirectly reduce the chances of heart attacks and high blood pressure.
The use of essential oils in aromatherapy is often coupled with massage therapy and foot baths. There are certain oils that have specific benefits to the largest organ of the human body: the skin. After absorbed by the skin, the oils travel to individual cells where they can work their magic. Their powerful properties include deodorizing, cleansing, toning, and balancing. Certain oils, such as lavender oil, have all three properties. It is also much safer than other oils, as it can be diluted up to 20 percent (Note: Different oils have a different dilution ratio, so please be sure to consult a dilution chart). If you have oily skin, lavender oil can actually prevent it. In contrast, it also moisturizes dry and flaky skin.
To see how aromatherapy can work for you, try experimenting with a few different oils and methods. For immediate relief, you can inhale the oil directly or you can enjoy it over time by diffusing it and letting it penetrate the room. For example, a few drops of chamomile oil placed onto a cloth can relieve stress. Simply bring it near the nose and inhale deeply. There are also products that diffuse the oils, such as wooden reeds or electric lamps. Try sandalwood, vanilla, or rose for a calming effect in the bedroom at night or try lemon, peppermint, or basil in the office where you need more energy.
Although the benefits of aromatherapy are abundant, it is important to know that essential oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Be sure to consult a physician if any adverse reactions occur.