By now you’ve probably heard about the technique of aromatherapy and the use of essential oils. Many people tout these methods as ways to relieve stress, reduce pain and return a sense of balance to one’s life. While this sounds good, how exactly does it work?
There are two ways in which aromatherapy can be applied: essential oils can be applied topically to the skin or the oils can be inhaled through the nose or mouth and in some cases ingested.
Since our skin is somewhat permeable, the active chemicals in essential oils can be absorbed just like the ingredients in pharmaceuticals such as rubbing lotions and skin moisturizers. Some of the more common skin absorption techniques include blends of black pepper or ginger essential oil to reduce arthritis pain and to improve flexibility and applying German Chamomile to treat eczema.
Some practitioners recommend massaging the area to be treated first, to increase the circulation to that area and causing an increase in absorption of the essential oils. Heat can also be used to increase the circulation.
Another way of using essential oils in aromatherapy is through inhalation. When inhaling, essential oil molecules bring their benefits by directly entering the blood stream through the lungs and affecting the brain through the olfactory nerves in the nasal cavity.
Some suggest placing a couple of drops of the essential oil you are using in the palm of one hand and then rub the oil into the palm of your other hand. Then cup both hands together and place over your nose and mouth and inhale deeply being careful not to touch your eyes as this may cause a stinging sensation.
You can also inhale essential oils in hot water, place a towel over your head and inhale the steam. Lastly, you can apply a couple of drops to certain areas of your body including the chest, neck and wrists and breathe in the aroma throughout the day.
The theory behind aromatherapy is the right combination of essential oils can be used to improve a person’s health or mood. It is believed that the inhalation of essential oils stimulates the part of the brain connected to smell, the olfactory system. A signal is sent to the limbic system of the brain that controls emotions and retrieves learned memories. This causes chemicals to be released which make a patient feel relaxed, calm or even stimulated.