What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for their curative properties. Essential oils are the aromatic oils distilled from plants —or, to put it in scientific terms, oils containing volatile aromatic molecules.
How does aromatherapy work?
Essential oils can be used for therapeutic healing through inhalation and by directly applying them on the skin. Through inhalation they can have the most impact on mood and emotions but can also produce physical reactions such as slowed heart rate. Physically applied they can have the most medicinal impact cosmetically and against infection but can also have positive effects on the emotional level. By applying them to skin and smelling you get benefits of both.
When essential oils are applied to the skin, their healing components are absorbed into the bloodstream. From there they disperse to the specific organs and systems on which they work. Some of the essential oils’ components, carried via the bloodstream, can also pass through the blood-brain barrier to the limbic system in the brain, where they can influence the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems.
How does aromatherapy effect mood and promote wellness?
When essential oils are inhaled they travel through the nasal passage and have direct interaction with the part of the brain that controls emotion and memory. The odor molecules travel inside the nose, get absorbed by the olfactory epithelium, and are sent to the olfactory bulbs at the base of the brain where they are then interpreted, amplified and transmitted to the limbic system. The limbic system is considered to be the center of mood experiences and hormone control. The message is then received by the hypothalamus which can relay information to the rest of the brain such as the pituitary, thalamus, cortex and also into the bloodstream. All this happens within a second! So for example, sedative odors like lavender and marjoram can be inhaled and trigger the secretion of the neurochemical serotonin, which can help us sleep.
Whether inhaled or applied topically, essential oils can help bring about fundamental changes in physical, mental and emotional well being by triggering, and strengthening, our bodies’ own natural responses.