AROMATHERAPY: IMPROVE YOUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH WITH THE POWER OF SCENT
- Scent controls our mood, respiration, thought, feeling, movement, hormones, metabolism, and resistance to illness.
- The greatest benefit of some scents is their ability to restore harmony to our bodies when we’re overstimulated.
- The practice of using aromatic oils from different plant parts, such as flowers, to aid in relieving and balancing emotions is called “Aromatherapy.”
- Specific essential oils can be combined in unique blends to create individual prescriptions that treat conditions of the mind, body, and spirit together based on personal scent preferences.
- Understand the properties and safe usage protocol for essential oils and explore the numerous ways in which scent can provide comfort!
WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY?
Whether pleasant or unpleasant, our surroundings leave an impression on our mental and physical states. What we experience through our senses has consequences for our body systems that control not only mood but also our breathing, thinking, feeling, movement, hormones, metabolism, and our resistance to illness. We are generally inclined to place ourselves in or near natural settings when we find ourselves feeling stressed - we recognize that natural elements have a restorative influence on our complete well-being and help us settle both our physical and mental ailments.
The use of fragrant flowers, woods, plants, and resins, or “aromatic herbalism,” began centuries ago in the time of Neanderthals, who buried their dead along with aromatic herbs and flowers. Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Arabs used scents in air purification, skincare, in the embalming process to honour their deceased, and in the healing of wounds. Essential oils were believed to be more valuable than even gold, motivating grave robbers to steal jars of them from King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Other cultures used fragrant flowers in their perfumes, antibiotics, antiseptics, and in their religious worship they used flower garlands to place around the necks of their idols.
In the 20th century, aromas were first used in therapeutic practice. The founder of this practice was Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French perfumer and chemist, who accidentally discovered that when he applied Lavender oil to a burn on his hand the healing process was extraordinarily quick. He observed that the oil was both aromatic and therapeutic and coined the term Aromatherapy.
Wholistic aromatherapists practice therapeutic perfumery for which they combine specific oils in unique blends to create individual prescriptions that treat conditions of the mind, body, and spirit together based on the scent preferences and symptoms of the individual. It should be noted that aromatherapy does not have to be limited to topical use; though it has its applications in perfumery, its medicinal applications can be employed in several procedures that will be illustrated in a chart later in this article.
THE BENEFITS OF NATURE'S SCENTS
Any pleasant smells inspire relaxation, promote easiness of breath, boost invulnerability to viruses and infections, and protect the body from the harmful physical and emotional effects of stress, but those extracted from nature are most potent in improving well-being in every sense: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
While modern life separates us from nature, fragrant essential oils drawn out of plants and flowers and the usage of these smells in Aromatherapy connect us to it. Essential oils are the source of the therapeutic fragrances we smell in nature. Specifically, they are precious liquids extracted from plants’ roots, barks, leaves, flowers or within their rinds, seeds or other parts.
AROMATHERAPY ESSENTIAL OILS
HOW ESSENTIAL OILS ENTER THE BODY: There are 3 ways for essential oils to enter the body: dermal absorption, oral ingestion, and inhalation. The ingestion method is not recommended unless prescribed and supervised by a qualified medical practitioner.
Disclaimer: All of NDA's essential oils are for external use only. Hence, Inhalation is the most effective way to instantly retain the therapeutic effects of essential oils.
- DERMAL ABSORPTION: A greater amount of an essential oil will be absorbed if it is a less viscous oil, if the user’s pores are unclogged, and if more skin area is covered by the oil. There are also parts of the body with thinner skin (behind the ears, inside of the wrists, palms of hands, soles of feet, armpits, scalp) through which oils are more quickly absorbed than through other parts with thicker skin (arms, legs, belly, back).
- ORAL INGESTION: Studies have shown that the least effective way to absorb an essential oil is through ingestion. Taken this way, the oil ends up going through a slower intake process by way of the digestive tract where it must pass through several large organs before it reaches the bloodstream. By this time, the oil’s chemical composition will have been altered by every other material it will have passed in these organs before being expelled from the body.
BENEFITS OF AROMATHERAPY
Our bodies have 400 types of scent receptors that can detect a vast number of different odours, which is more than the number of receptors we have for other senses: sight has 4 receptors, taste has 4, touch has 4 main receptors, and hearing is based on touch due to the ear hairs acting as receptors. A person can distinguish several smells, even if he or she doesn’t have the words to describe them. Scent-triggered memories are thus more moving than others.
Scents often recapture the carefree memories of times when we were at ease. Some scents energize us, but the greatest benefit is in their ability to restore harmony to our bodies when we’re overstimulated. Essential Oils are not to be considered a miracle cure for serious emotional issues but can aid in relieving and balancing emotions. This is what comes to mind when one hears the word “Aromatherapy.”
Not all essential oils provide the same level of benefit for all users; past memories associated with the scent will affect an individual’s response to it. For example, while Rose Oil is listed as being helpful in times of grief, its aroma might trigger a negative experience if, say, the smell reminds the individual of his or her abusive grandmother who might have worn a rose-scented perfume herself. On the other hand, if the grandmother was nurturing, the smell will elicit a positive response and aid in stress-relief. No one should be coaxed to use a scent that he or she doesn’t naturally feel inclined to, even if it is prescribed for the particular emotional issue he or she might be suffering from.
For this reason, Marguerite Maury's Individual Prescription Technique was devised in the 1950s. Maury was a biochemist, who specialized in holistic aromatherapy and was the first to devise a special massage technique for the application of essential oils. The oils were chosen for her patients according to their physical and emotional development. These unique blends would treat conditions of the individual’s mind, body and spirit together because in Holistic aromatherapy blends are not “one scent fits all” but rather they are mixed by a qualified practitioner for the individual based on his or her scent preferences and symptoms.
SMELL AND EMOTION
As perceived in the use of colognes and perfumes, scent can convey everything from longing to authority, liveliness to relaxation. Accordingly, scent is extremely important in attracting two people; the genes that make up our immune system produce our body odour and help us subconsciously choose our partners. Some scientists believe that kissing evolved from the act of sniffing, “the first kiss” stemming from a primal behavior – we smell and taste our partner to decide if he or she is compatible.
To illustrate, individuals have different sensitivities and awareness of the same smell, so what smells sweet and soft to some might be nauseating, migraine-inducing, or even heartbreaking to others. Some smells are universally revolting because they signal danger, such as anything threatening to life or to hygiene like smoke, feces, stale body odour, and spoiled food. On the other hand, the same smells that are offensive in some cultures are alluring in other cultures, because of their dissimilar connotations.
EFFECT OF SMELL ON MOOD, BEHAVIOUR, AND DREAMS
Mood influences thinking, which often leads to observable behavior. A positive mood often means higher levels of creativity - including creative problem solving - increased productivity, performance, and the tendency to help others. Pleasant ambient odors also enhance attentiveness during tedious tasks, stimulating higher self-efficacy and spurring people to set higher goals, and to make more efficient work strategies compared to those in a no-odor condition. Conversely, negative moods and bad smells impair judgments, diminish a tolerance for frustration, and decrease prosocial behavior.
Research conducted by sleep disorder centers has tested the theory that the smell of flowers can induce more positive dreams. Men and women were exposed to either the smell of flowers, hydrogen sulfide, or to no smell at all. Whatever they smelled produced the emotional content of their dreams. Those who inhaled the pleasant smell experienced significantly more pleasant dreams than those who had no smell. Those who smelled Sulphur had the most negative dreams. These insights have led researchers to begin an investigation into the ability of pleasant smells to reduce nightmares.
USING ESSENTIAL OILS IN AROMATHERAPY
Due to their strength and the fact that using too much can trigger sensitivities and cause adverse health effects, essential oils must be diluted with a carrier oil before being used, depending upon the particular properties of the oil. Before use, it is imperative that the properties of the particular oil are understood by the user, as sometimes there are contraindications against combining the use of particular essential oils and certain prescription medications.
The end result of using the oil depends on the amount used. It is safest to start with smaller amounts than higher.