Do you remember the time when we were kids and our grandmother would massage us with herbs? Or the aroma that filled the room when she would light incense sticks? That, my friend, was our first encounter with aromatherapy. Fast forward to my adult life and the year 2023, those memories of the amazing aroma still linger around, except I now have a little more understanding of what it really is.
Aromatherapy, in simple language, is a therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic essential oils to promote physical and psychological well-being. It's rooted in the principle that natural fragrances, or essential oils, from certain plants or flowers can heal. The science believes that these natural oils directly stimulate our brain’s emotional center to influence our physical, emotional, and mental health. The interesting part is that it’s not a modern science or technique invented in the 21st century. Instead, it dates back to ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, and India where it was used for religious and medicinal purposes.
How Aromatherapy Works
Aromatherapy primarily works through our sense of smell, but can also be absorbed into the body via the skin, such as through massage or bathing. As soon as these molecules embedded with fragrance or aroma hit our nose, they stimulate our olfactory nerves. These nerves, directly connected to our brain, sends signals to our limbic system- the part responsible for controlling emotions and memories.
Each essential oil is unique and offers specific healing properties like my son Felix's Lego creations. Just like he knows which piece to pick to create an airplane or a house, we need to pick the right oil for the desired health benefit.
Aromatherapy at Home: Creating the right environment
Let's understand this with mouth-watering food analogy. Even before you’ve tasted that Christmas turkey, the aroma of it cooking fills your house, activating your salivary glands and setting your stomach to rumble. It’s a similar process with aromatherapy. The aroma from essential oils can trigger your body to react in specific ways, depending on the fragrance.
Creating the right environment at home is crucial. It's like setting the stage before the play begins. A calm and tranquil environment can amplify the effects of aromatherapy. The ambiance can be created with dim lights, soft music and comfortable furnishings. One thing to keep in mind, though: aromatherapy is not about creating a strong fragrance; it's about creating the right fragrance.
Selecting the Right Oils: The Art and Science
Picking the right essential oils is as important as selecting the right musical instrument for creating a symphony, or choosing the right color to paint a beautiful canvas. But fear not! There’s no need to run around sniffing all the oil bottles at the store! Most aromatherapy oils carry labels highlighting their primary benefits to steer you in the right direction.
For instance, if you are wrestling with insomnia, lavender oil with its calming properties can come to your rescue. To uplift your mood, nothing beats the citrusy aroma of lemon or orange oil. And to ease muscle tension after an intense workout or long day, give eucalyptus oil a go.
Using Essential Oils: Different methods, different impact
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways. It’s like having your favourite dessert. There isn’t one/right way to eat it. You can savour it as it is, mix it with other desserts, or even use it as a topping. Similarly, essential oils can be inhaled directly, diffused in the air, applied topically or can be added to bathwater.
An oil diffuser is a commonly used tool for aromatherapy as it disperses the oil particles throughout the room. From personal experience, an essential oil diffuser works wonderfully when having a restless night or even when you have friends over. It’s like having a magical pot that fills your house with a fragrance that's calming.
Precautions while using Aromatherapy
Just like powerful superheroes come with their own weaknesses, essential oils, too, come with their own sets of precautions. As concentrated substances, they need to be used wisely and cautiously. It’s always important to dilute them before use as direct application on skin can lead to adverse reactions.
It's also important to use them as directed by a professional or the label on the bottle, especially in case you are pregnant, have a pre-existing medical condition or under medication. Also, let's not forget they are highly flammable. Anyways, let's not scare ourselves away. With the right usage, aromatherapy can be a wonderful addition to our self-care routine.
So, next time you light an incense stick or walk into an aroma filled spa, you know exactly what's happening and why you feel the way do.