Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

What is Aromatherapy? If you divide the word in half, aroma means fragrance or smell; therapy means a method of encouraging good health.

So, Aromatherapy is a way to treat mental and physical illness through inhalation and application of essential oils by massage or pressure.

Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses. Smells or aromas deeply influence our being bringing us changes in feelings and health.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are the core of the practice of aromatherapy. Fragrant concentrated compounds, essential oils are obtained from plants, including flowers, leaves, roots, barks and peels. Companies use steam distillation, cold pressing or CO2 extraction to obtain these volatile oils.

There are two kinds of “oils”. Fixed oils are non-volatile (they do not evaporate into the air) such as animal oil or coconut, olive, almond plant oils. Volatile oils are essential oils, they evaporate faster, pass more quickly into the body.

Aromatherapy History and Today

The use of aromatherapy can be traced all the way back to prehistoric times. It was documented by the sages in China and India about the therapeutic, culinary and fragrant effects of plants essential oils.

Incense and spice trades expanded as early as 500 BC, countries rich with these plants rose in wealth and power.

One example of this is found in the wrappings of mummies; where the bodies were embalmed with rosemary or cedar oil….to keep the body young and well preserved for the afterlife.

Today, essential oils are very popular. They appear in our soaps, cosmetics and cleaning products. For health therapy you can massage, bathe or breathe with a diffuser or vaporizer.

How Aroma or Scents Affect Us

Our sense of smell is about 10,000 times more acute than any other sense. So once we breathe in an aroma, it reaches our brain faster than our sight or sound senses.

When the smell travels up the nose it registers with the nerves in the olfactory membranes. Then the odor molecules trigger an electrical impulse in the brain, where emotional memories are stored and in the brain’s limbic system.

The limbic system is connected to and controls your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, stress and hormone balance.

For instance, if you smell ginger your stored memory recalls time cooking gingerbread cookies with the family for Christmas!

Besides inhaling essential oil, there is massage, which once it goes through the skin and into the body, it goes to the brain. It then works on a chemical level by affecting pain levels, brings heart rate down, reduce stress and relaxes you.

A Few Quick Ideas on Using Essential Oils

In the Bath: To help with aches and pains, or just to relax; add 4-6 drops of cedarwood, lavender or rose.

Inhaling with steam or a diffuser: to control and lessen coughs colds, infections or allergies. Try using frankincense, lemon, bergamot, orange or lavender.

Make a massage blend:  add 8 drops of essential oil to 4 teaspoons of carrier oil; shake well to disperse essential oil. Rub into sore muscles, joints or tense neck. Try rosemary, lavender or lemongrass. If you want to boost your mood and energy try Ylang Ylang.

Go for it and try a blend of several oils that makes you feel exceptionally well.


Aromatherapy, the book by Nicola Jenkins 2001

Cindy Burrows, B.S., M.T., Herbalist, is a Natural Health Consultant helping individuals start health programs to improve their life, wellness and happiness. Cindy is a speaker, writer and entrepreneur of several businesses.



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