While essential oil diffusers are all the rage in recent years, aromatherapy has been around since pretty much forever, with records dating back to 3500 BC. The use of aromatics in treating a variety of symptoms has been a part of virtually every civilization.
The term "aromatherapy" however, was only coined in the early 1900s by French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who in 1935 after a burn incident, claimed he treated it effectively using lavender essential oil. What is aromatherapy, exactly?
Aromatherapy is derived from the Latinized term arome and thérapie. It is in essence the use of aromas (plant-derived) via inhalation or skin absorption for therapeutic purposes. The plants contain phytochemicals which benefit not only the plant itself, but humans as well.
"When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.
Essential oils can also be absorbed by the skin. A massage therapist might add a drop or two of wintergreen to oil to help relax tight muscles during a rubdown. A skincare company may add lavender to bath salts to create a soothing soak." - HopkinsMedecine.org
Natural essential oils have a myriad of healthful effects. Studies have shown that essential oils may help:
- Boost mood.
- Improve job performance through reduced stress and increased attentiveness.
- Improve sleep.
- Kill bacteria, funguses and viruses.
- Reduce anxiety and pain.
- Reduce inflammation.
- Reduce nausea.
- Relieve headaches.
Regardless of how you prefer your aromatherapy - diffuser, candles, bath salts, or body butter - the real defining point is the quality of the oils used and the quality of the overall product.
While mass marketing has created terms like "therapeutic grade", "pure essential oil", and so on, there is no regulation when it comes to essential oils. Therefore, it is up to the consumer to familiarise themselves with what is and isn't natural, as well as the overall transparency of the product and brand.
Remember that companies can say that their product contains 100% natural ingredients, without disclosing the man-made or compromised ingredients added to the final product. It is integral to consider the philosophy and transparency of a company, especially those with healthful and therapeutic claims.
Trust your nose. A quality essential oil should have the same pleasant smell as any other natural ingredient. Of course, some are stronger than others, just as an onion smells stronger than a fruit, but the smell should never strike you as off or chemical. Compromised oils can make your lips tingle and bring on a headache. This is a good indicator that you should stay away from that brand.
While everyone is entitled to their favourites, there are a few essential oils that have stood the test of time when it comes to therapeutic benefits. The best essential oils for aromatherapy are:
Lavender | Lavender works its magic when it comes to reducing stress and promoting deep sleep. It has also been known to lessen pain.
Peppermint | Peppermint is known for its anti-inflammatory properties - from soothing an upset stomach to speeding up the healing process of a bruise or sprain. It is also a stimulant in fighting fatigue. Peppermint is also known as the essential oil for headaches.
Orange | Orange is a strong anti-bacterial, effective in reducing pain, and a great essential oil for anxiety.
Eucalyptus | Eucalyptus is fantastic for cold season, as it contains natural anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Frankincense | Frankincense is known as the "King of Oils", boasting its ability to boost your mood, increase the quality of your sleep, and reduce inflammation.
Explore the world of oils at your disposal. Always exercise caution, paying attention to how your body reacts, discontinuing the use of any products or oils that irritate you.
How do you practice aromatherapy? There are so many ways to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy. While oil diffusers are a major seller, it is important to observe how they effect not only yourself but those around you. For example, while some scents may be pleasing or beneficial to you, they may be harmful for an infant, small child, or even your pet. Always practice due diligence in selecting the essential oils you plan to use.
Bath salts | Bath salts are a great way to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of essential oils. Paired with being submerged in warm water, a candlelit soak in aromatherapy bath salts can be just what the doctor ordered. You will feel the stress of the day start to melt away and your body will be ready for a restorative sleep. You will benefit from the oils both via scent and absorption.
Body butter | Body butter is a fantastic method of aromatherapy. This method allows your body to absorb the healing properties two ways - by smell and skin absorption. Use a decadent body butter right out of the shower or bath to lock in moisture. You can also use a body butter as a quick "dose" of aromatherapy throughout your day, massaging a small amount into your neck behind your ears, or on your wrists.
Candles | Last but not least, candles laced with quality essential oils can create a warm embrace of healing in your home. The warm lighting from candles are a staple in Norwegian lifestyles, known for creating a sense of comfort and wellness. Introduce candles into your daily routine and enjoy the Hygge experience, even if you live in Montréal, Canada.
There are a myriad of aromatherapy oils at your disposal. Why not give them a go as a compliment to your usual remedies. You may be pleasantly surprised with how much they increase your quality of life. At the very least, they will leave you and your home smelling magnificent!
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