Saturday, April 11, 2009

How Does Aromatherapy Work -- the Nose Knows!

How Does Aromatherapy Work? To answer this question, let's start by taking a look at Essential Oils, which are the heart and soul of Aromatherapy.

What Exactly Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are microscopic molecules of "oil" extracted from the flowers, leaves, stems and/or roots of plants such as trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers and herbs. Simply speaking, essential oils contain the distilled essence of the plant.

For example, if you were to simmer a big pot of lavender flowers on the stove for a while, you'd start to notice little blobs of oil forming on top of the water. This is the essential oil - the essence of the lavender flowers.

Note: This is not a good method of extraction because the essential oil quickly goes moldy due to the presence of water. Plus, it takes A LOT of lavender flowers to make even the tiniest amount of oil. It's just not worth it - there's so many other great things you can do with lavender flowers!

Essential oils have microscopically small molecules. There are approximately 40 million trillion molecules in one drop of essential oil. Their tiny size makes it very easy for our skin and our lungs to absorb them. That's why they're so powerful and so effective.

How Do Essential Oils Get Inside Us?

When essential oils oils are absorbed through the skin, such as with massage, they travel into the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system then circulates them into the blood stream.

Once the oils are circulating in the blood, they really get to work, reducing inflammation, fixing imbalances, fighting infection and so on.

Even when you simply inhale an essential oil, such as with a diffuser, the oil is absorbed through the mucous membranes of your respiratory tract and lungs. Then it's transferred into the blood stream to work its healing magic.

How Do Essential Oils Help our Bodies?

Essential oils contain hundreds of natural chemicals. Although each oil has its own unique chemical components, what makes all essential oils special is something called "terpenes".

Terpenes do a lot of work in our bodies.

  • They create an environment unfriendly to viruses, bacteria and fungi. This is why they're called 'antiseptic' (which basically means germ killing.) Some powerful antiseptic essential oils are Lemon, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Pine and Lavender. That's why you see them in home cleaning products!
  • They help reduce inflammation. Symptoms of inflammation include pain, redness and swelling. Some good anti-inflammatory essential oils are Chamomile, Lavender, Sandalwood and Benzoin.
  • They reprogram our cells so they function and replicate properly. For example, essential oils such as Basil, Pine and Rosemary restore function to the adrenal glands.
  • They are sedative. They relax our nervous system and our muscles, which helps ease pain, tension, cramps and muscle spasms. Sedative essential oils include Lavender, Clary Sage, Geranium, and Ylang Ylang.

How Do Essential Oils Affect our Emotions?

Inhaling essential oils stimulates the olfactory nerves (sense of smell), which send signals to the brain's limbic system (sometimes called the 'emotional brain'.)

The limbic system controls heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory and hormone production. When the limbic system receives signals from the olfactory nerves, it triggers an emotional, physiological and endocrine (hormone) response.

For example, when you smell Lavender essential oil, its microscopic chemicals immediately trigger your emotional brain to calm your nervous system and relax your muscles. These combined effects reduce your stress and help you sleep.

How Can I Use Aromatherapy to Feel Better?

Aromatherapy is especially well known for its stress-relieving powers. You can use it in a hundred different ways to calm your nerves, ease your anxiety and relax your muscles. You can also use essential oils to clear up troubled skin, revitalize your hair or relieve your aching back.

It's surprisingly easy (and a lot of fun) to make your own bath, body and massage oils, bath salts and body lotions. Even make your own aromatherapy candles! You simply need a little knowledge and a few basic ingredients.

Check out for some simple, effective aromatherapy recipes.

Try using aromatherapy today - you'll have fun, save money and smell fabulous!

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