What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy, the use of essential oils extracted from plants for therapeutic purposes, has been in practice for nearly 6,000 years. This time frame aligns with a point in human history when the early Mesopotamians began to cultivate agricultural crops in order to benefit their own survival. This association was likely not coincidental – the practice of aromatherapy requires the use of plant-derived oils that ancient people would have first gathered from the wild, then perhaps cultivated themselves.
When steam distillation became common in the 11th century, methods for extracting essential plant oils drastically improved, allowing for broader accessibility to the essential oils necessary for its practice. Since then, aromatherapy has spread to nearly every continent in the world, and its applications have widened as well. Typically, however, aromatherapy oils are inhaled – whether directly or indirectly – or applied to the skin via a variety of carrier oils or other topical applications.
Direct inhalation usually consists of inhaling vaporized essential oils via a vape pen cartridge combined with a vape pen battery. Most vape sticks consist of an essential oil cartridge with a mixture of oils, glycerin and water. When the user inhales, the suction activates a heating element that vaporizes the mixture, producing steam, as with any other vape pen. Others choose indirect inhalation, usually accomplished by utilizing a vaporizer unit in the home.
Whether the person inhales or applies the essential oils, molecules make their way into the body, stimulating the olfactory system, which provides a pathway from the nose to the brain. Once there, molecules of scented oils stimulate the limbic system, which controls the emotions, stress, memory, breathing, hormone balance, heart rate, and more. Depending on the variety of oils used, the desired effects can spread to the whole body, allowing a more holistic approach to treating symptoms.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
While aromatherapists do not claim to cure disease or illness, aromatherapy’s benefits can reduce negative symptoms and support traditional medicine’s treatment of the same conditions. Read on for a list of benefits aromatherapy could potentially hold for you:
- Sleep aids. Many essential oils may reduce insomnia and restless sleep. Since lack of sleep can compound the symptoms of a number of diseases and disorders, improving your sleep can help you address your illness by getting you back on a proper sleep-wake cycle to adequately fight disease. Lavender and chamomile are the best-known sleep aids, but rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang oils may help with sleep issues as well.
- Pain relievers. One of the most sought-after effects for many people seeking aromatherapy is pain relief. Analgesic qualities of many essential oils can help reduce pain and limit the stress associated with chronic or long-term pain. For this reason, analgesic essential oils are some of the most well-known. These include lavender, peppermint, chamomile, juniper, clary sage, and eucalyptus.
- Stress relief. Perhaps the other most popular benefit of essential oils is stress relief. It relates so closely to pain relief that the therapists often address the two together. Many essential oils act as relaxants, and the act of vaporizing or inhaling essential oils can be soothing in and of itself. In addition, clinical anxiety may abate while using aromatherapy oils, including lavender, lemon, peppermint and bergamot.
- Though not as well-known as aromatherapy for stress relief, aromatherapy to counteract clinical depression can be effective when used in conjunction with traditional therapy. In addition, aromatherapy to prevent depression utilizes some of the same oils as aromatherapy for anxiety and other disorders, including lavender, chamomile, jasmine and peppermint.
- Though most of the previous examples have involved aromatherapy used to relax, dilute, and soften the effects of medical issues, aromatherapy can also help users experience a boost in energy. Oils can provide stimulating benefits without the dangers of pharmaceutical or illicit stimulants. Tea tree, sage, rosemary, cardamom, black pepper, clove and cinnamon are oils that offer energizing benefits.
- Immune boosts. Another stimulating effect of aromatherapy is the immune system boosts provided by some essential oils. Said to harbor antibacterial and antifungal properties, essential oils like lemon, peppermint, frankincense, cinnamon and eucalyptus can reduce your chances of acquiring common diseases and ailments.
Whether you choose to utilize aromatherapy for health benefits, improved sleep, or for anxiety, depression or other disorders, aromatherapy offers benefits far beyond a pleasant and relaxing scent. Multiple methods of delivery mean that there’s a way of experiencing aromatherapy that can fit the needs of every individual no matter the preferences.