Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Sometimes it’s called essential oil therapy. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health. Aromatherapy is thought of as both an art and a science. Recently, aromatherapy has gained more recognition in the fields of science and medicine.
Aromatherapy, and the use of essential oils in the practice of aromatherapy, can seem mysterious, but it's actually a simple concept. Aromatherapy works on three main levels- your sense of smell, inhalation and absorption through the skin. Keep scrolling to learn about all three.
Sense of Smell
Our sense of smell is the most primitive of all our senses and it is linked to some of the oldest and deepest parts of the brain. As we breathe in any aroma, it can trigger emotional and even physical responses and allow vivid memory recall of people or places.
When we breathe in aromatic molecules, they travel to the top of the nose where the molecules come in contact with specialized nerve cells called Olfactory cells. These cells have tiny hairs which recognize a specific aroma through the ‘lock and key’ process. This means each hair will only recognize a specific aroma. This process produces nerve impulses which travel to the limbic system, the part of the brain which is most concerned with survival, instincts and emotions.
It is thought by scientists that the activity of the nerve signal passing through this region causes mood change by altering brain chemistry.
Another effective way that aromatherapy works is through the inhalation of the essential oils. When you inhale the scent of essential oils they are absorbed inside the body. This is especially effective within the respiratory system as the antibacterial and antiviral properties of essential oils make them ideal for maintaining a healthy respiratory system. This includes the sinuses, throat and chest and also to help relieve symptoms of infections and allergies.
There are various product formats you can use to inhale essential oils and experience the wellbeing benefits of aromatherapy, even when you're on the go.
In msssage the molecules in the essential oils are small enough to allow them to penetrate through the skin. The molecules travel through the epidermis (the top layer of skin) reaching the dermis (a deeper layer of skin) and to the blood vessels allowing them to circulate through to all body areas.
Most essential oils have antibacterial properties; some are antiviral, anti-fungal and/or anti-inflammatory. Essential oils also contain antioxidants which help to prevent cell damage and protect against the build up of toxic waste in skin cells, thereby helping reduce signs of aging.
Once the constituents of essential oils enter the bloodstream they can be carried to all areas of your body. They reach areas with a good network of blood vessels more quickly; for example, the liver, kidneys and some muscle groups.
The majority of essential oil constituents leave the body within hours, mainly through excretion via the kidneys, although their effects can last much longer within the tissues.