Who isn't looking for ways to decrease stress and increase their energy level? Between work, errands and chauffeuring the kids around, you probably don't have much time for yourself, and it's all you can do to fit in a workout or two. But what if you could easily de-stress and re-energize using your sense of smell? Practitioners of aromatherapy believe you can.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant, plant-derived essential oils to alter mood or achieve health benefits. The use of perfumed oils dates back to ancient India and China, but a French chemist named René Maurice Gattefossé is considered the father of modern aromatherapy. One day, after burning his hand in his lab, Gattefossé soothed the pain with lavender oil. He was so impressed with the results that he published a thesis on aromatherapy in 1928 and a book on the topic in 1937.
Today, health professionals including massage therapists, chiropractors and psychologists use aromatherapy in their practices as a complementary treatment for pain, nausea, stress and depression, as well as to improve quality of life for those with chronic health conditions. However, scientific evidence does not back up claims that essential oils have significant medical benefits, such as preventing cancer.
How does aromatherapy work?
Practitioners of aromatherapy generally inhale essential oils or dab them on the skin. When applied to the skin, the oils are sometimes mixed with a carrier substance, such as vegetable oil. Essential oils can also be mixed with lotions or sprayed on a pillowcase.
Scientists think that receptors in the nose — upon detecting an essential oil — stimulate the brain's limbic region through the olfactory nerve. The limbic region influences physical reactions related to stress, such as emotion, heart rate and sweating. For example, lavender (a "relaxing" essential oil) is thought to affect the amygdala in a similar manner to that of a sedative.
How to choose an essential oil
Dr. Julie Chen writes in The Huffington Post that your choice of essential oil depends on your particular symptoms. She makes the following recommendations:
- For anxiety, consider lavender, chamomile, rose, vanilla or patchouli.
- Feeling fatigued? Go with lemon, peppermint or jasmine.
- If you have a headache, try basil, cinnamon, ginger, lemongrass or ylang ylang.
Chen also recommends oils to ease physical symptoms:
- Congested? Try clove, juniper or tea tree.
- Orange, peppermint and lemon verbena are thought to help with indigestion.
- Treat sore muscles with eucalyptus, frankincense, lemongrass or sandalwood.
A note of caution
Although aromatherapy is generally considered safe, some people do experience skin irritation or allergic reactions to essential oils, especially if the oils aren't diluted before application. Also, some oils are toxic if taken internally, so be sure to keep them away from children. And, as always, consult your physician before adding any treatment to your medical routine.
This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado