How Aromatherapy Works
Aromatic plant extracts have been used in various civilizations for thousands of years.
The current popularity of aromatherapy is a tribute to the very effective healing experiences people have gained from the use of essential oils.
The term aromatherapy comes from the aromatic nature of the natural plant extracts called essential oils, which are the ‘tools’ of aromatherapy.
The aromas contribute only part of the healing process; the balance comes from the physical interaction of your body with the essential oils.
Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils on both the mind and body to heal in a natural and safe way.
It calls on the body’s own healing abilities rather than intervening in the natural process, which could explain the absence of side effects (when diluted/used responsibily).
Aromatherapy is a truly holistic therapy.
It influences both our physical and psychological wellbeing in order to achieve a result.
Physically, essential oils enter the body by slowly penetrating the layers of skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Their aroma also triggers an emotional response, utilising the direct link the sense of smell has with memory.
The combination of these actions provides a powerful healing force, and it is for this reason that aromatherapy has so many varied uses.
Essential oils are not substances that heal by smell, they are substances that heal and smell as well.
Aromatherapy is such an effective therapy because it can work on three levels, sometimes all at once.
When a bottle of essential oil is first opened or first used, the user becomes aware of the aroma of smell.
The aromas of essential oils initiate a nerve impulse that travels via a direct pathway to the brain, invoking an emotional response.
The degree of the response depends on the delivery of the essential oil (quality and quantity) and on the current emotional state of the person receiving the treatment.
The aromas of essential oils have been proven to have significant psychological effects on people and can effect moods (relaxing, stimulating), emotions (anxiety, fear, depression), and specific states of mind (euphoria, mental clarity).
When essential oils are applied to the body, they act on the point of application - the skin.
This is simply a chemical reaction between the essential oil and the surface of the skin - and has nothing to do with the aroma.
Essential oils have been used of skin conditions and skin care for a very long time.
They are particularly effective of relieving the symptoms of chronic skin conditions such as dryness and itchiness associated with eczema, psoriasis and some forms of dermatitis.
Essential oils also balance dry and oily skin conditions and antiseptic essential oils such as Tea Tree have proven useful in the treatment of acne.
Lavender essential oil is very effective for treating minor burns and insect bites.
Essential oils are known to penetrate the skin and enter the blood stream.
The time it takes for essential oil to enter the body systems varies depending on the essential oil and many factors to do with the skin of the individual.
As an example, a particular study on humans showed that it took around 20 minutes for Lavender applied to the surface of the skin to show up in the circulation.
Due to their simple organic chemistry, the liver metabolizes essential oils relatively quickly and efficiently.
There is very little information available on what happens to the essential oils once they enter the body systems and how they effect/interact with the body.
It is noted that the physical effects caused by some essential oils are definitely not a result of simply smelling them.
Essential oils can have profound physical effects on people and therefore they must always be used with care (refer to Contraindications).