By now, the majority of you have probably heard the term 'aromatherapy' floating around every time you turn on the tv....many personal hygiene brands are now including aromatherapy in their new product lines or enhancing their existing products to include an aromatherapy component.
How much do you know about aromatherapy anyway?
First identified as a distinct discipline in 1937 by french chemist Maurice Gattoffose, Aromatherapy has been used for thousands of years by ancient cultures such as Egyptians, Indian and Chinese for both religious and medical purposes.
Aromatherapy is used via Essential Oils which are extracted from a given plant using either steam distillation, cold pressing, C02 or Solvents leaving a very concentrated oil with many chemical components which are said to be therapeutic. Aromatherapy is delivered via two routes of absorption which are the INHALATION method or the TOPICAL application method. Either route or a combination of both routes may be used.
Inhalation: This method entails inhaling the essential oils via the nose. During this delivery method, the molecules of the essential oils are carried into the nose and pass over the olfactory membranes which have receptors that send messages to the olfactory bulb. In the olfactory bulb, those messages are processed and sent to other parts of the brain. The parts of the brain that receive the information from the olfactory membrane are the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. The cerebral cortex is where memory, recognition and conscious processing take place. It is that which enables us to learn higher functions such as language and ables us to perform complex tasks.
The limbic system (amygdala, septum, hippocampus, cingulate gyrus and basal ganglia) is not under our conscious control. It is what facilitates memory storage and memory retrieval. It is also the part if the brain which is involved in our emotional and behavioural responses, instinct and motivation....during inhalation of essential oils, various chemical components in the molecules can have direct impact on the limbic system and may assist with such things such as memory, motivation, etc. Numerous limited studies have been done on the impact of certain essential oils on the limbic system for things such as memory, mood, motivation, etc.
During inhalation the molecules in the essential oils come into direct contact with the nasal passage, lungs, trachea and sinuses which could possibly be of benefit when experiencing colds, flus, environmental allergies, sinus congestion and throat issues.
TOPICAL: First thing's first...the skin is the body's largest organ. Anything, good, or bad, that you put onto your skin will make its way to your bloodstream. Think about medication patches etc. They use the skin to deliver medication into the bloodstream. Think about that carefully the next time you are slathering on lotions that are made with some of the same ingredients that are used to pave the streets.
The topical method of aromatherapy is the skin delivery method where essential oils are dispersed into a carrier oil and are applied directly onto the skin itself. Once permeated by the skin, the molecules then enter the bloodstream. The topical method of delivery has many benefits which also include the healing of the skin itself as well certain oils also carry analgesic properties.
Aromatherapy is complex and should only be practiced under the guidance of a certified aromatherapist. It's more than just throwing a nice essential oil into a diffuser. Some oils have safety issues especially when being used by some on medications or with medical conditions.
ALWAYS ADVISE YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT ANY ESSENTIAL OILS THAT YOU ARE USING.