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Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils to promote physical healing. It is widely used and claims to relieve a variety of symptoms and conditions.
What are essential oils?
Aromatherapy uses essential oils (liquid plant extracts) to bring about physical and mental well-being. These oils can be rubbed into the skin or inhaled. They can also be added to bath water or mixed with a massage oil.
The oil’s chemical composition determines its scent and properties. Plants produce these volatile liquids from flower petals, bark, leaves, roots, twigs, seeds and other parts. Depending on the plant, they may have antifungal, antiviral and insecticidal properties.
You can purchase these plant-based oils online or at health food stores. Look for a label that gives the Latin name of the plant, where it was harvested and any other ingredients added to the oil. Choose dark glass containers to store the oil because light and heat can degrade it.
Many aromatherapy products claim therapeutic benefits, but research on humans is limited. Before using them, speak with a credentialed medical expert about possible side effects. These natural products are not regulated as pharmaceuticals and may interact with certain medications.
How do I use essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated, and when diluted correctly, can be applied to the skin or used in a diffuser. Always read the label and follow any application instructions carefully.
Unlike perfumes, essential oils cannot be ingested orally. They are usually distilled or extracted using heat and cold to separate the volatile aromatic compounds from the plant material. The scent of a oil can affect the limbic system in our brain, which sends messages throughout our body and mind.
When choosing an essential oil, look for one that is labeled as ‘pure’ or ‘therapeutic’, which indicates that it was grown and harvested according to strict guidelines and is free of additives (Nelson, 2022). You should also choose a bottle that says “for aromatherapy use only,” and avoid combining them with any other products. Also, be sure to purchase the oil in a dark-colored glass bottle to prevent sunlight from breaking down the chemical structure of the oil.
What are the benefits of aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy can help relieve anxiety and stress, ease symptoms of colds or cough, improve mood or help sleep, and even alleviate pain from arthritis, headaches or menstrual cramps. It may also reduce nausea or vomiting and help with indigestion.
It’s been found that certain oils have antiseptic properties that help fight bacteria, fungus or other microbes in the air and on your skin. Some have antioxidant properties that can boost your immune system. Research shows that citrus oils can stimulate the olfactory nerves from your nose to the brain, which can increase your energy levels and combat depression.
You can use essential oils with a diffuser, in a bath or as a spritzer for your skin or hair. However, it is recommended that you see a trained aromatherapist before starting an aromatherapy program. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy offers resources to find a qualified aromatherapist in your area. You should also consult your physician before using any new oils — including aromatherapy — to make sure that it’s safe for you.
What are the risks of aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is an alternative health practice that uses natural plant extracts called essential oils. It can be used through inhalation or applied to the skin.
When you inhale an essential oil, tiny molecules move into your nose and reach special cells that send signals to parts of your brain. The signals help regulate things like your mood and sleep.
Some research suggests that certain scents can reduce anxiety, pain or nausea. But more research is needed to support these claims.
You can use essential oils at home by mixing them with a carrier oil and applying them to your skin or using them in a diffuser. It’s important to dilute the oils because they can be strong and cause a reaction if they’re too concentrated.
Talk to your doctor before trying aromatherapy, especially if you have any medical conditions or are pregnant. And be sure to use a professional, who follows guidelines from a professional association, such as the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.