Can aromatherapy heal your body?
You can head to your local GP or a pharmacy to treat any number of physical and mental troubles, from chronic headaches, to a common cold or bout of insomnia. However, have you ever considered the notion that a simple scent (or combination of scents) could have the same healing effect on your body as modern medicine?
Well, this is the foundation of aromatherapy. I spoke to Aromatherapy Coach, Consultant and Artisan Perfumer, Julie Nelson, and Energetic Healer and Founder of Hanako Therapies, Rachel Holm, to find out how aromatherapy works and which essential oils influence different functions of the body.
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What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for therapeutic purposes. Essential oils are pure and natural oils made from concentrated extracts from flowers, plants, trees, shrubs, resins and seeds. Rachel explains that essential oils are not only aromatic, but known for their healing properties, “promoting physiological, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.” Essential oils are much more complex than they sound and Julie tells us they can have several hundred chemical constituents, meaning they can’t be fully copied or duplicated. It is these chemicals that give them their bactericidal, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Julie says essential oils also promote a healthy immune system.
Essential oils and emotion
The limbic system is the part of the brain that stores memories and emotions, and is directly linked to the control of blood pressure, heart rate, stress levels, hormone balance and breathing. “It takes just a few seconds for scent to have an effect on the limbic system,” says Rachel. So the use of essential oils can actually influence our brain waves and have a powerful effect on our emotional state. “There are many pure essential oils that can assist and support different states of emotional wellbeing and can help you move through any challenges, specifically to do with fears, anxiety, anger, resentment, issues of the heart, feelings of contentment and depression,” Rachel explains. So which oils will help with these issues? We’ll get to that later!
Essential oils and the body
When it comes to beauty, Julie says essential oils can help to improve the integrity of the skin and are excellent for wound healing. Rachel agrees, adding they can “help with many skin conditions such as calming aggravated and oily skin or working to rejuvenate and nourish ageing or dry skin.” Essential oils can also help to “calm and relax sore and tense muscles” due to their anti-spasmodic and anti-infectious properties.
Using essential oils
Not all essential oils will have the same effect on everyone and Julie says it’s the job of an aromatherapist to treat each individual’s needs with unique blends. She recommends if you are selecting oils yourself, start first with oils you are attracted to or love the smell of. “That way you will always receive the most benefit from them,” she adds. It’s also important to research when NOT to use essential oils. Rachel warns that since essential oils can be very potent and powerful, it’s best to dilute them into what’s known as a ‘carrier oil’ such as jojoba or almond oil. She says the safest dilution is 1 per cent pure essential oil to carrier oil.
With help from Rachel and Julie, here’s a list of essential oils that help to enhance the below emotional and physical states:
- Relaxation - lavender, Roman chamomile, sweet orange, bergamot, clary sage, neroli, sandalwood, and rose.
- Focus - frankincense, peppermint, lemon, patchouli, coriander seed oil, cardamom, basil, grapefruit, black pepper, and rosemary.
- Sleep - lavender, Roman chamomile, ylang ylang, sweet orange, vetiver, sandalwood, bergamot, jasmine, mandarin, cedarwood, and clary sage.
- Productivity - fennel, cedarwood, black pepper, clove cardamom, rosemary, ginger, peppermint, juniper, lemon, and cypress. Julie notes that this depends on the type of productivity (e.g. creative or administrative).
- Healing – Julie explains, “Many essential oils are excellent for a variety of common health issues such as colds, flu, childhood illness, chronic pain, arthritis, menopause, menstruation, [and] surgical recovery,” but this has to be treated from individual to individual. Rachel most commonly uses cypress, everlasting, rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, rosemary, sandalwood and vetiver.
Looking to try some of the above? Check these out to start:
ECOYA Lemongrass and Ginger Metro Jar, In Essence Clary Sage Pure Essential Oil, Jurlique Grapefruit Pure Essential Oil, Vanessa Megan Essential Blend Natural Perfume, L'OCCITANE Aromachologie Relaxing Essential Oil Blend, Thursday Plantation Almond Oil, The Body Shop Wellbeing Sensual Massage Oil .
Have you used essential oils before? Which are your favourites?