Before we can get into the benefits of aromatherapy, we first have to understand what aromatherapy actually is.
Aromatherapy, as the name suggests, is the practice of improving one psychological and physical well-being (hence the term “therapy”) through the sense of smell (hence the term “aroma”). The main source of the “aroma” in aromatherapy is usually natural oils extracted from plants. These oils, after blending and extraction, becomes what we commonly refer to as “essential oils”.
The history behind the discovery and extraction of essential oils makes for another interesting story that we’ll go into next time. For now, we’ll be focusing on the present: how aromatherapy can benefit us.
The benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy are multifold.
Anxiety and stress can be a problem in the common household. None of us are exempted from the tolls of work or school. Fortunately, nature has a solution for such problems and they come in the form of plants. The two most common oils in practice are those from lavender and chamomile.
The scent of the flowering plant lavender is said to reduce the triggering of the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for common anxiety symptoms such as an increased heart rate and sweaty palms. Chamomile is another common flowering plant that has the same effect on the human body. Similar to how its flowers are commonly used to brew tea, chamomile oil is commonly used as a key ingredient in essential oils for its soothing properties.
Besides reducing anxiety, another benefit of aromatherapy is its ability to improve our moods. Now, the key lies not so much in the concept of essential oils but more so in the scents one choose. Tangy, vibrant and citrusy scents are believed to be uplifting to one’s mood upon entering the nervous system via the nasal passage.
Improving sleep quality
Essential oils are able to improve sleep quality by entering the brain and crossing the blood-brain barrier to soothe the common barriers of a perfect sleep such as insomnia, anxiety, restless leg syndrome and hot flashes.
Acid reflex, ulcers, nausea, indigestion, morning sickness and general stomach aches are common symptoms of an upset stomach. Ginger is a common alleviation to such symptoms through oral consumption. However, ginger oil, in aromatherapy is also believed to have similar soothing effects on the digestive system.
Treats respiratory issues
In this case, the essential oil does not improve one’s body condition directly. Instead, the surroundings are improves which leads to an overall improvement in the well-being of those around.
Aromatic oils such as eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon are known to possess anti-septic qualities. These properties help cleanse the air of bacteria, fungus and mould that would otherwise enter our respiratory tract via inhalation, leading to respiratory irritation and symptoms such as coughing and sneezing.
Joint aches, sore tissues or tense muscle can also be remedied with the scents of essential oils. Orange and ginger are two common blends that are used to treat such symptoms.
Essential oils provide relief to headaches by providing relief and promoting blood circulation. Headaches are merely symptoms of an underlying cause. Besides poor circulation, this cause can be a myriad of other issues. Some common ones include hormonal changes (more common for women), stress and poor sleeping habits. Many of these issues can be curtailed by the use of essential oils (as we have seen). The common blends used for treating headaches include eucalyptus, peppermint and lavender.
Perhaps the most overlooked benefit of aromatherapy is how it improves the general well-being of the user. Not only can aromatherapy be used to improve our mood, but due to its convenience, one can easily choose a scent to SUIT his/her pleasure one day, and change it the next. Having a room that smells different everyday can have positive impact to the atmosphere of work, play or sleep.
Aromatherapy also serves a more functional purpose. Unpleasant odours from cigarettes, dust mites, perspiration and staleness can be treated with the help of essential oils and aromatherapy.