Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils have been around for centuries. That is because essential oils are pretty amazing. They can help improve both your mental and physical health. The benefits of aromatherapy are wide reaching and there are numerous essential oils that can provide each of these benefits.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy refers to the use of essential oils to heal your mind, body, and spirit. The official definition from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy says that aromatherapy is “the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances (essential oils) for holistic healing.” Essential oils can be used to improve both physical and emotional health.
When you hear the term aromatherapy, your mind might go straight to the use of essential oils in a diffuser. This is absolutely one way to reap the benefits of aromatherapy. In addition to breathing in essential oils, aromatherapy also includes applying essential oils to your skin.
Breathing In Essential Oils
A common way to experience the benefits of aromatherapy is to breathe in or inhale the scent of essential oils. This is commonly done with the help of a diffuser, candle, or spray.
In addition to making the room smell wonderful, inhaling essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, which includes your nose and brain. Molecules from those oils in the air pass through your olfactory system and on to other parts of the body. As these molecules reach your brain, they affect the parts of your brain associated with your limbic system.
The limbic system is a part of the brain that deals with memories, emotions, and stimulations. It is linked to heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, emotions, and hormone balance. Those essential oil molecules trigger the limbic system to release chemicals into your body that help you relax, feel less stressed, ease soreness, and on and on. The benefits of aromatherapy all start with breathing in the right essential oil and tapping into this amazing and important part of your brain.
Applying Essential Oils to Your Skin
The other way you can acquire the benefits of aromatherapy is to apply essential oils to your skin. This not only provides you the opportunity to inhale those essential oils, it also allows them to be absorbed through your skin. It is believed that combining massage with essential oil boosts circulation and increases their absorption. Some parts of the body might absorb essential oils more effectively, like your head or palms of your hands because they are richer in sweat glands and hair follicles.
There is an important point to note about applying essential oils to your skin. Essential oils should never be applied directly to your skin. This is because essential oils are highly concentrated so they can irritate your skin if applied directly. The solution is to always add essential oils to a carrier like a lotion or carrier oil. Some people even like to infuse shampoo and conditioner with essential oils.
To safely absorb the benefits of aromatherapy through your skin, add a few drops to a hot bath or dilute it in lotion or a carrier oil like sweet almond oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, rosehip oil, or olive oil (among some others). Some of these carrier oils have the added benefit of being great for your skin. Bonus!
Benefits of Aromatherapy (and the Essential Oils You Need)
While aromatherapy can not cure diseases or illnesses, it can be helpful in a number of ways. You can take advantage of any and all of these benefits of aromatherapy whether you breathe in those wonderful smelling essential oils, soak in an infused bath, or apply them to your skin.
Provide Relaxation and Stress Relief
Arguably one of the most well-known benefits of aromatherapy is that it can help you relax and cope with stress. That is because of that effect on your limbic system. Certain scents can reduce your feelings of stress, increase happiness, and decrease levels of cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone.
Some of the scents that have relaxing and stress-reducing benefits include lavender, lemon, thyme, sandalwood, ylang ylang, chamomile, and peppermint.
Studies have been done on the effects of essential oil, specifically lavender, on treating headaches and migraines. These studies suggest that one of the benefits of aromatherapy is effectively managing headaches and migraines. Scents you should add to your diffuser or apply with a roll-on especially made for the topical application of essential oils include basil, lavender, and peppermint.
Aromatherapy has been found to reduce pain. It has been found to specifically relieve gynecological, postoperative, and obstetrical pain in a number of studies. They have also been found to help reduce muscle stiffness and soreness as well as joint pain. There is more research needed to figure out exactly why essential oils help with pain, but it certainly does not hurt to give it a try if you are experiencing pain.
The best essential oils for reducing pain are eucalyptus, turmeric, chamomile, thyme, and ginger.
If you suffer from insomnia, one of the benefits of aromatherapy that you will likely find most exciting is that it can help fight insomnia. Adding essential oils to your nightly routine can help calm your mind and get your body ready for sleep. Essential oils cause your brain to release dopamine and serotonin, which not only help to elevate mood, they make you feel calm and relaxed. Aromatherapy helps you fall asleep because serotonin is also used to produce melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy at bedtime.
The essential oils that are best at helping you get ready for a good night’s sleep are lavender, chamomile, bergamot, valerian, sandalwood, ylang ylang, jasmine, frankincense, peppermint, and eucalyptus.
Alleviate Nausea and Digestive Trouble
If you are sick, suffer from digestive issues, or are pregnant and feeling nauseous, you will appreciate that one of the benefits of aromatherapy is relief from nausea. Aromatherapy is not the same for every person. While it may completely rid one person of nausea it may only lessen the severity for someone else. One review of five scientific studies shows that peppermint and ginger oils significantly reduced the occurrence and severity of nausea. It also showed that it reduced the need for anti-nausea medication and improved patient satisfaction.
Essential oils can also support digestive health overall by stimulating digestive enzymes that break down nutrients.
Lavender, ginger, peppermint, spearmint, and cardamom essential oils are all good choices if you are looking to alleviate tummy issues.
Maybe one of the most surprising benefits of aromatherapy is that certain essential oils can boost your energy. Certain oils like citrus oils are full of antioxidants that have naturally energizing effects. Peppermint and lemon are two great essential oils for giving you a little kick.
Aromatherapy is a great tool to add to your toolbox of remedies because the benefits of aromatherapy oils are far-reaching. You can also experiment with essential oils to make essential oil blends to target just what you need, whether that is stress relief and a better night’s sleep, an energy boost, or headache relief. Whether you get an essential oil diffuser and fill your room with the amazing scents of frankincense, lavender, and eucalyptus or you apply it to your skin in lotions and oils, you will be feeling better than ever in no time.
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