When people hear aromatherapy, they instantly think of pleasant smells, but, do they think of the ways in which it can improve their health?
Aromatherapy is much more than just pleasant smelling candles or room sprays. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to trigger a healing response in the body. They have therapeutic value on mental and physical health.
The word “Aromatherapie” was first coined by French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé. An explosion in his laboratory left him with burns on his hands which rapidly developed gas gangrene. He chose to treat this with lavender essential oil. Just one rinse with lavender stopped the gasification of the tissue and he began to heal.
Gattefossé went on to research the properties of essential oils and found them to be effective not only in healing the skin but also to strengthen immunity, fight infections and relieve emotional conditions like anxiety and depression. He went on to publish a book on this subject in 1938.
There is a lot of science behind using essential oils therapeutically. In the 1920's, two Italian Doctor's, Gioanni Gatti and Renato Cayola demonstrated the psychotherapeutic effects of smelling essential oils. During the Second World War, Dr. Jean Valnet used essential oils to treat wounds and illness and successfully treated several long-term psychiatric patients. There are many people throughout history who have proven that essential oils can successfully treat many illnesses, both mental and physical.
I won't go into the entire history of essential oil use, there are many good books that do that already. I just want to focus a little on why it is called Aroma Therapy. Essential oils are able to pass the blood/brain barrier. Within minutes of inhaling an essential oil, it appears in the blood. When applied during a massage it also enters the bloodstream.
When essential oils are inhaled, they travel up the nose and into our bloodstream and also to the olfactory mucous membrane where sensory stimulation is passed on through the olfactory nerve and olfactory bulb, directly to the limbic system of the brain. Here messages are sent to the Cerebral Cortex, Hypothalamus, Pituitary Gland, Endocrine System and Autonomic Nervous System which tell your body to get to work and start the healing process.
Of course, when we inhale, air also goes to our lungs and essential oils will enter our bloodstream this way as well. From the bloodstream the oils pass to our organs and tissues, like our liver, pancreas and reproductive organs.
So, what goes in, must come out. Essential oils are excreted through the skin, kidneys, bladder and lungs. Because essential oils practically pass through every inch of our bodies, we need to be careful with using these lovely scents. They have the ability to heal our bodies of dis-ease, but, they also have the ability to harm.
I will focus a lot on the safe use of essential oils in future blogs. But just a quick note, when applying essential oils to the skin, it is best to dilute them in a carrier oil first to avoid the chance of becoming sensitized to the essential oils. We don't want to overburden our liver and kidneys, so remember that a little goes a long way. It isn't necessary to drown your body in essential oils. They are very potent and powerful and you will get the effect you need using a 2 or 3% dilution rate.
Happy and safe smelling. :)