When I started my journey, one of the first things that caught my attention was aromatherapy. And, it was something that I spent a lot of time in up until Covid in 2020. Unfortunately, I was one of the people that lost my sense of smell for several months. Even after it came back, it only came back about 50 to 70%. This made it extremely hard for me to work in an area that depended so much on scent, but it also made it unsafe for me. By the time I could smell the subtleties in an oil blend, I had pretty much knocked myself out! Even though I was having trouble smelling the oils, the physical effects of the oils on my body were still happening.
So, what is aromatherapy and how does it work?
Aromatherapy is the use of pure essential oils for relieving symptoms in the physical body. Essential oils are distilled aromatic liquids from grasses, buds, peels, branches, needles, bark, leaves, seeds, berries, flowers, roots, fruits, woods, herbs and spices. The resulting oils may be light or dark in color, and they may be thin like water or thick like syrup.
According to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts, priests and physicians were using essential oils thousands of years before Christ for healing. It’s the oldest form of medicine and cosmetics known to man and the oils were often considered more valuable than gold.
Pure essential oils have personalities as unique as our own. They are powerful forces of nature. Some are gentle symptom relievers and are suitable for home use, while others are more powerful and can be toxic if not used properly. The two main ways essential oils enter the body is either through the skin or through the sinuses. They are used in a wide variety of cosmetics such as lotions, creams and salves, and through blended mixtures such as bath oils and massage oils. When inhaled through the sinuses, the active molecules pass through the nerve cells and into the brain and the bloodstream.
Although the medical community in the U.S. does not recognize aromatherapy as a legitimate treatment for various medical conditions, the use of essential oils in helping with stress and anxiety is widely accepted by the general public.
In Europe, however, it’s a very different story. The use of pure essential oils is a part of everyday life. They are commonly used by therapists and medical doctors in treating a wide variety of complaints including colds and flu, insomnia, sinusitis, migraines, digestive problems, and muscle pains. Ask a European about aromatherapy and “bubble bath” will not be a part of the answer.
The saying, “less is more,” is very important when using essential oils, however. It is important to understand that while these oils boast incredible health benefits, they also come with potential risks if not used correctly. Essentials oils must never be taken orally, and many of them should never be applied directly to the skin without diluting them in a carrier oil. Many oils can irritate the skin almost like a chemical burn, and the citrus-based oils (lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc.) can cause a sensitivity to sunlight for a few days after use.
Pregnant women should never use pure essential oils without consulting with their doctor. Once the oils are absorbed into the body, they will cross the placental barrier and affect the unborn child. And, young children, those with respiratory issues such as asthma, and pets may also be negatively affected by essential oils if the concentrations are too high.
It’s important to know what you are buying when you purchase pure essential oils. What part of the plant are they coming from? What country are they coming from? As you work with and become familiar with essential oils, you will find that you develop a definite preference for certain oils and certain scents. For example, lavender is one of the most used essential oils on the market. It is widely known for its ability to have a calming and relaxing effect on people. But did you know that it can assist with burns, insect bites and cuts and scrapes? Lavender is antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal. It is also one of the few essential oils that may be put directly on the skin without being diluted in a carrier oil first. I personally keep it in my medicine cabinet and use it for almost anything.
But there are several different kinds of lavender, and over time I have developed a decided preference for high-altitude French lavender essential oil. The smell is much more subtle than regular lavender and it works great when adding it to lotions, creams and salves.
One of the simplest ways to incorporate aromatherapy into your daily routine is by using pure essential oils in a diffuser. Make sure that the diffuser doesn’t heat the oil too hot as it can cause the oil to smoke or burn. Choose oils that are known to have soothing properties such as lavender or chamomile for bedtime, or citrus oils like lemon or orange for an invigorating jolt in the morning.
Another great way of using aromatherapy at home is through the bath. Adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your bathwater can turn an ordinary soak into a spa-like experience. Consider oils like eucalyptus or peppermint for a refreshing bath that may help in opening up your sinuses. Great when you are felling congested or if you have a cold. The steam from the warm water will help release the aroma of the oil into the surrounding air. Just be careful that it doesn’t get overwhelming. Ventilation is important so that the oil concentration doesn’t build up too high.
And finally, essential oils and skincare go hand in hand. Tea tree essential oil is purported to be a natural spot treatment for acne-prone skin, and Frankincense oil has anti-inflammatory qualities that can help in producing radiant-looking skin.
Working aromatherapy into your daily life doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming. By experimenting with different essential oils and finding what resonates with you personally, you can create a practice that supports your well-being and enhances every aspect of your daily life.
As we go along, I will be delving more deeply into aromatherapy, including different carrier oils and how to create oil blends for skincare and cosmetics. I am not a medical doctor, however, and I will not be telling you how to treat medical conditions with pure essential oils. I would prefer not to be sued for practicing medicine without a license.
I will pass on the feedback that I have gotten over the years from various clients in how they have used essential oils and the results they have reported back. So, stay tuned for more on Aromatherapy. This is a huge topic and there is much more to come.