Whether it’s the aroma of your mother’s cooking or the scent of your grandfather’s cologne, smells can trigger emotions, memories, and actions. One way to take advantage of your sense of smell is through aromatherapy. Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils from plants to improve a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
An essential oil is a liquid that is concentrated with a plant’s chemical compounds. These compounds determine the fragrance and therapeutic characteristics of the plant, which determine what the oil can be used for. The essential oil of lavender, for example, is often regarded to have sedative effects when inhaled, which would be beneficial to someone feeling anxious. On the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy’s website, you can see a list of the most commonly used essential oils and their respective health benefits. In aromatherapy, essential oils are inhaled, but they can also be massaged into the skin. Aromatherapy massage involves both the inhalation and absorption of the oils as they are massaged into the skin.
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It is still unclear how the inhalation of essential oils produces beneficial effects, but some experts believe that our sense of smell plays a significant role. We have receptors in our nose that respond to airborne molecules and are responsible for our sense of smell. These receptors communicate with the parts of the brain that hold our memories and emotions. When an essential oil is inhaled, the molecules bind to specific receptors in the nose, stimulating the emotion and memory stores of the brain in a specific way. This then induces a specific change in the body such as stress reduction. Lavender, for example, is believed to stimulate the brain in a way similar to pharmaceutical sedatives.
Studies on the effects of specific essential oils on humans are still ongoing. However, it has been found that the inhalation and topical application of most essential oils are generally safe and rarely produce side effects in healthy individuals. Aromatherapy can be a new technique to feel better, but because of a lack of strong scientific evidence, it is always best to consult a healthcare provider before proceeding with aromatherapy.
Feature Image Source: Aroma Massage by Tara Angkor Hotel