Essential Oils and Health
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential healing oils in a therapeutic way to help relax, heal, and trigger positive emotions. Research on the benefits of aromatherapy are ongoing, but some studies have shown that using essential oils for aromatherapy can provide benefits to both physical and mental health.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are extracts from the roots, leaves, seeds, or flowers of plants. Each essential extract contains a mixture of active ingredients which helps determine its use. Some oils can help treat physical symptoms because of anti-bacterial or anti-fungal properties, while others are used simply for mood enhancement due to smells or active ingredients that are absorbed through scent and thought to increase relaxation.
The use of essential healing oils goes back over 5,000 years to ancient Indians, Chinese, Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans who used oils for a range of purposes. Herbal essential oils have been used in cosmetics, perfumes, medical treatments, rituals, spiritual practices, and for hygiene for thousands of years. The founder of modern day aromatherapy, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, was a French chemist named Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who discovered that lavender oil could treat burns, infections, and gangrene and put this knowledge to use during WW1.
Does it Work?
According to Mayo Clinic’s “Expert Answers,” there have been a number of studies that have shown health benefits to aromatherapy. These studies include findings showing that the use of essential healing oils may play a role in improving anxiety and depression, relief from chronic health conditions, and relief of chronic pain. Additionally, some smaller studies have reported that lavender essential oil may help alleviate needle pain in dialysis patients, improve sleep, and lower pain for children who have getting their tonsils out.
The Science of Aromatherapy
Other than the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of some concentrated essential oils, their main mode of treatment is thought to be through the nose. As people smell these oils, they trigger memories or emotions. When the brain recognizes these emotions, it triggers the limbic system, which, according to boundless.com, plays an essential role in formation of new memories about past experiences. This system then releases chemicals like endorphins.
Whether or not you believe that using herbal essential oils will affect your physical health, there is no denying that smell is one of the strongest ways to revive memories as well as to create new associations. If nothing else, the smell of mint or jasmine may just uplift your mood. And that could be just what the doctor ordered.