Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being.
The inhaled aroma from these "essential" oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream and can promote whole-body healing.
A form of alternative medicine, aromatherapy is gaining momentum. It is used for a variety of applications, including pain relief, mood enhancement and increased cognitive function.
There are a wide number of essential oils available, each with its own healing properties. Here are a few examples of what essential oils have particular benefits:
Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils on the market and for good reason. It smells great and is an effective stress-relieving oil. The name stems from the Latin word lavera, meaning to wash. In addition to stress-relieving properties, Lavender is a healing aid against colds, flu and migraine.
Extraction and Application: Lavender is extracted from the flowers of the plant and steam distilled. Lavender can be used several different ways. Given the origin of its name, its a wonderful essential oil to use in a bath. Many massage therapists use it to help relax their clients. Add a few drops to a diffuser or even your pillow before bedtime to get a good nights sleep.
Aromatherapy Uses: In addition to stress-relief, Lavender has the following therapeutic properties: antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory decongestant, deodorant, diuretic and sedative.
Caution: Discontinue use if you suffer an allergic reaction when using Lavender.
All you need is a whiff of peppermint to put the pep back in your step. Peppermint has a cooling, refreshing effect and is widely used to enhance mental alertness. Peppermint is a perennial herb that boasts natural energy-boosting properties.
Extraction and Application: Peppermint oil is extracted before the herb flowers and is then steam-distilled. It is used in vaporizers, massage oils and lotions, baths, even mouthwash.
Aromatherapy Uses: Peppermint oil has a number of therapeutic properties. It is a cooling agent that enhances mood, sharpens focus, combats irritation and redness, alleviates symptoms of congestion, and aids in digestion.
Caution: Although non-toxic, the menthol component in Peppermint can bother some individuals. It is also a skin irritant and should be kept away from the eyes. Keep away from small children and do not use while pregnant.
Bergamot is a citrus-scented essential oil extracted from the Citrus Beragamia tree, a native of Southeast Asia, but can now be found primarily in Italy and along the Ivory Coast. It is a popular aromatherapy oil and widely used in perfumes and colognes.
Extraction and Application: Bergamot is extracted by pressing the oil from the rind of the fruit. Bergamot can be used as incense or in a vaporizer. It can also be diluted with bath water or blended with massage oils.
Aromatherapy Uses: Bergamot is used to treat stress, depression, anxiety, anorexia, and a number of infections including skin infections like psoriasis and eczema. It is used to stimulate the liver, digestive system and spleen, and provide an overall lift to those suffering from a general malaise.
Caution: If applied directly to the skin in its pure form, Bergamot can potentially burn the skin especially in sunlight. It is advised to stay out of the sun when using this oil.
Women should keep Rose oil handy as its a powerful aromatherapy treatment for issues targeted mainly at females. Roses are some of the first plants to be distilled for their essential oil. Rose oil is pricier than other aromatherapy oils given the number of roses necessary to distill it.
Extraction and Application: Rose oil is extracted from fresh rose petals and then steam distilled. Extracting rose oil is a delicate process.
Aromatherapy Uses: Rose oil is an ideal essential oil to have on hand. It helps with a number of illnesses and conditions, such as depression, anxiety and digestion issues. It is also helps with circulation, heart problems and respiratory conditions like asthma. It is a protector of the heart and is also good for your skin.
Caution: Avoid during pregnancy.
Eucalyptus oil comes from the Eucalyptus tree, native to Australia. It has a powerful scent and is easily recognizable. As an essential oil, Eucalyptus is an effective agent against respiratory diseases. It also has the ability to enhance concentration.
Extraction and Application: Eucalyptus oil is steam distilled from the leaves and twigs of some Eucalyptus trees (there are more than 500 varieties).
Aromatherapy Uses: As mentioned above, Eucalyptus is a powerful treatment against respiratory issues. In addition it is used as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, decongestant, diuretic and stimulant. It also has cooling properties, which gives it deodorizing characteristics; therefore, it helps fight migraines and fevers. This cooling capability also helps with muscle aches and pains.
Caution: Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid using Eucalyptus, as should individuals who suffer from epilepsy. Ingested in large doses can be fatal.
An evergreen, Sandalwood is easily recognized by its woody fragrance. It is an expensive oil given the length of time it takes for a tree to reach maturity, the best time to extract and distill the essential oil. It has numerous aromatherapy benefits.
Extraction and Application: Sandalwood oil is extracted and distilled from the wood chips of a mature tree. Sandalwood oil can be applied several ways: blended with massage oil and lotions, added to a vaporizer, used as incense, even gargled (diluted).
Aromatherapy Uses: Sandalwood oil can help mucous membranes of the urinary tract and chest wall. It helps to alleviate chest pain. It is also used as a relaxing agent for tension relief. Many practitioners of yoga use Sandalwood for its calming and sexual properties. It is a hydration aid for the skin, as well as an anti-inflammatory.
If you have but just one essential oil in your possession, it should be Tea Tree oil. Tea Tree oil is one of the most popular and effective essential oils for aromatherapy use. It is widely known to boost the immune system and fight infections.
Extraction and Application: Tea Tree stems from the Cypress-like Melaleuca alternifolia tree. It is extracted from the trees leaves and steam distilled. Tea Tree oil can be inhaled (via humidifier or steam inhalation) and/or applied to the skin various different ways. Blend Tea Tree oil with a lotion, oil or cream to massage it into the skin. Add a few drops into your bathwater or apply it directly to your skin (using precaution, of course). Tea Tree oil is also found in shampoos, lotions and mouthwash because its healing properties are so powerful.
Aromatherapy Uses: Tea Trees healing properties are abundant. Not only is it a natural immune booster, but it also fights all three kinds of infection. It works to heal skin conditions, burns and cuts, and also works as an insecticide. In addition, it helps to soothe and treat cold sores, respiratory conditions, muscle aches, the flu, Athletes foot and dandruff. Its uses are vast and its healing power is quick.
Caution: Tea Tree oil is not toxic, but avoid using it internally or around the eyes and nose. It is also not recommended for serious cuts.