Monday, July 12, 2010

A Little Bit of the Science of Aromatherapy

I don't want to get real technical about the science of aromatherapy, but I thought you might want an idea of how aromatherapy works.  How can a small amount of oils or herbs affect the body, the mind, or the spirit?  Aromatherapy is the science of how pure essential oils can be therapeutic to your body and mind. 

Essential oils are oils which are contained within the flowers, the stems, the leaves, or the roots of the plant.  They are very aromatic and volatile. These oils are encapsulated in little cells in the plant, but these oils, though part of the plant, do very little for the life or the vitality of the plant itself.  They may be part of the fragrance of the plant, but they may also be contained in the root where an aroma would not be present.  Their reason for being, so to speak, seems to be mainly to be used by animals and humans.

Some essential oils are anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral, mucolytic, or bactericidal.  All of the oils are antiseptic, some more so than others.  They are volatile, which means that they cause a chemical reaction.  The highest of the volatile oils are classified as top notes and are used mostly in the perfume industry. Being highly volatile means that they evaporate easily, thus the first fragrance that you smell when you first put on a perfume.  After the inital contact with the skin, the volatile oils evaporate quickly, leaving the highly fragrant top note to be smelled quickly and then to disappear.  These oils are usually uplifting upon smelling.  The less volatile oils are called the base notes.  These fragrances evaporate much slower leaving the base notes to be smelled for a longer period.  These oils are usually calming in nature.  The last type of oils are called the middle notes.  They don't last as long as the base notes, but last longer than the top notes.  They are usually stimulating to the psyche.

Used properly, essential oils can calm, invigorate, reduce inflammation, ease aches and pains, cause deeper focus, and affect many types of disorders of the skin.  Some oils should not be used around children or pregnant women due to their effects on certain systems within the body, usually the nervous system.

When your nose smells an essential oil, it is sensed by the smell receptors and sent to the olfactory bulb in the nose.  The olfactory bulb transmits the scent to the brain's smell sensory cortex and finally to the limbic system.  The limbic system is one of the most basic and primative parts of the brain.This jouney of the scent causes a reaction which can be a felt as a sense of calm, an uplifting feeling, invigoration, a balanced feeling of well-being and harmony. 

The surface of the skin can be penetrated by certain oils which are highly therapeutic to many types of skin problems.  Some of these problems can be diaper rash, skin aging, scarring, burns, dry skin, and eczema. Essential oil treatment has been successful in relieving many types of skin conditions.

Some essential oils can absorbed into your bloodstream from the skin.  One of the best transfer places for an essential oil is the bottom of the foot.  Some say that when garlic oil is placed on the bottom of the foot, it is quickly tasted in the mouth due to the quick absortion in the blood stream! Another way to deliver essential oils to the skin or to the blood stream is by massage with essential oils mixed into massage oils. 

Later on down the line, I will tell you all about how aromatherapy was used centuries ago...a little history of aromatherapy.  But before we talk about the history, I think we should explore a few basic essential oils.  My next post will talk about lavender essential oil.  If you are stressed, this is the oil for you.  See you soon.

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