What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the inhaled or topical use of aromatic plant essences like essential oils to support wellbeing and help maintain the balance of the mind, body, and spirit. Aromatherapy has been used by ancient cultures for thousands of years to promote psychological and physical wellbeing.
There are a variety of ways to add a bit of aromatherapy into your life using essential oils. Each essential oil offers a range of unique aromatherapeutic properties, uses, and effects. Different oils can also be combined to create a synergistic blend with its own unique benefits.
So how and why does the aroma of essential oils affect our mood? The way in which our sense of smell is wired to our brain is quite unique among our senses. The part of your brain that processes and interprets scents also deals with memory and emotions. This relationship may help explain why smells often trigger specific memories or emotions.
When we inhale through our nose, the scent molecules in essential oils travel across millions of tiny olfactory neurons that sit on the roof of the nasal cavity.
Once triggered, the olfactory neurons send messages to the olfactory bulbs, two lobes at the base of the brain. But olfactory messages do not stop there. They also trigger brain regions like the limbic system which plays an important role in emotion, mood, stress levels, and behavior as well as heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and memory.
Essential oils can lift your mood and make you feel fabulous with a simple whiff of their natural aroma. Each oil has a different chemical make-up and therefore a different effect. For example:
- some have energizing, uplifting, and revitalizing properties
- some help ease stress, anxiety, and depression
- some promote relaxing, calming, and soothing feelings
- some help improve sleep
The purpose of aromatherapy is to elicit some reaction in the body. Since we are all unique, not all oils will benefit everyone in the same manner. There is some research and a lot of anecdotal evidence that has shown the positive benefits of aromatherapy, such as relief from anxiety, improved sleep, and improved quality of life. But there is still so much to learn.
For more detailed information I would like to point you to our blog “What is Aromatherapy?” especially the sections near the bottom entitled "Safety" and “Research.”
There I explore questions like Safety, Can Essential Oils Be Absorbed Through the Skin? and Are the Effects of Aromatherapy Real or Placebo?