What are Essential Oils ?
Essential oils, or 'essences' as they are also called, are highly concentrated substances extracted from various parts of aromatic plants and trees. They are usually captured by steam distillation, a process whose origins can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia.
Unlike ordinary vegetable oils, such as corn and olive, plant essences are highly volatile and will evaporate if left in the open air. The chemistry of essential oils is complex. Most consist of hundreds of components, such as terpenes, alcohols, aldehydes, and esters.
For this reason a single oil can help a wide variety of disorders. Lavender, for instance, is endowed with antiseptic, antibacterial, antibiotic, antidepressant, analgesic, decongestant and sedative properties. Moreover, due to their tiny molecular structure, essential oils applied to the skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
They also reach the blood as a result of the aromatic molecules being inhaled. In the lungs, they pass through the tiny air sacs to the surrounding blood capillaries by the process of diffusion. Once in the bloodstream the aromatic molecules interact with the body's chemistry.
Essential Oils and Health
Quite apart from their medicinal properties, just smelling an essential oil can uplift the spirits and make us feel better. This is because the sense of smell is an interrelated aspect of the limbic system an area of the brain which is primarily concerned with emotion and memory. And herein lies the mysterious potency of the art. Indeed, this influence of aroma on the psyche has led some aromatherapists to practice what is now called 'psycho-aromatherapy', whereby oils are used solely as mood enhancing substances.
Holistic healing is concerned with looking to the causes and the prevention of illness rather than solely quelling symptoms. It is also about taking responsibility for our own health. So for lasting benefits, aromatherapy should complement a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Aromatherapy is also a marvelous adjunct to most other forms of treatment psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, medical herbalism, or even orthodox medicine. For aromatherapy reigns supreme as a means to buffering the adverse effects of 'stress' - the bane of modern living. Emotional disharmony in its many guises can eventually manifest as physical illness.
The joy of aromatherapy massage, however, can help redress the balance. By enabling a person to relax deeply, to let go of all their cares even for just a while it is potentially powerful enough to activate the body's own innate self-healing ability. An amazing achievement! One approach to aromatherapy is as a hands-on therapy. It combines the physical and emotional effects of gentle massage with the medicinal and psychotherapeutic properties of plant essences. Not only does aromatherapy alleviate stress and improve mood, it is a successful treatment for all manner of minor disorders for which doctors cannot always find a gentle solution. That is to say, a solution free of the potentially harmful effects of drugs.
Massage with essential oils is especially helpful for women's problems, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal distress. It can also soothe away moderate anxiety and depression, sleeping problems, emotionally induced sexual difficulties, digestive disorders, headaches and muscular aches and pains. Many essential oils are also superb skin care agents.They help to balance sebum (the skin's natural oil secretion), and to tone the complexion by supporting capillary function, Similarly, plant essences can be used in hair and scalp formulas to improve the circulation of the scalp, prevent dandruff and promote healthy hair growth.
Applied without massage, essential oils can heal skin problems such as athlete's foot, cold sores, ringworm and scabies. Used in steam inhalations, they can alleviate cold and flu symptoms. They are also efficacious for problems such as coughs, tonsillitis, sore throats, sinusitis and acute bronchitis.