Benefits of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is derived from two words. Aroma - meaning fragrance or smell and Therapy - meaning treatment. Aromatherapy was used by the most ancient civilizations and is reputed to be at least 6000 years old. Translations of ancient manuscripts indicate that priests and physicians used essential oils for healing and rituals for thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Aromas derived solely from natural plant materials have been shown to have a positive psychological effect on the body. Essential oils which are the pure "essence" of a plant have been found to provide both psychological and physiological benefits when used correctly and safely.

Transmission of the aroma of the oils is direct to the limbic system, a part of the brain which stores responses to memory, pleasure and emotions. Odor triggers the limbic system to release substances such as those which reduce pain, create feelings of well being, support sexual response and induce relaxation and calmness.

Smell is the least understood of our five senses and yet is perhaps the most powerful. The olfactory membrane is the only place in the human body where the central nervous system is exposed and in direct contact with the environment. The brain very rapidly interprets aromas that are inhaled. It has long been known that certain smells or aromas have a sedative or soothing effect while others have a stimulating effect. This is one of the reasons why so often something that we smell will trigger a memory or remind us of something or someone.

Essential oils, as implied by the term "aromatherapy", have a powerful effect through our sense of smell. Simply by inhalation, essential oils illicit an immediate response and are readily absorbed into the bloodstream. When essential oils are placed on the skin, they begin to break down and are ready to metabolize. It is not necessary to apply pure essential oils to a specific area of the body for healing to occur. Pure oils seem to have an innate intelligence which guides them to the parts of the body where they are most needed.

Essential oils that are inhaled into the lungs are believed to offer both psychological and physiological benefits; not only does the aroma of the natural essential oil stimulate the brain to trigger a reaction, but the natural constituents of the essential oil are drawn into the lungs and can also supply physical benefit.

Oils can directly or indirectly affect the body's physiological systems. For instance, peppermint oil can aid digestion and inhalation of eucalyptus oils can relieve respiratory symptoms. Because of the effect of relaxation on the brain and the subsequent sedating or stimulating of the nervous system, essential oils can also indirectly raise and lower blood pressure and possibly aid in normalization of hormonal secretion.

The use of aromatherapy can be seen as part of a lifestyle choice; it combines the soothing, healing touch of massage with the therapeutic properties of essential oils. Aromatherapy is a holistic treatment which can have a profound effect on the mind, body and emotions.

WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS

Pure essential oils are natural substances which are extracted by distillation from tiny molecular sacs of each botanical. They are part of the plant's immune system and yet a separate substance created from the plant. Although most essential oils come from botanical material, there are also several animal oils such as musk, which contain essential healing properties. Animal oils have more powerful effects on the human system than botanical oils.

Translations of ancient manuscripts show that priests and physicians used essential oils for healing and rituals for thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Aromatic medicine, the ancient art of aromatherapy, was recorded in Egypt and India more than six thousand years ago. Recipes for healing blends have been found on the walls of pharaohs' tombs. Aromatics were also used in ancient Persia, Greece, Rome, China and throughout Europe.

Egyptians made no distinction between what we call cosmetics, perfume, pharmaceuticals, medicine and religious ceremonies. These were all part of a single system for healing carried out through the priesthood. Egyptians also made no distinction between physical, emotional, mental or spiritual ailments. Spiritual perfection was achieved only by perfecting the physical, emotional and mental layers. Egyptian priests discovered enfleurage, the extraction of scent by the use of odorless fats. This first extraction method (which is still in use today) enabled Egyptians to begin experimenting with essential oils and to ultimately understand and use their full power to bring about spiritual perfection.

The tiny molecular structure of each oil permeates the skin's surface or through the olfactory nerves. When essential oils are placed on the skin, they break down and are ready to metabolize as they pass through it. As they move through the different layers of skin and cells, the oils break down into smaller and smaller particles. Transmission of the aroma is direct to the limbic system; a part of the brain which stores responses to memory, pleasure and emotions. Odors trigger the limbic system to release substances such as enkephalins, which reduce pain and create a feeling of well being; endorphins, which kill pain and induce sexual feelings; and serotonins, which induce relaxation and calmness.

Pure essential oils are highly concentrated extracts; 75 to 100 times more concentrated than dried herbs. They contain hormones, vitamins, and antiseptics that work on many levels. All essential oils to a greater or lesser extent exhibit certain medicinal qualities: Antiseptic, bactericidal, bacteriostatic and cytophylactic (promotes cell rejuvenation when applied to the skin).

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