Your sense of smell is your most primal sense and exerts surprising influence over our thoughts, moods, and behaviors. Scents are experienced long before words. They can have a powerful influence on your well-being. Aromatherapy, which uses concentrated essences of various botanicals, allows us to harness the olfactory power of plants for healing — on various levels.
Essential oils carry biologically active volatile compounds in a highly concentrated form that can provide therapeutic benefits in very small amounts.
Among essential oils, quality can vary widely and assessing the quality of any given brand can be difficult, as factors such as growing conditions and methods of harvesting, distillation, manufacture, and storage can all affect the final product.
One of the most important considerations is to look for a statement of purity. What you’re looking for is — 100% essential oil (meaning it has not been diluted, altered, or mixed with anything else). Price can certainly be a tipoff. If it’s really cheap, it’s probably a reflection of poor quality.
There are several ways to use essential oils for health and well-being. First, let’s consider the question of whether or not they actually have a biological effect, and if so, how.
Scents Can Alter Your Nervous System
When you inhale the fragrance of an essential oil, the aroma penetrates your bloodstream via your lungs,1 and this is thought to be one of the mechanisms by which aromatherapy exerts its physiological effects. Essential oils are also easily absorbed through your skin when applied topically. After all, the skin is the largest organ in the human body.
The fragrance also affects the limbic system in your brain, which controls both memories and emotions. Many essential oils have antibacterial, antifungal, and/or antiviral qualities, and contrary to antibiotics, essential oils do not promote resistance.2 Modern scientists are not only finding compelling links between scents and human behavior,3 scents can actually influence the biochemistry of your nervous system.
- Black pepper, fennel, and grapefruit oil caused an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity (as measured by an increase in systolic blood pressure)
- Rose and patchouli oil resulted in a 40% decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity
- Pepper oil induced an increase in plasma adrenaline concentration
- Rose oil caused adrenaline to drop by 30%
Essential Oils for Common Maladies
There are probably as many uses for aromatherapy as there are essential oils, but research shows particular promise in relieving stress, stabilizing your mood, improving sleep, pain and nausea relief, and improving your memory and energy level.
To give you an idea of the versatility of aromatherapy, the following table lists some of the therapeutic uses of several oils for a few of today’s most common complaints.4 As you can see, there are some multi-purpose oils, like orange, lavender and peppermint, which can be used to treat more than one problem.5
|Stress||Lavender, lemon, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver, pine, ylang ylang|
|Insomnia||Lavender, chamomile, jasmine, neroli, rose, sandalwood, ylang ylang|
|Anxiety||Lavender, bergamot, rose, clary sage, lemon, Roman chamomile, orange, sandalwood, rose-scented geranium|
|Pain||Lavender, chamomile, clary sage, juniper, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint|
|Nausea and vomiting||Peppermint, ginger, lemon, orange, ginger, dill, fennel, chamomile, clary sage|
|Memory and attention||Rosemary, lavendar, sage, peppermint, and cinnamon|
|Low energy||Black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, jasmine, tea tree, rosemary, sage, citrus including orange|
|Infection||Oregano, tea tree, thyme, cinnamon, juniper, lemon|
How to Use Essential Oils
Some of the most common ways to use essential oils include:
- Massaging them (blended with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, almond oil or in your current lotion) into your skin
- Adding them to bathwater
- Using them in a hot compress
- Heating them in a diffuser
- Spray – Drops of essential oils are placed in a water-based solution, shaken, and sprayed into the air in order to deodorize a room or set a mood
- Rubbing a drop onto pulse points in lieu of perfume
Aromatherapy can be a beneficial adjunct to your overall health and wellness plan. This is the reason we have started incorporating it into our practice at Stern Wellness Center. It’s not a replacement for wise lifestyle choices like taking care of your spine & nervous system, and good nutrition and exercise, but it is an excellent way to further enhance your physical and emotional health. Aromatherapy is also one more tool you can keep in your tool bag for managing everyday stress, balancing out mood swings, and improving your sleep. Your nose is probably an underappreciated resource, so perhaps it’s time to make some use of it!
We now offer doTERRA essential oils for purchase on our web site. If you have questions about doTERRA, please ask Ria, our office & marketing coordinator at the office or call 914 763 8000.
Learn more about the benefits and uses of essentials oils: