While the practice of Aromatherapy has been around for centuries, the use and popularity of aromatherapy oils, also called “essential” oils, has grown significantly over the past few decades, both for therapeutic and cosmetic purposes.
What Exactly Are Aromatherapy Oils?
Every aromatic plant contains it's own essence that gives it it's unique scent. That's why you can easily tell the difference between a rose and a basil plant. The oils are stored in specialized cells in a specific part of the plant such as the leaves, stems, roots, bark, or hair of flowers, herbs, grasses, trees, and shrubs.
These oils are extracted from the plants using a variety of methods. The most common is the steam distillation method. Because the average amount of essential oil in most aromatic plants is only 1 – 2%, it is an expensive and time consuming process. It can take a large quantity of plants to produce a small volume of aromatherapy oil. Some more than others. This is why some oils can be rather pricey.
How and Why They Work
While essential oils are also used in the food and cosmetic industries, I am only going to talk about their therapeutic, or medicinal value.
According to modern research, plant essential oils have healing properties on both the physical and emotional level. These properties include antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, sedative, antidepressant, digestive, and diuretic. There are too many to list here.
The main reason essential oils are so effective in natural healing is that they are made up of the same materials as the human body. The aromatic chemicals are the same as the ones that provide the building blocks for everything in our bodies. They also play a crucial role in producing hormones, vitamins, and energy. It is no wonder that essential oils are the active ingredient in many Western medicine pharmaceuticals.
So why not just take the drugs? Unlike pharmaceuticals, essential oils enter and exit the body efficiently while leaving no toxins behind. No long list of side effects. Another reason they are so effective is that they bypass the digestive system which means they can go to work faster. The scent goes right to the brain.
So, what are the essential oils that can help relieve your stress and anxiety?
First of all, there are different types of stress as well as different levels. As such, there are different essential oils that work best with each. So it is important to know exactly what you want to treat before you choose the correct oil.
Types of stress include environmental, chemical, physical, mental, and emotional. You can experience each of these types at one of 4 levels, from mild to chronic. A mild case of environmental stress can be as simple as the bright lights over your desk at work giving you a headache. A more serious case of mental stress can be financial worries that lead to quilt, despair, and depression.
In the first case, a blend of lavender, geranium, and chamomile will do the trick. In the second, a blend of geranium, lavender, and bergamot may be just what you need. Also helpful are cedarwood, sandalwood, rosemary, basil, patchouli, and rose. Who doesn't feel less stressed walking through an aromatic flower or herb garden?
Lavender is probably the best known. It's great for treating cuts and burns. A drop rubbed on the temples will stop a headache in its tracks. It is a natural mosquito repellant and highly effective antiseptic wash. It is also great for insomnia and has a calming effect.
With around 300 different aromatherapy oils in general use today, it is important to know a bit about what you are doing before you start blending. If you don't, the smart thing to do is to buy a blend for your specific needs from a trusted source. Or see an aromatherapy professional and let them prescribe the right blend for you.
How to Use Them
There are several ways to use essential oils depending on the problem. They can be used topically to treat burns, cuts, or skin conditions, in the bath or shower to cleanse and detoxify, massaged into the skin, or by inhaling the scent from a candle, diffuser, or handkerchief.
The methods generally used to treat stress are with massage oils and inhaling the scent from candles and diffusers. A diffuser heats the oil either with electricity or a candle releasing the scent into the air. Diffusers are usually clay, metal, or glass and come in different shapes and sizes from simple to very decorative. A few drops in the diffuser is all you need.
I keep a diffuser with lavender oil in my room to help me relax before bed and during meditation. I also have a spray bottle of diluted lavender oil that I spray on my pillows. Most diffusers are small and portable so you can take them with you to work or when you travel.
Where to Buy the Best Aromatherapy Oils
The quality of aromatherapy oils is dependent on a number of factors. Some are the way the plants are collected and the method of preparation. The important thing is to make sure you are buying a pure, natural essential oil, not a synthetic copy made for the perfume industry. While these may smell great, they do not have the same therapeutic properties and will not be effective in healing.
For this reason it is better to buy your oils from a source concerned with health and wellness like a health food store rather than a bath and body or perfume store. Pure, quality oils will cost more, but don't despair. A little goes a long way. And the results are worth it.
There are several quality online sources. I like Vida Essential Oils.
CLICK HERE or on one of the links above for more information.
Aromatherapy oils are a great addition to any medicine chest. Research shows they are safe, non-invasive, non-toxic, and highly effective when used in moderation. Everyone has a certain amount of stress in their lives. This is a great way to keep minor stresses from turning into more serious conditions. I own several diffusers so I can keep one in the office, one in my bedroom and one in the general family living space. A few drops in the bath water helps ease the tension of a trying day. Why not give a try?
Aromatherapy, A Lifetime Guide to Healing With Essential Oils, by Valerie Gennari Cooksley
The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, by Valerie Ann Worwood