When searching a solution, the frequent conclusion you hear is "educationis the key." Such conclusion certainly holds true for finding the rightscent. Whether you are focused on your room or your body, there are properand sinning ways to fulfill your aromatic needs. Let's start this lessonwith definitions.
Aromatherapy is the art of blending and applying pure botanical essences toaid holistic wellness and to serve physical, psychological, esthetic andspiritual purposes. Aromatherapy is derived from two words. aroma, meaningfragrance or smell and therapy, meaning treatment.
Essential oils contain the true essence of the plant it was derived from. Plant liquids are most frequently distilled by steam from the leaves, stems,flowers, bark, roots, or other elements. Essential oils, contrary to the useof the word oil, are not really oily-feeling at all. Most essential oils areclear, but some oils such as patchouli, orange and lemongrass are amber oryellow in color.
Absolute is a very concentrated liquid generally extracted by alcohol.Jasmine, rose, and orange blossoms are examples of plants that are usuallyused in aromatherapy as absolutes.
Carrier oils are pure vegetable oils used to dilute the essential oils. Theblend is then applied to the skin for absorption.
Floral water is the remaining water that is left with the fragrance of thedistilled plant. Although not as concentrated as essential oils, floralwaters make wonderful additions to facial toners. Typical floral watersinclude orange blossom, lavender, rose, and chamomile.
Synergy is a blend of essential oils fused in proper proportions. Synergy ispreferred over single oil benefits.
History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy was used by the most ancient civilizations and is reputed to beat least 6,000 years old. General hypothesis is that aromatherapy began inEgypt. A medical papyri considered to date back to around 1555 BC containsremedies for all types of illnesses and the methods of application aresimilar to the ones used in aromatherapy and herbal medicine today. TheEgyptians used a method known as infusion to extract the oils from aromaticplants and incense was probably one of the earliest ways of using aromatics.Frankincense was burned at sunrise as an offering to the sun god, Ra andmyrrh was offered to the moon. The Egyptians were experts at embalming witharomatics to help preserve flesh. They massaged one another with fragrant oils after bathing.
The Greeks continued the use of aromatic oils and used them medicinally andcosmetically. A Greek physician, Pedacius Dioscorides, wrote a book aboutherbal medicine and for at least 1,200 years was the Western world'sstandard medical reference. Many of the remedies he mentions are stillpracticed today in aromatherapy.
The Romans took much of their medical knowledge from the Greeks and went onto use and improve the ability of aromatics with Rome becoming the bathingcapital of the world. As the Egyptians, they would be oiled and massagedafter bathing. The Romans started to import new aromatic products from EastIndia and Arabia through the opening up of trade routes.
The knowledge of aromatic oils and perfumes spread to the Far East and Arabia during the crusades. A physician called Avicenna who lived from AD980 to AD 1037 is understood to have first used the process known asdistillation with roses, although it probably took many years to perfect theprocess. The Arabs also discovered how to distill alcohol around the sametime, which made it possible to produce perfume without a heavy oily base.
There is a strong possibility that the ancient Chinese civilizations wereusing some form of aromatics as when the Egyptians were. Shen Nung's Herbalbook is the oldest surviving medical book in China which is dated about 2700BC and contains information on over 300 plants. The Chinese used aromaticherbs and burned aromatic woods with incense to show respect to God.
Traditional Indian medicine known as ayurveda has been practiced for morethan 3,000 years. Ayurveda incorporates aromatic massage as one of its mainaspects. The invasions of South America by the conquistadores brought aboutthe discovery of more medicinal plants and aromatic oils. The Aztecs werewell known for their plant remedies and the Spanish were amazed at thewealth of medicinal plants found in Montezuma's botanical gardens.
The North American Indians also used aromatic oils and produced their ownherbal remedies. But it wasn't until the 19th century that scientists inEurope and Great Britain began researching the effects of essential oils onbacteria in humans.
A French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, began his research into thehealing powers of essential oils after burning his hand in his laboratory,immersing it in lavender oil and being impressed by how quickly the burnhealed. In 1937 he published a book about the anti-microbial effects of theoils and coined the word aromatherapy. He went on to set up a businessproducing oils for use in fragrances and cosmetics. Around the same timeanother Frenchman, Albert Couvreur, published a book on the medicinal usesof essential oils.
A French medical doctor, Jean Valnet, discovered Gattefosse's research andbegan experimenting with essential oils. About the same time period a Frenchbiochemist and author of Marguerite Maury's Guide to Aromatherapy, developed a unique method of applying these oils to the skin with massage. Micheline Arcier, now living in London, studied and worked with Maury and Valnet.Their combined techniques created a form of aromatherapy now used all overthe world.
Inhaling natural aromatic scents embarks a wide range of conscioussensitivities. The impulse of odor releases psychoactive chemicals.Endorphin reduces pain and induces sexual arousal. Encephaline creates afeeling of well-being and notably reduces the intensity of painful episodes.Serotonin helps to calm and relax. Noradrenaline stimulates, alerts andawakens. All of these help restore your natural rhythm and balance.
The olfactory system has a direct link to the most ancient part of ourbrain. It triggers body actions, mental awareness, spirituality and evokespositive emotions. When we use a scent, it empowers and enhances ourconsciousness. The nose contains the only nerves linked to the brain thatalso make direct contact with the outside air. Because of this, the sense ofsmell in humans is 10,000 times more acute than any of the other physicalsenses. Fragrant odors pass directly into the limbic system, the part of thebrain which controls the emotions, and avoid the cerebral cortex whichcontrols the intellect. Thus, the subconscious mind directly responds to the subtle influences of the plant's life forces.
To achieve optimum health, you must first strive for balance of body, mind,spirit and emotions. Botanical scents, often unappreciated andunderutilized, can play a powerful role in your well-being. Each scentcontains the particular life forces of the respective plant, providing awide range of therapeutic values which assist in healing and promotingpositive natural life enhancement.
Essential Oil Facts
Essential plant oils are obtained from herbs, roots, bark, leaves, fruit,flowers and seeds from all over the world. The plants are harvested so thatthe essential oils containing vitamins, nutrients, minerals, enzymes,phytogenic hormones and other active beneficial constituents are extracted by the most appropriate method to insure proper quality.
The soul of an aromatic plant is contained within its essential oil, whichbears the unique scent that identifies the plant species. In metaphysicalcircles, this is known as the "Doctrine of Signatures." The plant exhibitsunique traits just as a human being has unique personal traits.
The skin is the largest organ in the body. It will absorb anything it comesin contact with, provided that substance has a small enough cellularstructure. Botanical essences are cytophylactic. This means that they have asmall enough cellular structure to be readily absorbed through the skin and into the intercellular fluids where they can be routed to the appropriatepart of the body to lend their healing traits. In many cases this method ismore preferable to inhaling the scents because the physical healing traitsof the essential oils can be delivered directly to an area of the bodysimply by massaging that area. But careful inhalation of the oils can alsoprovide therapeutic benefit as the oil molecules enter the lungs, areabsorbed into the bloodstream and offer psychological and physical benefits.Not only does the aroma of the true plant stimulate the brain to trigger apositive effect, but the natural components of the essential oil are drawninto the lungs and can also supply physical benefits also.
The chemical components of the oils, after analysis, show that they haveanti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic qualities. Manyof the oils also support the function of the immune system by acting as anantiseptic and healing agent. Additionally, some oils can affect thehormonal system while others can stimulate an opening to emotional blocks.The effects of essential oils have been witnessed by many to create mental,emotional, and physical shifts. People report feeling more joyful, happier,and uplifted. Lemongrass can be applied on the pulse points such as thetemples, wrists and ankles to enhance emotional expression. In addition,rubbing lavender on the feet aids in relaxation and promotes balance.
Since essential oils are so powerful and concentrated, they should never beapplied to the skin in their undiluted form. To apply essential oils to theskin, carrier oils are used to dilute the essential oils. Common carrieroils include sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil and grapeseed oil. Somecarrier oils, such as jojoba oil, should generally be mixed with othercarrier oils instead of being used as 100% of the carrier oil in a blend. Asynergistic essential oil blend of the correct oils in proper proportions isconsidered to be greater in total benefit than each oil working independently.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way. Theyare usually sold for individual use in very small bottles such as .25 ounceand .5 ounce sizes. Essential oils are very expensive to produce, some moreso than others due to the labor intensive process and the quantity of theplant required to produce the oil. For example, approximately 400 kilogramsof thyme will would produce 1 kilogram of essential oil; 2,000 kilograms ofrose petals would make1 kilogram of oil; 6 tons of orange blossom willproduce 1 kilogram of neroli (orange blossom); and 4 million jasmine flowerscould produce 1 kilogram of jasmine absolute.
Essential oils can grant unexpected benefits as well. Some oils, forinstance, act as a natural repellent and pesticide. You may recall using"citronella" candles during the summer to keep mosquitoes away. Citronellaessential oil is the main property of these candles that supply this benefit.
Note that the cobalt blue bottles are usually more expensive than ambercolored bottles. Essential oils can vary considerably in price. Various factors that can influence the quality and price of the oil include therarity of the plant, country origin, conditions that the plant was grown in,standards of the distiller and how much oil is produced by the plant.
It is important not to use oils that have been diluted, raised withpesticides and fertilizers, or reproduced in a lab to make them morecost-effective. If you purchase an essential oil which has been diluted, youstand a good chance of getting an oil which has an ineffective concentrationof the active constituents necessary to promote health. If a plant has beenraised with fertilizers or pesticides, often the chemical constituents orthe residue of these substances gets extracted through the distillation process used to obtain the essential oil and be absorbed through the skin.If an essential oil has been synthesized in a lab, you are not getting theappropriate vital nutrients offered by the living plant. In any of thesecases, the essence of the plant has been either altered, destroyed, or wasnever present.
Read the ingredients to ensure that the product does not contain fragrance oils or tainted, chemical components. A general rule-of-thumb is to be wary of products that do not list their ingredients and those that do not flaunthaving pure essential oils. Avoid products where the ingredient list has theword fragrance. Not all ready-made aromatherapy products labeled with theword aromatherapy are pure and natural.
However, some producers of good-quality aromatherapy blends do not listtheir ingredients because they are worried that others may copy theircreation. By asking the seller more about the blend, and listening to howthey respond, you should gain a better idea about the quality. Good suppliers should be happy to tell you the ingredients when asked, as somepeople should avoid particular oils due to health problems.
The advantage of pure essential oil blends is that you can save from havingto buy every essential oil individually. The disadvantage is that you maynot be reliably able to mix the blend with other oils. Yet synergistic(blending) services from knowledgeable retailers is a growing fashion.
Botanical oils are gifts of nature to be used with free will. It is up to usto use them with wisdom. Let your skin absorb the oil and never takeinternally. If not done correctly and safely, the use of essential oils canhave severe consequences.
Natural aromatherapy products and essential oils are traditionally sold athealth food establishments. But beauty salons and boutiques are picking upon the renewing trend too. If you can't convince your favorite shopkeepersto stock "scents with sense," find plenty on the Internet. Some simple dos and don'ts follow to assist newcomers.
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Written by: Delia Montgomery, Chic Eco
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