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The History and Science behind Aromatherapy

Hi everyone and welcome back. Are you ready for the holidays? I can hardly believe how fast time flies; it seems as if it was just the end of summer yesterday…and now we are counting down to Christmas! I have a confession though – I’m one of those people who secretly listens to Christmas music starting in October, and I can’t wait for Thanksgiving to be over so I can decorate! I know, I know….but I love this time of year with the music, lights and all the sparkle.

Once again it’s raining here on the coast of Maine; it sure seems like we’ve had a really wet fall this year. Because I can’t work outside today, I decided it would be a good day to stay in and write a blog about the use of essential oils and the art of aromatherapy. So, grab a fresh cup of coffee and read on ahead.

No one knows for sure exactly how long essential oils have been in use but there are records dating back as far as 6,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Egyptians used cedarwood as a preservative on scrolls and in the mummification process. Back in the Dark Ages, essential oils were being experimented with as cures for various illnesses. In the 1700’s, Captain Cook made note in his logs about the native bush people in Australia using tea tree oil for many ailments. By the mid 1800’s, the use of essential oils as perfume became a symbol of affluence; the more you could slather on the more sophisticated you were. In 1928, the term aromatherapy was coined by French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse and has stuck ever since.

So, what exactly is aromatherapy? It happens in the limbic system of the brain which is responsible for emotions and memory. When we breath in scent molecules they attach to olfactory cilia in our nostrils. A message is sent to the hypothalamus via the olfactory bulbs and nerve endings behind our nose. Once the message is received, it sends info to the olfactory cortex which distinguishes the smell. From here a message is sent to other parts of the brain such as the pituitary gland that sends chemical messages to more parts of the body. What I write here is of course a very simplified account of the whole process, and yet it all happens within the blink of an eye; the human body is truly an amazing machine.

Different essential oils have either antibacterial, antifungal, or antiviral properties, but they also have properties that effect relaxation, pain, stress, energy and more. This is where aromatherapy comes in. For example I make a spray I call Sweet Dreams which is a blend of lavender, orange, rose, and ylang ylang; it is wonderful if you need help relaxing and going to sleep. The lavender is great for reducing cortisol levels, the rose helps reduce anxiety, while orange oil helps with insomnia, and the ylang ylang can reduce blood pressure. Now other oils have some of the same effects so you can come up with your own blend depending on scent preference. Below is a list of some of the more common essential oils and their properties.

Lavender - an anti-microbial, relaxing, anti-inflammatory, insect bites, sunburn.

Orange - depression, anxiety, helps induce appetite, energy.

Peppermint - skin irritations, sinusitis, indigestion.

Tea Tree - athlete's foot, warts, dandruff, thrush.

Geranium - anti-fungal, inflammation, hormone balancing.

Frankincense - inflammation, arthritis pain, sore muscles, insomnia.

Eucalyptus - antiviral, antibacterial, decongestant.

Rosemary - memory, headaches, muscle pain.

Essential oils can also be used to make your own cleaning products and used in diffusers to freshen the air. Do be careful however if you have indoor pets as some oils can be very toxic to animals. I encourage you to do a search and find out more info on this. I would also highly recommend signing up for a class on oils. You can find free one hour long classes all over the internet as well as some longer courses where you can become a certified aromatherapist. I took a two part course totaling 20 hours and became certified through Dr. Andrew Weil's Center for Integrative Medicine in Arizona. It was well worth the time and money.

As always if you have any topics of interest you'd like to read about send me a message as I am always looking for ideas for a new blog! Thanks for visiting and I hope you learned something new today.

Disclaimer: This blog if for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Be careful using essential oils around pets as some can be toxic to them. Essential Oils should never be ingested. They should also not be used directly on the skin without being blended with a carrier oil. Avoid eye contact. Keep away from children. If you are pregnant avoid use during your first trimester and only use with doctor approval the remainder. Do not use if nursing.


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