- Thursday, 12 February 2009
The term “aromatherapy” was coined in the 1920’s by French chemist René Maurice Gattefosse, but the therapeutic use of aromatic plants for emotional and physical well-being dates back over 3,000 years. The ancient Chinese, Vedic cultures of India, and ancient Egyptians used fragrant botanical extracts for healing and religious ceremonies. The Greeks praised essential oils. Hippocrates recommended a daily aromatic bath and scented massage for health, happiness and longevity.
Aromatherapy is based on the notion that healing can be achieved through the inhalation of various scents from essential oils, concentrated aromatic oils derived from plants, flowers, and herbs. Naturally Savvy spoke with Nancy Davide, owner of Divine Scents Spa & Wellness Shop, about choosing aromatherapy products.
How is aromatherapy beneficial?
Aromatherapy can benefit a person both emotionally and physically in a variety of ways. Essential oils may enter the body by skin absorption and by inhalation through the olfactory system. Olfactory neurons compose the only sensory pathway that is in direct contact with the brain. Odor molecules bind to chemoreceptors in cilia, located inside the 100 million sensory receptor cells in our nasal passages. The binding signals the brain’s limbic system where the odor is recognized. The limbic system regulates mood, emotion, and stores memories (which explains why specific scents trigger memories).
Aromatherapy can help with many conditions. For stress, lavender, bergamot, chamomile, rose, or neroli are beneficial. To calm anxiety, combine 30 ml of almond oil with 4 drops each of bergamot, neroli, or cedarwood. To enhance sleep, valerian and lavender oils have a sedating effect. To stimulate the brain and improve concentration, inhale a mixture of 20 drops of lemon oil, 6 drops of basil oil, and 2 drops of rosemary in a diffuser.
Essential oils can be used on animals for injury, trauma and behavioral problems. Do your research thoroughly before applying essential oils to an animal. Animals are much more sensitive to essential oils than humans. Nancy cautions that essential oils containing phenols or benzyl alcohols should never be applied to cats. They lack enzymes to process these compounds and application can result in liver damage.
Choosing the right scent
To find an essential oil that is right for you, first decide the purpose you want your essential oil to serve (for example: to improve mood, concentration, relaxation, sleep, accelerated healing of a burn, etc.) Be proactive and do some research prior to selecting an oil. Speak to an aromatherapist or obtain a book on therapeutic aromatherapy. Finally, always pay attention to the cautions labeled on each oil.
Choosing the right quality product
Nancy suggests using natural essential oils as opposed to synthetic oils. Natural essential oils have unique blends of complex chemicals and can contain as many as 40 constituents. Synthetic oils lack these beneficial properties.
There is some concern about pesticide residues in essential oils, particularly those used therapeutically. For this reason, many practitioners of aromatherapy choose to buy organically produced oils.
Purchase pure, single essential oils as opposed to a blend. Avoid buying products that read "fragrance oil", "nature identical oil," "perfume oil," or “made with essential oils” as these are not pure essential oils and may be mixed with chemicals (which, of course, are inhaled as the oil is diffused).
Ensure the essential oil is in an amber, cobalt blue or dark brown glass bottle when purchased, and avoid purchasing oils with rubber droppers. Clear bottles do not protect the oil from light damage and essential oils can dissolve plastic, contaminating the product. Store your oils in a cool, dark place.
Can essential oils be applied directly to the skin?
Essential oils applied to the skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Each essential oil is different. Most are quite potent and must be diluted with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, or grapeseed oil before they are applied to the skin. Lavender essential oil can be applied directly to the skin and onto burns to help soothe and heal. Tea tree oil can be used as a spot treatment for blemishes. Caution: All citrus-based oils are photosensitive and may undergo chemical reactions when exposed to light. Avoid sunlight for 72 hrs after application.
What equipment or accessories are recommended?
An essential oil diffuser is a great household tool for dispersing essential oils. For a restful sleep use calming, relaxing essential oils in a diffuser in the bedroom. Uplifting and stimulating oils in a diffuser in the study or office will enhance concentration. A few drops of essential oils in the bath is another great way to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy. A footbath with 2 drops each of lavender and chamomile essential oils helps to soothe tired and swollen feet at the end of a hard day.
Why choose natural skin care products?
With a never ending list of products and ingredients to choose from, it is important to educate yourself as a consumer. Many synthetic ingredients can be irritating including coloring agents and synthetic fragrances. Alcohols should be avoided when buying skin care products because they are drying and irritating. Choose titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for sun protection. Avobenzone is a skin irritant. Though some natural products are great, just because it is natural does not automatically make it good for you. There are many great natural ingredients and there are also some that can be irritating. It is important to research products before you buy them.
Divine Scents Spa & Wellness Shop
151 Harbord St. Toronto, ON. M5S 1H1
Tel: 416.962.0000, Fax: 416.962.5777