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As COVID-19 continues to be a global health threat, finding ways to cope with the collective stress and anxiety becomes even more critical. Not only is it vital to stay physically healthy; taking care of our mental health is just as crucial especially since we now recognize that stress and mental fatigue can affect our sleep quality and overall health.
One of the healthy, sustainable ways to relieve symptoms related to stress is aromatherapy. Read this quick guide to get acquainted with this thousand-year-old practice.
Aromatherapy is the art and science of using essential oils for therapeutic benefit. Also referred to as essential oil therapy, this complementary treatment relies on organic compounds from various parts of plants such as the bark, leaves, roots, seeds, peels, and blossoms.
Unique aromatic compounds give plants their scents or flavors, or “essence”. When extracted from plants, these compounds become essential oils. These are obtained through distillation or mechanical methods like cold pressing.
The practice of collecting essential oils from plants has been around for thousands of years. Aromatic plant extracts have been used for medical and religious purposes in ancient China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Egypt from as early as 3500 B.C. But the study of essential oils began in 1830 in Grasse, France, a city of perfume makers. Soon, scientists took interest in the potential of essential oils in treating medical conditions.
In 1910, René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, discovered the therapeutic properties of pure lavender oil after he used it for treating his burns. He coined the term “aromatherapy” in a book he wrote in 1937.
Our sense of smell is powerful. Exposure to different scents activates our smell receptors, which process the scents and send that information to our brain. These scent signals may trigger our limbic system, which processes our emotional memory and emotional response. It may also activate our thalamus, which is responsible for our cognitive processing and decision-making.
Depending on the type of scent molecules we inhale, different hormones may be released and different physiological effects may happen. For example, lavender oil can help relieve stress and promote good sleep. Lemon oil can help boost your mood, while eucalyptus can help relieve your airways.
Some experts believe that when you put essential oils (diluted in a carrier oil or mixed in topical products) on your skin, some plant chemicals are absorbed and may stimulate positive therapeutic effects.
What are the benefits of aromatherapy?
There are no studies that advise replacing regular medical treatment with aromatherapy. However, various research has shown that essential oils are great as a complementary therapy, providing support to conventional treatment.
It’s said to help with the following:
Aromatherapy works through our sense of smell or skin absorption. Popular essential oils used in aromatherapy include lavender oil, tea tree oil, peppermint, lemon, citronella, basil, chamomile, jasmine, rosemary, thyme, sandalwood, orange, and rose.
You can use essential oils in several ways and through various products such as:
Essential oils are considered safe to inhale and apply to the skin if combined with a carrier oil. But ingesting or swallowing is not recommended.
If you’re looking for natural ways to alleviate some conditions, aromatherapy is worth considering. It can certainly help in coping up with stress brought about by challenging times. Just keep in mind that aromatherapy is meant to be a complementary therapy, not replace any doctor-approved treatment plan.