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What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is just as it sounds, the use of fragrant essential oils to improve stress relief and well-being.
The History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is believed to have originated thousands of years ago. Little is known about the very beginnings of aromatherapy, but if one thing is for sure, it’s become a staple practice for many in today’s culture. According to Kathy Keville at How Stuff Works, aromatherapy began with the burning of the surroundings, nature - woods, leaves, needles and gums. Neolithic tribes would also burn animal fat that, when combined to burn with flowers and other plants, were believed to enhance healing powers compared to burned animal fat alone. Not only did the scented animal fats give off a scent, but it’s reported they also served as protection against insects, relaxed muscles, and boosted one’s energy and mood.
Aromatic waters serve as the origin of perfume. Aromatic water is a simple blend of water, alcohol, and essential oils that were used on the skin and hair. These aromatic waters, incense, and a variety of oils evolved to embody the components of aromatherapy we know today. A blend of oils and scents to relieve emotional and physical burdens.
Aromatherapy has been practiced across cultures far and wide, from ancient Egyptians, to Greeks, to Romans, and beyond. Egyptians would burn aromatic woods and spices during prayer, as well as use aromatics such as frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, juniper berry, and more during the preservation process of royal bodies. The Greek physician, Hippocrates, would use herbs such as fennel, parsley, and valerian for internal use, or other infusions used for baths and massages.
How does aromatherapy work?
According to Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic, aromatherapy works by stimulating small receptors found in the nose that then translate messages through the nervous system to the limbic system, the part of the brain in charge of emotions. This would explain why essential oils and aromatherapy are often used to relieve stress and symptoms of depression.
Aromatherapy works through the direct application of essential oils to the skin or inhaled through the nose, such as:
- Linen sprays
- Bath salts
- Body oils, creams, and lotions
- Facial steamers
- Face and body masks
Partake in any one or more of the practices listed above to find which provides you with optimal relief.
What are the benefits of aromatherapy?
- Improve sleep quality
- Pain management and relief
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Fight symptoms of depression
- Act as an antibacterial agent
- Improve immunity and digestion
- Headache relief
- Soothe joint pain
- Treat skin conditions such as bug bites, acne, and cellulite
What essential oil is best for you?
There are a variety of essential oils to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know which one is perfect for you. Here are some of the most popular essential oils and their unique functions:
1. Chamomile - use to reduce pain and inflammation + improve mood
2. Tea Tree - use on the skin for acne treatment + as an antimicrobial agent
3. Lavender - use to resolve anxiety and insomnia
4. Eucalyptus - use to relieve a cough and clear your chest
5. Peppermint - use as a supplement for digestive problems + to relieve common colds, headaches, muscle aches, and skin irritation
6. Orange - use to reduce blemish spots + relieve anxiety and depression
7. Clary Sage - use for anti-inflammatory purposes + to help lower blood pressure
8. Rosemary - use to boost mental activity and relieve nervous tension
9. Ginger - use to reduce nausea and vomiting + relieve migraines
10. Cedarwood - use to remedy arthritis and nerve inflammation + treat minor wounds
11. Frankincense - use to treat razor burn + rejuvenate and hydrate skin
12. Lemon - use to boost the immune system + treating skin blemishes and various conditions
13. Patchouli - use for help sleeping + as a natural insect repellent
14. Rose - use for acne treatment + relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression