Aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine practice utilizing fragrant/aromatic essential oils that are derived from a wide variety of healing plants. When inhaled or applied to the skin, therapeutic-grade essential oils (also sometimes called volatile oils) have been shown to help people overcome various health problems without the need for medications.
Here are some facts about how essential oils work:
- Plants contain certain beneficial chemicals as a means of protecting themselves, including to ward off insects or rodents, and to defend themselves from bacteria or viruses.
- The active ingredients within the oils are taken directly from high yields of medicinal plants or herbs through a process known as distillation, and then mixed with alcohol to preserve their strength. The finished result is a very concentrated oily formula that can be mixed with other substances.
Because they’re very strong, essential oils used in aromatherapy practices are usually combined with a carrier oil, such almond, jojoba or coconut oil, before being applied directly to the skin.
- Herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano or peppermint
- Leaves from eucalyptus plants
- Grasses, such as lemongrass
- Fennel seeds
- Zest from fruits such as oranges, grapefruit or lemon
- Flowers, including rose or geranium
- Wood or bark from trees including cedar or pine
- Roots from ginger
- Resin from frankincense trees
Who Benefits from Aromatherapy?
What is aromatherapy used for? Aromatherapy has been studied in connection with improving both short-term health problems, along with more serious disorders. Research shows that anyone with the following health conditions can likely benefit from aromatherapy:
- Chronic stress or anxiety
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Respiratory infections
- Digestive upset
- Skin problems or disorders, including bites, rashes, bruising, cellulite or acne
- Blood sugar fluctuations
A growing pool of human studies has shown that aromatherapy oils can have sedative and stimulant effects, plus positive effects on the immune system and central nervous system. Recently, studies conducted using functional imaging scans have showed that fragrant aromatherapy oils have positive effects on the primitive region in the brain called the limbic system, which helps control both emotional responses and behaviors.
The key to achieving results from aromatherapy is to use pure, therapeutic-grade oils rather than those with synthetic ingredients or fragrances. The effectiveness of aromatherapy practices always depends on the quality of the oils used, plus the dosage.
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