Aromatherapy is a form of alternative treatment that involves natural oils extracted from aromatic plants, known as essential oils, which are inhaled/massaged for the physical as well as psychological health of an individual. Aromatherapy not only promotes one's health, but also lifts the mood.
Also known as essential oils therapy, aromatherapy uses the aromatic natural oils produced by plants to treat various health conditions. These essential oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves, stems, roots, rind or barks of different aromatic herbs. All essential oils are found in concentrated forms and, hence, they are diluted by adding other substances like suitable carrier oils, lotion or alcohol and applied to the skin, inhaled or sprayed in the air. Essential oils can be used in the form of massage oils or added to bath water. They have beneficial properties for skin (for example calendula oil, basil oil) and hair (oregano oil, ylang ylang oil, lemongrass oil). The aromatherapy we use today has its origin in Europe, where people have been practicing this alternative mode of treatment as early as the beginning of the 20th century.
People who practice aromatherapy are of the view that the aroma of the essential oils works to invigorate the nerves inside the nose. As a result, these nerves transmit impulses to that segment of our brain which regulates our memory and emotions. The results of using essential oils may either be soothing or stimulating, subject to the type of oil that is being used.
It is believed that essential oils interact with the enzymes and hormones produced by our body, thereby changing the pulse, blood pressure and other bodily functions. According to another theory, the aroma of particular essential oils encourages our body to produce and release substances that neutralize pain.
Unlike other herbal products, the essential oils employed in aromatherapy have dissimilar compositions. This is mainly owing to the fact that the distillation employed in aromatherapy helps to improve the lighter phyto-molecules.
When we mention the term aromatherapy, we actually denote a wide range of conventional therapies using essential oils. Therefore, essential oils may comprise massage oils or any other unadulterated essential oil that is used for topical applications. Generally, essential oils are either inhaled or absorbed by the body through the skin.
Topical application of essential oils to the skin helps the blood stream to absorb them. Essential oils contain several valuable compounds that are beneficial for the health of our body and mind, hygiene conditions and even beauty. Essential oils are very potent and concentrated and, hence, you should never use them in their undiluted form. Application of concentrated essential oils to the skin may prove to be detrimental. Always ensure that you dilute essential oils by adding suitable carrier oils like any good cold pressed vegetable oil before applying them to your skin. There are many carrier oils and some of the common ones include apricot kernel oil, sweet almond oil and grape seed oil.
There are infinite essential oils, and some of the oils that are used most widely for aromatherapy are mentioned below along with their therapeutic properties.