The health benefits of aromatherapy include its ability to relieve anxiety and depression, boost energy levels, speed up the healing process, cure headaches, boost cognition, induce sleep, strengthen the immune system, reduce pain, improve digestion, and increase circulation.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a fascinating alternative medicine that involves the use of volatile plant materials, also known as essential oils that can be aromatically inhaled by patients with a wide variety of health conditions. It is often used to improve mood, change cognitive states, and can also be utilized as a supplemental medicine.
Aromatherapy has been around in some form for thousands of years, but it wasn’t well-known until the 11th century when steam distillation first made it possible to properly extract essential oils from plant materials. Since then, cultures around the world have utilized aromatherapy for a wide range of functions. Perhaps the most common countries to find aromatherapy being practiced would be in India, France, England, and the United States, although it can be found in dozens of other countries as well.
There is more to it than simply using essential oils; aromatherapy can be quite complex, involving carrier oils, absolutes, herbal distillates, vaporizer oils, and phytoncides. These scientific elements would need an article on themselves to describe, so if you are getting involved in aromatherapy treatment, simply ask the administrator of the treatment for literature on various components and applications.
An important element of aromatherapy is synergy, which is the combination of numerous essential oils that can actually create a more powerful effect than the oils would have on their own. This is why blending essential oils is such an important area of study for alternative healers since the range of possibilities is almost endless. However, it is important to always do your consultation with trained aromatherapists, as some essential oils can trigger allergies, and can actually be toxic if mixed improperly. Furthermore, most aromatherapy treatments with essential oils are diluted in a carrier oil of some kind, to make the effects slightly less potent. If you use too strong of a concentration of essential oils in aromatherapy, it can result in a wide range of negative side effects.
While there is an infinite number of combinations that have been tested and used around the world, not all of them would be approved or recommended by normal doctors. However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t legitimate or effective. That being said, you should pay close attention to your body and its reaction whenever you use aromatherapy as a therapeutic solution for a medical condition.
Health Benefits of Aromatherapy
The most common health benefits of aromatherapy are explained in greater detail below.
Perhaps the most widespread and popular use of aromatherapy is for stress relief. The aromatic compounds from many different essential oils are known as relaxants and can help soothe your mind and eliminate anxiety. This is what most people who perform aromatherapy at home use it for since the mixtures are very simple and the research on this aspect of aromatherapy is very well-known and widely studied. Some of the best essential oils for stress relief are lemon oil, lavender, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver, and ylang-ylang essential oils. Certain studies have also shown that lemon oil can improve mood and reduce outbursts of anger.
Acts as Antidepressant
Second, to stress relief, aromatherapy is very commonly used to eliminate feelings of depression, and due to the very complicated side effects of pharmaceutical antidepressants, this is a very important function of aromatherapy. While this is useful as a complementary treatment, psychological help or counseling should be sought out if depression continues or worsens. In terms of the best essential oils to use for reducing depression, most specialists suggest peppermint, chamomile, lavender, and jasmine.
Managing Psychiatric Disorders
Studies have also shown the efficacy of aromatherapy in managing a range of psychiatric disorders. Certain essential oils like lavender oil can help ease anxiety and enhance your mood (Karadag E et al., 2017). Peppermint oil and frankincense oil are known to help manage chronic pain, certain cognitive disorders, insomnia, and even depression.
Increases Energy Levels
We can all use more energy to get through the hectic daily tasks of modern life. However, stimulants like coffee, cigarettes, energy pills, or even illegal substances can have very damaging effects on the body. While diet and exercise can also help, many people turn to aromatherapy to put a bit more pep in their step. Many essential oils are known to increase circulation, raise energy levels, and generally stimulate the body and mind, without the dangerous side effects of other stimulating substances. The best essential oils for giving yourself an energy boost include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, angelica, jasmine, tea tree, rosemary, and sage.
Speeds up Healing
As stimulants, many essential oils can help increase the rate of healing throughout the body. This can be due to increased oxygen and blood flow to wounds as well as more internal healing processes like those following surgeries or illness. The anti-microbial properties of certain essential oils also keep the body protected during these delicate healing stages of the body. Some of the most popular essential oils for speeding up the healing process of the body include lavender, calendula, rosehip, everlasting (helichrysum), and buckthorn essential oils. A number of these oils do more than just healing wounds; they can also reduce the severity and discomfort of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
Everyone gets headaches from time to time, and the bad ones can stop us dead in our tracks. Rather than relying on pharmaceuticals or dishing out a lot of money for an expensive massage, aromatherapy can be a wonderful solution that can not only cure your current headache, but can also possibly reduce the stress, anxiety, or medical origin of your headaches to prevent them in the future. Some of the best essential oils that have been connected to reducing headaches and migraines are peppermint, eucalyptus, sandalwood, and rosemary essential oils. You can also mix these oils in a carrier oil and spread that oil onto your skin, scalp, neck, and temples. Some of the best carrier oils for headaches include almond, avocado, coconut, apricot kernel, and sesame oils.
Not getting enough sleep can exacerbate or cause a huge range of medical conditions and can leave us feeling unproductive and devoid of energy. Luckily, aromatherapy comes through again and can provide us with a more balanced sleep schedule and can even realign our circadian rhythms so our body naturally gets tired at an appropriate time, sleeps restfully through the night, and is energized in the morning to face the day. The best essential oils for managing sleeping habits and having a healthy, sedative effect on the body include lavender, chamomile, jasmine, benzoin, neroli, rose, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, and ylang-ylang essential oils.
Strengthens Immune System
It is far better to prevent than treat, as most medical professionals say, and aromatherapy can give a serious boost to your immune system if used properly. The anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and antibacterial effects of various essential oils can protect you from any number of illnesses and infections that could damage your system. This area of aromatherapy is very popular and widely studied. The most effective essential oils that boost your immune system include oregano, frankincense, lemon, peppermint, cinnamon, and eucalyptus essential oils.
Analgesics can have a lot of different side effects on the body, even if they do relieve the pain. However, if aromatherapy can relieve dozens of different types of pain without any harm, then why not take advantage of it? Pain relief is one of the most useful applications of aromatherapy. The top essential oils, both for professional and personal use, include lavender, chamomile, clary sage, juniper, eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint essential oils.
Although this isn’t the most widely researched area of aromatherapy, digestive issues can certainly be treated with aromatherapy. It can ease constipation, indigestion, bloating, and can speed up metabolism so that the food is digested quicker. Citrus essential oils are normally the best for treating digestive conditions, including lemon and orange, but there have also been some studies that have cited ginger, dill, fennel, chamomile, clary sage, and lavender as being effective as well.
Whatever your condition, and whatever essential oils you choose to use, always consult your doctor before embarking on a new treatment plan. Also, be sure to only acquire essential oils from approved sources and don’t attempt to mix and use oils unless you have been trained as a professional aromatherapist. Happy inhaling!