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Aromatherapy Basics for Healthy Living

Learn about the scientifically backed health benefits possible through the ancient art aromatherapy.

| January/February 2016

  • Trio of Herbal Oils
    Essential oils and aromatherapy are one way to stimulate parts of the brain that can help you relax, focus or improve your mood.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Bundle of Jasmine Flowers
    Aromatic jasmine flowers are a stimulating scent to use in aromatherapy.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Lavender Flowers
    Lavender has proven to be a calming scent, along with chamomile, lemon balm and neroli.
    Photo by Fotolia

  • Trio of Herbal Oils
  • Bundle of Jasmine Flowers
  • Lavender Flowers

Smell is our most primitive sense, directly affecting the limbic system, the section of our brains involved with sex, motivation and emotion. According to proponents of aromatherapy, we can harness this connection by using scents we find calming, pleasing or uplifting. Yet mainstream physicians in North America debate the health benefits touted in the field of aromatherapy, largely citing a lack of rigorous, scientific study for the claims of aromatherapy, which are drawn mainly from anecdotal case studies and folklore.

However, good research on aromatherapy has been published, primarily in Germany and Japan. It probes the effects, on both mind and body, of inhaling essential oils or applying diluted forms of them to the skin. The research shows that, indeed, there is something to the practice of healing through aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy Recipes

Homemade Arthritis Rub Recipe
Cold Symptom Relief Massage Oil Recipe
Relaxing Honey Bath Recipe

The Science of Scent

Before describing some of the most intriguing studies (all of which involve human use of various aromatherapies, unless otherwise noted), a word of caution is in order: Plants vary. People vary. And any living organism will react according to both genetics and environmental factors. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that some people have strong reactions to some essential oils, while others have no reaction at all, and that sensitivities can vary over time. Also, just because an oil is natural doesn’t guarantee that it’s safe—imagine the consequences of giving a massage using “all-natural” poison ivy! Here’s a summary of some of the studies that have been conducted on aromatherapy’s benefits.

Researchers at the Toho University School of Medicine in Tokyo measured the shift of brain waves when inhaling jasmine oil, and found it produces a stimulating effect similar to that of coffee.

Based on computer measurements of subtle and rapid reactions, researchers at the University of Innsbruck in Austria concluded that inhaled lavender oil sedates the central nervous system.

2/12/2018 2:51:19 PM

Do you have any commentary on the widespread use of "ingestable" oils and their marketing by brands dottera and young living?

2/6/2018 3:15:56 PM

Please be sure to warn your readers about the dangers of using eucalyptus and some others in the vicinity of pets - especially cats. Someone I know recently nearly killed her elderly cat that always slept with her by using eucalyptus oil in an oil burner next to her bed. The fumes from this oil are deadly to some animals. Please research which oils are safe in your pets area.

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