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Restorative Perfumes: Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Using restorative perfumes such as aromatherapy essential oils can help with depression and emotional, mental and muscular tension and stress.

| December 1991/January 1992

  • Using aromatherapy essential oils can improve your feeling of well-being.
    Using aromatherapy essential oils can improve your feeling of well-being.
    Photo By Fotolia/Botamochy

  • Using aromatherapy essential oils can improve your feeling of well-being.

Learn how using aromatherapy essential oils can help improve your stress level and overall mood.

Emotional, mental and muscular tension and stress, along with a few forms of depression, are perhaps the most prevalent problems we face today. These tend to be self-perpetuating problems that build upon themselves, often producing chronic and seemingly unrelated symptoms or diseases. Most people have within them the power to break such cycles, but they may need a push to get them started. Many psychological and psychiatric therapies are offered for this purpose, and lifestyle changes often are called for, but a growing number of people are turning to herbal essential oils and aromatherapy to provide a catalyst for change in their lives.

Throughout recorded history, the ability of fragrance to induce responses and enhance moods has been a powerful theme in virtually every culture. As modern science has trained its analytical eye on herbal subjects, many old practices have been judged ineffective and misguided, but the therapeutic uses of fragrance have borne up well under such scrutiny.

Aromatherapy Essential Oils

Except for a few aromatic oils ­secreted by animals such as the musk deer, sperm whale, and beaver, natural aromatic substances come from plants. Essential oils are found in every family of the botanical world, but most of the aromatic essential oils used in commerce are extracted from about 100 plant species. The amount of essential oil in the tissues of some plants is minute—it takes about a ton of rose petals to produce just a pound of rose oil—but oil can be extracted from many plants in significant quantities, either by pressing of the fruit peels (as with citrus fruits), by solvent extraction, or, most commonly, by steam distillation.

Essential oils, like other oils, will not mix with water. However, unlike fatty or aliphatic oils, essential oils will not leave a grease stain on paper or fabric; they evaporate completely because they are volatile at room temperature. (“Volatile” comes from the Latin word for “flying”.) You can take advantage of this volatility to fill a room with your favorite herbal scent: simply leave an open vial of the essential oil on a table, and the molecules of the oil will slowly “fly off” as a gas.

Suspended molecules of aromatic essential oil are perceived as fragrance or flavor, which are really different aspects of the same sensory experience. Fragrance is the nasal or olfactory ­aspect; if the experience also involves taste (the bitter, sour, sweet, and/or salty messages that come from the tongue), then fragrance is transformed into flavor.

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