When many people first learn about aromatherapy, it can be easy for them to disregard it as a hippy trend with no real grounding in reality. Can you really experience physical and emotional healing just through smelling flowery oils? It does sound far out. However, the truth is that yes, anyone can experience the numerous benefits of aromatherapy and there is actual scientific data to back these claims up. Since more and more people are asking these questions and beginning to explore the wonderful world of aromatherapy and essential oils, we decided to put together an intro guide to explain what aromatherapy is, what the benefits are, and how to practice it safely.
You followed your nose and it led you here.
Essential oils are gaining in popularity around the world. You can tell that they are becoming household items because they are popping up in nearly every grocery store, being used in a wide variety of products, and being spoken about on social media.
People are first drawn to essential oils because, simply put, they smell nice. They can make your home and car smell nice too. People enjoy things that smell nice.
But, why do we enjoy nice smelling things so much?
Our sense of smell is probably the most underrated of the five senses, yet possibly the most powerful.
Studies have shown that smell triggers 75% of our emotions and is linked to pleasure, feelings of well-being, memory, and our emotional health. Have you ever caught a whiff of a scent that catapulted you to a long lost childhood memory? Chances are, it’s happened to you at some point in time. For example, a recent survey showed that 85% of adults recalled memories from their childhood after smelling the scent of Crayola crayons.
Sometimes called essential oil therapy, aromatherapy is a holistic healing method that uses natural plant extracts to promote physical and emotional health and well-being. While it is only recently getting more recognition in the scientific and medical fields, it is a practice that dates back thousands of years in ancient cultures such as Egypt, India, and China.
Aromatherapy can work through either skin absorption or – more commonly known – sense of smell. You can use different aromatherapy products to get your desired effect. These include diffusers, room sprays, inhalers, bath oils, face steamers, body oils/lotions, clay masks, etc.
The science of aromatherapy
According to the Mayo Clinic, aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating cell receptors in the nose, also called the olfactory bulb, which then sends messages through the nervous system directly to the limbic system.
The limbic system is a set of structures in the brain, including the amygdala, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that deals with emotions, learning, and memory, hence the reason why we remember our childhood when we smell Crayola crayons. The limbic system also regulates autonomic or endocrine function in response to emotional stimuli. It is also involved in reinforcing behavior.
Benefits of aromatherapy
Now to the fun part. We’ve covered what aromatherapy is defined as and the science of how it works. But, why use it? What are the benefits of aromatherapy that many people have claimed?
There is a wide array of benefits of aromatherapy, unsurprisingly. These include:
- Better sleep/decreased insomnia
- Stress and anxiety reduction
- Pain management
- Headache or migraine treatment
- Fights bacteria, fungus, or virus
- Boosts immunity
- Boosts energy
- Decreases symptoms of OCD
- Soothes sore joints
- Creates a peaceful/calm living space
- Fights signs of aging
- Clear acne prone skin
- Balance skin oil production
- Treat symptoms of arthritis
- Hair growth/repair
- Alleviate side effects of chemotherapy
- Helps treat addiction
- Eases discomfort of labor
- Decreases inflammation
Plus many more…
If you would like to get started with incorporating aromatherapy into your life, but don’t know where to begin, it’s best to start with what benefits you would like to receive. Then, find the essential oils that can give you what you are looking for.
Blends are an amazing option for beginners and make the most economical sense. They contain multiple essential oils wrapped up in one bottle that work synergistically together towards a certain goal. It is a great way to try out different essential oils at the same time without having to buy each one separately.
If you would like some help when it comes to what essential oils to use, how to find good quality oils, and what oils are most popular, check out our essential oil guide for beginners.