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Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. The roots of aromatherapy are believed to go back in time to the clinical practices of Hippocrates and others.
The inhaled aroma from these “essential” oils is widely believed to stimulate the functioning of the brain, among other things. Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream and can promote healing, depending on the aroma being used.
Even though this is regarded as an “alternative” medicine, aromatherapy is gaining acceptance among the public and in the healing community. Aromatherapy is used for a variety of applications, including pain relief, increased cognitive function, and even mood enhancement.
There are many essential oils available, each with their own healing properties, depending upon the exact herbs and plants from which they were made.
According to Dr. Brent A. Bauer, who is board certified in internal medicine, and a director at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the therapeutic use of essential oils extracted from plants — is limited.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that aromatherapy may have certain health benefits, including the following:
- Relief from anxiety and depression.
- Improved sleep.
- A general improvement in the quality of life, especially for those with chronic health conditions.
Studies which focused on the use of aromatherapy with lavender oil found that the following results can occur:
- Where osteoarthritis of the knee is involved, there was a reduction in pain.
- Reduction of pain for people with kidney stones.
- Where dementia was involved, there was a general improvement in the quality of life.
Aromatherapy is believed to work by the stimulation of the smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions and certain autonomic functions.
Many essential oils have been shown to be safe when used as directed by the manufacturer. But the Food and Drug Administration has no regulations regarding the essential oils used in aromatherapy.
It should be noted that when certain oils are applied to the skin, various side effects may result, such as allergic reactions, skin irritations, and sun sensitivity.
According to Dr. Brent A. Bauer, it is not known how various essential oils might affect women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, as well as how the oils might interact with medications and other treatments. He suggests that further research is still needed.
It’s always best to consult with a doctor or a trained aromatherapist if you’re considering aromatherapy so you can be fully apprised of the possible risks and benefits.
The essential oils that are used in aromatherapy are extracted from various parts of plants and then distilled. This highly concentrated oil may then be inhaled directly or indirectly, or it can be applied to the skin through massage, lotions, or bath salts.
There are some essential oil manufacturers whose oils can be taken internally, though the research on the efficacy and the safety internal use of these oils is extremely limited.