What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a form of integrated or alternative medicine that uses an aromatic compounds to alter the mind and mood, and improve the cognitive function and health of its user. Aromatherapy works both psychologically and physiologically to reduce stress, provide headache relief, improve sleep, boost mood, regulate hormones, relax muscles, improve the immune system, improve blood circulation, and heal skin diseases. Aromatherapy has been used for at least nineteen hundred years by countless cultures.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
Scientific research at leading universities in Japan and the United States has shown that aromatherapy has therapeutic benefits. Aromatherapy in itself does not cure any condition, but it does help the body to restore balance and cure itself by reducing stress and improving immune response. There are two ways in which aromatherapy works. The aroma influences your brain and limbic system when you inhale. The other is by working synergistically with your body to overcome stress, allowing your body to naturally heal itself.
When you sleep better, everything in your life seems better. The everyday stresses of life are manageable when you get enough sleep, and your body is able to heal itself and your entire body functions better. Aromatherapy is an effective part of a comprehensive plan to improve your sleep quality.
Aromatherapy materials, like any bioactive substance, should not be used by pregnant and lactating women. There is a chance that the oils can interact with medications or can cause allergic reactions. It is best to try a dab on your skin to test for allergies. Very few essential oils can be swallowed, so do so only under the advice of a competent aromatherapist or naturopathic physician. Keep these substances out of the reach of children.
Can Aromatherapy Help You Fall Asleep?
Aromatherapy has long been used to induce sleep and to increase the quality of sleep. It is much safer than prescription medications, and rarely has side effects. It may take some experimentation to see what works for you, since some aromas are calming for one person but relaxing for another person, and odors that you do not like will generally not bring about good results, or may take time to bring about the desired results.
Aromatherapy Oils for Sleep and Stress Relief
Aromatherapists are trained to know the effects of all the essential oils, and the following ingredients have long been used to bring about calmness, overcome stress, soothe nerves, bring about relaxation, prevent insomnia, and ease migraines. Look for professional blends with one or several of these ingredients:
Aromatherapy for Insomnia
- bassilicum (Ociumum bassilicum),
- bergamot (Citrus aurant bergamia),
- citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus),
- coriander (Coriandrum sativum),
- cumin (Cuminum cyminum L),
- lavender, (Lavendula angustifolia), (there are many varieties of lavender oil, all with different aromas and the same name. Lavender essential oil can be used directly on skin for burns.)
- mandarin (Citrus reticulata), especially good for children
- marjoram (Oreganum majorana),
- melissa (Melissa officinalis),
- petitgrain or bitter orange (Petitgrain bigarde, or Citrus x aurantium leaves),
- ravensara (Ravensara aromatica),
- rose geranium (Pelargonium capitatum x radens),
- spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi), and
- valerian root (Valeriana fauriei),
Aromatherapy for Stress
- balsam (Myroxylon pereira),
- blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum),
- cistus or rock rose (Cistus landaniferus),
- juniper (Juniperus communis),
- orange (Citrus sinensis),
- peppermint (Mentha piperita),
- Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis),
- rose geranium (Pelargonium odorantissium),
- clary sage (Salvia sclarea), and
- sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)
Aromatherapy for Calming Emotions
- coriander (Coriandrum sativum),
- cypress (Cupressus sempervirens),
- German chamomile (blue chamomile) (Metricaria recutica),
- jasmine (Jasmine grandiflorum),
- Roman chamomile,
- May Chang,
- peppermint (Pelargonium tomentosum),
- rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia),
- rose (Morrocan, Otto or Bulgarian) (Rosa damascena),
- clary sage,
- Saint John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum),
- sandalwood (Osyris lanceolata),
- valerian, and
- ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata)
Aromatherapy for Nerves
- geranium (Pelargonium graveolens),
- jasmine (for nervous fatigue),
- juniper (for nervous strain),
- May Chang (Litsea cubeba),
- patchouli (Pogostemon cablin),
- petitgrain oil (for nervous exhaustion),
- penny royal (Mentha pulegium), and
- ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) aka “poor man’s jasmine”
Aromatherapy for Exhaustion
- neroli (Citrus aurantium blossoms),
Aromatherapy for Relaxation
- angelica (Angelica archangelica roots),
- Canada balsam,
- penny royal (Mentha pulegium),
- Roman chamomile,
- vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), and
- vetiver root (Vetiveria zizanoides)
Aromatherapy for Migraines
- melissa, and
- mentha or peppermint
Different Types of Aromatherapy Products
Aromatherapy materials may include absolutes which use ethanol to extract oil, essential oils which are extracted with steam distillation or solvents, herbal distillates (hydrosols) which are liquid byproducts of distillation, infusions which are liquid extracts, or vaporized raw herbs which are crushed and used in vaporizers.
Aromatherapy Sleep Mask
An aromatherapy sleep mask can be used hot or cold to help alleviate headaches, migraines, sinusitis, and stress. They are excellent for air travel to help you sleep on the plane or to take a nap when it is still light outside.
Essential oils should, almost without exception, be diluted with a carrier oil before applying to your skin or adding to a mask or diffuser. Good carrier oils will have almost no scent and include grapeseed oil and jojoba oil. You can mix your own, or choose from professionally created mixtures. Professionally created mixtures can be the best and most economical choice since most aromatherapy blends have at least 6 to 10 ingredients, so making your own could become a large investment. If you have little experience with essential oils, it would be beneficial to try a few professional aromatherapy oil blends to get an idea of what you really like and respond to before venturing into mixing your own. Just like with baking, sometimes an aroma that you do not prefer by itself blends wonderfully with other ingredients.
Inexpensive brands use inferior ingredients and synthetic ingredients that do not perform well in aromatherapy blends, and have no proven benefits. Essential oils should always list the scientific, Latin botanical name on the bottle and be 100% pure botanical ingredients or 100% essential oils. For example: Pelargonium odorantissium. The ingredient “parfum” is not natural nor an essential oil and should not be heated or used in a diffuser.
Organically grown oils that are certified by the USDA or the appropriate governing authority are not only easier on the environment, but provide more benefits because they have been grown with a full range of nutrients, not just the typical nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium applied to conventional crops. Unless the label bears the green USDA symbol, any statement of “organic” is not authentic.
The Food Chemical Codex, or FCC, is the regulatory agency for essential oils. Its regulations do not guarantee that even the label “food grade” is made of natural products. To be suitable for aromatherapy benefits, depending on the country, oils are to be labeled “therapeutic grade.”
Aromatherapy Pillow Mist
Just before you go to bed, spray your pillow with a few pumps of pillow mist on your pillow, bedding, and pajamas. Choose a single ingredient or a mixture which is relaxing and sleep inducing for you. You will be surrounded with calming and soothing aromas all night and awake more refreshed.
The popularity of natural fragrances has prompted manufacturers to develop many ways to diffuse aromas into all the spaces of our lives, including our home, car and work.
There are many battery operated or electric models, and these can effectively diffuse aromas into an entire room. Simply put a few drops of aromatherapy oil on a pad, and the heat diffuses the aromas into the air. When the pads becomes darkened or you want to change aromas, replace the pad.
For small areas such as a desktop or nightstand, an efficient way to disperse calming aromas without the need for batteries, fire, or electricity is a reed diffuser. You simply fill up the bottle with diluted essential oils, insert the cap, and insert the reeds. Once a week, flip the reeds so that the opposite end is up.
To keep you in a good mood while driving, try a diffuser that plugs into your cigarette lighter. Choose a calming or invigorating essential oil or blend, not one that puts you to sleep.
Typical candles contain lead wicks and petroleum products. Opting for natural candles from beeswax or soy is a healthier alternative. Aromatherapy candles are most effectively used to warm an essential oil that is in a dish above the candle, since it takes large amounts of essential oils to scent the wax.
Price Range of Aromatherapy Products
Aromatherapy products, like most any product, follows the old adage of, “You get what you pay for.” Big box stores, department stores, and grocery stores in general sell only inferior products. When you are shopping, and you see a shelf with every bottle of essential oil at the same price, it is a good indication that they are all of poor quality.
The use of only common names on bottles should be an indication that the oils are of poor quality, since common names typically apply to several plants, each of which has varying properties and uses. High quality essential oils are taken from different plants and different parts of the plant, different countries, and have different extraction methods, and all of these should be listed on the bottle or accompanying literature. Aromatherapy oils have widely varying prices, and they should. For example, a bottle of quality lavender oil that is extracted from an entire plant does not cost nearly as much to produce as a bottle of rose petal essential oil, which takes several pounds of fresh blossoms.