Aromatherapy has become something of a buzzword recently. Whilst the use of essential oils has been around for centuries, we're rediscovering the profound health benefits of essential oils due to the rise in holistic approaches to self-care and growing scientific validation.
What is aromatherapy?
Using essential oils, aromatherapy works through the sense of smell and skin absorption via diffusers, aromatic spritzers, inhalers and facial steamers. Products made with essential oils can also be purchased, including bath salts, body oils, creams, and lotions. With a few exceptions, essential oils should never be used neat and should be mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba oil before applying topically.
When inhaled, the scent in essential oils travels directly from the olfactory nerves to the brain and significantly impacts the amygdala, the brain's emotional centre.
Aromatherapy can help manage pain, improve sleep quality and reduce stress and anxiety. It has many other benefits and is said to help soothe sore joints, treat headaches and migraines, and improve digestion and boost immunity.
As awareness of the benefits of essential oils increases, aromatherapy is gaining more recognition in science and medicine. According to Expert Market Research, The global aromatherapy market size was estimated at USD 1.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to witness a CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) of 10.6% over the forecast period of 2021-2026.
What are essential oils?
In short, essential oils are basically plant extracts. They're made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves or fruit) to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. It can take several pounds of a plant to create a single bottle of essential oil.
Essential oils are not regulated and do not have to meet any purity standards. When buying essential oils, look for bottles that contain a single essential oil in its purest form (100% essential oil with no other fillers). Fragrance or perfume oils are made from essential oils combined with chemicals or entirely from chemicals, so they are not suitable for aromatherapy.
Health experts have warned about misleading products, including those using the label 'therapeutic grade'. There is no such thing as 'therapeutic grade' or 'certified pure' essential oils; this is simply a marketing tool that stems from the '90s.
Essential oils for beginners
If you're new to aromatherapy, you will be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed at the number of oils and combinations available. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to aromatherapy; for example, whilst lavender is widely known for its calming properties, if you can't stand the smell, then it's probably not for you.
Each essential oil has an array of unique healing properties, uses, and effects. Combining essential oils to create a synergistic blend creates even more benefits.
As you explore the uses of essential oils, pay attention to how the different oils and methods affect you. Always talk to your doctor before starting any aromatherapy treatment. Remember that aromatherapy should be a complementary therapy; it should not replace any doctor-approved treatment plan.
Popular uses for essential oils Sleep & Relaxation: Lavender, chamomile, rose Anxiety: Vetiver, neroli, geranium Energy: Eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary Mood Boost: Bergamot, jasmine, lemon Sore Muscles: Vetiver, peppermint, pine