The Power of Smell – How Aromatherapy works
Why aromatherapy is so effective
The heady aroma of an heirloom rose in full bloom; the comforting smell of freshly baked bread; the unforgettable odour of dog poo on your shoe…smell triggers powerful emotions, feelings and memories. As soon as a molecule of smell enters the nose, it triggers the olfactory nerve which travels straight to the limbic system. The limbic system, the most primitive part of the brain, is in charge of emotions and memory. This is what makes smell so powerful.
We don’t have time to analyse it. Other senses such as sight and sound are processed by the cognitive centres in the brain. Smell bypasses these and goes straight to the core of our being. Research has shown strong positive (and negative) emotions affect our immune and nervous systems, making aromatherapy, aroma medicine, a subtle yet effective way to heal.
- The use of essential oils, to relax and heal, goes back in time to ancient Greece and Rome.All those glistening well-oiled gladiators! While the term is essential oil, these oils are not oily like olive oil. They are concentrated extracts of herbs, barks, leaves and flowers, including rosemary, frankincense, sandalwood and rose. It takes hundreds of kilograms of rose petals to produce just a few millilitres of rose oil, incidentally the most costly of essential oils. Unless you have a chemistry kit left over from school, it’s easier to buy the essential oils.
- Essential oils not only heal through the effect of smell, they also contain natural chemicalsFor instance tea tree oil contains terpenes, which are antifungal and antiseptic for skin conditions like tinea. Lavender contains linalol, calming for the nerves.
- There are many ways to use Essential oils. To relax pour a few drops of lavender oil in a hot bath. If you have a cough or cold, add some eucalyptus, thyme or tea tree oil to a steam vaporizer placed beside your bed at night to ease breathing. Ylang ylang and patchouli in a base of macadamia or almond oil makes a libido enhancing massage blend. Rosemary and lemongrass in an essential oil burner will stop you going to sleep at the computer.
Top five scents to improve your health
The complete wholistic medicine, aromatherapy utilises the power of smell to help heal emotionally, physically and spiritually.
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita) One of the most uplifting fragrances, Peppermint instills confidence and helps to clarify thoughts and emotions. Physically, peppermint has the quirky talent of being both warming and cooling, which makes it the perfect digestive remedy, helping to quell nausea, indigestion and bloating. Drink peppermint tea. Also good for sinus congestion, asthma and bronchitis, add peppermint oil to a steam vaporizer.
- Rose (Rosa damascena) Think love. Think compassion. Rose is the most sensual, not sexual of the essential oils. Fabulously aromatic and fantastically expensive, only a couple of drops are needed to work its magic. Massage over the heart chakra with rose oil will help mend a broken heart and provide harmony and strength through tough times. Rose is used in cosmetic preparations to reduce redness and improve dry skin.
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Derived from the Latin word ‘lavare’ – to wash, lavender is commonly used in soaps, bath oils and detergents. A calming, soothing fragrance, lavender is the perfect stress buster. Studies have shown that the smell of lavender can even lower blood pressure. A drop of lavender oil massaged onto the temples and scalp can treat a headache. Lavender is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, perfect for insect bites and rashes.
- Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) The first-aid kit in a bottle, tea tree is an Australian Indigenous medicine. Studies have shown it to be amazingly effective against a host of infectious agents including fungi, bacteria and viruses. It is added to soaps, toothpastes, deodorants, disinfectants and even douches. Often used for athletes foot, jock itch and thrush. Tea tree oil is capable of increasing cell
growth in damaged tissue, so it is helpful in a diluted wash or cream to treat mild burns, wounds and even acne.
- Sandalwood (Santalum album) The oldest perfume of all, used for at least 4,000 years, Sandalwood is a deeply spiritual essence. Often incorporated into incense, sandalwood sets the scene for meditation and travelling deeper into self, helping one to attain inner calm. In addition to this aspect, Ayurvedic medicine uses sandalwood to help treat urinary tract infections (or UTIs), skin and respiratory tract infections and as an aphrodisiac.
For home use
Essential oils should not be taken internally, as they can be toxic.
- Massage oil – 10 drops essential oil to 100ml of base oil (eg almond oil, olive oil). Cream – 15 drops essential oil to 100g of
vitamin E base cream (from pharmacy)
- *Bath** – 10-15 drops essential oil to bathwater
- Steam vaporiser – 5-10 drops
- Essential oil burner – 5-10 drops in water
JUST A WORD OF CAUTION… Essential oils are very strong, and should be used sparingly…and you NEVER take them internally.