Aromatherapy is the science and art of using aromatic plant extracts for healing and cosmetic purposes. These extracts, known as essential oil, are highly concentrated and are used therapeutically, either singly or blended, to improve our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Essential oils that calm the mind or lift our mood have been used for thousands of years with holistic therapies, yoga and meditation.
What are essential oils?
There are over a hundred essential oils and each one has a unique chemistry, resulting in their anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, decongesting, antifungal, cleansing, antiseptic, antibacterial and mood lifting properties. The sources of essential oils differ from plant to plant. Extracted in different processes these oils may come from peel or pith, resin, seeds, leaves, roots, bark and flowers.
Aromatherapy works mainly through our sense of smell. These essential oil molecules travel to the top of the nose where they come into contact with olfactory nerve cells which have tiny hairs that can recognize a specific aroma. Scientists think that the activity of the nerve signal passing through this area alters our brain chemistry creating a change in our mood.
Our sense of smell is the oldest of all our senses and it is linked to some of the most ancient and deepest parts of the brain. As we breathe in, the aromas of essential oils trigger our brains to produce both emotional and physical responses.
In addition, as we inhale these essential oils they enter our respiratory system and become absorbed by our bodies. Those oils with anti-bacterial, antiseptic and antiviral properties, rosemary, eucalyptus, sage, tea tree for example, help the sinuses, throat and chest and relieve symptoms of infections and allergies.
Most essential oils have medicinal properties, which can alleviate pain, relax muscles, heal wounds, aid digestion and fight colds and flu. Use rosemary in a diffuser to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and inhale calming rose oil to lower adrenaline levels. Clary sage, fennel, basil and geranium have a hormone balancing effect too. Lavender, geranium and citrus oils especially useful for “women’s complaints” as they offer all round benefits, that’s not to say men can’t use them too.
Once an essential oil enters the bloodstream it is carried to all areas of the body. The majority of essential oils leave the body within hours, mainly through excretion via the kidneys, although their effects can last much longer within the tissues.
Dependant on their properties essential oils can either relax or stimulate us.
Oils are classified into three categories or notes – top, middle and base, and each category has a different effect on the body and brain. Some notes work on well-being and mood, concentration and focus, while others address relaxation, balance and energy.
Top notes are stimulating mood up-lifters; these are usually light and airy and disappear quickly into the air. They don’t linger and typically last one to two hours. Top notes include, eucalyptus, citrus oil and mint oils.
Middle notes form the majority of all essential oils and have a good balancing effect. They are normally warm fragrances, that last anywhere from two to five hours and add body to a blend of oils. Black pepper, geranium, palmarosa, lavender, pine and rosemary are all middle note essential oils.
Base note oils are heavy and often more expensive than other oils. They are inclined to remain around for a longer time, lasting from one to five days or more. Base note oils are found in cedarwood, frankincense, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver and ylang ylang.
Using essential oils
As essentials oils are highly concentrated and volatile they need to be diluted before use. Dilution prolongs the beneficial effects of the oil as it prevents it from evaporating too fast allowing it more time to be absorbed. It is recommended that undiluted essential oils are not used directly on the skin to prevent irritation and toxicity. Some of the best ways of enjoying essential oils include:
These are devices that distribute the aroma of essential oils around a room, filling it with fragrance. There are some beautiful diffusers around that are specifically designed to disperse a fine mist of essential oils mixed with water, and are a great addition to any home.
An aromatherapy massage is a great way to utilise the benefits of the oils. Using a lotion or oil that usually contains a blend of essential oils; an aromatherapy massage brings relaxation while allowing you to inhale these wonderful aromas as you absorb them into your skin.
Many deodorant, bath and shower as well as hair products contain essential oils. Read the label and chose a product that contains pure essential oil. Alternatively add a few drops of concentrated essential oil to your usual, unscented bath, shower and hair products or directly into your bath.
Adding a few drops of lemon oil makes a great addition to your cleaning solution or hot water for an anti-bacterial and cleansing effect.
Put a few drops of your favourite oil on a tissue or on your car air freshener and inhale for immediate benefits.
Aromatherapy and the chakras
Essential oils have been used for centuries to clear negative energy blockages in the chakras. Specific oils have become associated with the balance of each chakra.
- The crown chakra (Sahaswara)at the top of the head governs the pineal gland and the “inner wisdom” or “higher self”. Frankincense, rose, jasmine and lavender correspond with this chakra.
- The brow or third eye chakra (Ajna) is located in between the brows connects to the pituitary gland and rules “intuition, memory and mind”. Myrrh, sandalwood and jasmine can be used to treat any blockages here.
- The throat chakra (Vishudda) connects to the thyroid gland and relates to “how we communicate”. Use lavender, chamomile, clary sage, peppermint and geranium to treat problems arising from this chakra.
- The heart chakra (Anahata) affects “love, well-being and compassion”, use rose, bergamot, chamomile, neroli, sandalwood and palmarosa.
- The solar plexus chakra (Manipura)in the upper abdomen connected to the adrenals and pancreas and is connected to “anxiety, our inner critic and self-esteem. Use ginger, coriander, lavender, marjoram and orange.
- The sacral chakra (Svadhishana) located in the lower abdomen, is linked to the reproductive system and our sexual presence” needs sandalwood, ylang ylang, rose, orange and geranium.
- The base chakra (Muladhara) is found at the base of the spine and connects us to our ability to feel grounded and safe. Use myrrh, cedarwood, patchouli and vetiver.
Put some of your favourite oil in a diffuser and enjoy the Chakra Meditation at www.gaildonnan.com
Balancing and raising your vibrations
In 1992 Bruce Tainio of Tainio Technology discovered that the average frequency of the human body resonates frequency between 62-72 MHz when healthy. As the frequency drops our immune system is compromised illness and disease are more likely to develop. The frequency of the human body can be measured by a specialised tool called a biofeedback machine which usually operates by detecting skin temperature, muscle tension and brain wave activity.
Diffusing aromatherapy oils with a high vibrational level can keep our health in optimum condition. Such oils are, rose (320MHz), helichrysum (180MHz), frankincense (147MHz), lavender (118MHz), chamomile (105MHz), juniper (98MHz), sandalwood (98MHz) and peppermint (78MHz).
Adapted from my first book, The Gateway – A journey to re-claim your power from stress and anxiety.