Aromatherapy is a holistic application using plant medicines to assist in healing and aligning the mind, body and spirit. Aromatherapy techniques and uses date back almost 5,000 years ago. A technique that has been around for such a long time is bound to have some benefits…right? Let’s dive deeper.
Aromatherapy is an art and science. This particular therapy uses plant essences, called essential oils, to gently bring about change in body, mind and spirit. It can assist in reducing stress, bring relief to muscular aches and pains, help with skin care and skin related problems, boost the immune system, lift spirit as well as many other uses. In this article we will particularly be focusing on the uses of aromatherapy for stress and anxiety.
The physiology and science behind how aromatherapy works: The sense of smell
There are many ways you can use aromatherapy and there is a lot of scientific evidence to support how it works on our sense perceptions. For this reason, I have decided to limit the scientific explanation to the main way aromatherapy is used in mainstream society. This is our olfactory senses or our sense of smell.
When applying aromatherapy to the olfactory senses the aroma enters through the nose via the human olfactory bulb and travels to the limbic or emotional system of our brain. The nerve cells in the olfactory bulb transmit the signals into the hippocampus. The hippocampus is closely related with learning and memory functions, and thus the concentrated compounds can be just as affective as medicines alike; including prescription medication.
This primitive area or limbic system of the brain bypasses the local or reasoning part of our brain; Memory and emotions are housed here (ie. where stress and anxiety stem from).The limbic system also directly communicates with our “master glands” which are the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands. Theses glands help regulate many bodily functions including hormones (particularly but not limited to stress) and the immune system. Essentially using aromatherapy can directly affect our emotional states as well as improve and train our memory. Not to mention it is all holistic!
Aromatherapy uses for stress and anxiety
In times like these stress and anxiety is at an all time high. We have to adjust our lives in a way where the future is so unknown. For this reason alone, I find that using aromatherapy can help reduce any excess stress and anxiety. Controlling stress is crucial to your overall health and well being. Stress lowers your resistance and makes you more vulnerable to illness and disease. It can also be mentally crippling. Aromatherapy is a technique that uses the body’s sense of smell to help boost your mood, relieve stress, energize and encourage better health.
There are numerous essential oils that can be used to reduce stress and anxiety. Some of my go-to’s are Lavender, Damascus Rose, Orange Citrus, Bergamot, Lemon, Sandalwood, Clary Sage, Roman Chamomile and Geranium. I recommend investing in high quality essential oils if possible. There are many brands the claim to be pure and grade A essential oils however many times such oils have poor quality extraction methods and are diluted with other mixing agents which cause the medicinal effects of these plant medicines to not be as affective. I really love the brands Doterra and Young Living but regardless of what brand you choose to go with, just make sure you do your homework first!
How to use essential oils aromatically
The easiest way to get the aromatic benefits of an essential oil is by simply taking a few drops from the bottle into the palm of your hands. Cup your hands around your mouth and nose and inhale, breathing deeply for as long as needed—but, you know, take it easy so you don’t hyperventilate or anything. Another one of my favorite ways is to buy a diffuser and diffuse the essential oil throughout your space. Again, do your research on diffusers because some may seem quite affordable but may not work effectively reducing the medicinal affects of the plant medicines.
You can also use essential oils topically and internally but I caution that not all oils should be ingested or applied to the skin. Make sure you research which aromas can be used in this way. If you are pregnant, around someone who is sensitive to smell or around very small children, be mindful of which oils you are using as to not further create any imbalances for yourself or others. It’s kind of like making sure you are taking the correct medication and in the correct doses!
All in all I absolutely love the application of aromatherapy; particularly in the form of essential oils. I use them to help bring me into the present moment and uplift my mood. I even use certain essential oils when I perform certain task in my attempt to Pavlov myself into a mind set. It works quite well if I do say so myself.
If you feel drawn to trying out aromatherapy then I say go for it! What’s the harm in trying out a new alternative method to healing that can improve your overall wellbeing? Most of us can definitely use a little more zen in our lives, so get to it and start using those plant medicines!
Devon Blythe is a Body-Mind and Wellness Practitioner whose mission is to support universal and individual healing while expanding conscious awareness in humanity. Devon has extensive training in a wide variety of wellness practices and today her work focuses on spirituality, life coaching, and bodywork with an emphasis on self knowledge, conscious awareness, mindfulness, meditation, breath work, and holism. Devon created a method called The Balance Effect and founded The BE Company where she works to support as many human beings as she can through her natural gifts of intuitiveness, introspection, and connecting with other humans on a deep emotional level.