Wednesday Wellness – An Introduction To Aromatherapy

What Is Aromatherapy & How Does it Work?

At Sienna’s Rose our core ethos is to promote a health lifestyle with emphasis on mental and physical wellness and well being. Our products and services are designed to help you to achieve a work-life balance, giving you time to relax your mind and body, to recoup and rejuvenate.

We’re sure that a lot of people have heard of “Aromatherapy” and “Essential Oils”, but what are real the benefits of aromatherapy, and how do essential oils and their associated products help us?

This weeks Wednesday Wellness is an introduction to aromatherapy. Designed to give you further a understanding of the benefits, properties and some contraindications / risks associated with aromatherapy and essential oils.

Have you ever wondered what the term Aromatherapy actually means?

Aromatherapy is the use of plant oils in their most essential form to promote both mental and physical well being. The word aroma implies the process of inhaling the scents from these oils into your lungs for therapeutic benefit.

As a matter of fact, you’ve probably been using aromatherapy on yourself and your family for many years without realising it – through vapour rubs or electric vaporisers. If you’ve ever used a vapour rub for a cough then you have tried aromatherapy, although not in its purest form. These vapour rubs use eucalyptus or menthol to clear out stuffy chests and noses.

Imagine if you used the undiluted essential oil of eucalyptus how clear your lungs would feel!

The term aromatherapy is generally quite new, with first remarks dating back to the early 20th century, but the practice itself, has been around for thousands of years. It is believed that the Chinese were one of the first cultures to use the scents of plants to promote health through the burning of incense. Ancient Egyptians used distilled cedarwood oil mixed with clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and myrrh to embalm the deceased. The Egyptians also used oils to perfume both men and women.

Undiluted Essential Oils | Sienna’s Rose
Aromatherapy - Incense & Smudge Sticks | Sienna’s Rose

In the 14th century when the bubonic plague hit, aromas were used to ward off the deadly disease. There is even a notion that the popular nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Roses” refers to aromatherapy. The lines, “a pocket full of posies” allegedly refers to keeping the flower in ones pocket in an attempt to keep the illness away.

Moving forward through later centuries a growth in books about the use of oils in healing grew. The Greek alchemist, Paracelcus, used the term “essence” and focused study on the use of plants for healing purposes. While the use of essential oils for perfume continued to grow throughout the ages its’ use for medicinal purposes waned slightly until around 1928.

Today, many people are trying to get back to nature. People have seen first hand the alleged dangerous effects of synthetic chemicals and processed medications. The use of all natural essential oils for medicinal, cosmetic, and therapy purposes continues to grow. Many people have found the results of using aromatherapy to be far greater then man made medications and with far fewer negative side effects.

Modern day aromatherapy practices are quite broad and can vary due to personal preference, type of aliment you might be suffering from, or the time you have to dedicate to yourself.

We are living in a busy and sometimes crazy world. No doubt that there are days when you feel like everything seems to be happening so fast. If you feel stressed out and pressured, aromatherapy can do wonders for you, best of all, you can subject yourself to such experiences at the comfort of your own homes.

Here are some typical ways you can treat yourself at home:

  1. Enjoy your baths by adding a few drops of your favorite aromas of essential oils into the water. This can leave your skin feeling soft and smelling good. The oils will help to ease out the stresses that your day at work brought about.
  2. You can also use essential oils on compresses in curing various aches and ailments. The smell will relax your mind and the oils will help to heal whatever it is that is causing your discomfort.
  3. Ask your partner or even your children to give you a massage using the oils. This is a great bonding activity while you help yourself regain energy and physical strength by soothing your muscles and relaxing your mind.
  4. In the truest form of aromatherapy, the fragrances can also be inhaled. The method is typically applied if you want to alleviate any respiratory ailments. Adding a few drops of oils like eucalyptus, tea tree and rosemary to a container full of hot water, you can inhale the steam and instantly, you will experience a sense of comfort and revitalisation.
  5.  Light a candle or heat up a wax melt. There’s a full range of aromatherapy products available such as; candles, bath salts, reed diffusers and wax melts to name just a few. Infused with essential oils, these products release the vapor into the air / water when a little heat is applied. You can enjoy the process of aromatherapy without having to take time out and dedicate to it – just by lighting a candle or heating a wax melt and letting their aroma fill the room.
Aromatherapy - Essential Oil Candle | Sienna’s Rose
How Essential Oils Work | Sienna’s Rose

How Does Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Work?

Aromatherapy works through the use of essential oils by ultilising their natural healing properties to aid the bodies own healing process. Essential oils work by stimulating the olfactory system and later the brain or limbic system. The fragrance and innate healing properties of the oils determine how these body systems and their parts are stimulated.

During a massage or bath, these oils are inhaled and absorbed by the body at the same time, penetrating the skin and eventually reaching the organs and body systems. The absorption can be as short as 20 minutes and possibly extend to 2 hours or more.

The oils help in maintaining the balance between your physiology and emotions. The longevity of a fragrance varies from 3-24 hours to 2-3 days and even longer to about a week. Eucalyptus, peppermint thyme, and bergamot are among oils with a short-lived scent, while the scent of hyssop, lavender, balm, and other oils last between 2-3 days. Jasmine, sandalwood, ginger and cedarwood are among the oils that take as long as one week before completely evaporating.

Essential Oil Properties

The properties of essential oils are what make them so beneficial. The pleasant aroma of the majority of essential oils is really just a by product of their real benefit. The term essential oil may sound simple, but they are actually complicated chemical compounds. The ingredients in essential oils are organic because they consist of a molecule structure. This structure is made of Carbon atoms and bound by Hydrogen atoms. In some essential oils there may also be Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Sulphur atoms.

By familiarising yourself with the chemical make up of essential oils you can understand how they might benefit your health. In turn you will also be able to understand why some oils are hazardous. Typical essential oils are made up of the following natural chemicals:

  • Monoterpenes which have antiseptic and healing properties.
  • Sesquiterpenes are anti inflammatory and anti infectious, they also have calming qualities.
  • Phenols are a stimulant and best used in small quantities.
  • Alcohols are antiseptic, antibacterial, antibiotic, and anti-fungal. They also stimulate ones immune system.
  • Ethers are anti bacterial, anti spasmodic, and anti inflammatory.
  • Ketones have relaxing and sedative properties. They are also an anti coagulant and can stimulate the immune system.
  • Aldehydes can also be used as an anti inflammatory and to calm nerves.
  • Coumarins are anti convulsant and anti coagulative. They can also be used as a sedative.
Essential Oil Properties | Sienna’s Rose
Hazardous Essential Oils | Sienna’s Rose

Hazardous Essential Oils

Some essential oils can be very dangerous whereas others, may be safe in some instances but can be rather dangerous if used in certain circumstances. Before you take on an aromatherapy plan, take time to understand which oils are safe. Keep in mind that just because something is all natural does not necessarily mean that it is not hazardous to your health.

Essential oils are very powerful when they are not diluted. In order to make them safe you should dilute them with a carrier oil. They should never be put on your skin in their undiluted form as they can irritate your skin quickly and cause a chain reaction that can possibly make you sensitive to that oil for a lifetime.

Here’s a list of essential oils that should be avoided for use in aromatherapy if you’re suffering from the respective aliment:

  • Rosemary, common sage, hyssop, and thyme should never be used if you have high blood pressure.
  • Sweet fennel, hyssop, sage, and rosemary should be avoided if you have epilepsy.
  • Diabetics should not use angelica.
  • Those who suffer from hypoglycemia should stay away from geranium
  • Sufferers of kidney problems should be cautious if they use juniper, sandalwood, or coriander.
  • Expectant mothers should especially avoid juniper, hyssop, clary sage, peppermint, lemon, fennel, lemon verbana, rosemary, and wintergreen.
  • Clary sage should not be used while drinking as it will intensify the effects of the alcohol causing it to act like a narcotic.
  • Chamomile and marjoram should not be used while driving because they cause drowsiness.
  • Some oils can cause allergies, such as citronella, clary sage, ylang ylang, and verbana oils.

The majority of essential oils are generally considered safe however, they may cause side effects for some people. If you have a serious health condition or are taking medication, you should discuss the use of essential oils with your healthcare practitioner first.

If you are just beginning your journey into the world of aromatherapy you should take time to familiarize yourself with the oils that may be hazardous, especially as they pertain to your health issues or concerns. Remember that no two people are the same so what is a non irritant to another person may not be so for you. Simple tests can help you determine whether you will be allergic to an oil. As a novice to the field of aromatherapy you should also take note of safety precautions and hazardous oils.

We hope that this explanation of aromatherapy and its associated essential oils, has given you better insight and an introduction into this wonderful world of aromatherapy. Once you experience the benefits of essential oils you will wonder how you ever lived without them!

Until next time,

Sienna’s Rose