How Does Aromatherapy Work

The tiny essential oils absorb through the skin finding their way to the bloodstream to heal our bodies inside and out. More than 30,000 scent molecules compose building blocks to create these oils. Imagine them as a jigsaw puzzle pieces positioned in different combinations to provide each plant with a unique scent. If you have sniffed your way through an herb or rose garden, you know the variations seem endless. Some roses have a clove-scent, while others bear a distinct hint of citrus. Lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora, A. triphylla) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) both smell similar to lemon (Citrus limon) but still maintain their own idenity. Cooks looking for unique flavors appreciate how a slight twist in aromatic compounds creates the difference between the closely related oregano (Orianum vulgare) and marjoram (Origanum majorana), or makes dill (Anethum graveolens) differ from fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).
The beauty of aromatherapy is that essential oils can be placed directly over the afflicted area, say a stiff neck, infected finger, or muscle cramp. You can buy ready to use aromatherapy products or make your own with essential oils. Clear your sinuses or stave off a cold with a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil in a pan of steaming water. Put your face into the steam and inhale. Change that oil to rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and you have the perfect complexion facial. Ease headaches with a couple drops of lavender oil in a cup of hot or cool water (whichever feels better), and the dip in a washcloth and wring out. Place the washcloth on your forehead and relax. Add a few drops of any essential to table salts and you will have your own “smelling salts”.
Dilute pure essential oils before applying them to the skin. Straight out of the vial they can produce amazing fast results, with an infection quickly clearing or pain almost disappearing. The problem is that using a lot of oil taxes your liver and kidneys as they try to eliminate it from the body. Choosing the popular tea tree (Melaleuca spp.) to fight infection is a great idea, but several drops of pure oil directly on your toe daily can be a system overload. Instead, dilute 24 drops of tea tree oil in one ounce of any vineger, which itself is antifungal. To use, apply this strong dilution to the infected area with a dropper or Q-tip several times a day. The standard aromatherapy dilution is 12 drops in an ounce of base carrier, such as vegetable oil, vinegar, alcohol, or water. Make a homemade room or facial spray with 12 drops of favorite oil in an ounce of distilled water. Put it in a spray bottle, shake to disperse, and its ready to go. Twelve drops of lavender oil in an ounce of olive oil or body or body lotion can be rubbed on affected area to relieve pain. An aromatherapy book will offer more information about essential oil properties along with formulas to make at home. There can be problems with ingesting essential oils. It is easy to overdose, and the oil gravitates to the lining of the throat and mouth, where it can injure the tissue. Plus, essential oils do not get far down the digestive track. Reaching the intestines is so difficult that specially designed “enteric” capsules for essential oil had to be designed, such as the enteric peppermint capsules that treat irritable syndrome. Essential Oil Safety, recommends careful monitoring by a primary care practitioner if you do ingest essential oils.

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