What is Aromatherapy and What are Essential Oils?

Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic plants in the form of essential oils and waters to help support and enhance health both physically and emotionally.  Essential oils are extracted from plants and are a very concentrated form of the healing aromatic compounds either from the plant or produced during the extraction process.

How Do They Work?

Essential oils can be absorbed into the body through the skin and nose.  When essential oils are absorbed through the skin they enter into the blood stream that carries the healing molecules throughout the body.  Heat, water and covering the treated area increase the level of absorption so application methods like baths and compresses are a great way to increase essential oil absorption into the body.
When you inhale an essential oil, the aromatic molecules travel through two routes.  Down into your lungs and up into the limbic system in the brain. Via the lungs, essential oils pass into the blood stream where they are carried throughout the entire body.  The limbic system is a primitive part of the brain and is associated with memory and emotional response.  This is why certain aromas can produce powerful memories and emotions within us and how essential oils can help enhance our emotional state.  Once the limbic system is triggered neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and endorphins are released.

How To Use Essential Oils?

Inhalation: The quickest and most simple method of using essential oils.  Essential oils can be inhaled straight from the bottle or added to a diffuser or essential oil burner.  Perfect for a quick pick me up or to help improve your mood.

Steam Inhalation: Used to treat respiratory infections and skin.  To a bowl of steaming hot water add 2 to 3 drops of your chosen essential oil, close your eyes and position your face at a comfortable distance from the water.  Cover your head with a towel and breathe for up to 5 minutes.  Or add up to 5 drops of essential oil onto a face washer and place under the shower stream to create an aromatic steam in your shower.

Compress: A compress tends to be used for muscle or joint pain but can also be used for digestive or respiratory complaints.  Make a compress by adding up to 3 drops of essential oil to a medium sized bowl of water.  Soak a face washer in the water and wring out excess moisture.  Apply the face washer to treatment area and repeat as the compress either cools down or warms up for up to 10 minutes.  For inflammation, recent sprains or strains use cold water.  Muscle aches and spasms and stiff joints respond well to warm/ hot water.

Massage: A beautiful way to incorporate essential oils into your life.  First, the essential oil must be diluted because they are a very concentrated substance and could cause skin irritation or other unwanted effects.  A full body massage blend for general use is 15 drops (adult) or 6 drops (children) of essential oils to 30mls of a carrier oil such as sweet almond, coconut or olive oil.  

Bath: What could be more luxurious then having a relaxing bath in water gently fragranced with essential oils?  Essential oils do not mix with water so always add your essential oil blend to a dispersant before adding to bath water to avoid the risk of skin burning or irritation.  A dispersant is a substance that blends the essential oil into water, such as full fat milk, coconut milk, carrier oil or honey.  Add 8 drops of essential oil in a dispersant to your bath water. 

Hand or Foot Bath: Add 3 drops of essential oil to a bowl of warm water.  Useful to treat skin infections, arthritis or poor circulation.