Essential oils and aromatherapy: Do they really work?
BY REENASSRI SEKARAN
ONE of the editors at the office has her essential oil diffuser switched on at an all-time high, especially during the deadline season. I guess the waft of sandalwood helps her during trying times. But does aromatherapy live up to its healing claims?
What is aromatherapy actually?
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Sometimes it’s called essential oil therapy. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health.
How long has aromatherapy been around?
Humans have used aromatherapy for thousands of years. Ancient cultures in China, India, Egypt, and elsewhere incorporated aromatic plant components in resins, balms, and oils. These natural substances were used for medical and religious purposes. They were known to have both physical and psychological benefits.
The term “aromatherapy” was coined by a French perfumer and chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé in a book he wrote on the topic that was published in 1937. He had previously discovered the healing potential of lavender in treating burns. The book discusses the use of essential oils in treating medical conditions.
How does aromatherapy treatment work?
Aromatherapy works through the sense of smell and skin absorption using products such as these:
• Aromatic spritzers
• Bathing salts
There are nearly one hundred types of essential oils available. Generally, people use the most popular oils. Essential oils are available online, in health food stores, and in some regular supermarkets. It’s important to buy from a reputable producer since the oils aren’t regulated. This ensures you’re buying a quality product that is 100 per cent natural. It shouldn’t contain any additives or synthetic ingredients.
Is it just hype?
Despite these studies that promote the efficacy of aromatherapy, there are differing studies, including one in 2000 and another in 2012, both from Dr Edzard Ernst, former chair of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, which found no convincing evidence aromatherapy is beneficial to one’s health.
However, people have different beliefs. When questioned the efficacy of aromatherapy to my editor, her love for essential oils remains strong. “If it smells good, it’s definitely making me happier and less stressed,” she smiles as she lights up her essential oil burner.
Many psychologists believe aromatherapy works in such a way that the person would find the scent pleasant and associate it with an emotional state that they wish to be invoked, such as relaxation or invigoration. So, if a certain scent makes you want to scrub your troubles away, there’s no harm in taking that bubble bath and lighting up that candle.— The Health
Stop and smell the flowers
ONE of the most common essential oils, lavender oil has a calming, relaxing effect. It’s considered a nervous-system restorative and helps promote inner peace and restful sleep while relieving restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, nervous stomach and all-around general nervous tension. Research has also found that it helps reduce anxiety and depression and is a helpful pain reliever.
Bergamot essential oil is produced from the peel of the aromatic citrus fruit. It is often used in traditional Chinese medicine to enhance the flow of energy, fight bacterial infections and support digestive health. It is an effective antidepressant due to its mood enhancing qualities, promoting feelings of joy, freshness and energy. Bergamot essential oil improves blood circulation, stimulates hormonal secretions and digestive health, bringing balance to the body.
Made from the flowers of the Cananga odorata tree, this essential oil sedates or calms nervous afflictions, stress, anger and anxiety, while inducing a relaxed feeling. Ylang-ylang (pronounced EE-lang EE-lang) has been shown to be effective in reducing blood pressure.