Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils therapeutically. Plant oils have been used as therapy and cosmetics for thousands of years with records going back to ancient Egypt, China and India.The essential oils that aromatherapists use to treat conditions are complex substances containing many chemical components. The oils aren’t concentrated from whole plant parts – unlike most herbal medicines – but are extracted from flowers, leaves, roots, peel, resin or bark.Essential oils can be applied in a number of ways.
- Oils can be blended in a carrier oil and massaged into your skin.
- You can add a few drops of oil to warm bath water.
- You can inhale some oils or add them to an aromatherapy oil burner or diffuser. The steam containing the oil spreads through the air in the room (however people who have asthma shouldn’t do this).
- Oils can be blended into creams or lotions.
When you inhale essential oils, this stimulates your olfactory system – the part of your brain that is connected to smell. A signal is transferred to your brain’s limbic system that controls emotions and stores and retrieves learned memories. This triggers chemicals to be released. These are thought to have different effects, causing you to feel relaxed or stimulated. In addition, the gentle massage often used to apply oils to your skin is likely to have a relaxing effect.